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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Kindness Can Go Long Way, Even as Far as Saving Lives

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James Donaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of depression and suicidal thoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

depressionand what to sayKindness can go a long way

Bullying, both in person and online, is a striking example of the lack of kindness, compassion and empathy that is pervasive in our society. Bullying can have a severe impact on individuals’ mental health by leading to a sense of isolation, resulting in depression and in some cases, suicidal thoughts and actions.

Victims of bullying need mental health services to help them cope with their struggles and prevent actions that can harm themselves and others. Three recent news reports from New Mexico, Ohio and Michigan demonstrate the tragic impact bullying can have: an 11-year-old and two 13-year-olds from these states took their own lives within the past few weeks as a result of bullying.

Those who demonstrate bullying behaviors could also benefit from mental health care, as their tendencies to harass, criticize and/or physically harm others could stem from underlying mental health issues within themselves.

It is critical that we look at what is going on in the brains and minds of bullies.

Motivational speaker Will Bowen said “People hurt others as a result of their own inner strife and pain. Avoid the reactive response of believing they are bad; they already think so and are acting that way. They aren’t bad: they are damaged and deserve compassion.”

As difficult as it may be, compassion and empathy for all are critical. Kindness needs to be taught in schools and modeled by all adults’ behaviors. Bullying can have long-term negative effects on individuals’ mental health, even into adulthood. Kindness, understanding and empathy must also be demonstrated by parents and other adults in children’s lives.

As a parent who has lost a child to suicide, I hear many people share their stories of suicide loss. Over and over I hear, “But, she never told me she was struggling” or “Why didn’t he ask for help?” It is critical for all of us to understand that people who are living with suicidal ideation are living with unhealthy brains.

Clinical depression is an illness, not a weakness, yet a Salem woman helps hide her husband’s illness because of the stigma. Anna Reed, Statesman Journal

Their distorted thinking tells them that their families and friends would be better off without them, that they do not deserve help! As members of society, we all have a responsibly to educate ourselves about the signs and symptoms of suicide, understanding that individuals who are struggling most likely will not ask for help. We have to take difficult steps to help them. While these steps can often be against a person’s will, they are critical and can save the person’s life.

All adults, especially those who work with students, should take a Youth Mental Health First Aid course to educate themselves. If anyone has any concern about any youth, an evaluation should be done as soon as possible. We need to follow our “guts.” The longest cranial nerve, the vagus, runs from the brain stem to the colon and is responsible for the visceral sensations felt in the organs of the body. It is an act of love to connect our families and friends to resources for mental health help.

During the week of Valentine’s Day and Teen Suicide Prevention — and all year long — let’s show the greatest love to our children. Ask them how they are. Are they experiencing bullying? How many hours are they sleeping each night? Are they struggling with thoughts, feelings and behaviors that seem to last forever? Are these thoughts having a negative impact on their lives? Are they feeling hopeless? And then we need to listen…truly listen, without judgement.

One of the greatest acts of love we can take as parents is to show understanding that there is nothing to be ashamed of if our children are struggling with mental health disorders and then get our young people the mental health support and care they need so we can prevent teen suicides.

Tricia Baker is co-founder of Attitudes In Reverse, an organization that educates students about mental health, related disorders and suicide prevention.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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