Tag Archives: mental health month

Awareness Matters

october-national-depression-mental-health-screening-month[1]October is  important to me because it gives me a chance to play with zombies, clowns and broken dolls. Of the three, the only one that scares me are dolls clowns (ok, maybe clowndolls).

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But October is important for other (more important) reasons.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. There have been a lot of posts on social media sharing crisis hotline information, listing the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation and advising us that depression isn’t always obvious.

Mental Health Awareness month is important to me because it has personal significance. I come from a long line of women who self medicate for depression, and I’ve shared stories of my battles with the Black Dog. It should be important for everyone.

We are suffering from a crisis. The World Health Organization states that “Around 450 million people currently suffer from (mental health issues), placing mental disorders amount the leading causes of ill-health an disability worldwide.” The article continues:

“Treatments are available, but nearly two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder never seek help from a health professional. Stigma, discrimination and neglect prevent care and treatment from reaching people with mental disorders, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.”

Even more alarming is the fact that according to the Centers for Disease Control data, the suicide for Americans aged 15-24 (aka Generation Z) is the highest it’s been since at least 1999. The overall suicide rate for this age group has risen by 51% over the past decade. We tell people that suicide is “selfish” instead of recognizing it as the last choice of someone who is in more pain than we can possibly imagine (full disclosure – I’ve been guilty of this one).

Mental Health issues are one of our remaining taboos. We suggest that people who are clinically depressed should avoid medication and tell them that they “just need to change their diet and exercise more.” We call them “Eeyore” and tell them they need to “buck up” and get out of the house.

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I came across a great article in (of all places) People magazine. PEOPLE magazine wants to change the stigma with their Let’s Talk About It initiative to normalize mental illness. In the article, Ashley Womble director of communications and crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line says that communication with friends and loved ones who are suffering is vital.

“Always ask!” she says. “If you’re concerned about a loved one, it’s important for you to tell them why and make it easier for them to ask for help or support. Suffering is hard enough. You can make it easier by starting the conversation.”

Most importantly, I think we need to stop judging people who struggle with mental illness and offer them sympathy instead. Maybe we should just stop judging people, period.

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If you or someone you love is having a mental health crisis, please reach out for help. NAMI has a downloadable guide for navigating a mental health crisis, and you can always call or text to speak to a trained professional.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741
Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message.

Hello My Name is Eeyore

imageChuck Wendig reminded me that May is Mental Health awareness month. This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is – Life with a Mental Illness (yes, there’s a theme). If just one person benefits from my story,  I’ll be happy. TBH even if nobody reads it, I’ll be happy, because I’m writing again.

I have struggled with depression for most of my life. I have no doubt that my mother used alcohol to self-medicate for depression. It’s possible that her mother did as well – but, seeing that I rarely saw my grandmother express ANY emotion, I can’t be sure.

I consider myself fortunate, in that my personal demon is mostly situational. When life is going well, I sometimes get the blues, but I can cope. Unfortunately, Life is a BITCH and she likes to hammer us with repeated losses and then dump us, battered and bleeding, in the Pit of Despair without Wesley to keep us company.

18 months ago, I hit my low point. I wound up curled in a ball on the floor of my Honda, sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t do that anymore (and not just because I no longer have the Honda).  It’s not that Life has become kind. In the past 6 months, my husband almost died, my coworker did, one girlfriend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and my other friend ended up in ICU. No, these aren’t my personal problems (although I would have taken my husband’s death personally), but I have a soft heart, and tend to grieve with those I love, and (sometimes) with those I don’t.

My girlfriend is deep in the hole. She asked me how I cope. “You seem so happy, even when you go through a rough patch”.

I was trained from an early age that emotions are something best kept hidden (thanks Grandma!). We need to slap on some lipstick and hide our broken heart.

The bad news is that suppressing our emotions leads to a whole slew of issues, including (but not limited to) eating disorders, cutting, alcohol and drug dependence, increased depression (goody!) and physical illnesses (yes, stress CAN kill you). The good news is that the idea that you should “fake it ‘til you make it” actually carries some weight. When you get up, shower, put on makeup and clean clothes and pretend that you feel good, eventually you do.

I have learned to ask for, and accept, help. It’s the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned. I am very lucky, in that I have an amazing group of friends who let me vent when needed, and who are quick to provide a shoulder, chocolate, or wine when necessary. Even my husband has learned to “listen and nod” instead of trying to fix my “problems”.

I talked to a professional. Yes, I have a wonderful support team. Sometimes you get tired of complaining about the same old stuff to the same old people. Besides, these people are just sitting around waiting for someone to talk to. Keep them off the unemployment line!

I took a pill. No, not the pills that Stevie sells on the corner. I filled the prescription my doctor gave me. I am not a fan of “Better living through chemicals”, but I’m a huge proponent of using whatever tools you have available to dig your way out of the darkness.

I learned to go outside. Some people like to run, some people like to go to the beach. I have found that it doesn’t much matter. Depression wants us to lay in the dark, under a supersoft blanket, eating cookies and surfing through 300+ channels. Going outside is a teeny tiny step in the battle, but it’s an important one. Please note  – do NOT forget to put on pants before you go outside. My neighbors may never forgive me.

Lastly, I listen to music. Music speaks to my soul and makes me feel all the feels. Just this morning Johnny Cash reminded me that when you’ve got the blues, you need to Get Rhythm.

 

So tell me, what coping mechanisms do you use, when Life leaves you feeling overwhelmed?