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Reflect On This


Local Mental Health Non-Profit

Posted on March 21, 2017 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (1360)
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Possible Warning Signs of Suicide

Posted on January 30, 2017 at 9:44 AM Comments comments (244)

There is not a single cause for suicide, nor is there always a certain warning sign that a person may be suicidal. Depression, stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns beyond the level with which a person can cope can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If left untreated, these mental health conditions can increase a person’s chances for suicidal thoughts or actions. However, when treated properly people can manage their mental health concerns and lead happy, fulfilling lives.

Possible Warning Signs:
Something to be aware of when someone may be suicidal is a change in behavior. This can mean new behaviors appearing that have not been present before, or the absence of behaviors that are generally common. This change is especially important if it happens alongside a major life change or a particularly painful event.

What to Look For:
A person may be thinking about suicide if they engage in the following behaviors:
-Intentional self-harm, such as cutting or burning
-Looking for ways to kill themselves
-Reckless behavior such as increased drug or alcohol consumption
-Withdrawing from or losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
-Acting more aggressive or depressed than usual
-Visiting or calling friends and loved ones to say goodbye
-Giving away valuable or prized possessions

What to Listen For:
A person may be thinking about suicide if they talk about the following:
-Wanting to die or kill themselves
-Feeling worthless or guilty
-Feeling helpless, hopeless, or trapped
-Experiencing unbearable pain
-Being a burden to others

Risk Factors for Suicide attempts:

In addition to the outward warning signs like behaviors and talk, there are other risk factors to consider when a person may be suicidal. Whether they are occurring currently in someone’s life or they are a part of the past, these risk factors can increase the likelihood of a person considering suicide.

Personal Risk Factors:
-Mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline        personality disorder, impulse control or conduct disorder, and others.
-Drug and/or alcohol abuse or dependency
-Long-term health concerns such as an incurable or unknown condition or chronic pain

Environmental and Historical Factors:
-A history of suicide attempts
-Family history of suicide attempts
-Exposure to the death or suicide of another person
-Exposure to traumatic events such as war or repeated emergency situations
-Prolonged exposure to stress such as abuse, bullying, harassment, stalking, work problems, or  relationship problems

-Access to lethal means such as firearms, illegal drugs, or large quantities of prescription medications


Posted on October 14, 2016 at 3:37 PM Comments comments (477)

Schizophrenia can be a very intense and scary experience for both the sufferer and their family and friends.  The good news is that it can often times be successfully treated with medication.  The difficult part of treatment is getting the individual who is suffering to consistently take their medication. 

Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia struggle with accepting their hallucinations (hearing things and seeing things) are not real.  This is because the hallucinations are just as real to them as hearing or seeing you. Think about it.  How likely are you to believe someone that is telling you the items around you right now are not really there?  Not likely, right?  This is one of the first major hurdles of getting someone with schizophrenia to accept help.

At this time, schizophrenia is best treated with medication and counseling.  Because scientist and doctors still know very little about the chemicals in our brains, finding the right medication can take time.  Once a medication begins to work, sufferers may not like the way it makes them feel and/or they feel as though others are controlling them, changing them, through the use of medication.  These factors lead to many people not taking their medicine as prescribed, which in turn causes successful treatment to take longer to achieve.  This is where counseling can really help. 

In counseling, I help my clients who suffer from schizophrenia understand the biology behind the disorder.  I educate my clients on how neurotransmitters in their brain work and normalize their experience of seeing and hearing things.  I teach them the importance of taking their medication consistently and inform them of the dangers of stopping their medication without their doctor’s approval.  I then help them discover ways of distinguishing their hallucinations from reality.  I also help them find ways of lessening the occurrence and intensity of the hallucinations.  Lastly, I work with their family and friends to help them understand why their loved one is struggling and what they can do to help them. 

Overall, schizophrenia can be a disabling disorder.  However, with consistent psychiatric care and supportive counseling, individuals who have the disorder can live a successful life.  The key to their success lies in their willingness or ability to get help and receiving support, non-judgment, and unconditional love from their family and friends.

Additional resources can be found at:

Heather N. Smith, M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor

The Dangers of Untreated Biploar Disorder

Posted on June 22, 2016 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (117)
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health problem that affects about 2.3 million Americans, more than one percent of the population. The main reason many people with bipolar disorder are not being treated is because it's hard to diagnose. But even after diagnosis, treatment may be difficult. Some people who are diagnosed stop their treatment because they decide they don’t need it anymore, or because medication side effects are too distressing.

All of this adds up to many people with bipolar disorder who are not getting the treatment they need—and who risk serious health consequences.

Why Bipolar Disorder Is Hard to Recognize

Most people with bipolar disorder—about 70%—are misdiagnosed at least once before the condition is identified, and the average length of time from when symptoms start to a correct diagnosis is 10 years.

Bipolar I disorder is the most common type. Once called manic depressive disorder, bipolar I involves mood swings from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).

Bipolar II disorder involves severe depression, but the manic moods, called hypomania, are less so. This type of bipolar disorder is often not recognized by primary care doctors, largely because hypomania is hard to spot.

Hypomania has some of the same characteristics as mania, but it doesn’t last as long (four days compared to at least a week for mania) and is not accompanied by major disruptions in your social or work life. In fact, some people view hypomania in a positive light. A hypomanic person may be the “life of the party,” always coming up with new ideas, and not needing much sleep.

Other reasons for misdiagnosed bipolar disorder:
  • Many people with mania, especially hypomania, do not recognize it as abnormal. They may think of it as simply a high amount of energy or joy.
  • People may have more depression than mania and may be misdiagnosed as having major depression.
  • People in a severe manic episode may see, hear or believe things that are not real and be misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
  • Up to 60% of people with bipolar disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol, and bipolar disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed as substance abuse.
  • In children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, the symptoms may be misdiagnosed as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

The Risks of Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder tends to get worse the longer it goes untreated. Delays in diagnosis and treatment can lead to personal, social and financial problems that make the disorder more difficult to deal with for those who have it and for those around them.

Dangers of untreated bipolar disorder include:
  • Loss of ability to work. Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.
  • Stress on personal relationships. This can result in unemployment, divorce, and legal problems.
  • Substance abuse issues. Delayed diagnosis may contribute to people with bipolar disorder abusing drugs and alcohol. Studies show that 56% abuse drugs and 44% abuse alcohol.
  • Suicide. Thirty percent of people with untreated bipolar disorder commit suicide.

Getting Diagnosed and Getting Treated

While bipolar disorder is generally a life-long illness, treatment helps most people manage their symptoms. You may still have lingering symptoms and relapses, but you can enjoy a good and productive life. Because there is no blood test or brain scan that can diagnose bipolar disorder, you need to let your doctor know if you have any of the symptoms. You may be at increased risk of bipolar disorder if you have a family history of the disease.

Symptoms to report include:

*    Periods of depression when you may be very tired, have no energy, be unable to think straight, feel helpless, or have thoughts of death or suicide
  • Periods of mania when you may not need sleep, talk very fast, be very restless, have unrealistic ideas, and engage in reckless behaviors
  • Periods of mania or depression that last for at least seven days
  • Periods of mania or depression that are a major change from your normal behavior, most likely affecting your work and social life
  • Shifting back and forth between periods of feeling low, sad and helpless and feeling high, unstoppable and energetic

  • Mental Health Stigma

    Posted on October 9, 2015 at 9:09 AM Comments comments (323)
    Mental Illness in America Comic Strip

    I had recently come across this comic strip that was originally from a blog called Robot Hugs which eloquently expresses how much of society sees mental illness and how it is treated in comparison to physical diseases. Although it is a tad exaggerated, it doesn’t dampen the gravity of the way some individuals view mental illness. Unfortunately, despite the
    progression of contemporary psychology and psychiatry today, society still views mental illness with a stigma. Often, individuals who are suffering from depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness are viewed as weak and unable to emotionally adapt to the stressors and the harshness of life. However, what people fail to understand is that just like physical diseases, individuals also do not have control over their mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are caused by a multitude of factors, such as genetic heritability, the occurrence of chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as other environmental causes.
    According to the Diathesis-Stress model, different people have different predisposed vulnerabilities to stressors, which are environmental factors that can disrupt an individual’s psychological stability that can trigger the development of a mental disorder. Individuals have an inherent susceptibility or vulnerability to stressors, and some people may be more at-risk to mental illnesses compared to others. The more susceptible an individual is to these stressors, the less environmental factors it will take for them to develop mental illnesses. If the individual’s predisposition in conjunction with the amount of stressors extends beyond his or her mental capacity, he or she will develop a disorder.
    Let’s talk about this in simpler terms by comparing people’s ability to handle stress to jars of water. In this example, the water in these jars represents stressors. The size of the jars represents the capacity for individuals to handle stressors. The sizes of the jars will vary, just as people’s ability to cope with stress will vary. Similarly, the amount of water each jar can hold will also differ just as the amount of stress one individual can cope with will differ. The big jars and/or jars with less water can handle more water, just as individuals with a greater capacity to cope and/or are experiencing less stress can handle more stressors. However, small jars and/or jars that are already full cannot take on much more water, making them unable to hold as much water as the other jars. This is similar to people who have less ability to cope and/or are already experiencing lots of stress in their life and are unable to cope with added stress. If a jar is constantly filled with water without any means of draining it, it will eventually overflow. Just like individuals when stress exceeds our mental capacities, we become overwhelmed to the point of dysfunction in our lives.
    Therefore, just as different people have varying immunity (immune strength) and susceptibility to sickness, every individual has a varying susceptibility to mental illness as well. Being unable to see the physical manifestation of mental illness does not make them any less grave than a physical disease or injury.
    The reason I shared this comic strip is to raise awareness of how we interact with those who are suffering from mental illnesses. A lack of understanding can lead to, whether or not deliberately, a lack of empathy.

    Mental Health Tips for College Students

    Posted on August 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM Comments comments (361)
    Healthy Minds: Tips for Every College Student

    Did You Know?
    · Mental health conditions are most common during the ages of 18-24. In fact, twenty-seven percent of young adults experience mental health conditions, of which anxiety disorders and depression are the two most common disorders.
    · Mental illnesses – if left untreated – can derail a young adult’s college career and dismantle many other areas of their life and dreams. With treatment, nearly all people who experience a mental health condition can live normal, productive lives.
    · Support is available at school and in the community, and mental health treatments are extraordinarily effective.

    What College Students Should Know
    · One in four adults experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder each year.
    · Without proper mental health treatment, mental health conditions may lead to poor school performance, trouble with the law, strained relationships and even suicide.
    · Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.
    · It’s important that college students familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. If a person feels they or someone they care for needs help, they should not hesitate to ask for help.
    · Support is available at school and in the community, and mental health treatments are extraordinarily effective.
    · Most colleges provide some free mental health services and can refer students who need longterm treatment to local professionals.
    · Mental Health America of Illinois (MHAI) can help students find the help they need.
    · To find help or get more information contact RCD at (940) 367-9887 or go to your on campus student counseling center.

    Depression and College Students
    · Depression affects approximately 10 percent of all American adults each year.
    · Depression is a serious mental disorder. It is not a normal part of growing up or a personal weakness.
    · Nearly 50% of all college students report feeling so depressed that they have had trouble functioning, and 15% meet the criteria for depression.
    · Depression is very treatable: more than 80% get better with treatment. The most common treatments are antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, or preferably, a combination of the two.

    Anxiety Disorders and College Students
    · Extreme forms of fear, worrying and panic could signal an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million American adults each year. 5
    · There are a range of anxiety disorders that include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.
    · If left untreated, an anxiety disorder can interfere with students’ academic, social and personal lives. Fortunately, treatments are effective and often combine medication with specific kinds of psychotherapy.

    Info from Mental Health America 2007

    Excerpt From Ruby Wax's "What's So Funny About Mental Illness?"

    Posted on January 30, 2013 at 11:13 AM Comments comments (341)
    Excerpt from Ruby Wax’s, “What’s So Funny About Mental Illness?”

    One in four people suffer from some sort of mental illness, I am one of the one in four. I think I inherited it from my mother, who, use to crawl around the house on all fours.She had two sponges in her hand, and then she had two tied to her knees. My mother was completely absorbent. And she would crawl around behind me going, "Who brings footprints into a building?!" So that was kind of a clue that things weren't right. So before I start, I would like to thank the makers of Lamotrigine, Sertraline, and Reboxetine, because without those few simple chemicals, I would not be vertical today.

    (When hospitalized) I wasn't sent a lot of cards or flowers. I mean, if I had of had a broken leg or I was with child I would have been inundated, but all I got was a couple phone calls telling me to perk up. Perk up! Because I didn't think of that.

    Because, you know, the one thing, one thing that you get with this disease, this one comes with a package, is you get a real sense of shame, because your friends go, "Oh come on, show me the lump, show me the x-rays," and of course you've got nothing to show, so you're, like, really disgusted with yourself because you're thinking, "I'm not being carpet-bombed. I don't live in a township." So you start to hear these abusive voices, but you don't hear one abusive voice, you hear about a thousand -- 100,000 abusive voices, like if the Devil had Tourette's, that's what it would sound like.

    (But we all know) there are no voices in your head. You know that when you have those abusive voices, all those little neurons get together and in that little gap you get a real toxic "I want to kill myself" kind of chemical, and if you have that over and over again on a loop tape, you might have yourself depression. Oh, and that's not even the tip of the iceberg. If you get a little baby, and you abuse it verbally, its little brain sends out chemicals that are so destructive that the little part of its brain that can tell good from bad just doesn't grow, so you might have yourself a homegrown psychotic. If a soldier sees his friend blown up, his brain goes into such high alarm that he can't actually put the experience into words, so he just feels the horror over and over again.

    So here's my question. My question is, how come when people have mental damage, it's always an active imagination? How come every other organ in your body can get sick and you get sympathy, except the brain?

    …can we please stop the stigma?