Springtime Challenge

Springtime Challenge

 

Myth – the rate of suicide goes up in the winter.

Fact – the suicide rate goes up in the spring.

 

 

This reality seems counter-intuitive.  After all, isn’t Spring the time when we can at last go outside and bask, hike, eat, camp, bike, walk, bird-watch and all that in the radiance and warmth of the glowing sun?

Scientists have puzzled over this for years.   Many possible explanations abound, including highly physiological ones, such as one proposing that an inflammatory response may be the cause.

There is good reason to pursue these ideas, but there could be a combination of effects, as is so often the case in behavioral health.  As a social worker with a background in suicide prevention hotlines, I have heard countless people talk about how they feel more “themselves” on cloudy days and how the sunny days of Spring often leave them feeling depressed.    It has often seemed to me that the outside “mood” of rainy weather was more compatible with their internal states of mind.  This compatibility seemed to be comforting to them.  The coming of Spring, however, seemed jarring to their internal state.  They talked more about wanting meaningful relationships – and they seemed to perceive that everyone else had them.  “After all,” they would point out, “look at all the couples walking hand-in-hand out there.  Look at all the families having picnics.”

In the winter – especially during the holidays –  the radio waves and social media outlets are full of messages of hope and compassion for those who are struggling.  Hence a person feeling outside of the mainstream knows that he/she has company.  Not so in Spring.  This season is expected to cure our emotional woes.  For many people who struggle through depression, this unfulfilled promise is deeply disappointing and may trigger thoughts of earlier let-downs.

How can we help our loved ones feel better when they seem not to join the celebration of Spring?  First, it helps simply to recognize that we don’t all react the same way to the new season.  Second, showing someone that you’ve noticed their struggle, and by extension that you’ve noticed them, can make a huge difference.   A gentle invitation (without advice) to take a walk, or perhaps to do something indoors like going out for lunch, can make a difference.  Any way that you can show this person in your life that you notice them, see their struggle, and want to help in a way that’s comfortable for them will go a long way.  If you’re feeling pushed aside when you do this, then it might be helpful for you to find some professional support and guidance on how best to assist.

 

At MHA we offer lots of support to individuals who are living through behavioral health challenges.  We also assist their families and friends.  Most of that help is free.  For more information, please call us at 845-267-2172, x296.

 

 

 

 

My Friend’s Depression is not Going Away. What Should I Do?

It is hard to see a friend you care about sink into sadness or withdrawal and to not know what to say or do to help. Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects 1 out of every 10 people over their lifetime. It causes tremendous pain for the individual suffering from depression and the people close to them too.

The first step to help is to understand. Depression is not feeling blue for a week or two, but is more intense and lasts longer. The signs and symptoms of depression are different for each person, but can include the following:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, irritable or excessively crying without an apparent cause
  • Losing interest in activities that you had enjoyed in the past
  • Losing or gaining weight unintentionally
  • Sleeping poorly or oversleeping
  • Having less energy or feeling lethargic
  • Having persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
  • Having trouble making decisions or concentrating
  • Having thoughts of suicide or death
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

Depression affects a person’s attitude and beliefs. When a depressed individual says “no one cares for me” or “nothing will ever change”, these comments need to be viewed as symptoms of their depression.

Remember that depressed people aren’t lazy. They are ill. Everyday activities like going to work or school, cleaning the house, paying bills or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming to them. Just like someone with the flu they may not feel up to it and need your help.

Your friend may not recognize that they are depressed or they may feel that they can “tough it out” or overcome what they are feeling by willpower alone. As a friend the best thing for you to do is to listen to them, provide hope and to be there for your friend. It is generally not helpful to give advice or to suggest that they “can snap out of it” or try to “fix” them. If your friend expresses that they are not depressed or don’t need your help, don’t push them to acknowledge their problem, but instead continue to keep in touch with them.

If your friend is currently receiving professional help, support their treatment, and if they had not sought help, suggest that they seek help by a mental health professional. Most people suffering from depression can be treated by psychotherapy or a combination of psychotherapy and medication. If they do not begin to improve within 6 to 8 weeks, suggest that they speak with their doctor or another mental health provider for a consultation.

If your friend begins to express any hints about harming themselves or others, you should contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Trying to help someone who is depressed can be draining and stressful for you so remember that you didn’t cause the depression and it is also important to take care of your own emotional health.

For more information about community resources, call MHA’s Client and Family Advocate at 845-267-2172, ext. 296.

Jerry Marton, L.C.S.W.

ACT Team Leader

ACT offers a team-approach that engages people in their communities – providing much of the support and care in people’s homes and neighborhoods.  The program is designed for individuals who have not found enough success in more traditional settings.

Raising a Male of Color Today

Raising a Male of Color Today
by Mary Evans, Senior Case Manager

People often say, “raising a child starts in the home”. Even though this concept is still widely uttered throughout America, then why do the same great principles and values that African American males are taught in their home, fail them outside the home? As a single, college educated African-American female, I raised my son up in the Church. I attended every parent-teacher’s meeting for 12 years of his life. I introduced him to the public library. I taught him wrong from right. I was not a substance abuser or an absent parent. We ate as a family each night when I did not have to work. I also held down 3 jobs to support my son. He grew up in an educated, working family. However, I never felt a need to worry until my son received his driver’s license. This is when the rules changed. My son went from being just an ordinary American male to a black or African
American male, who had to be taught the rules of the road as a black or African American male versus his White counterparts. It is unfair, it is unjust and it is maddening. But it is reality.

How could I ask him to understand something I did not understand myself? If you are an African American parent or parent(s) or person of color raising a light, brown, or black skinned male, what was your life experience? How many of you stayed up at night till your son came home? How many of you taught your son the 10 to 2 rule if he is pulled over by the police? How many of you worried when your son drove home from college out of state or vice versa? What about when your son relocated to a Southern state from a big city state like New York: Did you worry that the New York license plate would target him as suspect for drug dealing?

As an intensive case manager (at that time) and social work professional advocating for the rights of others, I work with white, light, brown and black skinned males between the ages of 6-21. As an intensive case manager, I provided advocacy services and linking population of clients served to resources in and out of the community. These services are based upon a client’s treatment plan goals. Nonetheless, there was one incident I do remember that took place in a local restaurant occupied by majority white patrons. This incident challenged my advocacy skills because it involved prejudice against two male youths of color, who happened to be clients of MHA. The two youths and I had just ended a socialization/recreational activity, which happened to be part of their treatment plan goal. Since they were hungry, I decided to finish the afternoon by treating them to a meal at a local restaurant before taking them home. When the youth finished their meal, it was time to pay the bill utilizing agency flex funds. The service was poor, so I decided not to leave a tip and complain privately to the owner. Before I could launch a complaint, a group of white women told the restaurant owner they saw the youths take money (tips) from the table we occupied. After being questioned by the owner; humiliated by the restaurant owner; and stared at by the group of white accusers, the two youths overheard the accusations and began denying it. They even went as far as proving their innocence by pulling their shirt and short pockets inside out. This was an embarrassing moment for the youths, and I was livid at seeing the youths reaction. When the restaurant owner learned I did not leave a tip at the table, he became apologetic, but it was too late. The damage was done as one of the youth said to me, “Mary, we did not steal any money: why did they blamed us?” I was plagued by so many emotions after hearing these words. I wanted to lash out, but was it the right thing to do in my professional role?

From a professional perspective, I have encountered many similar situations–different names, but same players. It’s disheartening but even more challenging to maintain a cool, calm composure while in the presence of youths, who are watching your every reaction. Various trainings and workshops have given me the tools to turn these unfortunate, distasteful experiences into fortunate teachable moments. The fortunate part about situations like these is that here at The Mental Health Association of Rockland (MHA) exists a Cultural Competency Committee, of which I was a member. The purpose of this committee is to ensure that ALL populations regardless of color, gender, disability, and culture are treated with dignity and respect. The Cultural Competency Committee is one of the most profound structural changing agents at The Mental Health Association. It is the “watchdog” for injustices experienced by our consumers and/or client population. The trainings provide skills that align with my value system then and now. As a huge advocate for children and adolescents, I am a firm believer that if injustices (racism, sexism, classism) faced by our youths of color continue to go unchecked and swept under the rug, it will continue to have a profound effect on children and adolescents and lead to more movements currently taking place in America today—“Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe”!!!

As your son’s role model, I want to leave you with these thoughts to ponder… what has or is your experience raising a male of color? If you are an adult male of color, how do you handle incidents of racial profiling in the presence of your son? In light of today’s headlines focusing on police brutality toward males of color, what advice do you give your 12 – 18 year old son who just received his driver’s license? Do you find that males of color, who are diagnosed with a serious emotional disorder get treated fairly in the justice system? What are you teaching your male(s) of color?
Mary Evans is the Senior Case Manager for the Children’s Case Management Program.
She can be reached at 845-267-2172, x272.
For additional information on our programs, please contact the Client & Family Advocate at 845-267-2172, x296.

What to do if you find drugs in your child’s room?

What to do if you find drugs in your child’s room?

It’s one of every parent’s nightmares. During a routine cleaning of your child’s room you accidentally come across a benign little baggie. Curiosity gets the best of you, and you open it up only to be shocked to find your teen’s stash of drugs. At first, you think your eyes must be playing a trick on you. After all, your child would never do drugs, especially after so many candid discussions about the pitfalls of addiction and the dangers of drugs. Right!?

Wrong.

The truth is that you are not alone, and you if come across your child’s stash of drugs, you can count yourself as one of the lucky parents. At least you know.

The trick is knowing what to do once you find the drugs. Of course, you are angry, and most parents’ FIRST reaction is to get angry and take away all freedoms that their teen has. While experts agree that consequences are necessary and should be immediate when parents realize their child is experimenting. It is also important for parents to keep the lines of communication necessary so they can ascertain the extent of their teens drug use.

Important questions that you need answered.

Is your teen just experimenting, or are they on the road to addiction?

Where did they obtain the drugs?

How long have they been doing drugs?

Why does your child feel the “need” to do drugs?

 

So what should you do now?

First, sit down and have an open, clear-headed conversation with your child. This is a time to build trust, to encourage your child to open up to you, to find out what is going on in their head and in their life. If you are too accusatory-your teen will think that you just don’t understand and will clam up – only hindering a positive ending.

The next step, regardless of the admitted level of drug use – is to seek some sort of drug and alcohol counseling from a professional experienced in the field.

Additionally, expose them in some manner – to the life that is ahead of them should they continue to use drugs.

Kids all over the country are becoming addicted to multiple different substances from every kind of background imaginable from the poorest of the poor to the very wealthy.

Don’t ever underestimate the role that peer pressure plays in a child’s drug use and do not give in to the guilt trip, because your child will not be helped by a parent who is feeling guilty and thus too immobilized to do anything.

If you suspect drug abuse is taking place, however, it is your responsibility as a parent to try to get help for your child. Drug abuse ruins lives, tears families apart and sometimes kills. It is nothing to be ignored!!!!!

Juliet Stiebeck is the Program Director of Recovery Services, a State-certified addictions recovery program at MHA Rockland.
Contact her at 845-267-2172, x225.

For information on programs offered at MHA Rockland and throughout the County, call our Client/Family Advocate at 845-267-2172, x296.

Consoling Someone Who has Lost a Loved One to Suicide

How can you console someone who has lost a loved one to suicide?

Many people who have lost a loved one to suicide tell us what they want most is to know that people care about them and are not judging them or the loved one they are grieving. The death of a loved one through any cause is painful, but losing someone we love to suicide adds another layer of pain and emotions to the experience of loss.

In our attempt to help, we can listen to what has helped others in this situation:
• Be there even if you don’t know what to do or say. The comfort of food, flowers, donations to causes, offers to help with final plans, and babysitting, can bring some comfort to those who are grieving
• Mention by name the person who has died and talk about his/her positive qualities and what you loved about him/her. People don’t want their loved one to be forgotten.
• Listen to your friend’s experience and try to understand what he/she is going through. Sometimes we need to stop ourselves from saying what we might think is helpful, but doesn’t really help those in sorrow, such as “You’re so strong”, “time heals all wounds”, “you will love again”. Our best intentions can be offered in words like “We love you and ________ (lost loved one)”, “What can we do to be helpful right now?” and “How are you getting along?”
• Be aware that other relatives and friends such as children and grandparents can often be overlooked.
• Take care of yourself and know your limitations – when a friend is hurting it takes its toll on you, too.
• As time passes, people appreciate those who remember the anniversary date and birthday of their loved one because they don’t want that person to be forgotten and never mentioned.
• Suffering a loss to suicide is a long-term bereavement. Your acceptance of that and not expecting a person to “snap out of it” will be appreciated.
Resources:
American Foundation of Suicide Prevention Toll-Free: 1-888-333-AFSP (2377)

SOS Support Group for Survivors of Suicide, MHA of RC 845-267-2172
(A professionally facilitated group for those who have lost someone to suicide)

For more referral information, call our Client/Family Advocate – Nicole Sirignano, 845-267-2172, x296.

Author of blog – Marcella Amorese, Director, Children and Family Services, MHA Rockland, 845 267 2172 x324 amoreseM@mharockland.org