The Shame of Suicide

By Leslie Scott, MSSA, LSW, CTP-C, Professional Development Coordinator

One thing I have learned from years as a social worker is that suicide is shameful. People surrounded by those who have died by suicide, almost died by suicide, or contemplated suicide feel a sense of shame. This shame stems from misnomers and stigma. Society also perpetuates the belief that suicide is a choice, rather than a symptom of a mental health disorder.

In fact, suicide is an impulse. Making an individual’s ability to delay, distract, and deescalate critical to saving a life. Why? Impulses go away, fade, and change. When the person experiences this impulse, it is the only thing they are thinking about. They are not thinking about their loved ones, consequences, other choices, or the pain.

Fighting the shame of suicide also starts with understanding what happens to an individual before their death. Knowing someone’s history doesn’t just provide critical risk factors, it allows us to grow, show empathy, and encourage those still alive with similar histories to seek help. Below is a list of life events that can increase a person’s risk of suicide. Some are everyday events, which can lead to thoughts of death, while others are traumatic events that impact a person’s mental health long-term. With both these types of events, it’s important to remember, the person who dies by suicide may not have experienced this event but could have witnessed this event and still suffered the same impact.

Everyday events Less common events
Break-Ups

Loss of a job

Being arrested

Using alcohol or drugs

Changing schools

Feeling unsupported

Seeing violence

Seeing someone die by suicide

Being abused

Not being cared for as a child

Having health issues that don’t get better

Mass shootings

Community Violence

Intimate Partner Violence

(Kahn, 2019; Stone, Bou-Saada, & Ceurvo, 2018)

Let us step into their shoes for a quick minute — imagine yourself as you are today. You are blank years-old, reading this blog post, then you get a text message. Déjà vu happens. Suddenly, you become a five year-old little being abused by his or her uncle or a five year-old, terrified child watching their mother get hit, or a five year-old feeling alone after your friend dies. Your younger self then thinks, life is hopeless, hurtful, and will never get better. It is not the you of today that acts on the impulse to harm yourself, but the younger you that was hurt.

A more common scenario might be — you are in a car accident and hit a deer. You are terrified and keep thinking, “I could have almost died.” Every time you get in the car, you think about that deer. You feel scared again. It gets better, time goes by and you think about it less. Then, a year later, you drive by that spot for the first time. A wave of panic hits you and you cannot breathe. You are sweating, shaking, and you cannot stop thinking about that deer. This is how our bodies react to trauma.

Some of us experience this and start to think about suicide. Maybe our brains tell us “you should have died that day,” “why did I survive,” “it is all my fault and I should be dead.” Take a second to focus on how you feel just reading these words. This feeling is a thousand times stronger when they are being said in your own head. This is what the impulse of suicide feels like.

Therefore, it is important to remember our histories are not like the histories in textbooks. We do not always experience them and move on, but rather we move on, always carrying those histories with us.

If you filled a book bag with books, each book representing an experience listed above that has happened to you (a breakup, being arrested, seeing violence), how heavy would your book bag be? Would you struggle to stand up? Would you fall backwards? Would your shoulders hurt? Or would it be light and easy to carry? Every person has their own book bag to carry and only you know how heavy it is.

We must support each other as we carry our own book bags. We must show each other healthy positivity to get through the tough moments. You do not need to sacrifice yourself or be everybody’s best friend — but random acts of kindness, politeness, friendship, and empathy can save someone’s life.

 

What is one small act of healthy positivity you can do today?

Text your friend that you love them and are glad they are in your life.

Hug your parents or your siblings.

Reach out for help.

Thank the restaurant employee who serves you.

Surprise the office with donuts.

Leave a random note of kindness for a stranger.

Donate your time or money to a non-profit.

Share this post on social media or via email and include your small step of healthy positivity you plan to show today.

 

If you are struggling with thoughts of death, suicide, or wanting to harm yourself, please reach out to one of these resources. And in case you haven’t heard it today — you are wanted in this world and things get better.

Lifeline # 1-800-273-8255 24/7/365

Lifeline Chat Online 24/7/365

Huckleberry House Crisis Line 614-294-5553

OSU Students can call 614-292-5766

Call or Text for Help 614-221-5445

Teen Suicide Hotline 614-294-3300

LGBTQ+ Youth Suicide Hotline @ The Trevor Project 1-866-488-7386

The Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition 614-299-6600 ext. 2073

Go immediately to any emergency room or police station

For adults, they can call or walk into Netcare Access for help

 

Huckleberry House can also come talk to you about suicide and how to help teens or young adults struggling. If you would like a staff member to speak at your workplace, please reach out via profdev@huck-house.org or 614-294-8097.

If you’d like a staff member to come speak with teens or young adults about getting help, please contact us at 614-294-8097.

Stay up to date with information about professional development opportunities, by signing up for our newsletter.

 

Citations

Kahn, A. (2019, May 1). What You Should Know About Suicide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/suicide-and-suicidal-behavior#risk-factors

Stone, D. M., Bou-Saada, I., & Cuervo, E. (2018, March 15). Suicide & Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Preventing Suicide through Collaborative Upstream Interventions. Retrieved from https://suicideprevention-icrc-s.org/sites/default/files/sites/default/files/events/18_3_15_aceswebinarslides.pdf

Back-to-School Mental Health Checklist

 

This is a blog post from Nationwide Children’s On Our Sleeves the movement to transform children’s mental health.

Changing schedules. Supply lists. Forms to fill out. New teachers to meet. Heading back to school can be exciting, yet stressful.

We’re here to help you get organized and reduce your feelings of anxiety and stress. Our On Our Sleeves back-to-school checklist to make sure you and your child start the year off right.

  1. Get back into a routine. About 1-2 weeks before school starts, gradually (15 minutes each day) move your child’s bedtime and wake up time back to what they will be during the school year.
  2. Visit your doctor. Make sure your vaccine records and sports physicals are up to date!
  3. Review any changes from last year. Does your child have a new bus stop? Are they going to a new school? Walk to the new bus stop and attend an open house so they are ready.
  4. Get organized. Print and post school and extracurricular activity calendars so you don’t miss any important dates.
  5. Talk about expectations – yours and your child’s. Ask your child what their goals are for the school year. Is your rule that homework be done before screen time? Remind them.
  6. Plan for healthy meals and snacks. Involve your child in the process so they learn how to make healthy food choices.
  7. Schedule child care. Are you a working parent and need before and/or after school care? Make arrangements now.
  8. Sign up for fall sports and other after school activities. Research shows that getting kids involved in activities after school creates a sense of belonging and self-worth. Remember to maintain balance between family time, school and other activities.
  9. Meet teachers, coaches and program leaders. Introduce yourself to teachers, coaches and anyone else who will spend time with your child this year. Let them know the best way to reach you and share any important details about your child.
  10. Have a last hurrah. Go see that movie you didn’t have time to see this summer, take a family bike ride or visit a local attraction like a park, museum or zoo.

To view more back to school resources or to learn more about On Our Sleeves visit HERE.

10 Steps to Support Mental Health

By Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C

My name is Leslie and I am the new Professional Development Coordinator at Huck House. I have been with Huck House since 2016, as a crisis counselor and an intern. I have been a licensed social worker in Ohio since 2015 but have over six years’ experience working in non-profits. The last four years, I have worked as a crisis counselor, therapist, and clinical assessor.

My experience in the field has taught me the value of having professionals in the community I could lean on. Whether that was for support or to find the answers I needed. I also learned that “trial by fire” was the common method of training for many social workers, until I came to Huck House. At Huck House, I found a place where my professional goals and beliefs were echoed in my supervisors and colleagues. This is why I worked hard to create a training program for the community to provide other professionals the opportunity to seek support in their professional growth. That is why the motto of the program is “our promise to you is simple, we only teach what we know works”.

The program hopes to begin scheduling community trainings this summer. If you are interested in Huck House coming to your agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My contact information is at the end of this blog.

 

10 Steps to Support Mental Health

 

1 Wear your beautiful, messy green ribbon

Did you know when someone wears a green ribbon, they are raising awareness for mental health? Personally, I think we should all wear a tangled mess of ribbon or string, like the picture above. The tangled mess represents a truer version of mental health. Mental health is complicated, messy, hard to untangle, yet doesn’t take away from the beauty of the person. This is important to remember when talking about or addressing mental health. It can be hard to see through the messiness or be overwhelmed with the idea of untangling it, but remembering the beauty helps to give us strength. The last week of May, challenge yourself to wear a tangled (but beautiful) green ribbon.

 

2 Listening is a superpower

To support someone with mental health, you don’t need to have all the answers or know what to say. Listening is often the most helpful thing we can do. As a therapist when I ask my clients “what was most helpful,” I often hear “having someone to listen.” Especially with adolescents and young adults, who feel misunderstood, listening is an easy way to show them you care and value their thoughts. Listening is being able to repeat back what someone just said to you, focusing on their words instead of your response, and putting value in someone else’s thoughts.

 

3 Language can Destigmatize

Let’s start talking about mental health the same way we do about diabetes or any other physical health problem. This helps to destigmatize and undo any shame associated with mental health disorders. Mental health, like any other physical health condition, is treated through medication and meeting with your health professional regularly.

 

4 Know How to Talk About Mental Health

Be able to talk about mental health in a supportive way. I explain it using the image of an old-fashioned train line. The mental health train line is like any other, it has with multiple stops, each one different from the last, each one a different place. Some passengers may get off on the first stop, while adjusting to a new school, losing a parent, or are struggling with sadness. These passengers may be new to mental health or are struggling with their mental health for a short time. While others may ride the train to the middle, get off on a stop where they can get help for nightmares of witnessing violence, seeing things others can’t, or feeling like a yo-yo between sad and happy. The rest of the passengers will ride to the last stop, which is the most severe and most isolating disorders. Like trains, passengers may get on and off throughout their lives. Some passengers may be lucky enough to find a treatment that works and rides the train home, only returning for prescription or check ins with their healthcare providers. Some passengers are only there to hold someone else’s hand. Either way, they are all on the train together, choosing which stop to get off and what to do once their stop has arrived. Anyone can be on the train and at every stop there is help, no one is alone.

 

5 Boundaries

You can’t work harder than someone else. This is a principle taught to me in undergraduate studies, that I didn’t fully understand until I had been a therapist for a couple years. No matter how much we care about someone, they are in charge of themselves. When we work harder than someone else or find ourselves getting frustrated with their “progress”, we are actively trying to force someone into a decision or action. This doesn’t teach them how to help themselves, but rather how to please us. And it hurts everyone. By allowing others to make their own choices, you can help them learn to care for themselves in a healthy way, maintain your own health, and be able to keep a relationship with that person.

 

6 Self-care

Take care of yourself. Self-care is important for physical and mental health. Whether you want to maintain your good health or become healthier, self-care is key to these goals. Self-care is ensuring you are healthy, having time for things you enjoy, and balancing your commitments (such as work vs personal life). When I asked my co-workers about their self-care, one co-worker mentioned having a form of spiritual practice as their most helpful activity. Others mentioned mindfulness, sports, time with their children, and focusing on positive stresses as most helpful.

 

7 Mental Health is Normal

Mental health is normal. If you think about it… anxiety today is a result of humans trying to survive against all kinds of odds. When we were first a species, anxiety, fear, and pain were keys to keeping us alive. Even though we don’t need those same functions to survive today, our brains are still wired to produce them. Some brains produce more anxiety than others. Our bodies also wear out, change, and need a lot of TLC. As we get older or witness more negative life events, it is our mental and physical health that suffer. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please know it’s normal, it’s not your fault, and it is treatable.

 

8 Empathy for yourself and others

Empathy is the act of recognizing someone else’s pain and feeling or thinking of something similar. Such as yawning, smiling, or maybe feeling pain when you see someone stub their toe. It doesn’t require that you feel it or fix, but rather recognize it in the other person and yourself. When I talk with clients about their mental health, many share stories of judgment, shame, and misunderstanding. Showing empathy not only is the opposite of these but can help a person heal from previous hurts.

 

9 We all need Unconditional Support

Whether someone is recovering from trauma, depression, or has a lifelong disorder, they will need love and support. Studies continually show having unconditional support from an adult in their life builds resiliency and can help someone make positive, healthy steps in their life. While those without positive support, struggle in every aspect of development. For parents, this includes ensuring showing your children positive attention and support, choosing to focus on strengths rather than mistakes.

 

10 Educate yourself to help others

Educating yourself and others is a big start to supporting mental health awareness. There are many ways to do this: (1) attend a training or event at Huck House, (2) take a mental health first aid course online, (3) research online (experts to check out: NAMI, ADAMH, Mental Health America, womenshealth.gov, and National Institute of Mental Health), (4) check out if mental health services are right for you.

 

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, thoughts about hurting themselves or others, here are some helpful resources.

Emergency Services 911

Runaway Help Hotline (800) 786-2929

Rape Help Hotline (614) 267-7020

Suicide Help Hotline (614) 221-5445

National Suicide Hotline (Client & Parent Support) 1-800-273-8255

Franklin County Children’s Services (FCCS) (614) 229-7000

Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH): (614) 722 -2000

Netcare Hotline (614) 276-2273

Safe Place Locations: Krogers, Columbus Metropolitan Libraries, White Castle, Fire Stations

 

If you are interested in finding out more about our professional development program, please contact me at…

Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C
Professional Development Coordinator
1421 Hamlet Street, Columbus, OH 43201
614.927.1463 (direct)
lscott@huck-house.org

Love and Healthy Relationships – Jaida Green

Written by: Jaida Green, MSW, LSW, Family Support Program Therapist

Love: [noun] “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). Such a simple definition for a complex topic. Love is complex issue that people of all ages, races, and gender are faced with on a daily basis. This is especially true for the young people that we serve at Huckleberry House. As a therapist, people assume that the majority of what I talk to our youth about are topics such as depression, anxiety, and anger. While this is true, something that is also frequently brought up with our youth in therapy is love and healthy relationships. Being young and falling in love for the first time is sometimes a tough transition; finding out who you are as a teenager is difficult enough. Add learning how to love, and it is often twice as difficult. There are two specific lessons focusing on love and health relationships that frequently come up for our youth – “The Five Love Languages” and “Healthy Boundaries”.

Generally, there are five categories of ways that people prefer to both express and receive love. These categories are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Acts of service are considered completing tasks that ease daily responsibilities (i.e. doing the dishes, making dinner, etc.). Gifts are self-explanatory, however it should be noted that the gifts don’t have to be over the top. Gifts can be small things that have thought and effort behind them and make the person feel loved. Physical touch is typically thought of as sexual contact, but this can also be things like hugs, pats of affection, or even holding hands. Quality time is spending time with a person while giving them your undivided attention. For many people this is one on one time doing things like going out to eat or talking over coffee. Lastly, words of affirmation are positive comments or things that are commonly thought of as nice to say (i.e. “You look great today,” or “I love you”). If you’re interested in finding out more about love languages, click here to take a quiz for yourself, or your child. You will need to click on the purple box that says “Learn your love language”.

Love PyramidAs mentioned above, healthy boundaries are also a common piece to consider when discussing healthy relationships. Knowing when to say “no” is something that can be difficult at any age, but is especially true for some of our youth. Often, this isn’t a conversation that is explicitly had with our youth outside of sexual consent. Knowing when to say no in other areas of a relationship and knowing what’s important to you has proven to be helpful as well. It’s also important to be assertive in relationships, specifically when setting a new boundary. An additional piece to having healthy boundaries is having respect for yourself and others. Arguments can sometimes be about winning, but that’s not a helpful mindset. Instead, helping all involved to feel that no one person’s needs are more important than the other can help to make arguments less confrontational. Lastly, considering the long term implications or consequences of an interaction can help to establish healthy boundaries. This allows for you to think more deeply about the situation and how to communicate respect. It should be noted that a relationship should not be one sided where one person is constantly giving or taking. Healthy relationships are born out of understanding, not only of yourself but also, the person you are in a relationship with. Whether it be a romantic relationship, friendship, or a relationship with a loved one, taking the time to learn more about yourself and the role you play, as well as the other person involved, can help to foster a positive healthy relationship.

The Graham School and Huckleberry House Partnership

The Graham School (TGS) is a public high school with a charter granted by the State of Ohio. Located in Northern Columbus but open to all students in Ohio, the school’s focus is experiential education in a small-school setting where all students are known by all staff. TGS serves approximately 250 students annually.  The school has a mission to urban students in Central Ohio preparing them for lifelong learning and informed citizenship through real-world experiences and rigorous academics.

Rachel Widmer has been a school counselor at TGS for three years. Rachel’s role covers social, emotional, academic and college preparatory topics. Knowing there is a greater need for counseling, TGS partnered with Huckleberry House. The partnership includes sending  licensed therapists from the Huckleberry House Family Support Program to work with students weekly. The collaboration has allowed for more trained hands on deck to run group sessions, work with parents and guardians to get involved, and to ensure staff are equipped with resources in and out of the classroom.

Students at the Graham School who work with the therapists from Huckleberry House are learning how to advocate for themselves. TGS staff have heard more students ask for counseling and approach the sessions with positivity. These students are gaining access to services in the community such as COTA bus passes. Additional benefits for students have been programs like the 24-hour crisis shelter and transitional living program at Huckleberry House.

In an interview with Rachel she shared that she would love to see the partnership between The Graham School and Huckleberry House grow. Rachel is the only counselor at TGS and both she and the school benefit from the partnership with Huckleberry House. Rachel also remarked on how she would love to see more after school programs for mental health and support, as well as resources for parents.

 

The Graham School also partners with the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. The program’s goal is to reduce youth suicides by teaching students and staff to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide and depression in themselves and others and to follow the ACT message:

  • Acknowledge there is a serious concern
  • Care: Show the person you care
  • Tell a trusted adult

 

The Graham School benefits significantly from its community partners and is very thankful for the support and assistance they receive. Learn more about the SOS Prevention Program and Huckleberry House Family Support services below.

Huckleberry House Family Support Program – http://huckhouse.org/programs/family-support-program

Nationwide Children’s Hospital SOS Prevention Program – SOS Prevention Program

 

Youth Homelessness | By: Kyra Crockett

Photo by Matt Hatcher, a photojournalist whose work can be found at www.mhatcherphotography.com/homelessness/

Imagine being somewhere (like school, work, community center or a library) and not knowing where you are going next when it is time for those doors to close. Imagine riding the COTA bus for hours just to use up some of your idle time. Imagine having no consistent support system to lean on when things are scary, unsafe or unknown. Maybe today a friend’s parents fell asleep early so you could sneak in their basement for a while. Two nights ago you were sleeping in a tent campsite along the railroad tracks. The night before that, you were in the Grant Hospital ER hoping to blend in so you can sleep. Night to night, the scene changes with only one consistency — nowhere to call home.

Unfortunately, hundreds of homeless youth experience homelessness right here in Columbus, Ohio. Families who are exactly like people you know experience situations that push them into crisis for a period of time. Some families can work through it and eventually move on from it. Other families struggle to the point of a teen running away, parents kicking kids out or parents leaving their children behind when they move on. Homelessness is something no one should have to experience, let alone a youth.

Although there are many facets that play into the WHY, our efforts need to address PREVENTING IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. For those that are already there, how do we ensure their safety and rebuild their spirits?

Whether we blame the lack of housing options for young people or we blame the kids for being disrespectful or we point our fingers at the parents for not caring enough…it doesn’t change the fact that this goes on daily. The costs to our community, our families and our children are too great to ignore.

Talk to the kids in your lives! Make sure they have someone in their life (even if it’s not you) that they feel comfortable talking to about tough topics. And, as parents IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP AS WELL! None of us are perfect, so let’s stop acting as so!

-Kyra Crockett, Youth Outreach Program Manager