For Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, start a conversation
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Our focus this month is encouraging open and honest conversations between those struggling with thoughts of suicide and their loved ones. During a crisis, it can be hard to ask for help, or know how to support someone who is struggling but open, honest conversations save lives.
DBSA is here to support you in those efforts, whether you live with a mental health condition or someone you love does. We have created a series of tips to inspire #HealingExchanges, which we are sharing on our social channels throughout the month. Join us on your platform of choice: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
We have also compiled some suicide prevention information and resources that can be useful to understand suicidal thinking, what to do if you are having suicidal thoughts, and how to recognize the warning signs in others.
To help us continue to provide life-saving programs, please donate today.
A message from Michael
As we reach the six-month mark of living through the pandemic, cultivating resources for the DBSA community continues to be a top priority.
September’s e-Update provides a link to our latest annual report, Supporting Lifelong Mental Health, which encapsulates DBSA’s progress over the past year to extend peer support-related resources across the lifespan. September also highlights the importance of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Caring for ourselves or someone we love who is struggling to find hope is as critical as ever given the challenges we are experiencing this year.
We bring you new content on identifying children’s mental health needs, along with a reappearance of the Mood Crew, who were introduced last month. I also hope you will take a moment to listen to the latest podcast in our new Wellness Wheel series, to help you stay connected.
The team at DBSA will continue to produce and share information to support you during these uncertain times.
Michael Pollock, CEO, DBSA
Young Adult Council spotlight: Surviving a suicide attempt
Content Warning: This article discusses a suicide attempt and suicidal ideation.
Six years ago, I woke up in a hospital room and cried because I was alive.
My suicide attempt was not a success.
During my stay, I had a 24/7 watch as I was still considered a suicide risk. One night, body sore and mentally drained, the nurse in my room commented that what I did was unfair to my family – did I not care? I didn’t say anything, I just closed my eyes and let the tears fall quietly. They were all right.
People wanted to know why but the answers were never good enough. I was told I was loved, that people were there for me. Yet, in the months prior, it seemed everyone was busy. My texts went unread. My family was distant. I felt like I was bothering everyone. My therapist was trying her best with the information I gave her. The psychiatric practitioner I worked with changed my medication frequently, trying to relieve my pain, but nothing worked. Things only got worse.
Supporting youth mental health: Physical symptoms can be tied to mental health
Has your child told you that their tummy hurts? Do you know a child or teen who is complaining of headaches? As a caregiver, hearing a child complaining of aches and pains can be concerning. Maybe you run through a mental checklist. What did they eat last? How much did they sleep last night? Have they been staring at a screen too long? If you run the list and find no obvious reason for the complaint, you may feel concerned.
Arriving at your pediatrician’s office, they too run through a checklist based upon their knowledge. What does it mean if they can’t find a physical cause?
We tend to assume physical symptoms have physical causes. However, sometimes children and teens may experience physical symptoms because of an underlying mental health concern. Research around unexplained physical or somatic symptoms in children has shown that these feelings can be a result of a neglected mental health condition. Additionally, long-term studies have shown that physical complaints in childhood without explanation and early intervention can lead to poorer outcomes in mental health as an adult.
Back in the pediatrician’s office, your concern increases when the doctor has no explanation for why your child continues to complain of aches and pains. This is when pediatricians and caregivers should consider the child’s mental health.
Physical symptoms tied to mental health concerns can be challenging and confusing for people of all ages to understand and manage. Adults who live with a mental health condition may have insight into the cause of physical symptoms and the solutions that help, but even as adults, it can be hard to fully understand.
A child may be feeling stressed about the new school year, lonely because of social distancing, or sadness around a substantial change in their day-to-day routines. Cognitively, this is a lot for a young mind to process! Our bodies use pain as an indicator to seek help. For children and teens, the onset of physical symptoms may be their first insight that something is wrong. This is why it is so important for caregivers and treatment providers to recognize the possibility of an untreated mental health concern.
Early intervention can help children gain the skills they need to support lifelong wellness. Caregivers can start this process by teaching children at a young age about mental wellness. Just as we teach children to take good care of their physical health, we also can teach children the basics of emotional health.
DBSA has recently created a resource for parents, caregivers, educators, and clinicians, which can be helpful for teaching children about emotions. The DBSA Mood Crew is a fun, engaging educational program, designed for children ages 4 to 10, that helps caregivers begin positive conversations about emotions. This free resource has worksheets, coloring sheets, games, and activities that can be engaging for the whole family. Early intervention may sound intimidating, but a simple early intervention is starting good emotional education from an early age – starting with the DBSA Mood Crew is a great first step.
Congress may be in recess, but DBSA advocacy is not
Funding needed for peer-to-peer support programs
Manuel has been active in his DBSA chapter, providing and receiving support. But like many, his mental health challenges increased during the pandemic. He jumped at the chance to receive one-on-one peer support services offered by the DBSA national organization. Funding for these services was available through a two-month SAMHSA ECHO grant. After his first visit, his assigned peer support specialist was unable to reach him to schedule further visits. Several weeks later, after the grant funding had expired, Manuel contacted the peer specialist, sharing he had been unavailable because he had experienced a crisis and had been hospitalized.
As a whole, the program recognized impressive outcomes. Eighty percent of people enrolled and completed the program reported reduced symptoms of depression, with a median decrease in PHQ-9 score of forty-seven percent. However, without funding, this model is not sustainable. There are too many people like Manuel who could benefit from programs of this type but do not have access.
DBSA has been working with Congressional leaders to provide solutions. Two bills introduced in Congress provide funding to on-the-ground organizations, as we continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19. The impact of this public health crisis on the mental health of Americans has been just as significant as that of their physical health. Addressing the need for increased funding for comprehensive mental health services, including peer support services and telehealth is more critical now than ever.
More individuals are experiencing the effects of depression, anxiety, and social isolation. According to the CDC Mental Health Household Pulse Survey, almost thirty percent of Americans are reporting symptoms of depression, and notably, this represents a twenty-six percent increase over the last three months.
DBSA call to action
DBSA is calling on all members of Congress to act on two fronts:
- Shore up the mental health needs of Americans by making funds available to local, front line organizations that have the flexibility and efficiency to provide peer support services in their communities.
- Adequately fund the U.S. Postal Service, ensuring Americans continue to receive timely delivery of life-saving medications.
Please join us in asking members of Congress to get back to work and finish the job they started. We need our collective voices to elevate this critical need. Follow this link to send a pre-written letter to your Senators and U.S. Representative. Should you feel comfortable, we encourage you to add your own personal story as well.
New Wellness Wheel podcast: Focus on finances
Continuing our podcast series centered around the DBSA Wellness Wheel, our most recent episode focuses on finances. DBSA talks with Dr. Thomas Richardson, a Clinical Psychologist who works with a community mental health team for adults at Solent NHS Trust in Portsmouth, UK. An avid researcher, he also has lived experience with Bipolar Disorder. We discuss the financial challenges those with lived experience might face and steps that can be taken to improve financial wellness.
This month’s wellness tips
Simplify paying bills
For easier bill pay, try setting up your accounts to use auto-pay. Be sure to set reminders on your calendar, so you know when the money will be pulled from your accounts.
Find a financial confidant
Do you have a close friend or family member you can talk to about your finances? Identifying a trusted friend or family member to discuss financial matters can be helpful if concerns or challenges arise.
Pay attention to financial habits
Consider financial habits that may be in reaction to your mood. Do you tend to comfort spend? Do you avoid looking at bills because of feelings of low mood? Consider a habit you might want to change that could be helpful to your long term financial goals.