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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Mental-Illness Education Could Prevent #Suicide in Young People


My son Ryan was diagnosed with a mental illness in the fall of 2005.

Denial prevented us both from believing that what he was struggling with was mental illness. The stigma and stereotypes kept us from the help he so desperately needed.

Reading his journals, I learned of the battle he had been waging in silence since late adolescence. I had wanted to believe that what was happening to him was typical adolescence.

The road to full-blown mental illness is always paved with symptoms that can look like typical adolescent emotions such as social #anxiety, self-doubt, and thoughts of not fitting in, Alone, they do not indicate #mentalillness.

But the duration and intensity of those emotions might. I remember him asking me what I thought happened to people who died by suicide.

I answered only God knew the suffering that person was going through. I had no idea he was talking about himself.

Nine months after diagnosis, at age 24, he took his life.

We often hear the phrase, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” That statement diminishes the pain that the person feels.

Sometimes problems are temporary, but many things people struggle with may not have simple solutions. At the most basic level, people want their pain to go away, not their lives.

Suicide is often attributed to a single event, but most often, it has been building over time and occurs when stressors exceed the person’s coping abilities. It doesn’t only affect those with mental illness, although according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of those who die by suicide were struggling with one.

There are commonly cited warning signs. (See afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs. )



#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, 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 #suicidalthoughts 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


But, as many survivors of suicide loss know, there may not have been outward signs, our loved ones were too ashamed to talk about their feelings, or we as parents, teachers or friends misinterpreted or missed them.

Youth may not always know how to share feelings with teachers or parents but might with peers. It is more likely they will receive support if those peers have learned about available resources and the importance of not stigmatizing or judging illnesses like depression or anxiety.

We cannot sweep the topics of mental illness and suicide under the rug. Mental illness affects one in five people at some point in their lives.

Normalizing conversation and providing youth and families with education around mental illness and suicide supports everyone. This is #suicideprevention.

Breaking the Silence NM is in Rio Rancho middle and high schools. (See breakingthesilencenm.org.)

On May 11, during #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, a spoken-word performance called “Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by #MentalIllness” will take place at the Kimo, 423 Central Ave. NW in Albuquerque. Through personal stories, seven people share the pain, confusion, resilience, and humor of living with mental illness.

(Desiree Woodland is a retired teacher who taught in Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools. She is on the boards for Survivors of Suicide and Breaking the Silence NM.)

depressionand what to say

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