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Suicide awareness: What you can do

Elizabeth Gifford, Ph.D.
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8211; We all feel moments of grief, shame, loneliness, insecurity, and depression. Yet we find a way through the hard times. We talk to a friend, we plan something fun, we take pride in cooking or skiing or giving someone a hand. The sun comes out again. In the end, we feel even more grateful for our blessings. But occasionally, for some people, these painful thoughts and feelings spin into a deepening cycle of anguish.

Suicide is a rare, unhealthy, and unacceptable response to stress. Suicidal depression isnand#8217;t just a bad mood, it is a physical and emotional illness characterized by feelings of relentless self-hatred and despair. For a suicidal person, the world narrows into a tunnel of hopelessness. While in that tunnel, the gifts that define who they are and#8212; their joys and hopes and loves and#8212; become invisible to them If suicide seems like a genuine option, something is terribly wrong.

There are important steps to take if you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings.

1. Be aware. Feelings of hopelessness about the future, intense self-hatred, and feelings of despair are part of suicidality. Other warning signs include talking about suicide or death, withdrawal from family or friends, trouble concentrating at home or school or work, headaches/stomachaches or other physical stress symptoms, listlessness and exhaustion, alcohol and drug use, reckless or self-destructive actions, crying, anger/rage/revenge fantasies, and eating or sleeping more or less than normal.

2. Ask. It is OK to ask about suicidal thoughts and feelings directly. It is often a relief to bring it out into the open Always take suicidal thoughts and feelings seriously. If you are feeling suicidal, please tell someone who can help you and#8212; a teacher, a doctor, a suicide hotline counselor, a caring and responsible family member or friend. Help is available. You deserve all the support in the world.

3. Listen and care. Open your heart and spend time together. Let them know you want to listen. They will feel the truth of your caring, which matters even more than the words you say. Appreciate the courage it takes to share such painful feelings. Donand#8217;t lecture, love.

4. Get help immediately. If you or someone you know is in danger of hurting him or herself, you must bring in other concerned people. This is an act of love, not betrayal. Call the suicide hotline for counseling or advice. Call 911. Go to the emergency room.

5. Get ongoing help. It is important to get help for problems that contribute to suicidal feelings. Many people donand#8217;t realize substance abuse worsens depression, for example. There is help for substance abuse, there is help for depression. See the resources at the end of this column.

6. Stay the course. Everyone is worthy of consistent effort. If a treatment isnand#8217;t working, this isnand#8217;t a sign that you or your friend is broken. This is a sign to consider additional options. Try a support group, a different therapist, or a new medication.

7. Challenge shame and stigma. Depression, substance abuse, and other mental health problems are not the result of poor character or poor will power. They are part of the human condition: biological illnesses to which some people are vulnerable. Many talented and successful people have struggled with them.

8. Honor your life. No one is better off if youand#8217;re dead. Ever.

and#8212; Elizabeth Gifford, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who has been a Tahoe local since 1978. She formerly taught at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto Consortium, and currently provides policy and evaluation support to the VA Office of Mental Health Services. She specializes in family mental health care and well being.

Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.

Local therapists will sometimes treat adolescents and young adults on a sliding scale. Call them to ask.

For sliding scale mental health treatment providers in Reno try the following.

Under age 18

The Downing clinic (student counselors), 775-682-5515

Childrenand#8217;s Behavioral Services, 775-688-1600.

The Childrenand#8217;s Cabinet, 775-856-6200.

Over age 18

The Psychological Services Center (doctoral student counselors), 775-784-6668.

Family Counseling, 775-329-0623.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-a-major-preventable-mental-health-problem-fact-sheet/suicide-a-major-preventable-mental-health-problem.shtml

http://www.sprc.org/featured_resources/customized/teens.asp


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