By Erica Quinlan
INDIANAPOLIS — #Mentalhealth was the key topic at the second annual Healing the Heartland program hosted by AgrIInstitute.
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
Jennifer Brandt, director of member wellbeing and inclusion initiatives at American Veterinary Medical Association, shared several myths about #mentalhealth during the presentation.
1. #Mentalhealth conditions are uncommon.
False. #Mentalillness is more prevalent than many people think. One in five #Americans experience it in their lifetime. One in 25 experience a serious #mentalillness in a given year.
2. #Mentalillness is caused by personal weakness.
False. Just like any major illness, #mentalillness is not the fault of the person who has the condition. It is caused by a complex mix of environmental and biological factors, not personal weakness.
3. #Depression is often about attention seeking and can be willed away.
False. People don’t choose to have a #mentalillness any more than they choose to have cancer or a heart attack. #Depression is not just “the blues.” It is a serious medical condition that affects biological, social and emotional functioning.
4. People with #mentalhealthconditions are more prone to be violent or dangerous.
False. Living with a #mentalhealthcondition makes you more likely to be a victim of violence — at four times the rate of the general public.
5. It’s dangerous to ask someone if they are considering #suicide. It plants a seed.
False. For those struggling with #depression, they may be relieved to have the opportunity to speak with someone. Often, what people want is a connection and to be heard or seen without judgment.
There are multiple protective factors that can play a role in #suicideprevention, Brandt said.
One is a sense of connection to community and family.
“It doesn’t mean you need to have a huge social network,” Brandt said. “We really want people to have a circle of about 10 or 12 folks. They don’t need to be people you hang out with every day. It doesn’t need to be your best friend. But do you have a wide enough circle?”
Having life skills, including problem solving skills, impulse control and resiliency, can also be a protective factor.
If you are worried about someone’s potential wellbeing, the best thing to do is have a conversation with them, Brandt said.
It can be hard and uncomfortable. But it’s worth it.
“The key is being willing to start that conversation,” Brandt said. “And often it may sound something like this: ‘I’ve noticed you say you haven’t been sleeping lately or meeting up for our weekly poker game. I’m concerned. Tell me about what’s going on. I’m here to listen.’
“Then make sure you are listening. Don’t scroll on your phone or have other distractions. Set aside some time for that conversation so that person knows they have your undivided attention.”
There are three primary questions to ask:
1. Are you thinking about #suicide?
2. Do you have a plan for #suicide?
3. Do you have access to that plan?
“If any of the answers are yes, do not leave the person alone,” Brandt said. “It’s important to stay calm. How we ask those questions is also very important. The tone of voice — be non-judgmental.
If you can safely remove the means of #suicide, do so.
“You can call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLine,” Brandt said. “You do not need to be suicidal in that moment. You can call them proactively and they can offer you information, support and resources.
“If you do need to call 911, you can ask if there’s somebody who may have #mentalhealth experience to try and keep everybody as safe as possible.”
The #NationalSuicidePreventionLine is 800-273-8255. Learn more at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.