Last week, our mental health community lost a legend. Psychiatrist Dr. George Suckow will be missed by many. He touched the lives of thousands of people. One of the biggest lessons I learned while working with Dr. Suckow was the idea of everyone deserving a second chance. Some people might remember Dr. Suckow as being a man of few words, that he had short appointments, or that he was always overbooked. What I remember is that he always gave people second chances. The people who some providers called "difficult patients" or "drug seekers"...Dr. Suckow looked at as human beings first, who were just trying to make their lives better in whatever way they knew how. He treated every patient with dignity and respect. He realized that people make mistakes, that we all make mistakes. And just because mistakes are made, it doesn't mean that one should be punished for those mistakes for a lifetime. No one will ever be able to replace Dr. Suckow. May he rest in peace.
You read it right. 1 million people die of suicide each year. In the United States, the number is 30,000. Each year in the United States, 1 million people are treated for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
In this post, I would like to tell you a little bit about suicide and how you or your loved one can get help if struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
There are different levels of suicidality ranging from passive thoughts to a lethal plan with intent. If you or someone you love has a plan to commit suicide and intend to carry it out, this is a psychiatric emergency. Please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you live in this area, the nearest emergency room that can assist you is at Salem Hospital.
If you have a loved one who is suicidal but doesn't want to or cannot get help on their own, you may call the police and ask for a welfare check. Tell the police as much detail as you can about your loved one's plan and intent. In order for the police to take your suicidal loved one to the hospital, they must believe your loved one to be in imminent danger (ie, will not survive the next 24 hours unless they intervene).
If you or your loved one is suicidal but without a lethal plan or intent, you may go to the Psychiatric Crisis Center in Salem for assistance.
If you have struggled with suicidal thoughts and behaviors, you know that these thoughts and behaviors come and go. If you are not currently dealing with a psychiatric emergency, you may find this app, called Safety Plan, helpful. The goal is to be able to do something you know might be helpful until the suicidal thoughts pass. Please check it out! They have different versions for iphone and android.
Finally, a word about people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Most people who have these thoughts and behaviors don't actually want to die. They simply want to end the pain they are in and see no other way to do so. Judging is not helpful. Offering options or being willing to talk about suicide is helpful. Sometimes people are afraid to bring up the topic of suicide, thinking they may give ideas to the one they fear to be suicidal. This is not the case. Talking about it is helpful and you are not going to put any ideas into your suicidal loved one's head that they haven't already had themselves.
If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact me, via my website, email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or phone (503-874-4374).
As many of you know, I have not accepted new clients for the past several months. I had my second child in May. I did things differently my second time around, and what a difference it has made! With my first child, I experienced postpartum depression. This time, I was able to prepare myself throughout the pregnancy and make some different decisions to promote my mental health. And this time around, things are going great!
I have been reminded throughout this process that we all do the best we can. With each new experience, we gain more information and wisdom. And with that additional information, we are able to make better decisions. Know that whatever path you are on right now, you are doing the best you can. If you would like some additional support along your journey, feel free to contact me. I am now accepting new clients!
One of my goals for 2014 is to read more.
I recently finished a book called I Thought It Was Just Me (But it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What will People Think’ to ‘I am Enough’ by Brene Brown, and wanted to share it with you.
It is a book about connection with others. And how shame can disconnect us from others. While the book is geared towards women and the most common categories of shame that we experience (appearance/body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical health, sex, aging, religion, being stereotyped/labeled, speaking out, and surviving trauma), the strategies Brown offers for working through shame can be applied by anyone.
Learning to recognize and understand our shame triggers is the first step. Next, we have to practice critical awareness, reach out to others, and then (perhaps the hardest step) “speak our shame.” Now none of these steps is easy by any means, but necessary. Necessary because they move us towards more connection, empathy, and compassion, with ourselves and others. After reading the material, I have another goal to add to my list for 2014—practicing these steps.
If you would like to read the book, or learn more, here are a few links (both to her book and to a couple of talks she has given).
Hoping your 2014 is off to a great start!
Amber is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. She offers counseling for individual adults and clinical supervision for social workers. For fun, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, researching genealogy, reading, and dragon boating.
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