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Friday, October 31, 2014

First Responders

We are all familiar with the term “first responders.” But did you know you can be a “mental health first responder?”

I recently participated in a workshop entitled Mental Health CPR. Presented by the National Alliance on Mental Illness—NAMI—this program equips you to respond effectively to someone who is having a mental health crisis.

A mental health crisis can take the form of a:
•    Panic attack
•    Emotional breakdown
•    Delusional episode

There are right ways and there are WRONG ways to interact with a person in the midst of a mental health crisis. We might think we would know what to say and do, but I can assure you that when faced by someone in the midst of such a crisis, we are likely to become tongue-tied or say or do the exact opposite of what we should.

For example, if a person with major depression is describing a situation to you while sobbing uncontrollably, your natural response might be something like, “Oh, this happens to everyone. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine tomorrow.” Or, “I understand how you feel. Let me tell you what happened to me…” Although you may think you are offering comfort, your comments will likely come across as belittling—and cut like a knife.

Here’s another example. A person with schizophrenia may be hallucinating and hearing voices. He or she may tell you that there are aliens nearby, ready to attack. In an effort to reassure the person, you might be inclined to say, “There’s nothing to worry about. There are no such things as aliens—that’s just your mind playing tricks.” You would be wrong again!

The wrong responses have the real potential to escalate the situation. NAMI has an acronym: ALGEE, which stands for:
•    Assess if the person is on the verge of self-injury or suicide
•    Listen without judgment
•    Give information and reassurance
•    Encourage professional help
•    Encourage self-help and other supportive strategies

There’s a lot of information that accompanies these five directives, hence the need for a one-to-two day training course on Mental Health CPR. Putting this training into practice has the power to save a life. Learn more...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

“She will probably spend Christmas alone…because she chooses to isolate herself.”

Anyone who reads my writings knows that they tend to be upbeat and encouraging. Today, however, I am feeling sad for someone I care about. She is suffering from depression—but just cannot face it. I have explained to her that she should seek help to get better, but not only does she hate to go to doctors, but she continues to deny that there is anything mentally/emotionally wrong.

She will probably spend Christmas alone—not because she hasn’t been invited by her family—but because she chooses to isolate herself. I cannot recall the last time she has said anything positive. She never talks about having any friends, nor does she go anywhere except to work, the grocery store and the laundromat. As for having company or engaging in any conversations outside of work—I’m it.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to ever give up on her. I am going to continue to lovingly reach out. For instance, I am inviting her again to a Christmas gathering—even offering to take her home as soon as she wishes to leave.

If anyone reading this knows someone who is in denial and continues to suffer, whether it be from depression, addiction, PTSD, etc., I hope for your sake and theirs that they will see the light and seek professional help. This IS the season for miracles! Check out http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/08/9-best-ways-to-support-someone-with-depression/