Categories
Mental Health Suicide

Suicide is Preventable When You Know the Signs

Suicide is a major, yet preventable mental health problem. According to the National InstituteLantern of Mental Health, “In 2007, suicide was the thirst leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. Suicide accounted for 4140 deaths (12%) of the total 34,598 suicide deaths in 2007. ”

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide. (CDC, AAS)
  • There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (CDC, AAS)

Though these numbers seem daunting, they are not a complete reflection on the youth of today or the way they manage or respond to stress or difficulty. These numbers do, however, indicate a significant problem that we need to be aware of so that we can act accordingly to prevent it.

 

Suicidal behavior is never a normal response to stress.

 

Some of the risk factors for suicide include:

  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse (often in combination with mental illness)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • History of physical or sexual abuse within the family system
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others

Other things to watch for in yourself or your loved ones include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depressed mood, excessive guilt, low self-esteem
  • A loss of interest in family or social activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Persistent anger, rage, need for revenge
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems at school: socially and academically
  • Feeling listless or irritable
  • Regular or frequent crying
  • Not taking care of yourself (not bathing regularly, etc)
  • Reckless and/or impulsive behaviors
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches

Warning signs that someone may be thinking of committing suicide:

  • Always talking about or thinking about death
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that seems to get worse
  • Loss of interest in things you or your loved one once cared about
  • Comments about being worthless, hopeless, helpless
  • Putting affairs in order, like changing or creating a will all of a sudden, or seeming to “tie up lose ends”
  • Comments like, “It would be better if I wasn’t here,” or “I want out.”
  • A sudden, and unexpected shift from deep sadness to being calm and happy.
  • Talking about suicide
  • Saying their goodbyes

 

It’s not uncommon for someone who is suicidal to have attempted suicide before. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step to helping someone you love or helping yourself. Asking for help is a sign of great courage and strength. It shows deep character and a fierce sense of survival. It is in the act of reaching our hands out that we open ourselves up to attaining help.

 

Categories
Bullying Mental Health Parenting Recovery Suicide

Bullying: Helping the Bullied and the Bully

Compassion (Photo credit: Sarit Photography)

As National Suicide Prevention Week continues, I realize we can’t let the week pass without talking about bullying. The recent documentary Bully deftly brought to light egregious bullying behavior, some of which led to suicide. The conversation continues, however. We are more aware now that the bullied child is suffering, often in silence, and often filled with shame and anger about why this is happening to them. They are always asking the eternal question, “Why me?”  Unfortunately, there are still an alarming number of bullying incidents that go undetected, and there continues to be a systemic problem in the way we deal with the bullies themselves and the children being bullied.

Children who are bullied won’t typically tell anyone this is happening,  typically feeling helpless in their endeavors to get help. From the bullied child’s perspective, there is an implication of great risk in asking for help. Experience has proven the bully makes sure they live in a state of fear of retaliation. This is particularly true when dealing with verbal bullying such as name calling, exclusion, ostracizing, rumors, racial, cultural, and sexual taunts. In these cases, proof is often difficult. This presents a catch-22 situation for parents, teachers, and administrators: it becomes one child’s word against another’s. As parents, we have to play the role of detective and suss out the situation, looking for key emotional and physical signs that our child is being bullied.

From Sheri Werner’s book In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention and Compassion for All, she lists the following things to look for if we suspect bullying:

  • Becoming moody or short tempered.
  • Finding excuses for not wanting to go to school.
  • Claiming physical illnesses such as stomachaches and headaches that may have, in fact, actually evolved into such physical symptoms.
  • Returning to bedwetting.
  • Beginning to have nightmares.
  • Developing either a lack of appetite or increase of eating compulsively.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Deterioration in the quality of schoolwork.
  • Having insomnia, anxiety.
  • Starting to become quiet, withdrawn.
  • Exhibiting physical signs like bruises, torn clothing, scrapes, and so on.
  • Expressing sadness and/or violence in writing or drawings.
  • Displaying unusual acting out behaviors.

Bullying doesn’t have to end in suicide. Suicide is never the answer. You are your child’s greatest advocate. You have a multitude of options:

  • Individual counseling/therapy
  • Group counseling/therapy
  • Form your own support group
  • Become informed.
  • Go to the school: find out what they have in place for bullying prevention.
  • If they don’t have anything in place, take steps to help develop a school anti-bullying policy.

 

I’ve seen this more times than I care to admit: a bullying situation resulting in the bullied child being punished and/or being told to “ignore” the bully or try to “make friends” with him/her. In truth, the child bullied needs support and compassion. But so does the bully. Yes, you read that right. The bully needs support and compassion as well, and more than likely an intervention of sorts. I truly believe that bullying is a symptom of a greater problem. What that problem may be isn’t an excuse for the negative behavior, but it still needs to be addressed.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to find compassion for a child who bullies, because their behavior is so hurtful and over the top, but suffering comes in all shapes and forms and it behooves us to take this into consideration.  A kid who goes home to violence, neglect, etc., or who suffers from unaddressed mental illness or a learning disability, or who didn’t have sufficient emotional connection in their early years may not know how to handle problems that arise. From the perspective of the administration and teachers, this is really an opportunity (and challenge) to A: monitor the bully, and B: help redirect and reteach the bully to change their thinking and behavioral processes to fit into a healthier social model. For the bully, their saving grace might just be the school they are in, if that school has methods in place to help them. The key is not to give up on them; they, too, deserve a chance to recover and change.

 

There are resources out there! You are not alone in this, regardless if you are the parent of the bullied or the bully.

www.soulshoppe.com (elementary and middle school)

www.challengeday.org (high school)

Books to read:

The Mindful Child – Susan Keiser Greenland

In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention With Compassion for All – Sheri Werner

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Suicide

National Suicide Prevention Week: 9/9 – 9/15

The week of September 9-September 15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Did you know that 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression yet two-thirds of those never get help? Depression is a leading cause of suicide making suicide the third leading cause of death for adolescents. (Via TWLOHA)  These numbers are neither comforting nor acceptable. In addition to National Suicide Prevention Week, the International Association for Suicide Prevention deemed September 10 World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). This means we start Suicide Prevention Week off with a day of real action.

  • Data from the WHO indicate that approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds.
  • The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined. Suicide attempts and suicidal ideation are far more common; for example, the number of suicide attempts may be up to 20 times the number of deaths by suicide.
  •  It is estimated that about 5% of persons attempt suicide at least once in their life and that the lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation in the general population is between 10 and 14%.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the young.
  • Suicide statistics may not always be accurate. Many suicides are hidden among other causes of death, such as single car, single driver road traffic accidents, unwitnessed drownings and other undetermined deaths.
  • Suicide is estimated to be under-reported for multiple reasons including stigma, religious concerns and social attitudes.
  • The psychological and social impact of suicide on the family and community is enormous.
  • The economic costs associated with self-inflicted death or injuries are estimated to be in the billions of US dollars a year.

Who is at Risk of Suicide?

  • Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others.
  • A history of previous suicide attempt(s) or self-harm is the strongest predictor of future death by suicide, corresponding to a 30-40 times higher suicide rate than the general population.
  • People with a psychiatric disorder and/or substance-related disorder.
  • Those who experience stressful life events

Take action!

  • Light a candle near a window at 8 pm on WSPD and show unified support for suicide prevention.
  • Use social media to get involved. Go nuts! The hashtags for Twitter and Tumblr are #WSPD12 and #TWLOHA
  • Check out To Write Love on Her Arms on Twitter (@TWLOHA) and Facebook. There will be an orange logo you can use as a profile pic to show your support.

If you are suffering, please tell someone. I want to believe that within each of us lies the dim light of hope. If you see a friend suffering, please don’t walk away. More than anything, they need your love and compassion so that dim light can brighten. Help is as far as an outstretched hand or a phone call. We can change those statistics one person at a time.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-TALK

Visions is also here to help you no matter the time, day or night:  866-889-3665

Categories
Guest Blogs Mental Health Recovery Suicide

Guest Blogging in the Recovery Community

I was recently asked to participate in Pat Moore Foundation’s Guest Blogging program. What an honor! It’s wonderful to be a part of a blogging community that not only supports other recovery bloggers but is willing to join forces with them. The blog I wrote is called “Obscure Thoughts of Suicide are Still Thoughts of Suicide” and addresses suicide and addiction from a more introspective and personal perspective. I wrote it on the heals of one of our more recent blogs entitled “Suicide, Neither an Answer nor a Solution.” With the onslaught of bullying and teen suicides, It’s important we pay closer attention to the subtle signs so we can offer help and solutions. It doesn’t feel good to suffer from suicidal ideation. It’s scary and it’s lonely. We as parents, friends, teachers, counselors, therapists, and doctors can help—one active-listening moment at a time.

Check out the guest blog from Rob Grant aka Recovery Rob on Twitter as well as the wonderful write-up he did about it. He has almost two decades of recovery and writes regularly for the Pat Moore Foundation. He is essentially, the “me” of the Pat Moore Foundation.  You can also see some of his blogs here.

Categories
Bullying Mental Health Suicide

Suicide: Neither an Answer nor a Solution

Suicide so often “comes as a surprise” to those left behind, but in all honesty, the signs

were more than likely always there. The identifying factors that lead up to this type of tragedy are many, but in our busy, multitasking lives, we tend to overlook them or dismiss them as part and parcel to growing up, particularly the subtle hints. While I can’t speak for most kids or adults, I can tell you that the inner turmoil which occurs in the mind of someone  who’s suffering from suicidal thoughts is akin to severe emotional isolation—with it comes the delusion that one is “the other,” so different from those around them, they can’t even begin to integrate. Often times, those who are bullied struggle with suicidal ideation. Often times, no one even knows.

Of late, there have been several anti-bullying videos, songs, as well as organizations who are ardently amping up their efforts to bring awareness to this issue. It’s not that bullying in and of itself is tantamount to suicide, but those that are bullied often get to a place emotionally where they simply give up trying. If drugs and alcohol can’t numb the pain, or if cutting can’t raise the endorphins enough to eradicate one’s uncomfortable emotions, then suicide suddenly can look like an option. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the CDC, “Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15-19 died by suicide,” and “Just under six times as many males as females ages 20-24 died by suicide.” Risk factors for suicide attempts include things like:

  • Depression and other forms of mental illness
  • Addiction;
  • A family history of mental disorders or substance abuse;
  • Family history of suicide;
  • History of physical or sexual abuse;
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others (family members, friends, media)

It’s important to note, however, that suicide is an extreme reaction to stress. There are many people in and out of recovery who can check off many of the above factors but are not suicidal. Regardless, the risks are notable and should be viewed with great concern and scrutiny.

I remember being a teen and feeling isolated and very much like “the other.” The irony is, the one and only time I was directed to the suicide hotline, I wasn’t actually suicidal. I was just a surly teen. Later, however, the internal dialogue of self-loathing and lack of self-worth drove me to put myself in more and more unsafe places. It wasn’t until many 4th steps later when I realized my actions were not only a cry for help, they were, in fact a means of subversive suicidal ideation. As a teen, I needed my parents and didn’t have them, either due to their emotional unavailability or their absence. As a parent myself, I have learned that despite the adolescent, parent-hating bluster, I am needed—we are needed. A child who can come home and talk openly to a parent is, in my opinion, less likely to revert inward. Talking about being bullied, asking for help, and getting it, is invaluable, and we, as parents, need to provide the environment in which our kids can safely do that. If not, then we risk being left behind, drowning in grief and unanswerable questions.

**If you or someone you know is thinking about or talking about suicide,take it seriously. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.


Categories
Anxiety Bullying

Bullies: Not My Child!

Image via Wikipedia

In today’s seemingly accepting society, why does bullying continue to be such a terrible epidemic? Why are gay teens still heavily targeted by kids in schools and social settings? And why are kids who are outside of the normative pop-culture box automatically seen as gay or weird? I see this behavior even at the elementary school level, where the biggest insult a child can throw at someone they don’t like is a gay slur. We have a problem–one that’s resulted in numerous suicides by teens breaking under the pressure of needless harassment and hatred.

Schools have anti-bullying programs in full effect, and in many ways, they are effective in eliminating the acute bullying attacks that kids experience. What is missing, however, is a way for kids to deal with the subtle bullying that continues to happen in the hallways and playgrounds. For instance, a child that alerts an authority will often fall subject to additional bullying for “telling,” enduring the continuation of threats and shaming albeit in subversive and low whispers. This goes on to create an intensely hostile environment for the victim and those who witness this behavior. I worry that the gap between the administration and hallway socialization is ultimately pushing bullying underground.
When children feel threatened, they cannot learn,” says Arne Duncan U.S. Education Secretary. Time and time again we see a bullied child revert inward to escape the emotional trauma induced by bullying antics, leaving things like school work on the wayside. Honestly, fractions become banal when one’s fighting for their survival on the social level.

Many things define bullying:

  • Verbal: name-calling and teasing.
  • Social: spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
  • Physical: hitting, punching, shoving
  • Cyberbullying: using the Internet, mobile phones, or technology to cause harm.

Remember, an act of bullying can fall into any of these categories, be it in one area, or several.

The BULLIED may:

  • Have higher risk of depression and anxiety, including the following symptoms, that may persist into adulthood:
    • Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness
    • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
    • Loss of interest in activities
  • Have increased thoughts about suicide that may persist into adulthood. In one study, adults who recalled being bullied in youth were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
  • Are more likely to have health complaints. In one study, being bullied was associated with physical health status 3 years later.
  • Have decreased academic achievement (GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation.
  • Are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
  • Are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

And the BULLY may:

  • Have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
  • Are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
  • Are more likely to engage in early sexual activity.
  • Are more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults. In one study, 60% of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by age 24.
  • Are more likely to be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses or children as adults.

And the WITNESSES:

  • Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
  • Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Are more likely to miss or skip school

Where the concern lies mostly in helping the bullied, and punishing the bully, it helps to remember that the latter is suffering as well. What makes a bully is often times another bully. It’s important that in our ardent efforts to heal the effects of bullying, we don’t forget to examine the cause. If you discover that your child is the bully, get them help. Find out the cause of their violence and do something about it.

Bullying impacts everyone: the bullied, the bully, and the witness. No one gets out unscathed.

Statistics sourced from:
StopBullying.gov

Get into ACTION:
Challenge Day (www.challengeday.org)