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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Suicide Spikes Among #Girls; Attention turns to #SocialMedia, #MentalHealth

 

A troubling spike in the #suicide rate among #girls is prompting leading researchers to question the role of #socialmedia in adolescent #mentalhealth.

A study published Friday in the JAMA Open Network led by Donna Ruch, a research scientist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, analyzed suicide trends in 10- to 19-year-olds between 1975 and 2016. The rate of suicide decreased from the early 1990s until 2007 but has increased in years since for both genders. While boys die by suicide at a higher overall rate than girls, female youth suicides have surged most in recent years. In the 10- to 14-year-old age group, the rate of suicide increased by 12.7 percent for girls and 7.1 percent for boys since 2007.

The data show the gap is known as the “gender paradox” in suicide-wherein #males typically die by suicide at a rate higher than females, while females report suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide at higher rates than males- appears to be closing.

“We really wanted to look at this and say ‘Hey wait a minute, is this just a phenomenon, is it an occurrence, is it a blip or are we seeing a trend?'” Ruch said. Her paper concludes the gap is narrowing most among those 10- to 14-year-olds. “We want to look at treatments, look at interventions and really take into account the unique needs of girls versus boys.”

The study wasn’t designed to investigate why the rate of suicide is increasing among young people, but other researchers who looked at the data suggest the prevalence of social media could be an avenue to explore.

“The fact that social media has become a primary forum for interpersonal engagement in adolescence, a developmental period when social contact is rapidly rising and becoming increasingly important to well-being, makes this an area of great potential influence and importance,” wrote Joan Luby, of Washington University School of Medicine, and Sarah Kertz, of Southern Illinois University, in an opinion piece in JAMA Open Network. More than 95 percent of youth are now connected to the internet in some form, they point out.

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   #JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

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Girls’ use of social media could be “more likely to result in interpersonal stress,” a factor implicated in youth suicide, according to Luby and Kertz. The pair noted that girls use social media more frequently than boys and are more likely to face cyberbullying.

“Increasing rates of suicidality may be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ signaling important health concerns arising from the increased and pervasive use of social media affecting child and adolescent development,” Luby and Kertz wrote.

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – New Documentary Puts a Youthful Face on #Suicide and #MentalHealth; Aim is to Combat #Stigma

A new documentary that gives voice to and puts a face on the child and teen mental health crisis goes live online Thursday at 7:30 CT when it airs on Milwaukee’s PBS station.

“#You’reNotAlone,” which follows four young people from Wisconsin as they navigate mental health challenges, is a collaboration between USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin and Milwaukee PBS. The young people are fully identified and interviewed in the documentary.

The young people featured have experienced problems including suicidal thinking, post-traumatic stress disorder, bullying and childhood sexual abuse. They first told their stories at one of the more than 30 town halls and community events the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has held on the topic of youth mental health as part of its Kid in Crisis series.

Jim Fitzhenry, vice president of news for USA TODAY Network/Central Wisconsin, says the journalists “went through the pros and cons of doing this and sharing this” with the young people identified.

“People have been really brave and it’s been cathartic for them to do it,” says Fitzhenry. “It’s extremely powerful and it’s healing for people.”

 

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   #JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

 

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USA TODAY is also running a story on page 1 of its Monday print edition that will closely examine the mental health treatment shortage for young people, such as those in the new documentary. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

There are many causes behind the sharp increase in #suicides, attempts, and #ideation. Academic, social and economic pressures weigh on students. #Socialmedia can compound #anxiety and facilitate bullying. #Mentalhealth care can be hard to find — particularly for people in rural areas or people with public health insurance.

One in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a mental illness, according to the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness. But on average, it takes eight to 10 years after the onset of mental illness for a person to receive treatment.

 

Here are the young people featured:

• Alex Hart-Upendo wrote a goodbye note at age 7 after experiencing severe bullying, Now 12, he is running his own business, selling and donating homemade bowties, and looking forward to the years ahead.

“I think a lot of trans people, trans students especially, suffer from so much mental health because it’s not always an open place in schools to be who you are,” Esser said.

Barrett Poetker first thought about suicide in middle school, where she was being bullied and excluded. Now 19, she’s leading workshops for her fellow college students about mental wellness and studying to be a pediatric physician’s assistant.

“I really hope that I can just work with kids that have the mental health struggles that I had because I can relate to them very well and I hope that I can just help them understand that they’re not alone,” Poetker said.

Reyna Saldana had been sexually assaulted and adopted into a new family by age 4. At age 7, she was left at a mental health facility, and the family never took her back. She went through foster homes, group homes and prison. Now 20, she is sharing her message across the state.

Here’s a mental health toolkit with extra clips and information.

Find help 
If you are in an emotional crisis or supporting someone in crisis, consider reaching out to a helpline:

#NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline: (800) 273-8255

National Crisis Text Line: Text “Hopeline” to 741-741

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten and Haley BeMiller, Karl Ebert and Andrew Mollica of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed to this report.

Good Health is Mental Health

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – What Sort Of Evil Person Encourages A Teenager To Commit #Suicide?

A 16-year-old girl uses her social media account to post a question: Should I kill myself? Sixty-nine percent of people who responded said yes. So she did.

This isn’t the plot of a twisted new movie. This, according to a report coming from Malaysia, actually happened. The teenager posted a poll on Instagram, “Really Important, Help Me Choose D/L,” (D = death, L = life), and she jumped off the roof of a building shortly after the results came in. Some in Malaysia want those who voted “yes” prosecuted for abetting the suicide of a minor, which in Malaysia is punishable by 20 years in prison or the death penalty.

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   #JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

 

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This tragic story represents the intersection of at least four different prominent features of society, so let’s consider them individually:

Social media: I’ve been using social media since the mid-2000s, and I cannot decide if it’s a net positive or net negative for society. Almost all of the news I consume comes from stories that pop up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Because these feeds are tailored toward my interests, they are an incredibly efficient way for me to keep track of current events. Social media is also great for maintaining contact with friends with whom I would otherwise lose touch.

On the flip side, social media has made it incredibly easy to defame and libel people. Being smeared and harassed is a routine part of my daily existence as a writer. I’ve even received death threats. I’m unsure if the tremendous pain and anxiety that social media has caused in my life are outweighed by the benefits. I imagine this is true of many people, including for the girl who killed herself.

The banality of evil: What sort of sick person encourages a teenager to commit suicide? Given just a little bit of anonymity and the distance afforded by electronic communication, humans can be incredibly heartless and vicious. In this case, it wasn’t just one or two people; it was 69% of this girl’s #Instagram followers. How could so many people engage in a cruel, pointless act of evil?

This phenomenon was coined the “banality of evil” by author Hannah Arendt. She argues that the average person, like the average Nazi during the Holocaust, is capable of incredible acts of evil through a combination of indifference and stupidity. Every human being, it would seem, is capable of behaving in this way.

Mental health: Any person who posts a poll on social media asking if she should commit suicide is obviously struggling with #mentalhealthissues. It is quite possible that this teenager had already made up her mind to end her own life and was seeking some sort of justification for her decision. Of course, a person in this fragile state should be encouraged to seek help, not egged on.

Policy: The trickiest question may be what, if anything, should society do about all this? People who struggle with mental illness can interact with hundreds of mean-spirited, ill-willed people within a matter of minutes thanks to #socialmedia. Before the mid-2000s, something like that simply couldn’t have happened.

While it may be a worthwhile symbolic move for Malaysia to prosecute the people who encouraged this #girl to commit #suicide, the reality is that we can’t legislate evil away. And in a country like the United States, free speech would serve as a barrier to the creation of any law meant to curb online communication, no matter how nasty.

Perhaps what we need is a cultural change. It is thought that the Scottish minister Ian Maclaren coined what became the common axiom, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” More people should follow his advice.

Kids and Social Media

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Since 2007, #Suicide Rates Have Risen Disproportionately in One Group of Teens

These sad statistics are a “canary in a coal mine”

Depression
By Emma Betuel

 

Whether it’s due to social mediapolitical turmoil, or lack of sleep, American teenagers are facing a #mentalhealth crisis. In August 2018, the CDC reported that suicidal ideation had risen among teens in the past decade, and a paper published Friday in JAMA Network Open shows that the rise in completed #suicides has accelerated in one group in particular.

Beginning in 2007, the authors report, the rate of #suicides among adolescent #girls began to outpace the rate of suicides among boys. This finding contradicts the previous pattern in suicide behavior in young adults, sometimes called the “gender paradox.” Historically, boys have taken their own lives at far higher rates than girls have.

Between 1975 and 2016, there were 85,051 teen suicide deaths, and 80.1 percent of them were in teenage boys, according to the new analysis. But now, that the gap is closing, report postdoctoral researcher Donna Ruch, Ph.D., an epidemiologist Jeffrey Bridge, Ph.D., both at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you or someone you know is in crisis, read the Warning Signs of Suicide and call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

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   #JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

 

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A Worrying Trend Among Adolescent Girls

In 2007, female suicide rates in 15- to 19-year-olds started to climb by 7.9 percent per year. The male suicide rate for the same age group climbed just 3.5 percent over the same time period. Ruch called these increases “disproportionate.”

“Overall, we found a disproportionate increase in female youth suicide rates compared to males, resulting in a narrowing of the gap between male and female suicide rates,” she said.

suicide rates
Suicide rates in boys remain higher than those in girls, but the gap is closing as female suicide rates rise at a disproportionately fast rate. 

The data show that the trends are as nuanced as they are tragic. While they didn’t narrow down the exact cause of the increase, they did note an important detail that could explain why the gap is closing.

The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2018 results showed that girls tend to have higher rates of suicidal thoughts than boys do. Between 2007 and 2017, the percentage of girls who seriously considered suicide rose from 18.7 percent to 22.1 percent. In boys, that rate rose from 10.3 percent to 11.9 percent over the same time period.

Boys, however, still have higher suicide completion rates — in part because of the lethality of the method they choose, says Bridge.

“One of the potential contributors to this gender paradox is that males tend to use more violent means,” he said.

Apps like notOK are looking to help people who are considering suicide find support when they need it. 

The new paper shows that girls now are choosing more violent means of suicide than they did historically. If this trend toward “highly lethal methods” is sustained, the authors write, it “could have grave public health impacts and drive elevations in the rates of female suicide.”

Bridge and Ruch paint an increasingly sad picture about the nature of self-harm in teenagers. But with their data, they hope to help stop #suicidalideation before it becomes actionable in the first place.

The Role of Social Media

In an accompanying commentaryDr. Joan Luby at the University of Washington in St. Louis and Sarah Kertz, Ph.D., at Southern Illinois University, point an accusatory finger at social media, which they argue has a foundational role in driving suicides among teens.

Among girls, they write, social media has stronger associations with depression. Furthermore, girls are also more likely to experience cyberbullying and feel greater emotional impacts because of it (cyberbullying is also distressing for men too).

notok app
The notOK app alerts a trusted circle of individuals when the user is in need, and when the problem has been addressed. 

“Increasing rates of suicidality may be the ‘canary in the coal mine’ signaling important health concerns arising from the increased and pervasive use of social media affecting child and adolescent development,” they write.

The hope is that scientists can illuminate this problem in such granular detail that we may one day be able to overcome it. Fortunately, increased awareness about mental health issues is creating new opportunities for teens to seek help, like the Not OK “panic button” app that helps them access help when they’re feeling vulnerable, to bills advocating for mental health first aid training in schools.

Importantly, the people in a teen’s life should remember that they can be critical lifelines. On a day to day basis, individuals can keep an eye out for the people in their lives who seem detached from friends or groups or seem “unhappy for an extended period,” and show support by reaching out — regardless of their gender.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

selective focus photography of woman in white sports brassiere standing near woman sitting on pink yoga mat

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James Donaldson – Update on Seattle City Council – District 7

donaldson yard

James’ Short Intro Video

Hello,
I just wanted to reach out to all of you and let you know that I officially joined the Seattle City Council / District 7 campaign for elected office.

It is with much honor, that I even try to take on this challenge, but I feel called to help out the city I have called home the past 40 years.

With my vast experience and backgrounds in sports, education, cultural exchange, international experience, small business ownership, published author and professional speaker, I know that I can bring these various skill sets to the City Council in Seattle.

I ask for your support and encouragement with both “your vote” if you live in District 7, and/or a financial contribution to my campaign. www.jamesdonaldsonsteam.com

I pledge to serve the wonderful people of Seattle with the same integrity, openness, and transparency, honesty, teamwork, and leadership that I have lived my life with throughout.

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Greetings,
Hello and I hope that you’re having a wonderful day.

I wanted to take a moment to personally introduce myself to some of you and to perhaps, “reintroduce” myself to some of the others.

I put out a press release on May 15, announcing that I will be running for Seattle City Council District 7 position.

It’s something I’ve given much consideration to for the last five or six months, and I feel that at this point in my life, I am well prepared to represent the people and district 7, but also the City of Seattle as a whole.

Some of you know my story, especially over the last few years, and here is a link that will give you some more insight into exactly what I’ve had to overcome recently. James Recent Article Overcoming Challenges

Thank you so much for your interest in my campaign, and I know a lot of you are outside of my district as far as voting is concerned, but any contributions would be greatly appreciated and can be submitted via our website at www.jamesdonaldsonsteam.com

Thank you very much, and I’ll stay in touch with you at least a couple of times a week moving forward.

Have a blessed day.

James Donaldson

 

About District 7

District 7 includes Magnolia, Queen Anne, Belltown, Downtown, Pioneer Square, and parts of South Lake Union and Chinatown/International District. The District has extensive shorelines, including several salmon recovery areas and tide flats, the fishing fleet, and also includes numerous industrial areas and Seattle’s largest sewage treatment plant. District 7 includes Seattle’s largest park, many of its most iconic corporations, and many thousands of small businesses.

Featuring many of Seattle’s most popular tourist venues, District 7 includes the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium and the Waterfront attractions, Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Victoria Clipper, music, historic and architecture tours, and exterior sites of major TV shows and movies. The District also hosts 1.2 million visitors through six cruise ship berths.

Rarely thought of for its diversity, District 7 nonetheless reflects the true face and history of Seattle. Seattle’s oldest neighborhood in Pioneer Square was home to two Indian villages; United Indians of All Tribes gather at Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Chinatown and the International District reflect more than 150 years of immigration and segregation of dozens of ethnicities into compact neighborhoods. The Great Migration drew African Americans to Jackson Street, the birthplace of a multiracial musical community. Home to the some of the wealthiest and the poorest residents of Seattle, its denizens reside in spectacular view homes, glittering high-rises, and thousands seeking protection in tents, doorways, shelters and supported living communities.

District 7 also brings together all major forms of transit and transportation: the Highway 99 tunnel, Interstate 5, four major bridges, three ferry systems, the monorail, hundreds of bus routes, four Link light rail stations, two streetcar lines with a third line in final planning. Amtrak, Bolt, and Greyhound are just a few blocks south of the District.

Early Endorsements

“I have worked with James Donaldson on issues for inner city youth and endorse him for City Council District 7. He will bring a needed diversity perspective to the Council.” – Justice Faith Ireland, Washington State Supreme Court (Ret.)
“ Now more than ever Seattle needs its brightest minds, its biggest hearts, and its bravest leaders. That’s a tall order. James Donaldson more than fills it. He has stood with Seattle in its proudest moments. He knows how to win. And he knows how to work as a team so that all of us can reach our goals.” – George Toles, Executive Director, His Deal; former PA announcer for the Sonics

“I endorse James Donaldson for Position 7 based on more than 10 years of knowing him and following his work. James and I have worked on several projects related to education and athletics. I know him to be wise, compassionate and committed to excellence. His experiences locally and abroad have prepared him uniquely to serve the people of Seattle.” – Erin Jones, Education and Systems Consultant, Obama White House Champion of Change, 2013; WA PTA Outstanding Educator, 2015

“I have known James for the past 45 years. He is one of the most sincere and honest human beings I have known. His leadership and influence have extended from the NBA to the local community. He is a true ‘winner’.” – Mark Edwards 46 years as a College Basketball Coach at Washington State University (Assistant Coach 9 years) and Washington University in St. Louis (Head Coach 37 years)

“We need a leader like James Donaldson. His team building and business skills, and respect for people is exactly the kind of leader we need on Seattle City Council at this time.” – Gayle A. Johnson, Business Owner, EVOLVE Life Coaching

“I’ve known James since he was a student-athlete at Washington State University. James is a very self- disciplined individual. If elected he will work very hard to solve the problems that have created the perspective “Seattle is dying” atmosphere that exists today. James has taken the time to go out into the neighborhoods and study the problems first hand.” – Stan Coe, DVM, Past President of Washington State Veterinary Medical Association; Past President of Washington State University Alumni Association

“The most dangerous challenge we have is to do nothing and assume that nothing will change. When we assume that nothing will change, we doom ourselves to that fate. We must carefully select our representative for a seat on the Seattle City Council District 7. James Donaldson is a person who is aware of certain concerns the district has, not just general concerns, but specific concerns. I firmly endorse James Donaldson for Seattle City Council.” – Arif Khatib, Founder, and President Emeritus, Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame

“James Donaldson is a good draft pick for Seattle City Council this year. Donaldson will bring to the Council Chambers experience with basketball, business, and resilience making him as well rounded as a properly inflated NBA regulation basketball. I am also confident Donaldson will also help his colleagues restore a sense of team in this region in tackling transit and transportation, homelessness, addiction, and congestion to restore a sense of community.” – Joe A. Kunzler, Regional Transit Advocate
I would like to offer my endorsement for James Donaldson’s candidacy for Seattle City Council’s District 7 Position. James offers a profound breadth of expertise and wisdom including decades of leadership within the retired NBA players association, extensive experience as an entrepreneur in the Seattle area and internationally, and a terrific track record of collaborating and building alliances across the Seattle community. James is a dedicated advocate for many underrepresented populations and people dealing with severe challenges and inspires other leaders as well with his unique leadership qualities and communication abilities. It is my pleasure to support James in his candidacy for Position 7.
David B. Woodward
Principal, David Woodward & Associates and
Chairman of the Board, Rotary Club of Seattle
James Donaldson’s refreshing positions on housing and small business issues would bring a necessary and underrepresented voice to The Seattle City Council
Randy Aliment, Partner
Lewis Brisbois
James Donaldson would be a great City Council member as James has represented former NBA Players to the fullest of his abilities and with tremendous results. I believe James would do the same for the City of Seattle and the City Council. James has always represented the NBA Retired Players Association with the utmost of respect and dedication to get the job done.
Lafayette Lever, AZ. Chapter of the NBRPA, Board member and Founding President

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Mental-Illness Education Could Prevent #Suicide in Young People

 

My son Ryan was diagnosed with a mental illness in the fall of 2005.

Denial prevented us both from believing that what he was struggling with was mental illness. The stigma and stereotypes kept us from the help he so desperately needed.

Reading his journals, I learned of the battle he had been waging in silence since late adolescence. I had wanted to believe that what was happening to him was typical adolescence.

The road to full-blown mental illness is always paved with symptoms that can look like typical adolescent emotions such as social #anxiety, self-doubt, and thoughts of not fitting in, Alone, they do not indicate #mentalillness.

But the duration and intensity of those emotions might. I remember him asking me what I thought happened to people who died by suicide.

I answered only God knew the suffering that person was going through. I had no idea he was talking about himself.

Nine months after diagnosis, at age 24, he took his life.

We often hear the phrase, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” That statement diminishes the pain that the person feels.

Sometimes problems are temporary, but many things people struggle with may not have simple solutions. At the most basic level, people want their pain to go away, not their lives.

Suicide is often attributed to a single event, but most often, it has been building over time and occurs when stressors exceed the person’s coping abilities. It doesn’t only affect those with mental illness, although according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 90 percent of those who die by suicide were struggling with one.

There are commonly cited warning signs. (See afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs. )

 

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#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

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But, as many survivors of suicide loss know, there may not have been outward signs, our loved ones were too ashamed to talk about their feelings, or we as parents, teachers or friends misinterpreted or missed them.

Youth may not always know how to share feelings with teachers or parents but might with peers. It is more likely they will receive support if those peers have learned about available resources and the importance of not stigmatizing or judging illnesses like depression or anxiety.

We cannot sweep the topics of mental illness and suicide under the rug. Mental illness affects one in five people at some point in their lives.

Normalizing conversation and providing youth and families with education around mental illness and suicide supports everyone. This is #suicideprevention.

Breaking the Silence NM is in Rio Rancho middle and high schools. (See breakingthesilencenm.org.)

On May 11, during #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, a spoken-word performance called “Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by #MentalIllness” will take place at the Kimo, 423 Central Ave. NW in Albuquerque. Through personal stories, seven people share the pain, confusion, resilience, and humor of living with mental illness.

(Desiree Woodland is a retired teacher who taught in Albuquerque Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools. She is on the boards for Survivors of Suicide and Breaking the Silence NM.)

depressionand what to say

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – One in 7 #Latina #Girls in #Philadelphia Has Attempted #Suicide, Yet Their Struggles Often Remain Invisible

One in 7 Latina girls in Philadelphia has attempted suicide, yet their struggles often remain invisible

COURTESY NOELIA RIVERA-CALDERóN

Every morning when Noelia Rivera-Calderón got to high school, she’d run to the bathroom to throw up.

 

The first few times, the school nurse suggested she go home. But after that, the staff acted as if it were normal for her to be sick.

One day, a counselor noticed cut marks on Rivera-Calderón’s arm. He told her that she should stop hurting herself. That was the end of the conversation.

 

“I felt that the mental-health challenges I lived with were invisible to others,” said Rivera-Calderón, now 29 and living in East Kensington, “even when there were clear signs that something was wrong.”

Today, Rivera-Calderón is fighting for girls like her to be seen. She recently led a report from the National Women’s Law Center about the mental health of Latina students in Philadelphia, titled “We Are Not Invisible.”

 

The report chronicles the lack of attention that schools give to Latina students in middle and high school, even though they face higher rates of having suicidal thoughts and attempts than their white and black peers. In Philadelphia, one in five Latina girls has seriously considered suicide and one in seven has attempted, according to the report.

But the problem of invisibility expands far beyond high school corridors. Experts say Latina adolescents have been attempting suicide at a greater rate than other teenage girls for more than 30 years.

 

“But nothing’s been done,” said Carolina Hausmann-Stabile, an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College who researches suicidal behaviors in minority youth. “This is the reality. We tend to neglect health outcomes among people we think have less value.”

With the increase in public officials expressing anti-immigrant sentiments, she doesn’t see this changing soon.

Carolina Hausmann-Stabile is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr who researches suicidal behaviors in minority youth.
COURTESY CAROLINA HAUSMANN-STABILE

Carolina Hausmann-Stabile is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr who researches suicidal behaviors in minority youth.

#Latinas don’t die by suicide as often as other groups, likely because of many use less lethal means, such as swallowing pills, Hausmann-Stabile said. But people who attempt once are more likely to attempt again.

 

“These kids are signaling something that if we don’t address, it will only get worse,” Hausmann-Stabile said.

More than a generational gap

Every Christmas morning in Wilkes-Barre, Raquel Sosa and her three siblings wake up to presents. Yet Sosa’s mother, who grew up in Mexico, spent her Christmases opening tamales as a gift.

The contrast has made Sosa keenly aware of how hard her parents worked to provide this life for her. Sometimes she feels guilty for being anything less than grateful.

“When they give us the life we have here,” said Sosa, now a 21-year-old student at East Stroudsburg University, “with cars and a home and food to eat, it’s hard for us to complain.”

Raquel Sosa is a senior at East Stroudsburg University and president of the college's Active Minds club, which aims to eliminate stigma around mental health.
COURTESY RAQUEL SOSA

Raquel Sosa is a senior at East Stroudsburg University and president of the college’s Active Minds club, which aims to eliminate the stigma around mental health.

That disconnect often creates tension for Latina girls beyond the normal generational gap that most teens experience with their parents, said Luis Zayas, dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas and author of Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide.

 

Many Latina girls also face expectations that they — and not their brothers — should care for the younger siblings, take on more household chores, and ultimately put the family’s needs above their own, he said. (That may help to explain why the rate of Latino boys who attempt suicide, though typically higher than white or black boys, has been consistently lower than Latina girls’.)

When their American ideals of individualism clash with their parents’ family-first values, the resulting conflict can make them feel like a burden, Zayas said. His research has shown that many Latina girls see suicide as a solution to their perceived failure to fulfill family roles and obligations.

Taking charge

Sosa didn’t learn the Spanish term for “mental health” (salud mental) until her late teens when a family member attempted suicide.

 

Before that, mental health wasn’t talked about or even acknowledged, she said.

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#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

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The experience inspired her to join her university’s chapter of Active Minds, a national organization dedicated to eradicating the stigmas around mental health. As she moves on to graduate school, Sosa hopes to become a psychologist, focusing on patients with suicidal thoughts and raising awareness among young Latinos.

 

“Many Latinx people think that’s a white issue, and it’s not happening with us,” Sosa said.

“But if there were more education and resources in Spanish, they’d realize this is a problem.”

 

Angela Calderón has similar aspirations. After co-authoring the National Women’s Law Center report, the 18-year-old wants to continue working in mental-health advocacy.

Angela Calderón is a senior at El Centro de Estudiantes in Philadelphia. She coauthored the National Women's Law Center report on Latina mental health.
COURTESY NATIONAL WOMEN’S LAW CENTER

Angela Calderón is a senior at El Centro de Estudiantes in Philadelphia. She coauthored the National Women’s Law Center report on Latina mental health.

During her freshman year of high school, Calderón found herself crying constantly and having anxiety attacks. But when she confided in her mother, she was told, “You’re just having a bad day. You’ll get over it.”

 

Other students told her it was normal. Latina girls are “fiery” and ”emotional,” they said. Even her guidance counselor seemed to dismiss her feelings as a passing phase.

“What I was saying didn’t really matter,” Calderón said.

 

But after transferring to El Centro de Estudiantes for her senior year, Calderón realized the difference that a supportive counselor can make. Now she checks in with any of the school’s three counselors regularly, even texting them when she’s having a bad day. They understand the unique challenges that Latino students face, she said.

 

“Everybody should have a place where somebody hears them,” she said.

 

For Rivera-Calderón, who led the National Women’s Law Center report, this is exactly what she wanted: more #Latina girls raising their voices.

Noelia Rivera-Calderón (left) talks about the National Women's Law Center report on Latina students and mental health with student coauthors during a panel discussion.
COURTESY NOELIA RIVERA-CALDERóN

Noelia Rivera-Calderón (left) talks about the National Women’s Law Center report on Latina students and mental health with student coauthors during a panel discussion.

Often, the conversation around mental health at schools revolves around test #anxiety or college preparation, she said. While those are important issues, many minority students face different challenges.

 

A 2017 survey found more than half of all Latina girls are worried about a friend or family member being deported.

 

In Philadelphia, many Latinos live below the poverty line and face issues of drug use and violence in their neighborhoods.

The power of communication

When a #Latina #teen and her mother believe that they have good communication with each other, the likelihood of a #suicide attempt drops by nearly half, Zayas said.

That’s why interventions need to involve the whole family.

Luis Zayas is the dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas and author of "Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide."
COURTESY LUIS ZAYAS

Luis Zayas is the dean of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas and author of “Latinas Attempting Suicide: When Cultures, Families, and Daughters Collide.”

When Zayas was a practicing therapist in New York City, he often asked parents to attend the counseling session with their daughter. He’d ask them to share their story — not how they think their daughter should behave, but why they believe so and how their upbringing shaped that belief. Then he’d give the girl the opportunity to share her side.

 

“The idea is to generate empathy,” he said. “Then the therapist can help find a practical compromise.”

 

A program in New York City called Life Is Precious and another in California called Familias Unidas have had success with the family-based model.

 

Zayas would like to see more school districts create support groups, where children of immigrants can discuss the cultural conflicts that arise, and parents can have their own groups to try to understand what their children are going through.

 

In Philadelphia, Rita Torres-Cain is making the first move in that direction.

The 54-year-old Latina will soon be leading the first bilingual peer support group through the #NationalAllianceforMentalIllness’ Philadelphia chapter. Set to start this summer, the weekly group will be open to adults with personal experience of #mentalillness, and will eventually expand to include family members.

Rita Torres-Cain has dealt with bipolar disorder since she was a child. Her mother didn't believe in treatment, but now Torres-Cain is trying to change that type of thinking by starting a Spanish-language mental health support group.
Rita Torres-Cain has dealt with bipolar disorder since she was a child. Her mother didn’t believe in treatment, but now Torres-Cain is trying to change that type of thinking by starting a Spanish-language mental health support group.

“We have to break this code that we don’t talk about stuff,” Torres-Cain said.

Growing up with schizoaffective bipolar disorder, Torres-Cain often battled suicidal thoughts and #depression. But her mother, who had little knowledge of #mentalhealth and feared the community’s judgment, didn’t want her getting treatment. Instead, Torres-Cain self-medicated with drugs for years and was arrested on drug-related charges. She finally received mental-health care in prison.

 

Now she wants to make sure others get treatment sooner.

 

She said, “You don’t have to wait until your child is trying to kill themselves before saying there’s a problem.”

The NAMI Philadelphia bilingual peer support group will be held at Frankford Memorial Methodist Church, 1300 Dyre St. For more information, visit www.namiphilly.org or call 267-687-4381, Ext. 1.

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.