Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives
Mental health seminar addresses suicide prevention, anxiety, depression, PTSD
By DON WILBURN
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (SPAM) and is a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic and was the focus of attention at the West Memphis Public Library at a seminar held this past Saturday with a panel of experts.
The seminar, called “Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives: Pop in, Let’s Talk” was put on and organized by the East Arkansas Family Health Center, IAP Ministries and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority aimed to inform its attendees on subjects ranging from suicide prevention, PTSD, depression, anxiety to common myths surrounding mental health issues.
See HEALTH, page A3
A crowd of local concerned citizens, largely women, turned out to hear from panel of experts last Saturday at the “Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives: Pop in, Let’s Talk” seminar at the West Memphis Library.
Photo by Don Wilburn HEALTH
From page A1
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common (more than 12 million Americans reported having suicidal thoughts in 2020), should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues. There is a death by suicide every 11 minutes in the United States and 1.2 million adults attempted to take their own lives in 2020. There has also been a 31 percent increase in attempts among adolescents since 2019.
It is interesting to note that while the seminar was already full at the 10 a.m. starting time, with late arrivals having to stand, the attendees were primarily African American adult women. A curious turnout as some of the statistics presented included the fact that while suicide rate are highest among non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives, those are most at risk of taking their own lives are, in fact, non-Hispanic white males. Dr. Shondolyn Sanders, one of the speakers, chalked this up to the environment of machismo that men are often raised in and essential a “boys don’t cry” attitude. The panel also briefly touched on the topic of firearms which are used in over 50 percent over suicides.
Other topics addressed including the debunking of myths commonly associated with mental health disorders. It was stressed the importance of not simply dismissing someone suffering from anxiety, depression, etc as “crazy” or telling them that it is just a “get over it” type of situation. Another important tip expressed by the panel was that asking someone or broaching the subject of suicide does not “make them think of it” and that it is always better to ask than not.
If you have a family member or friend who is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek help immediately from an emergency room, physician, or mental health professional. Take seriously any comments about suicide or wishing to die. Even if you do not believe your family member or friend will actually attempt suicide, the person is clearly in distress and can benefit from your help in receiving mental health treatment.
When people say they’re thinking about suicide, or say things that sound like they’re considering suicide, it can be very upsetting. You may not be sure what to do to help, whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. Here’s what to do.
The first step is to find out whether the person is in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Be sensitive, but ask direct questions, such as:
■ ■ How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
■ ■ Do you ever feel like just giving up?
■ ■ Are you thinking about dying?
■ ■ Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
■ ■ Are you thinking about suicide?
■ ■ Have you ever thought about suicide before, or tried to harm yourself before?
■ ■ Have you thought about how or when you’d do it?
■ ■ Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?
Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive. In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
You can’t always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide. But here are some common signs:
■ ■ Talking about suicide – for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
■ ■ Getting the means to take their own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
■ ■ Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
■ ■ Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
■ ■ Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
■ ■ Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
■ ■ Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
■ ■ Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
■ ■ Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
■ ■ Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there is no other logical explanation for doing this
■ ■ Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
■ ■ Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above For more information on suicide prevention please visit suicideprevention. org or for immediate assistance or to talk to someone locally please call 1-800-273TALK
Panelists: Dr. Shondolyn Sanders, Dr. Charledria Mcgee, Djuanna McNeely, Latasha Delayney, Reda Kirkwood.
Photo by Don Wilburn