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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Teen #Suicides: What Are the Risk Factors?

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Temperament, family and community all play a role

Nadine Kaslow, PhD

One of the myths about #suicidal talk, and actual #suicideattempts, in young people is that they are just a bid for attention or “a cry for help.” Kids who talk or write about killing themselves are dismissed as overly dramatic—obviously they don’t mean it! But a threat of #suicide should never be dismissed, even from a kid who cries “Wolf!” so many times it’s tempting to stop taking her seriously. It’s important to respond to threats and other warning signs in a serious and thoughtful manner. They don’t automatically mean that a child is going to attempt #suicide. But it’s a chance you can’t take.

When thinking about this, it helps to understand what factors make a young person more or less likely to consider or attempt #suicide. What do we know about young people who try to kill themselves, or who actually die by suicide? Let’s take a look at both the risk factors—things that increase the likelihood that a child will engage in #suicidalbehavior—and the protective factors, or things that reduce the risk.

If a child has a lot of risk factors and hardly any protective factors you need to be extremely concerned about him. On the other hand, if he has a fair number of risk factors but a lot of protective factors you may be somewhat less concerned, although you still, of course, need to be concerned.

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 
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


Here are some key #suiciderisk factors:

  • A recent or serious loss. This might include the death of a family member, a friend or a pet. The separation or a divorce of parents, or a breakup with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, can also be felt as a profound loss, along with a parent losing a job, or the family losing their home.
  • A psychiatric disorder, particularly a mood disorder like depression, or a trauma– and stress-related disorder.
  • Prior #suicide attempts increase risk for another #suicide attempt.
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders, as well as getting into a lot of trouble, having disciplinary problems, engaging in a lot of high-risk behaviors.
  • Struggling with sexual orientation in an environment that is not respectful or accepting of that orientation. The issue is not whether a child is gay or lesbian, but whether he or she is struggling to come out in an unsupportive environment.
  • A family history of #suicide is something that can be really significant and concerning, as is a history of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
  • Lack of social support. A child who doesn’t feel support from significant adults in her life, as well as her friends, can become so isolated that #suicide seems to present the only way out of her problems.
  • Bullying. We know that being a victim of bullying is a risk factor, but there’s also some evidence that kids who are bullies may be at increased risk for #suicidalbehavior.
  • Access to lethal means, like firearms and pills.
  • Stigma associated with asking for help. One of the things we know is that the more hopeless and helpless people feel, the more likely they are to choose to hurt themselves or end their life. Similarly, if they feel a lot of guilt or shame, or if they feel worthless or have low self-esteem.
  • Barriers to accessing services: Difficulties in getting much-needed services include lack of bilingual service providers, unreliable transportation, and the financial cost of services.
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that #suicide is a noble way to resolve a personal dilemma.

But what about protective factors, things that can mitigate the risk of engaging in #suicidal behavior?

Here are some key protective factors:

  • Good problem-solving abilities. Kids who are able to see a problem and figure out effective ways to manage it, to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways, are at lower risk.
  • Strong connections. The stronger the connections kids have to their families, to their friends, and to people in the community, the less likely they are to harm themselves. Partly, that’s because they feel loved and supported, and partly because they have people to turn to when they’re struggling and feel really challenged.
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of #suicide.
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage #suicide and that support self-preservation.
  • Relatively easy access to appropriate clinical intervention, whether that be psychotherapy, individual, group, family therapy, or medication if indicated.
  • Effective care for #mental, physical, and substance use disorders. Good medical and #mentalhealthcare involves ongoing relationships, making kids feel connected to professionals who take care of them and are available to them.

So what do you do if your child fits the profile of someone at risk for youth suicide? Warning signs of #suicide to be alert to include changes in personality or behavior that might not be obviously related to #suicide. When a teenager becomes sad, more withdrawn, more irritable, anxious, tired, or apathetic—things that used to be fun aren’t fun anymore—you should be concerned. Changes in sleep patterns or eating habits can also be red flags.

Acting erratically, or recklessly is also a warning sign. If a teen starts making really poor judgments, or he starts doing things that are harmful to himself or other people, like bullying or fighting, it can be a sign that he is spinning out of control.

And, finally, if a child is talking about dying, you should always pay attention. “I wish I was dead.” “I just want to disappear.” “Maybe I should jump off that building.” “Maybe I should shoot myself.” “You’d all be better off if I wasn’t around.” When you hear this kind of talk, it’s important to take it seriously—even if you can’t imagine your child meaning it seriously.

What to do? The first thing to do is talk.

For more information and resources on #suicide, see the APA’s suicide help page.

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Supporting #Children After the #Suicide of a Classmate

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Responding to a painful loss in the healthiest way possible

Jamie Howard, PhD

We know there’s no way we can make the #suicide of a student less upsetting. It’s a very painful thing for kids — and the adults who love them — to experience. But we also know that there are things that you can do to help young people process their feelings and thoughts in a healthy way. Here are some pointers that we hope will be helpful in responding to this loss.

  • It’s important that #suicide be acknowledged in a matter-of-fact way, but do not provide children and teens with a lot of details about the specific method of #suicide. Teachers and parents should convey consistent messages to reduce confusion, misinformation and secrecy.
  • #Suicide should be explained in terms of an untreated psychiatric illness. People sometimes hide emotional pain even from those they are closest to, which makes it very hard to help them. You should avoid sensationalizing or dramatizing #suicide, but you shouldn’t avoid talking about it.
  • Parents, encourage your child to tell you what she’s hearing and thinking, and listen nonjudgmentally. You want to keep checking in with her, because it takes time for kids to process disturbing experiences, and she may have important questions later. Teens will want to talk about this with their friends, but you can let her know that you want to stay in the loop.
  • If your child has #depression or has made a prior #suicide attempt, it’s especially important to prioritize this conversation. Don’t avoid it because it’s difficult and you’re worried that it might make him feel worse. Drawing out his thoughts and feelings and underscoring your connection can help him, even if he doesn’t acknowledge it. Unfortunately, #suicides sometimes occur in multiples, so it’s very important to increase monitoring of children who are at risk. It’s also important to remember that talking about #suicide and/or asking your child if they’re #suicidal will not increase their risk of actually completing a #suicide; it may actually decrease the risk.
  • Some kids may feel guilty, feeling that there’s something they could have done to prevent it. Let them know that this is a common feeling when a loss is very difficult to accept; we can’t help thinking about what we should or could have done differently. Help them understand that they are not responsible, and that when we learn of something so unexpected, it takes some time for the shock to wear off before we can start to understand what happened and eventually accept it.
  • It’s healthy for the school community to respond to a loss like this with an organized celebration of his or her life or memorial, and for the school community to attend the funeral, if it accords with the family’s wishes.
  • Sometimes teens turn to alcohol, drugs, or other risky behaviors as a way of coping with painful loss. Monitor children closely and explain to them that it’s normal to experience a range of intense emotions — sadness, anger, confusion — sometimes all at once. Come up with a few strategies for managing these feelings, such as talking to friends, talking with a parent or trusted adult, running or other intense exercise, deep breathing, allowing herself to cry, etc. This is called “coping ahead,” or anticipating potential difficulties and how to deal with them.
  • Two key factors are involved in #suicide (and both stem from #depression). The first is having the desire to die, which comes from thinking you are a burden or feeling like you don’t belong. Kids and adults sometimes mistakenly think that people will be better off without them around. To counteract this, adults should tell kids very clearly that it would be devastating if they died. The second risk factor is the ability to die, which comes from planning and getting used to pain and fear. Kids who self-injure are at higher risk for suicide because they override their self-preservation drive and get used to feeling pain. Learning how other people have killed themselves also increases a person’s ability. For more on this I recommend reading Myths About #Suicide by Thomas Joiner, PhD, a preeminent #suicide researcher.

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 

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


Grieving and coming to terms with a disturbing death take time, and there’s nothing we do can do to bypass or hurry the process. But by giving kids opportunities to share their feelings we can help them rebound in a healthy way. And by talking about #suicide openly and matter-of-factly, as the result of an emotional illness, we can help kids put it in a realistic and useful perspective.

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – How #PeteButtigieg Would Tackle The #MentalHealth And Addiction Crisis

Pete Buttigieg
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says his plan will ensure at least 75 percent of people who need treatment receive care


How Pete Buttigieg would tackle the #mentalhealth and addiction crisis


#Democratic presidential #candidate #PeteButtigieg on Friday unveiled a plan to bolster #mentalhealth and addiction services his campaign estimates would cost about $300 billion to coincide with a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire — a state hit hard by the opioid crisis.

The wide-ranging plan,which includes $100 billion in grants, calls for integrating treatment into primary care settings, increasing the number of available treatment beds, making it easier for patients to get access to medication for opioid addiction, investing in #suicideprevention for #veterans and addressing disparities in behavioral health care.

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 
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


“For years, #politicians in Washington have claimed to prioritize #mentalhealth care while slashing funding for treatment and ignoring America’s growing addiction and #mentalhealthcrisis,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said in a statement. “That neglect must end. Our plan breaks down the barriers around #mentalhealth and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal.”

#Buttigieg says his plan will ensure at least 75 percent of people who need treatment receive care. About 11 percent of the 21.7 million people who needed substance use treatment over the course of a year receive it, according to federal figures from 2015.

#PeteButtigieg is selling himself as a leader for the next generation of Democrats. 
See where he stands on all the issues »

What would the plan do?

Beyond adding resources, the plan attempts to address the public health effects of #isolation and #loneliness.

The plan would beef up the behavioral health workforce by increasing reimbursement rates and making health workers’ loan repayment programs more generous, specifically for those in rural, underserved areas. It also aims to increase access to opioid addiction treatment and inpatient care at psychiatric facilities.

#Buttigieg would invest more in #veteran #suicide programs and create a three-digit suicide hotline. His plan also calls for more #mentalhealth workers in schools and increased investments in early intervention programs.

How would it work?

The plan would provide $100 billion in grants over 10 years to communities for prevention and care integration. It proposes expanding access to inpatient treatment by repealing a decades-old Medicaid law that prohibits reimbursements for patients in residential treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. The Obama and Trump administration have taken steps to allow states to work around the restriction. Buttigieg’s plan would completely repeal it.

The plan would deregulate buprenorphine, one of three FDA-approved medication-assisted treatments for opioid addiction, to increase access to that drug. Prescribers, under federal law, can only prescribe the medication to a limited number of patients. #Buttigieg’s plan requires all private insurers and Medicare and Medicaid to cover all three forms of medication-assisted treatment. It also prioritizes research to develop treatments for other drug addictions, like methamphetamine. It would also create national standards for addiction care. 

What are the weaknesses in the proposal?

It’s unclear how #Buttigieg plans to pay for the plan, which not only provides $100 billion in grants, but includes many proposals like increasing provider reimbursement rates and repealing a Medicaid law, that would come with a hefty price tag. Fiscal conservatives have balked at similar proposals.

It’s also unclear how #Buttigieg plans to further enforce federal parity laws and require private insurance plans to cover all three forms of medication assisted treatment.

What have other Democrats proposed?

Elizabeth Warren
Amy Klobuchar

Sens. #ElizabethWarren and #AmyKlobuchar have both proposed $100 billion plans to combat addiction and address #mentalhealthissues.

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Keeping The #Faith On #MentalHealth

  • Debbie Kelley and Steve Rabey, The Gazette
COVER STORY 5d6705983b20b.image.jpg
Velda Baker prays with a client with mental health issues at Marian House soup kitchen. Baker helps soup kitchen clients obtain doctor’s appointments, medication, bus passes, food, housing and employment, prays over the plan of care she and clients establish.

COLORADO SPRINGS • “Pray harder,” Tracy Monteith heard from fellow churchgoers, including her husband, a fledgling #pastor, when the darkness of depression kept her from getting out of bed in the morning.

When hours would pass without Monteith accomplishing anything except turning on the television, and her four young children felt like a heavy burden, Monteith questioned her Christian faith.

Other worshipers told her she had nothing to be depressed about. Yet God did not seem to be answering her prayers to get better.

“If your prayer life is strong enough, you wouldn’t struggle with #mentalhealth,” people said to Monteith of Colorado Springs, co-author of the book, “True Blue: Living with Mental Illness in the Shadow of the Steeple.”

When she developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being raped and spiraled into full-blown psychosis, Monteith wondered, “Does the church even see me?”

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 

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

Monteith’s story is familiar in that people with #mentalhealth concerns, seeking help, often turn to a faith leader first, according to the #AmericanPsychiatricAssociationFoundation. But in doing so, they might not find what they need.

Some congregations are more prepared than others, offering one-on-one counseling, speakers and programs addressing specific issues, support groups and referrals. Others rely on faith alone to get people through their problems.

“The church should be a place in which people can be honest about their needs without fear of condemnation or stigmatization,” said the Rev. Jeremiah Williamson, rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs. “The church should be a community that respects the dignity of each and every person and affirms the gifts of each member, including, of course, those who wrestle with #mentalillnesses.”

One in five Americans faces a #mentalhealth concern at some point, and new training programs in Colorado are helping churches develop best practices. A #suicide-prevention task force out of the El Paso County Department of Public Health has faith-based members.

“The good news is, they’re at the table,” said Carolena Guiral Steen, assistant superintendent in El Paso County’s Cheyenne Mountain School District 12. “This has got to be a ‘we’ thing.”

‘This is biochemical’

The tension that exists between religious beliefs and professional intervention can leave religious institutions ill-equipped to deal with the post-partum depression of a new mother, a psychotic breakdown of a longstanding business leader whose life has hit rock bottom or a teenager threatening #suicide.

Faith communities in Colorado Springs, an epicenter for evangelical Christian ministry, are not doing a good job of lending support, said Lori Jarvis-Steinwert, executive director of the Colorado Springs office of the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness (#NAMI). She spoke recently at a Gazette-sponsored Community Conversation on #mentalhealthandsuicideprevention.

“People are pretty disappointed in turning to their churches,” Jarvis-Steinwert said. “We are a very faith-based community here in Colorado Springs, and yet people feel like they come up short when they turn to their faith community and ask for help.”

Too often, people who come to #NAMI say, ‘‘I was told this was happening to me because I was not walking with God,” Jarvis-Steinwert said. “We hear that a lot. And we say, ‘No, this is biochemical. Your diagnosis has nothing to do with your relationship with #God at this point.’”

An “either-or” situation can develop, a chasm between faith and professional #mentalhealth care, said Camille Harrison, a graduate student working on a master’s of divinity degree at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

“We don’t need to give up prayer and healing, but we need to add the ‘and’ and have both conversations,” Harrison said, referring to professional assistance from the therapeutic and medical fields. “It’s not one or the other but both.”

And pastors have an obligation to be honest about their limitations, said Williamson, of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

“I am not a psychiatrist, so if there is an acute need, or a need beyond my expertise, I recommend a #mentalhealthprofessional,” he said. “What I can offer, as a pastor, is deep, attentive listening, spiritual counsel, guidance, prayer and, if necessary, the sacrament of reconciliation.”

By their nature, Christianity’s practices of prayer and meditation, contemplation and silence, the rhythm of worship, spiritual music, and “a supportive, loving community” have the potential to improve an individual’s #mental and emotional health, Williamson said.

Faith and #mentalhealth seem like they should be as compatible as the communal bread and wine.

Yet #mentalillness at times in history has been viewed as demonic or discounted by Christianity, Monteith writes in her book. And for that matter, by other world religions, she said.

#Suicide a ‘taboo’ subject

Since the dawn of psychotherapy, some churches have held that #mental problems represent sin or moral weakness and should be treated through prayer or greater devotion.

Suspicion of psychology can be found today in some congregations such as Colorado Springs’ Calvary Worship Center, which on its website rejects “the incorporation of humanistic and secular psychology and philosophy into Biblical teaching.”

“While we respect our fellow believers who work in #mentalhealth-related fields, we believe that the central mission of the church is to proclaim God’s Word to a lost and hurting world,” the website says. “… Humanistic psychology and philosophy often do more harm than good, and people respond best when God’s Word is proclaimed in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.”

Many churches avoid delivering sermons or offering classes on #mentalhealthissues, including crises like suicides, according to a 2017 survey funded by Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family and conducted by the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Research.

“#Suicide remains a taboo subject in many Protestant churches,” the study concluded, finding that:

• 80% of Protestant senior pastors believe their churches are equipped to intervene with someone who is threatening #suicide.

• Only 4% of churchgoers who have lost someone to #suicide say church leaders were aware of their loved one’s struggles.

• 55% of churchgoers who responded to the survey said people are more likely to gossip about a #suicide than to help a victim’s family.

But some churches are venturing into the topic from the pulpit.

At the beginning of his sermon on the last Sunday in August, Pastor Tim McConnell of First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs spoke of the devastating loss of a 13-year-old boy in the community who recently committed #suicide.

“As a church, we want to weep with those who are weeping, mourn with those who are mourning, and we want to be praying,” McConnell told parishioners. “I want you to remember this is where we come when we’re hurting, when we’re needful, when we’re confused. This is where we come.”

#Mentalillness is as real as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, said Monteith, who co-authored her book with her late husband, Tom Monteith, founding pastor of Open Grace Bible Fellowship and Ministries in Colorado Springs.

People mistakenly think Christians don’t deal with #mentalhealthissues because they have God, said Monteith. “But the #mentallyill are in our pews.”

Presence and empathy

Incorporating spirituality for people who desire that component can be “a very significant part” of #mentalhealth treatment, said Dr. Rick Athey, a board-certified psychiatrist for children and adults and a deacon at Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs.

“For people who are feeling angry or hopeless or helpless or #suicidal, there’s an understanding God, there’s mercy, there’s healing, and those principles can help them heal, feel better or save their lives,” he said.

When Athey, one of El Paso County’s few psychiatrists who includes #faith in therapy, was studying psychiatric medicine 35 years ago, the topic of faith rarely came up.

“In most training programs, there were things you never talked about; one was #faith, the other was sex,” he said. “Now, talk of sexuality is rampant, and #faith is still avoided in many circles.”

But there apparently is a growing nexus between #mentalhealthprofessionals and #faith communities.

Some are rising above the discrepancies of how to handle #mentalhealth dilemmas.

Peter Kuiper directed the Rapha faith-based in-patient treatment program at Cedar Springs Hospital in Colorado Springs until the mid-1990s, when insurance companies changed to a managed-care model that favors outpatient counseling.

Kuiper now organizes monthly Christian Counselors’ Fellowship gatherings at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs. Typically, 60-70 people on Kuiper’s 400-person mailing list attend.

Fellowship members come from a variety of faith traditions and include #pastors, pastoral counselors, licensed professional counselors and social workers, lay counselors and counseling students who work in churches and in private practice.

Members are involved in everything from #suicideprevention to grief counseling, substance abuse and codependency.

“In the old days, there was a lot of stigma around getting counseling, but that #stigma has largely gone away,” said Kuiper, who also runs CrossRoads Counseling of the Rockies in Buena Vista.

“Many churches are very effective at helping those who are on a journey of healing, providing supportive communities that are beneficial — even vital — to people’s health,” Kuiper added.

As an intern at the Colorado Springs office of #NAMI, Harrison worked on creating a pilot program that launched last year to help faith communities handle #mentalhealth needs of members, based on a national model called “Bridges for Hope.”

The idea came out of a roundtable discussion at a #mentalhealth summit in Colorado Springs several years ago.

The gist of it was that churches don’t know what to do in helping those experiencing #mentalhealth problems, and they’d like guidance from #mentalhealthprofessionals, said Velda Baker, who works as a Faith Community Nurse for Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs.

Baker has an office at Catholic Charities’ Marian House soup kitchen in the Springs, is a visiting nurse for other clinics that serve indigent and impoverished clients, and presents workshops for the community.

“Some pastors have master’s of divinity degrees but their plates are full,” Baker said. “Other pastors don’t have any counseling or the education piece. Many people say their pastors said to pray harder, and they felt their faith was weak.”

There are more effective responses, religious leaders, staff and volunteers learn at workshops. Sessions include education on real-life scenarios, such as a homeless person walking into a church, questions, discussion and availability of community resources.

Baker’s father had a #mental breakdown 30 years ago during a parish council meeting, and church members did what Harrison calls the best thing they can do — be a presence and provide empathy.

“There’s still a #stigma around #mentalhealth because it’s complex and there’s a continuum,” said Harrison, the Iliff student who’s studying to become a chaplain. “Churches, synagogues, mosques don’t have to fix anything — they can just come alongside and provide presence. They seem to have a hard time doing that.”

Faith can be part of treatment

After two weeks of being homeless, anyone is susceptible to developing mental instability, said Baker, who defines 99.99% of her clients — roughly 100 a month at the soup kitchen — as having #mentalchallenges.

“People become homeless because of an illness or loss of job, and two weeks later, they have #depression, #anxiety, they hear voices because they’re not sleeping, they’re paranoid.”

In her 33 years of nursing, Baker, who received the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing for her work in the Bridges for Hope program, has seen an evolution. #Mentalhealth is being talked about in church youth groups and at church fairs, for example.

“If we can help identify #mental conditions and help churches walk alongside these people, maybe they won’t become homeless,” Baker said.

Along with helping soup kitchen clients obtain doctor’s appointments, medication, bus passes, food, housing and employment, Baker prays over the plan of care she and clients establish.

If someone says the railroad tracks have been looking inviting, she asks if they’ve sensed #God in their journey and if they would like her to pray with them. Is there a psalm or verse that’s been helpful in their lives, perhaps? Or are they angry at #God? Does #God seem like a big black hole?

“#God understands,” she said. “Just like a broken leg isn’t going to heal overnight, we have to pray their situation will #subside.”

Baker regularly prays with client Ann Brooks, who, while moving to Colorado Springs from Texas, got in a car wreck, then arrived by bus with injuries and has been living on the streets for more than a month.

As Brooks figures out where to live, how to get a job and how to access medical care, Baker’s prayers have encouraged Brooks “to move on and forgive,” she said.

“The prayers have helped me to deal with everything else, to heal and think straight and focus on the next steps,” Brooks said. “You can’t worry about the past.”

Healed by faith

With centuries of healing work in hospitals, prisons and among the poor, many #Christian denominations provide faith-healing events for followers.

At one such recent healing prayer service, at a church that overlooks the city of Castle Rock, energy pulsated from a large crowd. Hope and excitement were in the air, as spiritual warfare was about to begin.

From parents toting sick babies to seniors hobbling behind walkers, all come to renounce physical, spiritual and emotional ailments in the name of Jesus and claim victory over their troubles.

Under the direction of the Rev. Greg Bramlage, a Catholic priest who conducts healing services, deliverance prayer and exorcisms for the Diocese of Colorado Springs, participants forsake arthritis, rotator cuff damage, aching knees, lung disease and other maladies.

They name their illnesses out loud en masse, then move their bodies in a manner to shake out pain.

“None of us are the healer — Jesus alone is the healer,” Bramlage calls out.

Worshippers read from a giant screen: “In the name of Jesus, I break the power and everything I have renounced. I command it to leave me now.”

Divine intervention doesn’t work by just reciting the words, says Bramlage, founder of the Missionaries of the New Evangelization, a nonprofit organization that’s building a healing prayer center in Larkspur.

“Your heart has to be all in.”

Afterward, some shed tears of joy and announce that their breathing has improved, swollen feet are normal again, back pain of six years has disappeared, a hurt toe no longer throbs.

“We believe most of what people are dealing with can be healed through prayer because we’ve seen too many stories,” Bramlage says.

That includes #mentalillness, for which Bramlage delves deeper, holding three-hour individual sessions to remove emotional blocks usually stemming from trauma.

Monica Hernandez, a 51-year-old homemaker and missionary from Centennial, says she was able to abandon her 14-year reliance on anti-depressants after meeting Bramlage and “knocking, seeking, asking” in prayer.

As people prayed over Hernandez during a healing session, she felt warmth surround her heart.

“It was incredible,” she said. “It was like something was being poured over my heart. I couldn’t believe it. I knew something had changed.”

When the prayer ended, the deep sorrow that had crippled Hernandez for most of her life was gone, she said. With her doctor’s guidance, she reduced her dosage of anti-depressants and has been off them for two years.

She considers herself cured of the affliction and now prays for healing with others.

“I tell my story to anyone who will listen,” Hernandez said. “There are so many people struggling with #depression, #anxiety, fear, #PTSD, and they think it’s something they have to live with.

“I personally experienced God’s healing and the freedom that brings. I tell people, ‘Don’t give up.’”

Make counseling mainstream

A busy Colorado Springs counseling center has its roots in a #mentalhealthcrisis of its founder.

Mark Mayfield’s first exposure to youth #suicide came at age 12 when he attempted to take his life, he said. Counseling helped this sensitive kid adjust and #survive the incessant bullying he endured at school.

His second awakening was when he worked as a youth minister at a church in Breckenridge. After one adolescent in the group died by #suicide and another overdosed on drugs, Mayfield realized how unprepared he was to help kids deal with #mentalhealthissues, so he earned a master’s degree in counseling from Denver Seminary, and a doctoral degree from another school.

Mayfield was working for AspenPointe as a clinical family therapist and at the Air Force Academy as a counselor and instructor when a rash of teen suicides hit El Paso County.

He founded Mayfield Counseling Centers in 2015 and later transformed the for-profit company into a tax-deductible nonprofit so it could solicit donations to provide free counseling to people who couldn’t afford it.

“I felt we shouldn’t be doing only face-to-face counseling sessions, but we needed to be out in the community engaging schools, the interfaith community and businesses and get us all on the same page.”

Mayfield Counseling Centers engages the community through fundraisers, such as the Race for Hope event Sept. 14 at Overdrive Raceway. But the center’s biggest public outreach events have been annual Springs Mental Health Summits at New Life Church, which attracted about 400 attendees in 2017 and more than 700 last year.

This year’s summit will be held Nov. 2 at New Life Church, for pastors, helpers, counselors and parents who want in-depth training on #mentalhealth.

Battling substance abuse

Mac Owen’s substance abuse started at age 12 with marijuana and progressed to LSD before methamphetamine became his drug of choice.

“I was raised in a very dysfunctional family that I didn’t really like, but I saw another group of people having a blast, and that’s the people I wanted to identify with,” he said. “I thought that if I did these drugs I would be accepted, have a good time, and feel good.”

By his 20s, Owen was a meth addict. “I would go for weeks at a time without sleep, and I didn’t ever want to come down.”

Owen eventually found release from his addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery, a ministry from California’s Saddleback Church. Today, Owen is national director of Celebrate Recovery, which is used in 35,000 churches nationwide.

The main difference between AA and CR is that “in CR we identify our Higher Power,” Owen says. CR groups address more than substance abuse: “CR is for anybody with a hurt, habit or hang-up.”

Half a dozen churches in the Pikes Peak region host CR groups: Village Seven Presbyterian Church, Springs Community Church, Pikes Peak Christian Church, Meridian Point Church, St. Victor Catholic Church in Victor and Impact Christian Church in Woodland Park, where Owen is an elder.

“Instead of telling people who struggle with addiction or #mentalhealthissues that they’re just not praying enough, believing enough or studying their Bibles enough, we want the message to be that we’re humans, we struggle and we need to help each other,” Owen said.

Impact Christian Church’s program typically attracts 80-100 people. Gatherings begin with a meal, followed by a teaching session and small-group conversations focusing on the specific challenges people face.

Owen says CR helps congregations change how they deal with people working through difficulties.

“Instead of a church saying you’ve got a problem, get out of here, we don’t want to see you anymore, churches learn to say you have a problem, and we’re not sure what to do, but we want you to stay here with us and we’ll do anything we can to help you.”

Issue touches all faiths

Some faith communities are advanced in addressing #mentalhealth and others are just beginning.

Temple Beit Torah, a Reform synagogue in Colorado Springs, doesn’t offer programs or resources — but is open to the possibility, said Rabbi Iah Pillsbury, who recently moved to Colorado Springs from Ohio to lead the congregation.

“All of us struggle with #mentalhealth,” she said. “Life’s just hard, and it’s a spectrum. The more we talk about these things and destigmatize and normalize the fact that everyone struggles, the more we can help each other.”

Followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refer to Jesus as the Great Physician and have a wealth of resources at their fingertips, including individual counseling, said David McConkie, president of the Colorado Springs East Stake, one of five Mormon stakes in the city with about 3,200 members, and 15,000 citywide.

“We teach and believe that Jesus Christ has suffered for every affliction, for every illness, including infirmities of the mind, and we believe healing is available through him,” said McConkie. “We realize there are situations that call for the need of professional help.

“We know that we can’t fix everything, but we do believe that through loving and listening and caring for every individual that we can do a lot.”

Muslims face many expectations. Suicide is forbidden, one of many rules of behavior, manners, ethics and morals in the practice of Islam, which “if observed,” keep believers away “from #mental #stress and conflicts,” said Arshad Yousufi, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs. Believers are “encouraged to be rational, learn to control their emotions and develop self-restraint” in working to ward off mental decline.

There’s a waiting list for Bramlage’s healing programs through Missionaries of the New Evangelization. Dire cases rise to the top. Some people seek deliverance from demonic or evil spirits. Exorcism — a prayer ritual to expel the supernatural — is a last-case resort and rare, the priest says.

Demonic influences, which the priest calls “demonic oppression,” meaning an evil spirit is pressing upon some part of a person, can be present in #mentalillnesses such as paranoia or schizophrenia, he said. “Many times the connection to a person’s past or a relative’s past — that anger or fear has brought this on.”

When #faith alone cannot heal, Bramlage says he refers people to a psychiatrist his team works with.

Feeling left out or behind

Some link more incidents of #anxiety, #depression, opioid abuse and suicidal inclinations with the growing number of people who believe in “nothing in particular.” One in five Americans falls into that category, according to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a Harvard University-based biannual survey.

The “nones,” as they are called, indicate they also are disconnected from other foundations of communities, including engaging in the political process, volunteerism and higher education.

“I do wonder if deteriorating #mentalhealth is not linked to people who feel left out and left behind from society at large,” writes Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University and co-founder of Religion in Public.

The decline in religious identity has led many people to not understand that suffering — illness, grief, pain, all kinds of loss — is a necessary part of human life, Athey, the child and adult psychiatrist, contends.

“Our very existence requires the possibility of suffering,” he said. “It can be beneficial in some ways, in helping us turn to God in our suffering and weakness. Religion gives us hope and helps us get through.”

The sense of connectedness to others generated by involvement with a faith community can help people feel less #lonely, said Dr. Neill Epperson, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

“Our world has become a lonelier world — we don’t join churches, synagogues or mosques as much or have group activities or that social support people used to have when we were less busy,” Epperson said.

But #faith communities also have been known to shun people; those who violate church guidelines on sexual purity or who become pregnant often risk condemnation.

The #LGBTQ population often faces bullying, #depression and #suicidalideation, said #NAMI’s Jarvis-Steinwert.

Many #LGBTQ folks have been wounded by religious experiences, said Sorin Thomas, founder and executive director of Queer Asterisk, which has offices in Denver, Boulder and Longmont.

As a result, they are fearful of seeking help with #mentalissues from faith-based programs, even if they grew up in a church.

Thomas, who educates groups on inclusivity, has observed religious centers and community offshoots “begin to open their doors and express welcome” to the #LGBTQ community.

However, “There is a difference between being accepting and actually having the skills to follow through and be truly inclusive,” Thomas said.

When people are angry at #God and don’t understand what’s happening and why they’re having significant problems, they can feel neglected by the very community they turn to for comfort, Athey said.

Some churches engage in what Kuiper calls “spiritual abuse.”

“There are churches I would classify as doing spiritual abuse when it comes to just throwing Bible verses at people’s problems or putting a spiritual frosting on issues that are much more serious than people are aware of,” said Kuiper, the Christian Counselors’ Fellowship organizer. “When churches don’t operate from a loving, grace-oriented perspective, they can condemn people for their behaviors and choices rather than trying to understand them and care about them.”

Said Monteith, the author who has grappled with #depression all her life: “Churches need to be as Christ would be — accepting of all people and helpful.”

Throughout the years, whether she was at home, in counseling or in a psychiatric hospital, Monteith says she knew #God was there.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“#God made me this way for a reason,” she said. “I may not know what the reason is. #God knows I struggle with #mentalhealthissues. Just knowing that helps me get through the day.”

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com
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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – #Suicide Is Never The Answer

Local panel speaks about warning signs, resources for sufferers of #suicidal thinking

  • By Lacey Peterson
Suicide is never the answer
Local mental health professionals presented at the Belle Fourche Area Community Center Tuesday about recognizing the signs of suicidality and resources available to loved ones and those suffering with suicidal thoughts. Pictured are the members of the seven-member panel.

BELLE FOURCHE –– A seven-member panel of #mentalhealthprofessional spoke to community members Tuesday about recognizing the signs of #suicidal thoughts and how to get help for sufferers. 

The event was held at the Belle Fourche Area Community Center.

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 

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


Marilyn Charging, with the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness (NAMI) of South Dakota, started off the symposium by talking about #NAMI and what it does within the Northern Hills communities. 

She said #NAMI is a United States-based advocacy group originally founded as a grassroots group by family members of people diagnosed with #mentalillness. 

She explained that the organization is conducting a free program in area schools called NAMI Ending the Silence.

Charging said the program includes an engaging presentation that helps audience members learn about the warning signs of #mentalhealth conditions and what steps to take if you or a loved one are showing symptoms of a #mentalhealth condition.

NAMI Ending the Silence presentations include two leaders: one who shares an informative presentation and a young adult with a #mentalhealth condition who shares their journey of recovery. Audience members can ask questions and gain understanding of an often-misunderstood topic. Through dialogue, NAMI works to help grow the movement to end #stigma.

“We have to figure out a better way to address this because our children all have a right to an education and they have the right to feel safe at school and in their community,” Charging said. “This program is a start.”

Rachael Petterson, the Northern Hills site supervisor with Behavior Management Service (BMS), spoke about the program’s Zero Suicide program, which presents an aspirational challenge and practical framework for system-wide transformation toward safer #suicide care. 

“The idea behind Zero Suicide is that #suicide is preventable if people are connected to healthcare providers,” she said. 

Whether its doctors or #mentalhealthcounselors, Petterson said, as long as a struggling person is connected to professionals who can help them in their community, #suicide is preventable.

The staff at BMS are currently receiving Zero Suicide program training, which will wrap up in October.

“We’ll be ready to add that additional line of support to our communities that we serve; and Belle Fourche is one of them,” Petterson said. 

John Olson, Rapid City Police Department captain and crisis intervention training trainer, shared about crisis intervention’s place in community policing.

“If you look at the statistics … one in 10 people will suffer from some kind of #mentalhealth crisis,” he said. “One in 25 people suffers from a persistent and serious #mentalillness.”

Due to the closure of some area #mentalhealth treatment resources, the burden has fallen onto the lap of law enforcement, Olson said.

“(Including) law enforcement involved shootings where someone was in a #mentalhealth crisis and became excessively violent … with law enforcement attempting to protect themselves and the public, end up in a shooting situation or something like that,” he said. “Those documented cases are what really came to the forefront to make sure that law enforcement now is properly trained to be able to deal with those (crises).”

De-escalation is a major component of crisis intervention training, Olson said.

“So what we’re really doing is trying to do our best to de-escalate situations,” he said. “What is crisis intervention team?” He asked. “That is being able to communicate and be able to help someone out of a crisis; be able to de-escalate the situation to the point where you could get the person hooked into services.”

Dominique Charlson, owner of Spearfish-based Peer Advantage, spoke about #mentalhealth first aid training provided by her company.

The training, called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), helps the public better identify, understand, and respond to signs of #mentalillnesses. The course is designed to give ordinary people the skills to help someone who is experiencing a #mentalhealthcrisis or intervene early to prevent a crisis from occurring. 

The program is based on the principle that early intervention can prevent #mentalillness from becoming more severe by encouraging people to get help early.

Charlson said the program teaches people ways to connect to the appropriate professional, peer, or self-help care.

The core message of the training is communicated through a five-step action plan encompassing the skills, resources, and knowledge to help connect an individual in crisis with appropriate care, Charlson said. She is one of 90 MHFA instructors in the state.

“We have first aid and CPR for somebody who is having an acute crisis or is bleeding or needing first aid,” she said. 

This training program has the same mission, only suited for #mentalhealth safety concerns.

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – Today is World Mental Health Day….. Reach Out and Check In On Someone You Care About….

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#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – October 10, 2019 – #WORLDMENTALHEALTHDAY

OCTOBER 10, 2019


Annually, #WorldMentalHealthDay on October 10th raises awareness and mobilizes efforts to support #mentalhealth.

#JamesDonaldsononMentalHealth – 

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

#Mentalhealth is a hot topic. This is good news. It means the #stigma for #mentalhealthissues is slowly going away. #Mentalhealthissues are finally getting the attention they deserve. Healthcare workers and individuals feel they can discuss #mentalhealth more openly. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do, however.

As a whole, we often misunderstand #mentalhealth because it is hard to define. Additionally, #mentalhealth includes several areas. These areas involve one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. #Mentalhealth affects thoughts, feelings, and actions. When one has positive #mentalhealth, they are better equipped to handle stress, be more productive, and realize their full potential.

When one has poor #mentalhealth, they are more likely to suffer from a #mentalhealth disorder. These disorders include the following diagnoses:

  • #Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (#PTSD)

Of these #mentalhealth disorders, most people experience #anxiety disorders. Statistics show about 4% of the world’s population has a form of anxiety disorder. In the United States, the percentage increases to just over 18% of the population.

Some people are at a higher risk of getting a #mentalhealth disorder. These include those with high-stress levels, those who have experienced trauma, and those who have few healthy relationships. However, family history plays a role in higher risk factors, too.

Thanks to increased awareness and increased funding for research, there are effective treatment options for most cases of #mentalhealth disorders. Conventional treatment methods include medication, psychotherapy, and hospital and residential programs.

HOW TO OBSERVE #MentalHealthDay

The #WorldFederationforMentalHealth organizes #WorldMentalHealthDay. Each year, a variety of events are held all around the world to increase awareness about #mentalhealthissues. Events include educational seminars, free #mentalhealth screenings, walk-a-thons, marathons, conferences, mass media promotions, and public service announcements.

If you know someone who struggles with a #mentalhealth disorder, #WorldMentalHealthDay is a great way to reach out to them. While many people don’t feel comfortable talking to others about their diagnosis, knowing they have someone to reach out to makes a real difference. You can also donate to an organization that advocates for #mentalhealth. A few include the #NationalAllianceonMentalHealth (#NAMI) and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. If you think you might have a mental health disorder or are at a high risk of getting one, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Share this day on social media with #WorldMentalHealthDay.


The #WorldFederationforMentalHealth first observed #WorldMentalHealthDay in 1992 with members and contacts in many countries.  While the federations first used a theme in 1994, previous years did not. The first theme was “Improving the Quality of Mental Health Services throughout the World.” Twenty-seven countries participated in that campaign.In 1995, the World Federation for Mental Health translated planning kits for #WorldMentalHealthDay into various languages. These languages included Spanish and French. Today, planning kits are translated into Hindi, Chinese, Arabic, and other languages.


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