Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My thoughts on the death of Robin Williams

If you have spent even a minute on social media yesterday and today you know that the world has lost a great talent, a man loved by many and someone who was more family than stranger even to those who never met him. Posts like the ones below have been the norm on my facebook feed and on twitter since the news broke yesterday.

But why does his death appear to affect so many more people so much more deeply than many other celebrity death? The reason will vary from person to person. For some it might be because they were unaware that he was suffering from depression (some sources also say he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at age 37) so someone who seemed so full of life and positivity committing suicide comes as a huge surprise and shock. Someone else might have a loved one who has committed suicide and this hits close to home for that reason. For yet again others, who did know about his struggle with depression and substance abuse, this might be a surprise because he just finished treatment at a rehab center and if someone with the means like Robin Williams cannot win against this struggle how could others with less access to treatment?

In the wake of Philip Seymore Hoffman's death in February of this year there was a lot of talk about what a waste it was that this talented man had died because of his addiction. There wasn't much talk about the WHY behind it. People would say that he was 'battling demons', that it was terrible that he had relapsed after being clean for 20+ years but there was not much talk about what was the cause of his addiction.

In part it was probably because he was a very private person and did not share much about himself past the public image he was presenting to the world. We will never know if he had a history of mental illness and mental illness does not automatically mean that someone will suffer from an addiction. However, in an attempt to self-medicate it does often correlate.

In contrast, Robin Williams was much more open about his struggle with depression and in one interview talked about having contemplated suicide in the past. We know that he sought out treatment and had actually just finished rehab to help with 'continued sobriety'. Because of that we are able to openly talk about the WHY behind his death. My hope is that we can use this to continue the conversation and help remove some of the stigma. Aside from the many posts about people sharing how this has affected them I have seen many posts from different sources (friends, news sites, celebrities, bloggers) sharing information on depression and how and where to seek help.

While my thoughts are with the family and friends of Robin Williams, my thoughts are also with those who are not in the spotlight and who are having a difficult time dealing with these events. There are resources out there, people who will help you and listen. Don't let the take away from this be 'Well, if even HE couldn't make it...'. Instead take this as a stepping stone to reach out and seek help. A stepping stone to continue the conversation on the need of more resources and research. A stepping stone to address issues of accessibility. A stepping stone to reach out to someone you feel might needs your help.

And if you are not in the US, you can find a list of International hotlines here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Did you know that in 2010, it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 38,364 deaths? That year, someone died by suicide every 13.7 minutes... That same year, 464,995 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior. Together, those harming themselves made an estimated total of more than 650,000 hospital visits related to injuries sustained in one or more separate incidents of self-harm behavior. As this data does not distinguish between suicide intent or self-harm behavior we do not know how many of these were attempted suicides. And we can only imagine the numbers of unreported suicide attempts and self-harm behavior.

But what can we do to change this? How can we reach out to people who feel that their last and only hope is to commit suicide?

1. Take them seriously
2. Know the warning signs
3. Approach the person
4. Be direct
5. Listen
6. Be genuine
7. Help them eliminate access
8. Convey hope
9. Help them get help
10. Call 911 in case of emergency

Another important step prior to reaching all of this is being available all along. We as a society have a lot of work left to do to make access to help easier and less stigmatized. As long as people refuse to seek help because they are worried how society, friends and family will perceive them for admitting to being depressed, feeling hopeless and being at the end of their rope we will continue to see people making the decision to commit suicide. As long as we cannot show people that it is OKAY to ask for help and that it is not a sign of weakness we will continue to not see the number of suicides and suicide attempts decline. As long as we treat people with mental health problems as outsiders and 'less than others' people will be afraid to admit to these problems.

Not until we can start treating Mental Health as a normal part of health and treat those with mental health problems just like we treat people with cancer, diabetes or broken bones will we start to see a difference. Make it your goal to help change the conversation. Make others around you comfortable enough to come to you when they experience difficult times. Take them serious. Know what resources are available and reach out to people who might need you.

If we can do that we can and WILL make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

PsychCentral: What to Do When You Think Someone is Suicidal

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

Today is the day that the US celebrates its independence. A day to celebrate all things American. Images of hot dogs, burgers, watermelons, flags come to mind. Picnics and BBQs with family and friends.

We often think that this must be a wonderful day for the Veterans who have fought for this country. What all too many do not realize is that for many of them, today can be a very difficult day.

The reason for that is invisible and one wrought with stigma: PTSD.

PTSD affects about 7.7 million Americans, and for many of them July 4th is an ordeal, not a celebration. For some veterans, the holiday sparks painful memories; for others the crackling loud noises resemble the horrifying sounds of war.

While L has never been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, he, too, has PTSD and sudden loud noises are difficult for him to deal with. Last night as people started shooting fireworks in anticipation of today I saw him jump with every sudden noise. A day that used to be a day of celebration has become a difficult day for him and many others. The loud and sudden explosions, the large crowds of people gathering, for some the memories of traumatic events that happened on this very day in their own life have become too much to handle with ease.

So today, while you celebrate please remember that the Veteran you know might not be avoiding festivities because he is not patriotic enough but simply because Independence Day has become a difficult day to handle.

Source: http://www.startribune.com/local/214228591.html

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Fathers come in many forms. There is the new dad who just became a dad for the first time, the dad who has two, three or more kids and is a 'Pro' at this dad thing. Most grow with the child and learn the ropes from the very beginning. But some get thrown into this when the child is older simply because they happened to fall in love with someone who already had a child.

That was and is my dad. He married my mom when I was still little so he had always been there in my memory. That does not mean that it was easy for me. With the arrival of two sisters there were times when I felt that I wasn't a complete part of the family. And I clearly remember the day that I lashed out at him telling him that he wasn't allowed to tell ME what to do. He wasn't my father after all. Looking back I can only imagine how much I hurt him with that. He loved (and loves) me just like he does my sisters. We continued to butt heads all through my growing up and it wasn't until I moved out that I really started to appreciate all that he had done for me.

Here at home, L faces different struggles due to his own experiences growing up without a father with the added 'bonus' of his mental health struggles. Despite all of that there is not the tiniest doubt in my mind that he loves our children. What most would consider normal situations are not always easy for him to handle. Going to the park on a busy day, birthday parties, the early morning rush to get kids ready for school all can create a challenge for him. Yet he tackles these things because he loves us.

Thank you for all that you do to L and my dad.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Follow up to ENT appointment

We met with the doctor this week to discuss Mr K's recurring ear infections. The verdict? Tubes getting put in in an outpatient procedure in two weeks. This will be a lot less invasive than Miss K's eye surgery last year so I am currently not all that nervous. I took the day off and it is on a Friday so I will have three days that I can focus on just taking care of our little guy. He is pretty easy going and I am hoping that he will do just fine. His sisters love to help and will probably fight over who will get to help the most.

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