Tag Archives: suicide

PTSD and Suicide

Image from EverydayHealth.com

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can read Part 1 here.

On this blog we’ve established how to recognize the signs of PTSD. This can befall mothers after a dangerous birth, a newly diagnosed cancer patient, people who’ve been mugged, car crash survivors, victims of prolonged abuse and neglect. The list goes on and on.

Left untreated, PTSD can lead to further mental illness, such as compulsive tendencies, depression and anxiety. It can instill fear into even the mundane aspects of life, lead to self-harm, and fracture relationships.

But one of the greatest risks of PTSD is suicide.

This problem is starting to gain some national attention, specifically with veterans, EMS, police and fire fighters. Lawmakers in West Virginia are pushing for a bill to offer workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who exhibit signs of PTSD. Veterans in Baxter County, Arkansas are establishing grassroots organizations to combat the high rate of veteran suicide. Our own Idaho Division of Veterans Services offers resources to our local veterans who are struggling with mental illness and thoughts of suicide.

So, what can you do? If you suspect a loved one may be battling thoughts of suicide, remember QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer.

  1. Question. If you hear them make an offhanded comment, such as “You’d be better off if I was gone,” ask them directly if they are considering committing suicide.
  2. Persuade. If they say they are considering harming themselves, persuade them to come up with a plan to put off any actions until they can see a professional.
  3. Refer. Refer them to a professional who can help them begin to process and heal.

If you are considering suicide, remember this: there is hope. There is healing. You have people who love you, and want to help you. If you are reading this and fear you may act on a suicidal impulse, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline right now at 1-800-273-8255. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So many people are hurting and need help. If you are concerned for a loved one or for yourself, please contact me. I want to help you find the joy in life again.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Grandmas and Friendship Benches Help Treat Depression in Africa

Image from CNN.com.

Grandmothers, take note: in Africa, mental health professionals pioneered a method where they used grandmothers and friendship benches to screen people for basic psychiatric services.

In 2004, a man named Dixon Chibanda was one of only two psychiatrists in all of Zimbabwe (a country of about 12.5 million people). He had a patient named Erica who traveled to Harare, the capital city, from a rural village more than 160 miles away to meet with him. Erica had passed her exams at school but was unable to find work. She had hoped to marry a man who chose another woman. She felt worthless.

Chibanda and Erica met monthly for about a year. He prescribed a mild antidepressant, hoping it would help her cope with her difficulties. Then Erica committed suicide in 2005.

Chibanda changed his career path after Erica’s death, focusing instead on helping get mental help for under-served populations like Erica’s village. And he started with the grandmothers.

Grandmothers had been working in public health clinics in Zimbabwe since the 1980s. In 2006, the clinics asked grandmothers to provide basic psychological therapies to people.

Chibanda and the grandmothers decided to put a Friendship Bench under a shade tree. This is where they would ask patients 14 questions to determine if they needed further treatment, such as “In the last week, have you been thinking too much?” or “Have you thought of killing yourself?”

Then the grandmothers would help them through problem-solving therapy to identify the stresses and social issues in their lives and guide patients to find their own solutions. If the patient needed more intensive therapy, the grandmothers would refer them to Chibanda.

In 2016, Chibanda and his colleagues found that Friendship Bench treatment showed “a significant decrease in depressive symptoms.”

I think this is wonderful. There are so many benefits when younger people to connect with the elderly. Elderly people can feel a sense of purpose that is sometimes lacking with age. Young people can benefit from the perspective that comes with their years.

Older people tend to be less stressed themselves (I wrote about a study that stress levels drop off for women when they reach their 50s and 60s) and they can mirror this behavior for younger people through turbulent periods of their lives.

Grandmothers, remember that you are important. Take some time to reach out to your loved ones or figure out ways to mentor vulnerable youth and young adults in your area. It can truly save lives.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958 or email her at satu214@gmail.com. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

 

’13 Reasons Why’: A romanticized look at suicide

About a month ago, Netflix added “13 Reasons Why” to its  streaming content, and teens are obsessed.

The 13-episode series follows a teenage boy trying to wrap his mind around the suicide of his friend, a teenage girl, as he listens to the 13 tapes she left behind to describe events leading up to her death.

In the end, her peers come to feel sorry for what they did to drive her to her tragic decision. It’s revenge by suicide — a dangerous glamorization of a real temptation for many teens.

Mental health experts have come forward with warnings about the show. Here’s what the National Association of School Psychologists had to say:

“We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.”

Who are these “vulnerable youth” the statement mentions? So many teens could fit into that category. Bullying abounds among young people, especially now that social media makes it easy to inflict emotional pain from a distance.

Parents, teachers, and other adults can be on the lookout for signs of suicidal thoughts in the teens around them. Here’s a good list of warning signs from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Talking or writing about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I won’t be a problem for you much longer”
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having mood swings
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Doing risky or self-destructive things
  • Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
  • Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above

Whether you suspect your teen may have suicidal feelings or not, it’s a good idea to talk to him or her about the show. Make sure he or she knows help is available and there is hope.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

Sleep and your mental health

Let’s talk about sleep: To put it simply, you need it. It’s so important for your mental health.

For starters, disrupted sleep is connected with suicide. A team of researchers recently investigated that link and came up with three “pathways” from sleep problems to suicidal thoughts:

  1. There are fewer mental health resources available at night, so suicidal thoughts that arise are more difficult to contain.
  2. Life gets harder when you’re tired. You’re more depressed, you’re less active, you think more negatively, and it’s harder to focus.
  3. Sleep can be an alternative to suicide — an easy escape from distressing thoughts. If you’re using it as an escape during the day, then what’s left at night?

Other studies have connected sleep and depression, too:

  • New mothers with post-partum depression have more sleep problems than their non-depressed counterparts. The worse their sleep, the worse their depression.
  • Too little or too much sleep appears to activate genes associated with depression.
  • People running on less sleep have an impaired ability to regulate their emotions — certain circuits in their brains aren’t working as well.
  • Teens who go to bed later are more likely to suffer from depression.

If you’re depressed, let’s talk about sleep. Addressing that can be part of the solution.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

Risky decisions and suicide vulnerability

There’s a new study out on suicide that took a different approach: Researchers looked at common characteristics among the relatives of people who had committed suicide.

Study participants, including a set of mentally healthy individuals who were parents, brothers, or sisters to suicide completers, were asked to play a betting game. In the game, players could choose to make big bets or small bets. The big bets generally led to big losses, though there was a chance for big payoffs. The small bets were profitable in the long term.

Relatives of suicide completers were much more likely than the general population to make risky decisions. Even as they progressed in the game and learned how much they could lose, they kept making the decisions that could lead to a big payoff in the short term.

Here’s what study author Dr. Fabrice Jollant had to say: “People who have a tendency to make risky decisions lean toward solutions that provide short-term benefits despite the high risk, instead of solutions that are safer over the long term. They also have difficulty identifying alternative solutions when faced with a problem.”

He goes on: “Within the context of a major depression, this difficulty making good decisions can translate into choosing death, which is a solution that ends the suffering immediately, despite its irreparable consequences, without seeing any alternative solutions.”

The family members in the study also exhibited a healthy ability to control their thoughts, a trait that can serve to negate the vulnerability to suicide.

With more study, new tactics for treatment should emerge from these findings. For example, therapies focusing on decision making and other cognitive behaviors could prove powerful tools.

And while poor decision making skills aren’t the only risk factor for suicide, the more we understand, the more we can prevent.

Read more about the study here.