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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Mental health experts say it’s time to stop saying ‘committed suicide.’ Here’s why

 

David Kirby, the clinical services manager at Distress Centre Calgary, says speaking and writing about suicide should be embraced, but care when choosing the right language is crucial. Photo by Sam Nar

 

David Kirby says people need to talk about suicide and share stories by writing them down. But the clinical services manager at Distress Centre Calgary says getting the language right is crucial. Professional writers, he says, must pay attention to the type of language used when describing the act.

“We know that suicide is extremely fraught with taboo and stigma. Any language that we use is going to be so conditioned, seemingly neutral, that we forget that it’s constructed habitually,” Kirby says.
 

“I think our language needs to be as compassionate as possible to serve as furthering an increasing dialogue around suicide.”

Kirby says many people see no problem with saying, “committed suicide.” However, he says “committed” is a loaded term, associated with criminal acts. Oxford dictionary defines “commit” as carrying out or perpetrating “a mistake, crime, or immoral act.” Instead, Kirby advocates for the phrase “died by suicide.”

The media’s role

The Mindset manual put together by André Picard of The Globe & Mail, Karen Pauls of CBC News and Michael Kirby of Partners for Mental Health, supports Kirby’s position. It specifically asks journalists to use more direct language, such as “took his own life,” “died by suicide” or “killed herself.” The manual implores journalists to “be aware of the damage that can be done by reinforcement of stereotypes and strive to minimize it” through persistent investigation.

GM WebDespite media guidelines, Canadian publications are still using the words “committed suicide.”Infographic by Sam Nar and Mollie Smith.

Robson Fletcher, an editor and reporter with CBC Calgary, acknowledges that inappropriate phrases can creep into individual articles from time to time due to ingrained speech patterns, but he says he hasn’t seen many examples.

That said, a Google News search of CBC, The Globe And Mail and Postmedia turns up recent examples of writers using the phrase “committed suicide.”

Fletcher explains news organizations have been actively working to change the language used to describe suicide, developing guidelines for media to consult when reporting on sensitive cases, but he admits that some habits are hard to break.

“We’re used to saying things in certain ways, and when we’re in a hurry, we say things as we’ve always said them instead of thinking about the exact meaning of what we’re saying,” Fletcher adds.

Words Infographic

‘Committed suicide’ is more than just a phrase — it can be harmful, according to David Kirby, the clinical services manager at Distress Centre Calgary.Infographic by Sam Nar.

According to Kirby, correcting language will have positive effects in lowering stigma. “I think when suicide is put into a context of being forbidden … it makes it very difficult for people to reach out for help.”

Despite critiques of how media discuss mental health issues, Steven Leong, the fund development leader of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), says the media is doing a much better job than it used to.

Leong lost his cousin to suicide five years ago. His cousin’s death was among the 4,054 cases in Canada in 2013, a number that dropped to 3,926 in 2016, according to the latest census. Although shocked by his cousin’s unexpected death, Leong says media efforts around the language of suicide have improved.

“I think it’s pretty good, it’s better than it’s ever been,” Leong says. “Even in the last five years, we’ve come a really long way.”

snar@cjournal.camsmith@cjournal.ca

Editor: Nathan Kunz | nkunz@cjournal.ca

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Jon Hamm Discusses Depression and Going to Therapy in InStyle Interview

James Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people 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 suicidal thoughts 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  

Jon Hamm Discusses Depression

Jon Hamm sees a therapist and doesn’t care who knows. Sitting down with InStyle, the actor, known best for his role in “Mad Men,” told the magazine how therapy has helped him through a number of mental health issues including depression, alcohol addiction, and grief.

“Medical attention is medical attention whether it’s for your elbow or for your teeth or for your brain,” Hamm said. “And it’s important. We live in a world where to admit anything negative about yourself is seen as a weakness when it’s actually a strength.”

This isn’t the first time Hamm has spoken openly about his experience getting treatment for mental illness. In 2015, Hamm went to rehab for alcohol addiction.

“[Rehab] has all these connotations, but it’s just an extended period of talking about yourself,” Hamm told Mr. Porter’s The Journal in 2016. “People go for all sorts of reasons, not all of which are chemically related. But there’s something to be said for pulling yourself out of the grind for a period of time and concentrating on recalibrating the system. And it works. It’s great.”

Hamm has since moved on from rehab but told InStyle he still attends therapy, sharing with the publication how therapy has helped him process the grief he experienced after losing both of his parents at a young age. “I’m certainly damaged—there’s no denying it,” he said. “I was talking to my therapist yesterday, and she was newly flabbergasted at something I told her. I think she’d just forgotten it. I was like, ‘We’ve already gone through this!’ But if you look at the history of my life, it’s not great.”

Hamm isn’t the only celebrity looking to defeat the stigma surrounding living with a mental illness. In April, BBC3’s #1in4 campaign featured a variety of public figures and stars holding up four fingers on social media as a way of raising awareness of the “one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem over the course of a year.” Of those experiencing issues, only 41 percent of adults living with a mental illness will receive the mental health services they need each year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports

“It’s not a weak move to say, ‘I need help,’” Hamm added. “In the long run, it’s way better, because you have to fix it.”

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Understanding Suicide Among Men Why More Men Take Their Own Lives

Men and Suicide (2)

James Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people 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 suicidal thoughts 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 

 

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of men who elect to end their own lives prematurely through suicide. Over 41,000 people die by suicide each year in the U.S. and suicide is the seventh leading cause of death for all U.S. men, according to National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. But there is hope. Here are some important things to understand about suicide among men and what you can do if you are a loved one are having hopeless feelings or having thoughts about suicide.

Statistics

Young men and older men are particularly vulnerable groups. The suicide rate peaks in men between the ages of 20 to 24, which, if isolated from the general statistics on suicide, places suicide as the third-ranking cause of death. Older people suffer from the loss of loved ones and friends and can feel isolated, ignored, valueless, or overly dependent on others.

Risk Factors

Not every attempt at suicide results in completion, although unsuccessful first attempts are often followed by successful second attempts. The most common risk factors are:

  • Using drugs and/or alcohol to help cope with emotions, relationships, the pressure of work or other issues
  • Social isolation or living alone
  • Not being able to form or sustain meaningful relationships
  • Divorce or relationship breakdowns
  • A history of physical and sexual abuse
  • Imprisonment
  • Being bullied at school, college or work
  • Unemployment
  • Loss of a loved one through trauma or disease
  • Mental illness, particularly where this is related to depression and painful or debilitating illnesses or conditions

In older men, suicide is most strongly associated with depression, physical pain and illness, living alone, and feelings of hopelessness and guilt.

Preventing Suicide

Not all suicide attempts succeed and many people who set out with the clear intention of ending their own lives find that with good emotional and practical support they are able to adjust their circumstances to live a complete and fruitful life. The warning signs listed above do not inevitably lead to suicide attempts.

However, people who feel suicidal often report a certain kind of tunnel vision, of being unable to see the broader picture and thinking only in terms of black and white. In such circumstances, that individual may not be motivated to seek out help for themselves, and it often falls on others to offer support by listening, offering encouragement and sometimes even challenging the preconceptions that people hold about themselves such as their abilities and their worth to society.

Getting Help

Getting help for people expressing suicidal intent or showing the warning signs is incredibly important. Help is available from a number of different sources, including family doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, voluntary organizations, community mental health centers, local hospitals or social agencies.

If you believe someone is in imminent danger, call 911 and do not leave them alone. And if you are struggling personally, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a free and confidential service available to all people 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK.

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Exercise, Not Prozac, Beat My Depression; Two Years Ago Sheryl Crow Was Poleaxed by Doubts and Fears. Now, Having Turned 40, She Tells How She Escaped the Horrors of Her Darkest Days

Sheryl_Crow_-_November_2014_(cropped)

James Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people 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.

But, here we are with a story of one of the most beloved entertainers of our time, Sheryl Crow, and she shares what she was going through with depression and anxiety.

Having gone through a recent bout of depression and suicidal thoughts 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 

Article Excerpt

Byline: DAMON SYSON

BY rights, the 42-year-old woman sitting opposite me should feel on top of the world. She’s beautiful, sexy, and has a figure most women would kill for. Her talent as a singer-songwriter is beyond doubt: since her breakthrough hit All I Wanna Do in 1993 she’s sold 20 million albums and picked up eight Grammys.

And yet, here is Sheryl Crow openly admitting something that few in her profession dare to – for many years she has struggled in a debilitating battle against depression, the most recent bout of which left her practically bedridden for six months.

Two years ago, while recording her fifth album, C’mon C’mon, she experienced what she describes as an emotional “crash”. Not only was she suffering a creative block – wondering where music would fit into her life, and where she could fit into the youth-obsessed business – but she was dreading the prospect of turning 40, childless and alone.

Today, it’s hard to imagine her laid low with what Winston Churchill so memorably described as “black dog”.

When we meet, in a suite at the Covent Garden Hotel, she’s all sunshine smiles and easygoing banter. She seems confident and at peace with herself – nothing like the woman of two years ago, poleaxed by doubts and fears.

“It’s been a spectacular couple of years,” she says. “Probably my happiest.

I never would have thought that back then, when I was too tearful to even step out of thesheryl_crow_meijer_gardens_2014-17 house.” By all accounts, she wandered around her home in LA in a dreamlike state, having shut herself off from family and friends.

Medically diagnosed with the depression that has recurred several times during her life, she embarked on a course of therapy twinned with Prozac, though she soon replaced the medication with a strict fitness and meditation regime.

“During some of those darkest days, I’d hardly get out of bed and just let the phone ring and ring. Small problems became insurmountable and so I shied away from normal behavior. It seemed easier to duck out of life that way.

Depression messed with my sleep in such a way that it was a very bizarre, exhausting and dark time.

“But, in a way, I think what I went through back then was very valid.

Turning 40 is a period of your life when you suffer a sense of loss over things you’ve never had and you yearn for the innocence of youth.

Also, as you get older, and your parents get older, the fear sets in of losing people – you’re watching people pass away. You start thinking about your own mortality, about what’s important in life, you take stock. It’s a heavy period that probably everybody goes through.”

Is this “sense of loss over things you’ve never had” a reference to never having had children? “Yes, it definitely was at that point. I think that 40 has always sort of represented to women the end of childbearing years, which certainly it doesn’t now.

Women are having kids into their fifties.”

The feelings of hopelessness which Crow describes as her “melancholy” are far from unusual.

One in four people is affected by stress, anxiety, and depression.

“Clinical” or “major” depression is the world’s number- one mental disorder and is growing at an alarming rate. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020 it will be the second biggest cause of disability in the developed world.

“For me,” continues Crow, ” depression was linked to my nerves – I was full of trepidation about what was lying ahead in life and this was compounded by medical problems too personal to go into – female stuff – but I’m over that now.

Article Excerpt

If you’re interested in the work that I’m doing in regards to creating greater awareness pertaining to mental health issues, especially among our young people, please sign up with your name and email address below, and I’ll keep you in the loop. Click Here!

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Ending the Stigma Around Mental Health

Wenatchee School DistrictJames Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people 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 suicidal thoughts 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

By Daniel Cruse — 

Talking about any sort of mental health or mentioning suicide carries a stigma that makes it very difficult for some people to feel comfortable opening up about them. U of L’s Mental and Physical Health Committee aims to change that on our campus.

The committee hosted #EndTheStigma on Sept. 19 in the SAC Ballroom.

“The purpose of the event is to contemplate and discuss the stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide while also celebrating life and being hopeful about helping others,” said Jaison Gardner, a co-host for the event, alongside Pan-African Studies professor Kaila Story.

Suicide is an epidemic that for many people goes largely unaddressed.

“Suicide rates have doubled in the last ten years, and this is especially the case for our demographic of college-aged Americans,” event organizer Bayley Amburgey said.

The event opened up the floor for planned speakers, musical performances and a workshop to encourage people sharing their stories and lifting up their fellow Cardinal students.

The Cardinals for the Appreciation of Musical Theatre performed a medley from the musical Spring Awakening as well as a song from last year’s “Dear Evan Hansen.” Both shows deal with suicide and mental health.

Local R&B singer Delmar James also came to perform his single “Seasons,” which also dealt with similar themes.

A storytelling workshop and a brief activity allowed the attendees to look for ways to lift each other up on campus.

Depression, one of the most common mental health disorders, is also one of the most overlooked. Events like #EndTheStigma are uplifting for young people who live with mental health disorders as they put a spotlight on continuously having genuine, open discussions.

“It was very eye-opening and I hope that I can help lift people up who may be struggling with these issues,” freshman Caroline Dew said.

Graphic by Arry Schofield / The Louisville Cardinal

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Suicidal Thoughts Are More Common Than You Might Think: How Workplaces Can Help Reduce The Stigma

Workplace Mental Health

 

After about a month of being virtually nonfunctional and unrecognizable from my normal high-performing self, I wanted everything to end. Not because I didn’t want to live, but because I didn’t want to live like that. My mind was my most prized possession. I was hollow—unable to feel much of anything, make basic decisions or craft even simple emails, much less do what was required of me at work. This was not me. I was proactively seeking help and following my regimen of therapy and medication. In a move that was completely out of character, I even tried hypnosis upon my psychiatrist’s last-ditch suggestion since all other efforts continued to fail.

I didn’t know anyone who had gone through something like this and come out of it, particularly a successful professional. Nothing was making me better, and I had run out of hope. Suicidal thoughts consumed me. Fortunately, I found the right medicine and mastered the skills I learned in therapy, allowing me to return to work and thrive, but it took much longer than I would have liked. Not everyone is so lucky.

Each September we recognize Suicide Prevention Month, but this year, it seems to have a different resonance, given the high-profile tragedies this summer, when we lost Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade—celebrities, but also powerful business leaders. If I hadn’t experienced serious suicidal thoughts myself, I would have thought they were outliers. In fact, 123 Americans die by suicide every day, resulting in 44,965 deaths each year. We just don’t hear about them since they aren’t famous. Those statistics don’t even take into account the many more Americans who experience suicidal thoughts—4% of adults in 2016 and 8.8% of adults ages 18 to 25. The rates of both suicide and suicidal thoughts are rising.

So why does this matter for workplaces? Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. for adults ages 25 to 34 and the fourth among adults 35 to 54. In other words, those in their prime working years. Work-related factors such as difficult working conditions and unemployment can increase the risk for suicide

Workplaces can do their part to help their employees by creating healthy environments and reducing the stigma around mental health. Over 90% of people who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition (as determined by autopsies), but many were not diagnosed. I, unfortunately, am a bit of an anomaly in my willingness to both get diagnosed and get help for my generalized anxiety disorder. Even though the right treatment is highly effective, 80% of employees don’t seek it because of fear and shame.

Both times that my typically well-managed anxiety disorder sent me into a major depression, challenges related to work were major contributors. Back then, I hadn’t yet found the right mix of medicine and therapy to handle them. This initially happened when I was 22. I had been deferred indefinitely from my first job out of college because the economy was tanking. Rumination and uncontrollable negative thinking took over, making me believe I would never get a comparable job in management consulting. To everyone around me, this was irrational, since I had just graduated Phi Beta Kappa. To me, though, it felt very real. The job finally came through, but only after sending me into a tailspin.

This is not to say that people with underlying mental health conditions can’t be successful at work. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. Neither should they necessarily lower their expectations and find low-stress jobs, as a therapist suggested to me during that episode when I was 22 and full of ambition. The idea of someone telling me that I couldn’t do something enraged me so much that a glimmer of my normal self-emerged, ironically partly helping to fuel my recovery. If I had listened to that therapist, I would have missed out on a rewarding career.

Employers must not only provide mental health benefits but also build cultures that normalize what it looks like to have a mental health condition. This can be achieved through education about its prevalence and trainings on how to navigate mental health at work, such as strategies for effective communication and building healthy teams. In addition, having leaders talk about mental health challenges—whether their own or those of family or friends—and simply showing vulnerability, in general, can go a long way. That helps to foster a culture of trust and make others feel comfortable if and when they encounter their own struggles.

I’ve been “out” about my mental health condition since 2016 when I decided to found MindShare Partners, a workplace mental health nonprofit. Despite that, this is the first time that I’ve publicly discussed the suicidal thoughts that overwhelmed me twice in my life. Most of my friends still don’t know that level of detail. Suicide and suicidal thoughts feel like taboo topics, even to me. Although I now work in the mental health field, I’ve noticed that my peers still tiptoe around suicide, avoiding disclosing their own lived experiences with it, even while sharing their diagnoses. It remains the ultimate stigma, invoking fear, misunderstanding, and shame.

Let’s do our part to change that at work so our friends and colleagues know they’re not alone.

 

I’m the founder and CEO of MindShare Partners, a nonprofit that is changing the culture of workplace mental health so that both employees and organizations can thrive. We do this through awareness, peer groups for working professionals, and corporate workshops.

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James Donaldson on Mental Health – Mental Illness in Childhood a Strong Predictor of Troubles in Adulthood

Teen PhotosJames Donaldson notes: I am turning more and more of my time and efforts towards mental health issues, especially pertaining to our young people 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 suicidal thoughts 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  

 

Children and teens who experience mental illness are at increased risk for adverse mental health and social outcomes as adults, a study by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) at the University of Manitoba shows.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness before the age of 18, the study found, increases the likelihood of adverse experiences in adulthood, including suicidal behavior, not graduating from high school, requiring income assistance and being involved with the justice system.

“Other childhood factors, such as income and family structure, explain some of the association between childhood mental illness and adult difficulties, but the risk remained strong even after adjusting for those factors,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Mariette Chartier, assistant professor of community health sciences at the Max Rady College of Medicine in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

“Our findings indicate that childhood mental illness puts kids at significant risk for ongoing challenges later in life. When a child has an illness such as anxiety, depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is likely to cloud their adult life.

“This strongly highlights the need for mental illness prevention and improved mental health services for this age group.”

MCHP conducted the study, “Mental Illness Among Adult Manitobans, for Manitoba Health” to assist it in developing Manitoba’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. Chartier’s team used the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository, which is housed at MCHP and allows researchers to trace individuals’ interactions with the health, social service, education, and justice systems without the individuals being personally identified.

The researchers focused on more than 60,000 Manitobans born between 1980/81 and 1984/85. They analyzed the de-identified data about these children as they grew into their 30s. More than 16 percent of individuals in this cohort were diagnosed with a mental disorder during their childhood or teen years.

Two-thirds of individuals diagnosed as children were still living with the same condition as adults. Manitobans who were hospitalized for attempted  before age 18 were three times more likely to die by suicide and six times more likely to be re-hospitalized for attempted suicide in adulthood.

The study also took a “snapshot” of adult mental illness in Manitoba from 2010/11 to 2014/15, using a database of virtually all Manitobans. In this five-year period, about 28 percent of adults were diagnosed with at least one of the mental illnesses examined in the study.

The most prevalent illnesses were mood and anxiety disorders (a category that includes depression), diagnosed in 23 percent of adults, and substance use disorders, diagnosed in six percent of adults.

The prevalence of mental illness has remained stable since MCHP’s last five-year report in 2004. The suicide rate is also unchanged since the 2004 report.

“The actual prevalence of mental disorders is undoubtedly higher,” Chartier said. “The figure of 28 percent only represents adults who were diagnosed by doctors or nurse practitioners. We don’t have data for people who seek help from professionals such as psychologists and social workers. We also know that many people with mental disorders never seek treatment.”

In both rural and urban regions, the prevalence of mental illness increased as average neighborhood income decreased. The same was true for the rate of suicide attempts.

Compared to the general population, a higher rate of mental illness was found among  living in personal care homes, those receiving income assistance, those living in social housing and those involved in the justice system, either as accused or victims. The study wasn’t able to say which came first – the illness or the life circumstances – only that there is an association between being in these groups and mental illness. Rates of suicide and attempted suicide were also higher in these groups.

The study’s recommendations include:

  • Increase mental health promotion,  prevention, and suicide prevention efforts
  • Strengthen  and improve access to them
  • Develop the mental health skills and knowledge of the workforce, in health care and beyond
  • Address health inequities
  • Support  research
  • Co-ordinate services among government departments, including health, social services, education, and justice

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline