September! Welcome to Level 9 of Jumanji.
This year has felt like a wild ride.
Let us just take a minute…
Deep 5 second breath in through the nose…
Long exhale through the nose…
Acknowledge what you have navigated this year with compassion and awareness…
Release the tension in the body…
As we head into Suicide Prevention Awareness week (Sept 6 – 12) and Mental Health Awareness Month (October) we wanted to enhance the discussion about mental health, suicide, and interventions. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication by the CDC, conducted a web-based survey through Qualtrics June 24-30, 2020 which 5,412 adults completed. Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition related to COVID-19, including: 30.9% symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders; 26.3% reported traumatic-stress related disorder symptoms, 13.3% increase in substance use to cope with stress, and 10.7% reported having seriously considered suicide in the preceding 30 days. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7440121/
We don’t need statistics to know that the past six months has taken a toll. Emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, financially, and environmentally. We are tired and restless. Discontent and bored. Angry and uncertain. Grieving and anxious. All of these, though very uncomfortable, are normal reactions to the abnormal state of the world. Living simultaneously through a pandemic, racial injustice, political division, environmental crisis, and financial strain is no small feat. This is heavy, but not insurmountable.
Awareness, understanding, compassion, and validation are the tools we need to keep us going in this marathon. And, most important of all – HOPE. Hope is a state of optimism for an expected positive outcome. Both a noun and a verb, hope is a feeling and a doing. Hope is also the number one protective factor for suicide. Meaning, if there is hope there is a stronger bond with life. So how do we build hope in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world? Especially when negativity and overwhelm surround us. Well, Gandhi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” As we tend to our own hope, we can share our hope with others.
- Build your confidence and mastery – set achievable goals and intentions. Celebrate accomplishments.
- Look for the good – guard your mind from too much negative input. Fill your feeds and consciousness with uplifting stories and positive encouragement.
- Mind your own mindful awareness and connection to self. Get grounded and breathing every day for your emotional wellbeing.
- Exercise – move the toxins and stress out of your body.
- Nurture supportive relationships – Connect however you can. Tell people what they mean to you.
- Mind what you put in your body – food strongly impacts mood.
- Be vulnerable – sometimes sharing your struggles helps others feel less alone and more apt to ask for help.
- Get your own support – attend EAW workshops, COVID Cope & Chats, go to therapy, yoga, meet with a life coach a pastor or a friend. Find connections that encourage you to keep growing and learning.
There is nothing more powerful in this world than the words: You are not alone. Think about it. Envision tackling a difficult situation by yourself. No support. No guidance. It feels defeating, exhausting, like the center of your body collapses and shoulders fall. Now think about tackling the same situation with someone by your side encouraging you. The situation hasn’t changed but now there is strength in your back, chest and head held high, and perseverance is easier to access. Hope lives here, in the heart space of connection. Connection is something each of us is uniquely equipped to provide to our loved ones and colleagues, simply by the nature of being our present, authentic selves.
As we connect with loved ones and colleagues, we may begin to see more clearly the depths of their pain and suffering. It is hard to know what to do. We often become afraid of doing or saying the “wrong thing.” Though this isn’t the most fun topic to discuss, it is vital we do to reduce our fear and to create a community of caring – a culture in which we look out for each other and openly express our concerns in kind and gentle ways.
EAW receives many calls inquiring about signs and symptoms of mental health distress and/or suicidality. Here are a few tips and resources –
Common signs and symptoms of distress and/or suicidality:
* Talking about suicide, preoccupation with death
* Behavior changes: being more impulsive, isolating (changes abnormal for the individual)
* Personality changes: being quieter or more talkative (changes abnormal for the individual)
* Appearance changes: disheveled, tired looking, poor hygiene
* Mood swings: highs and lows, anxious, agitated
* Taking more risks or being self-destructive
* Increased substance use
* Feeling trapped, hopeless, alone
* Giving away possessions
* Changes in routine, disruption to appetite and sleep
* Acquiring means to end one’s life (purchasing firearms, stockpiling pills)
If you are noticing these changes in a loved one or colleague here are emergent, crisis intervention resources:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Call 24/7 for resources, information, and instruction.
*Pro-Tip: Save this number in your cell phone*
Crisis Response Network 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-877-756-4090
This number will direct you to a call center answered by crisis counselors in Arizona. If needed they can dispatch a crisis response team to a local site for assessment and intervention.
*Pro-Tip: Save this number in your cell phone*
Flagstaff Medical Center Emergency Department: crisis workers available for assessment and referrals, resources, and treatment.
1200 N. Beaver Street
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
If in a life-threatening emergency – Call 911
For questions and concerns that are not emergent: Call Employee Assistance & Wellness (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm) for direction and assistance: 928-523-1552
Additionally, we have added suicide prevention resources to our website. Please explore articles, links, and resources at www.nau.edu/eaw
And, as always – NAU community, YOU are not alone. EAW staff is here to help however we can.
We will get through this together. Remember – we can do hard things.
In Hope and Wellness ~
Heather Coate, LPC
On behalf of EAW