How to Save a Life

A couple of weeks ago, the author of this article-Steve Johnson-reached out to me and asked if he could share some important facts about suicide prevention and I am honored to share his article today. 

The topic of suicide is hard to talk about, but it's crucial that we do. I once found myself in a mental state where I was teetering on the edge of being suicidal. I didn't want to die, but I didn't want to live. I will be forever grateful for those around me who helped pull me away from that edge. I owe them so much more than I can ever give them. 

Just like those who helped me, you can help your loved ones step away from the darkness that engulfs them. They need you, more than you might know. You might be the one who saves their life.

Suicide Prevention and Mental Health

Mental illness affects nearly 10 million Americans, and for some, the weight of the disorder can lead them to substance abuse, depression, and even suicide. It’s a threat that any age group can suffer from, and while it can be overwhelming to watch a loved one go through it, there are things you can do to prevent the symptoms from causing a loss of control. 

For many who suffer with a mental illness, alcohol and drugs can seem appealing because of their ability to curb some of the symptoms, or to help the user cope. Therefore, early detection and diagnosis of the illness is imperative so that medication and/or therapy can begin, especially since alcohol use can interfere with the diagnosis and make a disorder difficult to detect. According to the American Journal of Managed Care, detection is also made difficult when the patient is depressed, and studies show that nearly one-third of people with serious depression also have an alcohol abuse problem. 

It can be tricky to detect a mental illness in another person, and it’s important to remember that only a doctor can diagnose. However, there are warning signs:

Changes at school or work

Frequently getting into trouble, not being able to focus, a lack of motivation, and sudden changes in attendance could be signs of a mental illness or a potential substance abuse problem

Changes in appearance and behavior

Sudden changes in appetite, sleep habits (too much or too little), paranoia, fits of rage or apathy, and changes in dress and hygiene are all signals that your loved one might be using drugs or alcohol and struggling with a comorbid mental illness

Physical changes

Shaky hands, slurred speech, agitation, periods of giddiness or seemingly unable to control their emotions, bloodshot eyes, and dilated pupils are all physical signs of substance abuse.

Also, it’s important to note that because alcohol and drugs physically harm the brain and interfere with the psyche, people with mental illness who also abuse substances are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than the general population. 

Depression and suicide go hand in hand, so it’s important to know what to look for as far as behavior goes. If your loved one talks about feeling hopeless or mentions suicidal thoughts, let them know you’re listening and that you take what they’re saying seriously. Often, mental illness patients feel as though no one understands what they’re going through, so it’s important to let them talk without judgement. Other signs of suicidal thoughts can include:

● Exhibiting self-destructive behavior
● Withdrawing from family and friends
● Sudden loss of interest in things that once gave them joy
● Voicing thoughts of worthlessness
● Severe or violent mood swings, including becoming happy after a long depression

With some mental health issues, symptoms begin to manifest years before diagnosis, which can make it difficult for families to watch for warning signs where behavior is concerned. However, if you notice sudden changes in mood or personality, or if risky behavior is suddenly introduced, it might be a good idea to talk to your loved one. Let them know you’ll help them, and if the threat of suicide is imminent, stay with them or have a trusted friend or family member stay with them until you can get help

Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student. The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.


Church isn't Always For Me

When I started this blog, I had the intention of being open, honest, and forthcoming about my challenges surrounding being and early returned missionary and with having a mental illness. In keeping with that intention, I am going to tell you about a very personal challenge I've had the past two years that has to do with my mental illnesses: 

Church isn't always for me. 

Sometimes, I don't go. And when I say sometimes, in some months it's been more often than not that I don't go. I think you could technically call me  "less active" according to attendance records. 

So what does church going have to do with my mental illness? 

1. Anxiety. I have generalized anxiety disorder and church is a huge trigger for me. For some reason, being around lots of people sets me off. I feel panicky, like something bad is going to happen. I get a tightness in my chest and I feel like I can't breathe. 

2. For awhile, I didn't go to church because I couldn't feel the spirit. Now, that seems counterintuitive and in a way it is. But I got panicky BECAUSE I couldn't feel the spirit because I was depressed. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I would sit in my seat and start getting angry at myself. There was a lot of self-hatred going on in those moments. 

Now here's the deal: I might not always be a consistent church-goer, but I can definitely tell you that I am firm in the gospel.  I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I sustain my church leaders. I know the Book of Mormon is true and I believe that Joseph Smith was called of God. I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am currently really working on going to church and I am getting better at it. Those who love me have been incredibly understanding and supportive. They know I'm trying my best. 

Because of my mental illnesses, however, I have a different relationship with God than most. Because I can't really hear or feel Him sometimes, things get tough. Because of my anxiety and bipolar disorder, going to church isn't always an option. I'm not healthy enough to be there. But you know what? I think God understands that. I think He knows that I would be there if I could be. I think He recognizes all the things I DO do in spite of what I don't do.  I think He expects me to try my best, and that my best doesn't always include going to church.