A Call for Help – What You Can Do

I have a request for all of you. We are experiencing a crisis when it comes to mental health conditions and suicide. There are so many discoveries coming to surface, but we need much more funding to push forward. According to the NIH data I have researched on funding for all diseases and conditions, it’s obvious that mental health conditions and suicide are far down on the list of what is currently being funded.

This is a shame, considering one in four people suffer from a mental health condition, and considering that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in our young people from ages 10-35, only following accidental deaths. Many reports state that suicide is under reported because of the stigma related to it. If this is the case, which I believe to be so, then suicide numbers are far higher than reported. The fact that our funding for research is so low is flat out inexcusable.

We are already finding biomarkers for mental health conditions, and the research is showing the likelihood of biomarkers for suicide. There have been many studies conducted on genetics, epigenetics, and neuroinflammation, and how these can cause a predisposition for mental health conditions and suicidal ideation. In order to discover treatments for these conditions, we need to conduct more research. In order to do this, we need more funding!

How can you help? Please contact your local legislators to let them know that you are advocating for more funding to go into research for the biological causes of mental health conditions and suicide. With all of us working together, we could make a huge impact. It’s amazing what we can do when we all work together!

Mental Health Overview

Whether we call it a mental health condition/disorder, emotional dysregulation, or mind/brain disease, it’s all the same. And one in a quarter of us suffer from these problems. (I would say, probably more.). Some of us are depressed. Some of us suffer from anxiety. Some have OCD. And some have psychotic events causing dissociation, schizophrenia, borderline personality, and bi-polar disorder. There’s mounting evidence that many of us are suffering from some type of mental health condition.

I’ve been researching the scientific causes for mental health conditions and suicide, and decided to give a general overview of some of the major categories. Here goes:

“Mental illness, also called mental health disorders, refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time. But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/symptoms-causes/syc-20374968)

I, myself, have suffered from depression and anxiety disorders. I have no doubt there is a genetic link. Several in my family have suffered. You may have a genetic link as well. Research, better treatment, and education are the ways to more successful tomorrows for our loved ones.

For Those of Us Struggling

For those of us struggling with a mental health disorder, or who have a family member with a mental health disorder, or those who have a loved one who has passed away due to suicide, not enough can be said or done to make things right.  The numbers keep rising, yet the research is still painfully slow in finding the causes and treatments for mental health diseases and suicide.

If you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder, count yourself fortunate.  If you do, you are definitely not alone. Unfortunately, our culture has made us feel alone, unusual, and sometimes the target of jokes and bullying. All the while, a great deal of the underlying causes are biological in origin.

Who would make fun of a person dying from heart disease?  Who would laugh at a child suffering from cancer?  No one.  Yet, mental illnesses have never been treated with the same dignity as other diseases.  How shameful our culture is.  How horrific these countless tragedies are to our innocent children, teens, adults, and the aging population.

Stigma and shame have led many to hide and not receive any kind of help.  Would you want to be embarrassed by your peers, cut from a list of job candidates, or denied decent insurance coverage, all because of a mental health condition?  

So hiding becomes a way of life for so many.  Is there any wonder why so many people are suffering?  Is there any wonder why so many people are dying by suicide?

As for those who do seek medical help, some have successful outcomes.  Yet for many, the treatments are, quite frankly, sub-par.  And these individuals are left floundering, jumping from one pill to the next, sometimes taking dangerous cocktails of meds. 

I say these things not to knock the psychiatric community.  They are merely doing their jobs. According to the limited research at hand, they are doing the best they can.  And that’s the point. The research isn’t there, or not nearly enough of it.  This, again, is because mental health conditions have been seen as not as important as ‘real’ medical conditions  Well, they are important, and they “are real”.  They are biological in nature for many, and they have the added layer of being environmental.  Add stigma to the mix, and we have a recipe for disaster.

With all of this said, I do see the tides shifting a bit.  Or maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part.  I hope not.  Organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and others are seeing the need to support research into the biological causes of mental health conditions.  Support groups, such as the Alliance of Hope (AOH) are making a huge impact on those who have lost loved ones to suicide. They are also working hard to remove stigma from mental health disorders and suicide.

We need to all keep working together.  We need to speak out until we are heard so that lives may be enjoyed and so that lives may be saved.

Suicide is Not a Selfish Act

I heard someone say today that suicide was a selfish act. What do you think? Do you really think that someone would intentionally take his or her own life out of being selfish? If you do, I’m so sorry you feel that way. If you do, I hope I can change your mind.

Suicide certainly leaves a wake of devastation for those who are impacted. Survivors of suicide loss are at increased risk for depressionaddiction, and the emergence of suicidal ideation themselves. Even though suicide causes massive collateral damage, can it really be considered selfish? The answer is a resounding “No”.

According to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/contributors/shauna-h-springer-phd,:

The suicidal mode is an altered state of consciousness. When a person is battling with their demons and feeling hopeless, their thinking is often significantly distorted. They do not see reality the way they would if they were not in suicidal crisis. Their thoughts loop on the theme of how they are a burden to those they love. Their brains actively make a case for how others will not really miss them or that in the long run, those they love would be better off without them somehow. (Of course, their loved ones don’t agree with this).

An analogy might be helpful here. Take the case of a person who is in the grips of anorexia. (I, myself, had anorexia before anyone ever knew it existed.) I was dangerously underweight. However, I didn’t see myself that way at all. I could still see that overweight little girl who was so tired of being overweight. I had a distorted perception of reality. In a similar way, those who are in a very dangerous crisis of suicidal despair often have distorted perceptions of reality. They see themselves as a burden, the same way that an individual struggling with anorexia sees him or herself as being overweight.  

Further, those who are in the grips of the suicidal mode (or suicidal trance) often become mentally detached from those they love. With that being said, each suicide attempt is different. Regardless of each one’s personal story, it’s clear that interpersonal detachment is a core part of the suicidal mode. People’s demons become like the domestic abuser whose first move is to isolate his or her partner from the influence of those who love them. Demons will ambush those who suffer in silence, but those who break this dangerous code of silence before the suicidal crisis begins, often can regain their hope and will to live.

Finally, those who survive suicide attempts often look back on their crisis from a different perspective. They often understand how suicide would devastate their loved ones, where they did not see this in the throws of their earlier suicidal mode (trance). Those who come through a dark time and regain a sense of hope and purpose have stories that can save lives. Those who are suffering need to hear stories of hope and recovery. Attempt survivors can use their experience of being in the grips of suicide to argue that hope awaits us, even in the midst of some of our darkest days. Their stories can break the power of shame and stigma.

(I would like to share what an individual who survived a suicide attempt had to say to a blog author from”Psychology Today”.)

     I am a suicide survivor who attempted to take my own young life, at age 23, with an overdose of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Fortunately, my sister found me unconscious and was able to call an ambulance in time. After 2 years of therapy with a great psychiatrist, I recovered and, now, 30 years later, am still eternally grateful to my sister.What I remember most about deciding to end my life is that it was an unpredictable, lightning-fast decision, preceded by an upsetting event, during a time in my life when I was both depressed and anxious. I remember feeling pure relief when I made the decision to end all the pain. You mentioned the word “tunneling,” and that is a perfect word to describe my thought process. I blocked out all thoughts of how my actions would affect my loving parents, family, and friends. This wasn’t purposeful—it was simply what occurred. It was, as you said, an altered state of consciousness, and the lens through which I saw my life at that moment was so different from how I had previously, or would see it in the future. I didn’t intend to hurt anyone; I wanted to unburden my family and finally escape the pain. I felt hopeless in the truest sense of the word. And, no one saw it coming, including me just a few hours earlier. That is how unpredictable and instantly gripping I believe [suicidal thoughts can be].

Duration of Suicidal Crises

This article is discussing the duration of suicidal crises of those who may or may not suffer from a mental health condition. We are a long way in finding answers in how to help and respond to these types of tragedies.

While some suicides are deliberative and involve careful planning, many appear to have been hastily decided-upon and to involve little or no planning. Chronic, underlying risk factors such as substance abuse and depression are also often present, but the acute period of heightened risk for suicidal behavior is often only minutes or hours long (Hawton 2007).

The following studies are interviews from those people hospitalized after a suicide attempt.

The Houston study interviewed 153 survivors of nearly-lethal suicide attempts, the the 13-34 age range. Survivors of these attempts were thought to be more like suicide completers due to the medical severity of their injuries or the lethality of the methods used. They were asked: “How much time passed between the time you decided to complete suicide and when you actually attempted suicide?” One in four deliberated for less than 5 minutes!  (Simon 2005).

Duration of Suicidal Deliberation:

24% said less than 5 minutes

24% said 5-19 minutes

23% said 20 minutes to 1 hour

16% said 2-8 hours

13% said 1 or more days

A study from Deisenhammer asked people who were seen in a hospital following a suicide attempt how long before their suicidal act they first started thinking about attempting it. 48% said within 10 minutes of making the attempt. An Australian study of emergency department visits found 40% of attempters took action within 5 minutes of deciding to attempt (Williams 1980). The authors summarized seven earlier studies that found one-third to four-fifths of attempts were impulsive.

In an Australian study of survivors of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, 21 of 33 subjects (64%) stated that their attempt was due to an interpersonal conflict with a partner or family member (deMoore 1994). Most survivors were young men who did not suffer from major depression or psychosis, and the act was almost always described as impulsive. A similar study in Texas with 30 firearm attempters found 60% had experienced an interpersonal conflict during the 24 hours preceding their attempt (Peterson 1985).

At least one-third of suicide decedents under age 18 experienced a crisis within 24 hours of taking their life, according to NVISS data drawn from police and coroner/medical examiner reports. The proportion with a crisis declined with age. In some cases the crises were not just same-day but virtually same-moment (such as shooting themselves in the midst of an argument).

Interviews with 268 patients hospitalized for a poisoning suicide attempts in Sri Lanka found that just over half took the poison after less than 30 minutes of thought, often directly following an argument (Eddelston 2006). While most of these patients survived their attempts, 13 died. Like the nonfatal attempters, over half of those who died deliberated less than 30 minutes.

Sometimes the Pressure for Guys is Too Much

In a recent BBC film, Roman Kemp explored how mental health problems can be related to ideas about masculinity.  He understands that the causes of suicide are always complex and never related to one single issue.

However, he states, “No matter what, there is still an idea that the man is the breadwinner of the family. The man is the person that has to have a family, has to find the ‘perfect person’ and be happy with them, have kids and help them financially …  And sometimes that pressure for guys is too much.”

Add to that, the pandemic – and the financial toll that comes with it.  Roman states that Covid has an impact as well.

“The pandemic has just accelerated everything,” he says. “It’s accelerated people’s depression, anxiety, fears. We’re living in a world now where it’s literally like ‘fear porn’ – how can the world be scared next?”

“And for someone who is already going through something mentally, when you start hearing about job losses, people not even being able to put food on the plate for their family, that’s a serious thing that – especially for guys – is a tough, tough thing to take.”

Roman stated that guys suffer hugely with thinking they’re not where they should be in their life.  They feel they can’t take a pause for themselves.

Roman visited organizations across the UK that are trying to help young men struggling with mental illnesses, like an emergency street triage team in Nottingham who dispatch mental health workers to people in crisis and a charity called Lighthouse, in Belfast, that helps boys and young men who’ve been affected by suicide.

“You’ve got light at the end of the tunnel in terms of groups and charities starting to make this movement happen,” he says.

But Roman also believes the government needs to take mental health issues more seriously.

“Not enough is being done,” he says. “To not have the support in place for kids, in my opinion, is disgraceful. There’s not enough budget there. There’s not enough onus put on it.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/13c2fd0b-2a24-4afa-aff5-48f4249df784

It is often very challenging for men to talk about their experiences and seek support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. 

Governments everywhere, need to pause, listen, and put our hard-earned money toward helping those who suffer from mental illnesses.

In 2019, men died by suicide 3.63x more often than womenhttps://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

White males accounted for 69.38% of suicide deaths in 2019. https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/

Biomarkers for Suicide

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that many mental disorders have a genetic link.  There are many people who suffer from mental illnesses.  In fact, at least a quarter of our population in the US has some type of mental health condition.  Mental illness puts a person at a higher risk of suicidal ideation, and it’s been reported that a large percentage of those suffering from suicidal ideation also have some type of mental disorder.  However, it has also come to the attention of researchers that most of those who have mental health disorders do not have suicidal ideation or attempt suicide.

Confusing?  In other words, many people suffer from mental health disorders, but most of these people don’t suffer from suicidal ideation.  On the flip side, many of the people who attempt or complete suicide do have a mental health disorder. 

Suicide is extremely complex, and there are many factors involved.  Suicidal thoughts have many causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.  Some refer to this as a suicidal trance.

Scientists are also theorizing that there is a genetic link to suicide. Suicidal ideation is now being studied as a disorder in and of itself.  People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.  However, it’s important to understand that a family history is only one possible contributor; not a projection.  Environmental causes, societal challenges, brain inflammation, genetics, and possible biomarkers are all being studied, and thought to play a part.

Discoveries have now shown that neuroinflammation is a potential link, and that certain biomarkers can predict the onset of suicidal behaviors.  The research for biomarkers is still in the early stages, but it’s there. 

Biomarkers would suggest a biological indicator (predisposition)  for suicide.  If there are biomarkers for suicide, this would suggest that there may be a treatment in the future to help those suffering from suicidal ideation and suicide.  Again, much more funding is necessary to continue with this research.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/symptoms-causes/syc-20378048

What Neurobiology Can Tell Us About Suicide

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CHILDREN

If you could increase your child’s self-esteem and create a positive self image for less than 10 minutes A-day at little to no cost would you do it?
Of course you say .
THEN WHY AREN’T WE ???

Let’s start with elementary and middle schools and include social and emotional learning into the classroom .
It’s too expensive , it takes too much time, teacher’s are overworked we can’t add on .

We teach children in kindergarten and first grade about the weather. It takes 5 mins a day. Why can’t we have 5 mins to teach and explore emotions? Instead of weather board, feelings board etc..

Second and third graders can read books on feelings. Spelling words could include an emotion. Can they spell it ? Use it in a sentence?

Art class instead of saying draw, paint, use modeling clay to make a flower, how about making it an emotion or social creation.

Music can be discussion of sounds that make you feel happy, sad etc.. Gym class can show children ways to creatively release emotions of frustration or anger in a safe manner.

These are very basic , simple ideas. They don’t take much time, money or planning to implement. Teachers have all experienced a variety of emotions throughout their lives. We don’t need to teach the teachers to feel.

A state of mental, emotional, and cognitive health can impact perceptions, choices and actions affecting wellness and functioning.

Studies have shown the following:

Developmentally appropriate, student-centered education materials should be integrated into the curriculum of all K-12 classes. The content of these age-appropriate materials should include the importance of safe and healthy choices and coping strategies focused on resiliency building, and how to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental health conditions and suicide in oneself and others. The content shall also include help-seeking strategies for oneself or others and how to engage school resources and refer friends for help.

Access to school-employed mental health resources and access to school-based mental health supports directly improves students’ physical and psychological safety, academic performance, cognitive performance and learning, and social/emotional development. This training ensures that mental health resources are properly and effectively infused into the learning environment. These professionals can support both instructional leaders’ and teachers’ abilities to provide a safe school setting and the optimum conditions for teaching and learning. Having these professionals as integrated members of the school staff empowers principals and administrators to more efficiently and effectively deploy resources, ensure coordination of resources, evaluate their effectiveness, and adjust supports to meet the dynamic needs of their student populations. Improving access also allows for enhanced collaboration with community providers to meet the more intense or clinical needs of students.

It’s too important not to be done. Let’s normalize mental health for everyone and start at the very beginning.

SO AGAIN I ASK WHY AREN’T WE???

Let’s normalize and de-stigmatize mental health

THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION reports “50 percent of mental illness begins at age 14, and three quarters begin by age 24.”

THE MAYO CLINIC STUDY reports The deadliness of attempted suicide has been dramatically underestimated.

This study not only demonstrates that suicide prevention efforts should begin before a first suicide attempt, but also supports prevention as being the responsibility of all medical providers, not just mental health professionals.

Let’s start with the old cliché s
It’s always best to start at the beginning.
If many mental health issues are diagnosed in young teens and evidence shows prevention efforts should begin before a suicide attempt why not start at the very beginning. Lets encourage pediatricians to include a mental health questionnaire as part of a child’s yearly physical.

A few questions on family history of mental health issues. Doctors have been asking adults for many years during physicals for family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes etc.. Why not mental health?

A few questions about the child’s social and emotional skills . The pediatricians ask parents questions from birth to 3 years about eating and sleeping habits because it is imperative for their well-being. Well I say, how they are dealing with their emotions is also imperative to their well-being.

It takes a village to raise a child.
Also a true statement. Let’s take the next step and educate teachers on emotional and social needs for children. A few high schools in this country have just begun to start implementing education on mental health and suicide but its not enough. Every school needs to provide these services. Let’s not wait till high school, let’s start in elementary school
.
We need to begin normalizing emotions and teach children appropriate ways to deal with them. Not just sending a child to the nurse or school social worker for each incidence.
In the real world we all have to deal with challenges sometimes without warning and can’t just go to a mental health professional at each of those moments. We as adults sometimes need to reach out to others to help us through. Why can’t we teach our kids the same thing? Lead by example

Kindness matters

Everyone feels sad, confused, angry etc… at different times this is normal. Showing children that even adults feel this way tells them they are not alone. Children often model behaviors they see , so lets show them effective ways to process their feelings. Social and emotional well-being are of paramount importance.

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/warning-signs-of-mental-illness

https://www.mayoclinic.org/medical-professionals/psychiatry-psychology/news/deadliness-of-attempted-suicide-has-been-dramatically-underestimated/mac-20429739

Inflammation and Suicide

            In looking at the biological factors involved in suicide, inflammation and inflammatory conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, autoimmune disorders, and neuropsychiatric symptoms are only beginning to be explored.

Familial transmission and history of suicidal behavior and early life adversity (ELA) are distant causes, associated with suicide risk. Substance abuse has been identified as a risk as well.

Mounting evidence shows the immune system as important in the pathophysiology of suicidality. The potential triggers of suicidal behavior include various inflammatory conditions (TBI, vitamin deficiency, autoimmune disorders, and infections), which, through raised levels of inflammation, can cause cause significant problems for individuals. These neurobiological effects might cause profound changes in emotion and behavior, which could ultimately lead to suicide in vulnerable individuals. Many more studies are needed.  

For more information, see complete article:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27377015/