In recognition of Mental Health Month, please take a moment to read Mateja’s article in which she shares 5 ways to help a loved one that suffers from a mental illness.
Unfortunately, mental health illness is still stigmatized in our society even though with the new parity law – health care reform – hopefully different status of a medical illness and a mental health illness will start to lessen. These past few years, we were shaken up by several celebrities, such as beloved actor Robin Williams, commit suicide. There is no judgement and each case is different, however, suicide IS preventable in most cases.
I personally struggled with mental illness all my life. I know how devastating it can be when you feel hopeless and feel like you are the only one who does not have it all together. Growing up in Slovenia, there was even less mental health awareness so I was left to my own devices. My escape was journaling and music and having a few close friends who understood me and encouraged me. Also, my grandma was my “guardian angel.” When I moved to the US at the age of 29, I was fortunate to find supportive friends and social groups, spiritual in nature, so that I was eventually able to heal from the emotional trauma of my childhood and adolescence.
Healing myself from trauma was a long journey; however, in a way was also a blessing in disguise as I have learned a lot about our behavior patterns and emotions and how they influence each other. More importantly, I have always believed in non-medical, holistic, natural approach. I was fortunate that several years ago I met a psychiatrist who not only medicated people but also gave them resources for healing naturally, such as L-Theanine.
However, at times medication is needed along with psychotherapy. Research shows that in 2006, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 33,300 lives per year. Suicide rates among youth (ages 15-24) have increased more than 200% in the last fifty years. The suicide rate is also very high for the elderly (age 85+).
Did you know that four times more men than women kill themselves; but three times more women than men attempt suicide?
The good news is that suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their suicidal intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them. Often people will be more optimistic, and start doing new ventures, or start giving their clothes away. Most people really don’t want to end their life; pain has just become too unbearable and they don’t see a way out. They erroneously think that it will be like this forever.
Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal. Actually, it is just the opposite. A good and caring therapist is essential to help people develop a better set of coping skills to deal with the challenges in life.
Surviving family members not only suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide but are also themselves at higher risk for suicide and emotional problems. (Source)
What can you do when you or somebody you know is experiencing clinical depression?
- Get professional help; if you are more comfortable with your clergy member or a priest, do so.
- Talk with someone every day, preferably face to face. If you don’t have a trusted friend, find a support group.
- Make a safety plan. Develop a set of steps that you can follow during a suicidal crisis. It should include contact numbers for your doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
- Make a written schedule for yourself every day and stick to it, no matter what. Keep a regular routine as much as possible, even when your feelings seem out of control.
- Exercise is one of the best remedies for depression. If you don’t like going to the gym, walk around a block or go biking or take dancing lessons.
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