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#JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – Telling How People Die May Help De-Stigmatize Addiction And #MentalHealth


GoLocalProv News Team

Dr. Michael FineOne of Rhode Island’s top physicians suggests that to help destigmatize critical public health issues such as drug addiction and #mentalhealth, there needs to be a wider discussion, and suggests that listing the cause of death in obituaries may help.

“I read the obituaries with great interest to a certain degree because of the way they let you know who the person was and telling the person’s story but they also are clues about the kinds of things that are affecting Rhode Islanders, “ said Dr. Michael Fine, the former Rhode Island Director of Health.

“And here I pay a lot more attention to the things that appear to be affecting young people in terms of what was the cause of death,” added Fine.GET THE LATEST BREAKING NEWS HERE — SIGN UP FOR GOLOCAL FREE DAILY EBLAST

“Obviously obituaries don’t often report the cause of death. You can sort of get a sense sometimes by looking at where people ask donations to be made or sometimes in other ways, but you know I think it’s very valuable for people to know what kinds of diseases and conditions are out there so that we know what’s affecting the community as a whole,” said Fine.

“We’ve struggled with substance overdose and opiate overdose deaths for many years now. We lost over 380 people to overdose deaths in Rhode Island in 2020 and we’re on track for that number to be greater this year,” said Fine.

Earlier in 2021, GoLocal began to offer Rhode Islanders obituaries at no cost and now publishes the largest number of obituaries. Nearly daily, a young person’s obituary is published who died from #suicide or an overdose.

In 2020, Rhode Island suffered 384 overdose deaths — the highest number in the past 6 years. The overdose deaths in 2020 were also a 24% increase over 2019.VIEW LARGER +Need to Talk About Substance Abuse and #Suicide – Can Obituaries Help Destigmatize?

From 2014 thru May of 2021, more than 2,000 Rhode Islanders have died of overdoses.

#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

Fine urges a more open discussion about issues such as overdoses, mental health, and suicide.

“I think part of the reason it continues to happen and part of the reason we struggle with suicide is because of the stigma around substance use disorder and around depression and mental health disorders and part of the way to undo that stigma is to begin talking about it, and for families to begin talking about what really happened to them — what really happened to this person they loved, so that we can as a community knows what’s happening to us,” added Fine.

“And as a community, we can begin to do the kinds of things we need to do to prevent these deaths,” said Fine.VIEW LARGER +Senator Maryellen GoodwinOne Legislative Effort

This year, legislation authored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and Representative Brandon C. Potter,  and signed by Governor Dan McKee will permanently require the state to analyze overdose deaths to help identify ways to reduce their prevalence.

“The overdose epidemic is a pressing issue for states across our nation. Now more than ever, it is crucial for Rhode Island to continue identifying and examining factors that contribute to the increasing number of deaths to help us respond to this crisis effectively,” said McKee. 

In 2018, the General Assembly passed legislation that established a temporary requirement that a group of health and public safety professionals must review all overdose deaths in Rhode Island to examine trends and other factors. The group provides an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly. This new legislation removes the 2020 sunset provision to make the reports a permanent requirement.

“After a year with a 25 percent increase in overdose deaths, Rhode Island cannot afford to stop studying what’s fueling all these deaths. We need to know which drugs exactly are the biggest issues, how they are being taken, where they are coming from, the circumstances leading to the death — the more we know, the more we can do to identify ways and resources to prevent more people from being lost to this tragic epidemic,” said Goodwin 

“As we’ve seen with the emergence of fentanyl in recent years, the trends in drug overdose deaths change over time, and our state must be able to identify shifts to effectively respond to them. In a sense, looking very closely at the data from all of the people lost can etch out a sliver of hope from this tragedy, since it helps us find ways to save other individuals and families from experiencing the same suffering and heartbreak. We need every tool – especially information – available to us to address the overdose epidemic,” said Potter.


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