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Teenage girl, looking out a window sad, showing signs of childhood depression

Signs of Growing up with Childhood Depression

By CMH Blog

Growing up is hard enough—growing up with depression can feel impossible. Children and teenagers are often labeled as moody or angsty by parents and other adults, and teenagers themselves can think something is wrong with them. It is normal for kids to experience mood fluctuations, but if those feelings and behaviors last longer than two weeks, they may signal depression. Because children and teenagers do get depression. In fact, depression affects about three percent of US children. Childhood depression is a serious, but treatable, mental health issue.

What are the signs and symptoms of childhood depression?

We asked our mental health community to share, in retrospect, how they knew they were living with depression as children. We’ve broken what they had to say down into symptoms and warning signs of childhood depression.

Changes in Mood and Behavior

  • “I didn’t feel the excitement of doing anything anymore. I got extremely detached from everyone, I no longer cared what happened to me. I just kind of stayed away from other kids, and it took more effort than I’d like to admit to even talk to anyone.” –Athena C.
  • “When I was really young, like grade-school, I never understood why all of the other children were so happy and carefree. Everyone else seemed great at making friends and enjoyed being a child, but I couldn’t enjoy anything. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness even at a young age. I questioned my existence on a daily basis, I just couldn’t be happy, but was too young to understand what depression was.” –Audrey L.

Negative and Self-Critical Thinking

  • “For me, it was never feeling good enough, like no matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t like everyone else, especially my two older sisters. Then the increased emotions came.” –Ashley G.
  • “Your brain will tell you worst possible scenarios. Intrusive thoughts will be mean to you and tell you that you don’t deserve to enjoy life.” –Keith B.
  • “I was always feeling like there was a black cloud casting a shadow over me even when things were happy. Never feeling like I was enough—I always could have been better. Feeling ashamed of myself for no real reason…just feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere. Like I didn’t belong in this life.”—Jennifer L.

Actions of Guilt, Defiance, and Anger

  • “Looking back on it, I constantly felt guilt and had a hard time fitting in with anyone. I was a very cautious and shy kid.” –Poppy W.
  • “I would get so upset or so mad so quickly and without reason. I didn’t realize I had depression until this year.” –Ashley G.
  • “I had really bad anger issues, and it was hard to control my emotions. I didn’t know what was wrong with me when I was a teenager, it was really hard.” –Kate W.

Emotional Outburst

  • “I cried a lot and wasn’t as happy as the other kids. I was unmotivated and didn’t want to shower; my room was a mess and I would stay inside and play games all day. I had trouble making friends because I was super shy, and that turned into anxiety (these issues have some childhood trauma factors and environmental factors as well).”—Hannah F.
  • “In high school, I would wake up and cry because I had to go to school. I was afraid all the time.” –Genevieve O.

Unusual Sleeping Patterns and Feeling Physically Sick

  • “Feeling more tired, losing interest in things I loved, being less outgoing, more shy.” –Karalyn G.
  • “The psychosomatic parts of it that my family didn’t recognize or even know about. The headaches, the tummy aches, coming home from school with panic attacks, unable to sleep at night, or sleeping too much. I was so young. And looking back, the signs were always there.” –Jessica I.
  • “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel exhausted. In middle school and the beginning of high school, I begged my parents to be homeschooled because I always stayed up at night crying about having to go there the next day.” –Sarah K.
  • “I remember either oversleeping or not being able to sleep for long periods. I would get nagged by my mom, so I thought I was just lazy.” –Chelsea M.

Lack of Concentration and Academic Decline

  • “For me, it was not being able to focus. My grades dropped from straight As to Fs from what seemed like out of nowhere.” –Athena C.
  • “I got overwhelmed by schoolwork that should have been easy for me.” – Genevieve O.
  • “I quit my first university due to ‘home sickness.’ Now I’ve realized it was depression that caused the fatigue, social anxiety, and loss of interest in everything I had been doing.” –Magdalena K.
  • “I had problems focusing, finishing my school work and my grades were terrible. I hated the world so I made my own world in my head. I still go there sometimes.” –Ezra P.

Suicidal Ideation or Self Harm

  • “Whenever I climbed a tree or somewhere up high looking down, I thought how nice it would be if I was high enough to jump. Never knew that was a concerning thought.”—Brittany B.
  • When I was a teenager, it was really hard. I was suicidal and self-harmed. I wish I had been diagnosed earlier, instead of having friends and teachers tell me I was faking it for attention.” –Kate W.
  • “I remember writing in this diary I had when I was like 7 or 8 that I just wanted to ‘go away.’ Not to run away but disappear completely right there and then. It’s weird because I didn’t really know the concept of suicide back then, but I just remember not wanting to exist.” –Kate S.

What Can You Do to Help a Child with Depression

Childhood depression is a serious mental health issue. The symptoms can interfere with school, social activities, and daily life. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the depression can continue to negatively affect children as they transition into adulthood.

The good news is that it is treatable, and there are a range of things we can do to help a child find the path to their best life.

Give the Child Emotional Support

Children and teenagers need emotional support and if you are a parent, your role is to help build the foundation needed for your child to manage future social relationships and emotional challenges. Parents, and other trusted adults, can do this by actively participating in the child’s life and encouraging a positive place for emotions to live. Parents can:

  • Spend more quality time with a child
  • Develop conversations that are open and honest
  • Acknowledge their feelings and struggles
  • Become active listeners
  • Help them learn positive ways to cope with anger

Encourage Connection

Isolation can deepen depressive thoughts and working to develop strong personal connections for your child can help them feel supported when they need it most. While you can’t force friends on your children, you can help create opportunities that encourage relationship growth.

  • Encourage participation in school activities or clubs
  • Provide ideas about social activities
  • Encourage play dates and sleep overs
  • Include positive family members in regular gathering or outings
  • Look into mentorship programs

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Your mental health is closely related to your physical health, and it is no different for children. In fact, exercise is often considered a natural anti-depressant. Finding ways to encourage healthier eating and physical activity can help your child feel better and provide access to a whole host of sports and activities that can encourage connectedness, healthy lifestyle and positive thinking all in one.

  • Joining a sports team
  • Taking a daily walk
  • Planting a food garden
  • Taking a kids cooking class

Seek Professional Support

When dealing with depression, childhood or otherwise, it is important to take it seriously. Getting professional counseling help can encourage positivity and with work, uncover the path for anyone to live their best life– and enjoy it.

Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments call 970-252-3200. For urgent help, call our free 24/7 Crisis and Support Line at 970.252.6220.

Contributed by Megan Outlaw, MSW, LCSW with The Center for Mental Health
Hold hands and consoling

Ten Things NOT to Say to a Person With Social Anxiety

By CMH Blog

Social anxiety is an intense, pervasive fear of being watched and judged by others. It can manifest in social anxiety, getting in the way of work, socializing, or school. Or it can appear as performance anxiety, causing physical symptoms of anxiety when playing sports, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or performing on stage.

In talking with members of our community about their experiences with social anxiety disorder, we heard a lot about what people should not say to someone suffering from that condition. Following is a list of ten things that are not helpful to say and should be avoided.

  1. What’s the big deal?
    People who don’t suffer from social anxiety disorder often don’t understand how situations they view as minor can cause crippling anxiety in those that do experience social anxiety. During those “good times” and get togethers that many enjoy, those with social anxiety tend to be on high alert, paying attention to and getting overwhelmed by the smallest details. Asking “what’s the big deal” doesn’t help and can actually make the person feel worse.
  1. Just suck it up and get over it.
    Using this kind of language shows a deep misunderstanding of social anxiety disorder. It suggests that sufferers can control their fears. This kind of “tough love” makes people feel attacked, misunderstood, and isolated. Instead of helping, it makes people more anxious and can cause them to feel ashamed, as if they are failing in some way.
  1. You just need to calm down.
    First, using the term “just” makes it seem as if what you’re suggesting is easy to do. Social anxiety can be paralyzing, and it is difficult, sometimes impossible to control. And telling someone to calm down almost always has the opposite effect. It invalidates their feelings, suggesting that they are hysterical and irrational. And to be honest, almost no one can relax on command.
  1. You just need to be positive.
    This statement is pretty patronizing. It diminishes the circumstances that may have contributed to the person suffering from social anxiety. Anxiety can stem from painful or traumatic experiences in a person’s past, making them feel unsafe in social situations. They aren’t trying to be negative; they’re trying to protect themselves.
  1. It’s not that bad.
    Yes, things can always be worse. But saying this negates the depth and breadth of the emotions that someone is feeling. Just because it could be worse, doesn’t mean that it isn’t bad, that it isn’t real, that you should take comfort in the fact that you could be feeling much worse. Going from feeling terrible to feeling really terrible doesn’t take away the fact that you are feeling terrible. In fact, this is kind of stating the obvious. Despite the intention to make someone feel better, it may make them feel worse, because they feel guilty for feeling like their situation is pretty bad. It won’t make them feel grateful for what they have; it’ll just make them feel guiltier, which leads to more anxiety.
  1. You’re just imagining it.
    This is simply unhelpful. It suggests that social anxiety isn’t a real condition, that it’s all in a person’s head. It makes someone feel like they’re even more out of control, because if they were “in control” they “wouldn’t be imagining it.” This statement also suggests judgment on the part of the speaker. Just because the thoughts and fears of social anxiety originate in the brain doesn’t make them any less real or difficult. And this anxiety often has a very real physical component to it.
  1. It’ll be okay.
    Despite the good intentions behind this statement, like the desire to make someone feel better, it honestly doesn’t help. Anxiety steals the ability to be rational—it tells the sufferer that nothing will be ok, that everything will go wrong. And you saying that it’ll be okay will do nothing to convince them otherwise. If you want to help, tell them it’s okay for them to have their own feelings; they will figure out how to deal with their anxieties as they know how.
  1. We all feel this way sometimes.
    Yes, everyone experiences anxiety and fear in different situations. But comparing a slight case of nerves to social anxiety disorder is like comparing an orange to a citrus grove. This comment trivializes the intense, paralyzing anxiety that comes with social anxiety disorder. If you truly understood the anxiety felt by sufferers of social anxiety, you wouldn’t say this.
  1. You just need a drink.
    This could be one of the worst things you could say to someone suffering from social anxiety disorder. Yes, drinking might slightly lessen the intensity of anxiety in the moment. But it’s only temporary, and it can turn into addiction if used long term. Don’t encourage this as a coping technique.
  1. Here we go again…
    And lastly, there is almost nothing you can say that will make someone suffering from social anxiety disorder never want to speak to you again. This comment suggests that the sufferer is being melodramatic, annoying, and irritating, all deliberately. This obviously makes their anxiety that much worse, and only reinforces all the emotions they’re already feeling. Please don’t say this kind of thing to a person suffering from social anxiety disorder.

Remember, social anxiety isn’t a choice. It is real. And there is help.

Social anxiety is a treatable mental health condition. Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments, call 970-252-3200. For more information, visit www.centermh.org.

Written by Jennifer Wheeler, MSW, LCSW – OP/JBBS Therapist for The Center for Mental Health – Telluride
Woman with hands in front of face

Five Things to Know about Social Anxiety Disorder

By CMH Blog

Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that the second biggest thing people are afraid of is death. The second. Turns out, the number one thing that people are afraid of is public speaking. His point was that people are more afraid to speak in public than they are of dying. While Seinfeld was using this as a joke, there is basis in reality. We all know the feeling of being nervous or uncomfortable, of struggling to make polite conversation or speak to a room full of people. Most of us can get through it. But for people suffering from social anxiety, it could be life altering, so uncomfortable that they avoid social situations, job interviews, or eating out because of the anxiety it produces for them.

Social anxiety is an intense, pervasive fear of being watched and judged by others. It can manifest in social anxiety, getting in the way of work, socializing, or school. Or it can appear as performance anxiety, causing physical symptoms of anxiety when playing sports, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or performing on stage.

Though people may think of someone with social anxiety as a person who avoids parties and stays at home, many different things could cause them to suffer. They could be fine speaking in public, but have difficulty talking to strangers. Or they could have no trouble going to parties but struggle with dating or eating in front of other people. And social anxiety is more than just being “shy.” In fact, not everyone who has social anxiety is even quiet. Nor is social anxiety uncommon—it affects up to seven percent of Americans.

To find out some of the different ways people are affected by social anxiety, we asked members of our community to share something they do because of their social anxiety, something that others might not realize.

Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Having social anxiety is not the same thing as being shy.
    • “Most people think I’m being rude when I’m not talkative in a group of people. In reality, I’m terrified because my mind constantly tells me I’ll say the wrong thing.” — Maegan B.
    • “Being quiet—I’d rather listen to a conversation than be in one. I feel like whatever comes out of my mouth may seem stupid.”—Juliana G.
    • “I will either shut down completely and not talk and people think I’m not sociable. Or if I try to convince myself to appear ‘normal,’ I ramble and talk fast. It’s a lose-lose situation.” –Bryanna B.
    • “Coming across as completely cold, blunt, and uptight—when that’s in fact actually a direct result of the panic and sheer effort taken just to engage with that person—ironically, in what’s intended to be in a ‘normal’ way.” –Cat S.
  1. In fact, you can seem outspoken and bold, and still suffer from crippling social anxiety.
    • “Talking fast, rambling and joking around even though really I’ve zoned out, and I’m pretty much not there…I run on autopilot and later when I’ve grounded again I go through and recollect what I’ve said or done…a bit like after being drunk!”  –Suze A.
    • “I actually find myself talking a lot…in my mind I’m telling myself, be quiet, you’re talking too much, no one cares, everyone is judging you. But I get so anxious when I’m out with friends, and there is an awkward silence, or no one is talking. So, I feel the need to talk more even though I’m dying of panic and anxiety inside. Sometimes after large events, it takes me days of no social interaction or staying in bed to recuperate.”—Jessica G.
    • “Being loud, playing the joker, laughter. Anything that will draw away from the fact that I’m extremely agitated and struggling.”—Vikki M.
  1. Social anxiety is unpredictable.
    • “I don’t think most people realize that when I’m out with friends, and I suddenly leave, it’s because of anxiety. There’s always a moment when it’s just too overwhelming, and I have to go home.” –Lucas Z.
    • “I cancel plans, often last minute, not because I’m rude or necessarily don’t want to go, but because I’m afraid of going out in public sometimes, afraid of what’s going to happen, who’s going to look at me, am I going to be embarrassed, etc. And afterwards, I feel bad for missing out.” –Jessica S.
  1. Preparing for social interactions can take a long time.
    • “Practicing and practicing what I’m going to say on the phone and writing it down on a piece of paper before calling so if my anxiety becomes too much, I can just read my script.” –Leah O.
    • “I always prefer to make plans at least one day ahead. Every morning I mentally prepare for the day. It helps soothe any anxiety and is a comfort to know what to expect. It is difficult to be spontaneous, but as long as a friend lets me know they’d like to do something on a certain day, I can anticipate that social interaction, yet be flexible about exactly what we do, where we go, or when.” –Jessica D.
    • “Taking a long time to reply to emails, texts, etc., especially group messages, because I’m terrified of spelling something wrong or saying something that is incorrect or could come across as rude or mean. I’ve had misunderstandings in the past with these types of communication, and it scares me. I feel like everyone hates me already, and when I write something silly, I feel like they hate me even more.” –Keira H.
  1. Social anxiety isn’t a choice, and it isn’t just “all in your head.”
    • “I start to sweat, ridiculously, no matter the temperature. The worst is the sweat that breaks out on my upper lip because there’s just no hiding that. Before every job interview, I have legitimately wondered if this time I should go through with trying an antiperspirant on my upper lip.”—Angela J.
    • “I get upset before I have to go deal with people. This usually happens at home and is basically the adrenaline aggravating me, but I get snippy and can’t answer questions in any detail until I have to drive and therefore get distracted.” –Myrlyn B.
    • “Constantly watching the body language of everyone to see if I’m offending them just by breathing.”—Jennifer L.
    • “I zone out sometimes when there are too many stimulants. I just kind of go somewhere else in my head and am physically just there, usually staring at something weird, like a garbage can.” –Elaine W.
    • “I’ll play with my hair, purse, or anything I’m holding to relieve my nervous energy. I won’t even notice it sometimes until I’m holding a torn-up napkin.” —Katie M.

Social anxiety is a treatable mental health condition. Please reach out to The Center for Mental Health to get help at any time. One of our caring professional counselors can help you cope with anxiety, depression or feelings of being overwhelmed. For appointments, call 970-252-3200. For more information, visit www.centermh.org.

Written by Jennifer Wheeler, MSW, LCSW – OP/JBBS Therapist for The Center for Mental Health – Telluride
Senior woman on video chat

Staying Connected and Mentally Strong During COVID

By CMH Blog

Maintaining Positive Mental Health During an Ongoing Pandemic 

As the pandemic has drawn out, older adults have been particularly hard hit with the burden of social distancing The summer months have provided some relief, with the ability to get outdoors and enjoy activities in the fresh air. But the coming of colder weather signals a return to life indoors and concerns about the ongoing pandemicThese concerns can cause depression, anxiety, stress, and feelings of isolation. Read on to discover why mental health matters and how to keep those feelings at bay during the longer winter months. 

Why Does Mental Health Matter? 

When a person is strong mentally and emotionally, they are happier, healthier, and more resilient. Difficult and uncertain times, like these, can be challenging to mental health, particularly in older adults. And that challenge can leave older adults at risk for depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. During a pandemic, these feelings can increase dramatically, causing acute suffering, which, in turn, has a dramatic effect on quality of life. Maintaining positive mental health can offset the effects of these feelings. 

Senior woman on video chatHow to Maintain Good Mental Health 

Most importantly, remember that social distancing does not mean social isolation. There are many ways to maintain connections and engagement with others, from friends and family to the community at large. The following are a few suggestions about how to maintain good mental health during the pandemic.  

  1. Stay Healthy
    Keep up with doctors’ appointmentstalk with your doctor about how you’re feeling, and make sure you address any physical issues. Stay physically active—enjoy a brisk walk on a fall morning, meet friends for pickleball, or throw the ball for the dog. Avoid substance abuse and eat healthy foods that support your body. 
  2. Stay Connected
    Staying in touch with family and friends has become so much easier with technology, new and old. Start up a pen-pal letter exchange—it’s exciting to get a personal letter in the mail. Or call someone on the phone—the sound of someone’s voice provides a great feeling of connection. Engage in some of the newer technology—FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Twitter, Snapchat, and texting are just some of the technologies that can help you keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Many are easy to set up—ask a friend, neighbor, or family member for help. 
  3. Stay Active
    There are many things to do from the comfort of your home to connect with others. The list is endless: online board games, book clubs, live concerts and symphonies, theater productions, and art museum tours. There are often organizations that need people to call members of the community—that’s an easy way to stay connected from the safety of your home.  
  4. Limit News
    Catch up in the morning and at night, limiting yourself to 30 minutes or an hour, and that’s it. There’s no need for 24 hour-news. Not much changes that rapidly, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the endless news cycle. 

And finally, reach out for help when you need it. The Center for Mental Health is a resource for community members to get help whether in times of normal stress or pandemic. We want to help you find the path to your best life. If you need help, contact us to learn how a professional counselor can help you cope with anxiety, depression or if you are feeling overwhelmed.  

The Center Support Line at 970.252.6220 is available 24/7 for free if you just need to talk to a caring, trained professional.   For appointmentscall 970.252.3200.

Written by The Center for Mental Health Staff Writer 


Sources
Archbald-Pannone, Dr. L. (2020, March 10). A geriatrician offers 4 tips for seniors to stay connected during coronavirus outbreak.
The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/a-geriatrician-offers-4-tips-for-seniors-to-stay-connected-during-coronavirus-outbreak-133233 

Miller, J. (2016, Feb 16). Why Older Adult Mental Health Matters.
Connectionshttps://www.amhca.org/blogs/joel-miller/2016/02/16/why-older-adult-mental-health-matters 

Early Autumn Waterfall

Resilience – Overcoming Suicidal Ideations

By CMH Blog

If you’re here reading this, it’s likely something in the title caught your attention. Maybe it is a word you connect with, or have some curiosity about, or maybe it is hope for connection. Whatever reason brought you here, welcome. I’m here to tell you a little story: my story about resilience and overcoming suicidal ideation.

My first suicide attempt was when I was 7 years old. Since then, I’ve attempted suicide a handful of times with my last attempt in 2015, just after my 22nd birthday. For 15 years, I have lived with the guilt of suicidal ideation.

It began very simply. I couldn’t understand why I felt the urge to no longer exist, but even at 7 years old, I knew these thoughts were unusual. I was raised, partly, in a Catholic household, and I was taught that dying by suicide was a one-way ticket to hell, even before I actually knew what suicide was. This belief system I was raised to uphold added to the stigma surrounding suicidal ideation. Now, I understand that suicidal ideation is a common feeling for those with anxiety, depression, or many other mental illnesses.

Over the years, I learned that there are different types of suicidal ideation. One is “active ideation” in which you’re not only thinking about suicide, but you have a plan and intentions to carry out the thought. The other is “passive ideation,” which means you wish you didn’t exist anymore, or that you could die so you don’t have live in the agony any longer; however, you don’t have plans to act on these thoughts. I spent a few periods of my life in the “active ideation” stage where I had a plan to take my life and was ready to set my plan into action. I also spent many, many more years after that in “passive ideation.”

For me, the real kicker was not overcoming the “active ideation;” I knew deep down that I didn’t want to die because I always held hope for a better future — one worth living. For me, the hard part has been overcoming the “passive ideation” of suicide, even to this day.

It sneaks up on you: when you’ve had a bad day and you’re feeling exhausted; when the universe seems to keep kicking you down; when nothing seems to be going right, no matter how hard you work. The passive ideation sneaks in and offers itself as an outlet; even when you don’t feel suicidal, it’s there. Sometimes it doesn’t even look like suicidal ideation. Sometimes it looks like smoking a pack of cigarettes in a day because maybe you’ll get sick from the chemicals. Sometimes it looks like sleeping all day because the thought of getting out of bed breaks your heart. Sometimes it’s just thinking to yourself “I wish I could die.” Suicidal passive ideation creeps into your mind, intrusive and unbearable. BUT! There are many ways to move past the suicidal ideations and create a life worth living! For me, it was growing my resilience muscle.

Resilience – re·sil·ience, noun – The capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations.

For the last five years, I’ve worked on growing my resilience muscle. Yes, I think of resiliency as a muscle, and like all other muscles, if you put in the work to grow it and make it stronger, you’ll likely be able to do things and overcome obstacles you never imagined possible.

How to grow your resilience muscle:

  1. Practice thought awareness.
    Resilient people work on managing the negative thoughts and focus on consistently practicing positive thinking.
  2. Learn from mistakes or perceived failures.
    Resilient people tend to see mistakes or failures as lessons learned or as opportunities to try something in a new way.
  3. Maintain perspective.
    Resilient people understand that while an event or crisis may be overwhelming in the moment, allowing time to reframe perspective can be beneficial.
  4. Develop strong relationships.
    Resilient people know that no one person can do it all, and we all need a strong support system.
  5. Ask for help when you need it!
    Resilient people know that asking for help is the single best step you can take when trying to overcome suicidal ideation. If you don’t know who to ask, call The Center Support Line at 970.252.6220. It’s free and available to you anytime you need to talk.

Recovery and resilience will always be my chosen path to my best life. I truly have a life worth living, but it wasn’t easy getting to this point. Growing up in poverty, I had a difficult time rallying support and finding resources to feel better. Apart from maybe three people, my mental illness and struggle was kept a secret because I was ashamed and embarrassed to have these feelings and thoughts. Of course, I showed many, many signs of mental anguish and suffering, yet I went about this journey all on my own without much support.

After my last attempt at 22 years old, I met with a primary care doctor and decided to try medications for my mental illness. I was able to find stability, and with my lived experience, I found a job as Peer Specialist at The Center for Mental Health. For the first time in my life, I was connected with a therapist and finally discussed my experience with suicidal ideation. It was monumental for me. It allowed me to really push forward in life and blast through the walls that I had built. I truly valued my time working as a Peer Specialist, and I learned something from every single one of my clients. Through my personal and professional experience, and with the inspiration of my clients, I wrote a poem that I would like to share with you today.

“What I Wish My Clients Knew – An Ode to Resilience”

First things first,
most everyone working in the mental health field is here
because we have a history,
just like you.

It’s ok to cry.
I do it too, often.
Crying can help release anger, frustration, sadness, grief, and loneliness.
You may feel relief after crying.
It’s ok to cry, and it’s ok to cry in front of me.
I will never judge you for it.
Men – even you are allowed to cry.
I will never think less of you for it,
and I will never judge you for feeling emotions.

It’s ok to back slide.
It’s ok to fall down.
BUT, you have to get back up, dust yourself off and try again!
The only true failure is giving up!

It’s ok to be vulnerable & it’s ok to hate vulnerability.
I understand how hard it is to offer yourself up to change.
The fact that you’re currently sitting in my office
is a good sign that you’re practicing change and vulnerability.
Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far.
Men – it’s ok to be vulnerable around other men.

It’s ok to be scared or unsure.
Not just of life, but of the people who are helping you.
It’s ok to be unsure of your past, of your present, and of your future.
It’s ok to be scared; in fact, it’s completely normal.
Don’t let fear stop you from making a difference in your life.

It’s ok to celebrate the small successes in your life
(after all, that’s exactly what resilient people do!)
Pat yourself on the back for waking up.
Be proud of the fact that you made it to your therapy session.
Give yourself a round of applause for not letting an anxious cycle take over your day.

Celebrate the small achievements you’ve made.
That’s a sign that all your effort is paying off!
It’s ok to ask for help!
This goes for everyone, everywhere.
If you need help, give yourself permission to ask for it.
That doesn’t mean you’re weak or fragile,
it means you’re human
(welcome to the club, there’s about 7 billion of us.)

What I wish my clients knew:
I have been there.
Exactly where you are… Scared, lost, hopeless.
Unsure of what steps to take,
how to move forward,
how to release the anger and pain.
I found my way of doing it,
and I want to help you find yours.

Together we can create a path to freedom –
freedom from the hurt, the depression, the anxiety, the pain, the darkness.
A better life is waiting for you, and it’s possible.
I have been there, and now I’m here…
and I want you here with me.

Written by Leticia Garcia, Administrative Assistant at The Center for Mental Health

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or is experiencing suicidal ideation, please reach out to The Center for Mental Health. We are available 24/7/365 at our Crisis Walk-In Center at 300 N. Cascade Ave. in Montrose and by calling our crisis and support line at 970.252.6220.

Sunflower

Coping with Suicidal Thoughts

By CMH Blog

Richelle E. Goodrich kind of sums it up nicely for me in her words from Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, and Grumblings for Every Day of the Year: “I have a funny side. I have a soft and sympathetic side. I have a serious side, and a seriously romantic side. I have lots of sides; it’s the main course I haven’t quite figured out.”

I’m not sure I really want to figure out the main course either. I like side dishes. They’re usually the fun ones, full of carbs or nice and sweet; they’re your casseroles, your chips and salsa or queso, basically everything leading up to the main dish. Don’t get me wrong – I can truly enjoy a “steamin’ greasy plate of enchiladas with lots of cheese and onions” as Robert Earl Keen sings about. But when that plate is clean, it symbolizes the end of something. And I don’t particularly care for endings of any kind.

That’s where the irony comes in for me because the paring of this disdain for endings and the life-long managing of my own suicidal thoughts has created both conflict at certain times, and sustenance at others.

As you might imagine, the conflict is how my mind always seems to find a way for me to have thoughts pondering my own demise. Terribly intrusive. Terribly inconvenient. What makes them worse is trying to fight them; this just ends up creating a deeper, more lasting interruption when I do fight. Instead, along the way, I’ve learned to just comment to myself something that merely acknowledges the thought without giving it any more power. I say to myself, “That’s interesting,” and if it persists, I may even say to myself, “Wow, you’re kind of being pushy with that one.” More often than not, this enables me to stay focused on whatever I’m doing in that moment.  Even so, this coping skill doesn’t mean the process doesn’t come with a cost. It takes a lot of energy to play this game. When I meet someone with a dark side similar to mine, like my friend Rana, it’s easy to understand just how burdensome suicidal thoughts can be not just personally, but for others. When I learn of a suicide, I’m both saddened, and I understand the relief they were seeking. I understand it because I too wish that these thoughts would end.

But these thoughts don’t end, and that’s where the sustenance comes in. Did I mention that I hate endings? It saddens me when I come to the end of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and must wish my friends Frodo, Sam, and Gandalf goodbye. Yet it’s unavoidable. Buddha wrote, “If you accept that death is part of life, then when it actually does come, you may face it more easily.” Part of my process of sustaining is deciding that I will take my loathing of endings and commit to accepting that while death is in fact part of my life, it won’t be a part that I set in motion. It won’t come about by my hand. It will, however, be something I think about, and I can accept that.

I once felt much more isolated in these thoughts and beliefs than I do now. I am thankful for people like Rana, for scientists researching suicide, for great therapists, for the lessening of stigma in general, and yes, even for medication. It’s comforting knowing, and a source of strength, that I’m not alone in this with an incredible support system around me that includes friends, family, and most especially my wife and son. If any of this resonates with you at all, know that you don’t have to be alone in this either.

The Center for Mental Health is here to help. If you are in crisis or just need to talk to someone, call our 24/7 crisis and support line at 970.252.6220. If you think you might benefit from services, please call 970.252.3200 to learn more or make an appointment.

Read Rana Shaner’s blog post on Creating a Life Worth Living.

Ed Hagins, M.Ed., LPC
Deputy Director of Operations & Special Projects
Loving mother supporting tired teenage daughter (photo)

Dealing with Back-To-School Stress in 2020

By CMH Blog

Dealing with the stress of back-to-school in 2020

The end of summer has always been a time of transition for families across our country. Parents and youth alike are registering for classes, buying new supplies, and wondering who their teacher will be. This summer and fall we have an added layer of concern that is plaguing us all: what is this school year going to look like?

As schools open across our nation, we have been seeing that things are going to look different in every town and city. In some instances, decisions to do home school or online school have been made for families by their districts. In other instances, there are decisions to still to be made: should we as parents send our kids to in-person school or not? And even after families have labored over these decisions and made what they hope to be “the right decision,” there is always a possibility that things can change without their input in these uncertain times, what are we to do?

As a parent and Licensed Professional Counselor, I have had a lot of time to reflect on a variety of things that affect me, my family, and my work. At first, the pandemic and its added uncertainties and responsibilities weighed heavy on me. As the summer has progressed, I have learned to see the pandemic as an opportunity to grow as a person, mother, friend, wife, and more. BUT it has not been easy.

In times of great stress, our mind plays tricks on us. Instead of operating in what we call the Wizard brain, the calm, cool, collected part of our brain, we tend to operate out of our Lizard brain, the more impulsive and reactive part. Not only is this happening in us, it is also manifesting in our children.

I have worked with youth in a variety of capacities throughout my 20 years in Colorado. I have been a director of a youth program and juvenile justice program, a substitute teacher, a volunteer coach, and more. What I absolutely love about working with youth is that they tend to be more “in the moment” than adults. The younger the child, the more present and in the moment, they seem to be, effortlessly. What an amazing natural talent! I have also come to realize that youth possess a resiliency that is admirable. I have watched many children bounce back from extremely difficult situations and, with an added solid support system, I have watched them achieve incredible feats.

As we charge forward into an uncertain new school year, I would like to offer some strategies to help you and your children with the stress and ambiguity.

  1. Increase self-awareness by taking note which brain you are operating from. If you find you are in your “Lizard Brain,” take a moment to breathe and calm yourself down before reacting. Also take note of which brain those around you seem to be operating from. If they are acting out of impulse and from a place of stress, your recognition of that can help calm the situation down. Practice creating more patience and grace for yourself and others.
  2. When speaking with your children about the present, past or future, REFLECT and REPEAT. Questions can hinder a conversation and make children second guess themselves. Instead practice reflecting or repeating back what they are saying. For example, if a child says, “I’m sad,” instead of asking why, repeat and reflect back to them with this statement “You ARE sad.” This will keep the conversation going and let your child know you understand and are listening. Most likely they will continue to explain what is going on with them, and no questions will be needed.
  3. Analyze your options in a potentially irritable or challenging situation. It is exhausting to fight reality. Radical acceptance is accepting life just as it is. Gracefully accept and acknowledge the feelings and emotions you have about certain situations.
  4. Focus on what our youth are learning from our current situation, not what they are missing out on.
  5. Anxiety and depression tend to increase when we focus on the past or fret about the future. Be here now, practice living in the present moment, and revel in it. In his book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle says, “I have lived with several Zen masters… all of them cats.”
  6. Seek support when necessary for you or your family. Investigate individual and group counseling options and various support groups.

Ultimately, my goal is to help youth become independent, compassionate, and graceful critical thinkers. With these skills, they can accept and overcome the challenges that come their way, both with support and on their own. I believe our youth possess an innate wisdom that sometimes we adults forget about. This school year, let’s take pleasure in the little things, our successes, and the innovative ways we can move forward!

The Center for Mental Health is here to help. Call us at 970.252.3200 to learn about our services or make an appointment. Visit our website at www.centermh.org to learn about the services we offer for children, families, and adults.

* * * * * * * * * *Sources

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Parent-Child Interaction Therapy With At-Risk Families.
https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_interactbulletin.pdf

Empowering Education: Mindfulness-Social & Emotional Learning. (2016). Lizard-Wizard Brain.
https://empoweringeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/08-EE_Lizard-Wizard-Brain_Pt1_k-2.pdf

Hall, K. Ph.D. (2012/7). Radical Acceptance: Sometimes Problems Can’t Be Solved. Psychology Today.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201207/radical-acceptance

Tolle, E. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. 2004.
https://amazon.com/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenment/dp/1577314808

Helene “H” Discoe, LPC, CAC I
The Center for Mental Health, Ridgway

I Created a Life Worth Living

By CMH Blog

My history

As a several time suicide attempt survivor with my first attempt at the age of four, along with being challenged with mental health symptoms beginning at an early age, I often lacked a desire to thrive. I want to share with anyone who may be contemplating suicide, THERE IS HOPE! Recovery is possible. One can create a life worth living. Recovery is complex, a lifelong process, a journey. It does not happen overnight. It is hard work, and it is so worth it. Recovery is investing in your greatest asset: yourself.

My beliefs about myself

I once bought into the stigmatizing societal attitudes and the messages I received from my abusers, hurtful messages that I was indoctrinated with or that they needed me to believe about myself. I could not understand what made me different. Why was I seen as inherently defective, as if this defect was a personal reflection on my character? I could not understand why I deserved to be dehumanized for something I had no choice or control over, for merely existing by way of the “ovarian lottery.” Why was I blamed for provoking the abuse? Why was the perpetrator often protected? It hurt to receive messages that I was nothing more than a disposable piece of trash that is easily replaceable. The truth is, no one deserves to be treated that way.

My experience of suicide was enduring what felt like unbearable emotional pain that I did not have the skills or internal resources to cope with. I felt overwhelmed, unable to process any more. No options for solutions seemed available; I was hopeless and helpless. Personally, I only made attempts during times I was being abused by a perpetrator or system. When you’re feeling rejected, abandoned, or seen as inherently bad, life does not seem to hold much value. When you’re overtaken by a binocular view, when you’re in that deep dark place of acute suicidality, you often feel like a burden to the world, that you do not matter, and it is difficult to recognize the pain you will cause for those left behind, or feel that you will be missed. Without hope it is difficult to continue on. There was a time the only hope I could find was the hope that someday I could have hope.

Many fear change. For me, nothing scared me more than my life remaining the same. I was tenacious with my recovery. I reached a place in my life where I had little faith in humanity from all of the cruelties I had suffered. I experienced empowerment the moment I was able to ask myself, “what are you going to do about it?” I created my life mantra, “Spread good and be ornery too.” I could take action to make this a better world to live in and remember to laugh too.

How therapy helped change these beliefs

My therapist worked with me to start challenging all of the beliefs that I became aware I had or that I had internalized as my own. In this process I happened across this quote in an article:

“The simple fact you exist has a ripple effect beyond imagine. You may never know those whose life you have touched or the repercussions, yet they are there all the same.”

This quote spoke to me and led to a dramatic shift in my thinking; I realized I did matter in this world, because I existed.

Something as simple as a smile, which we all have the capacity to do, can change a person’s day. It does not have to be a grand gesture. We may never know, but our smile could even save a person’s life. Maybe you’ve offered the words of comfort needed to ease a person’s suffering and by the ripple effect those words of wisdom are passed along to someone else who needs them. We all make a difference in this world and will never know all the lives we have touched. I came to another realization that “we are all equally human with strengths and challenges, I am no different than anyone else.” The shame disappeared. This began the process of allowing me to love myself. Many of those indoctrinated beliefs were lies, and they were no longer my truth.

The importance of kindness

Many therapists share a common story, where a client discloses contemplating suicide and then deciding to abandon their plan. This has been true for me too. A universal theme tends to emerge. It is a simple act of human kindness or compassion demonstrated by another individual that changed one’s mind. Maybe it was someone giving their time, connecting with the person in need, seeing the person first, letting them know they matter in the world, showing care and concern, offering support, giving them a voice, or any number of other small acts. It is seeing people, letting them know they have value, worth, and that they matter in this world.

Kevin Hines wrote a book to share his story about surviving his suicide attempt of jumping off of the Golden Gate bridge, which few survive. He spoke of the experience where he arrived by bus, walking along the pedestrian walkway in tears. He thought to himself, if a person were to come up to him to ask, “Are you okay? Is something wrong? Can I help you?” he could share his story, and that would keep him safe. No one did, and he jumped. Hines is now an international advocate for suicide prevention.

The recovery process

For me, therapy and medication management alone were not enough. I remained in the revolving door of the crisis cycle. Through The Center for Mental Health, I received a combination of services, in addition to therapy and medication management, and my recovery took off. I was referred to a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group, which was huge. I was able to acquire tools to be able to cope with the distress, gain life skills, and dive deeper into my therapeutic work. Group therapy is a very successful intervention, which I love. Group work is valuable. I remained in DBT for several years because I wanted to obtain mastery of the skills. The goal of DBT is to create a life worth living.

I had a history of abuse and traumatic experiences that were left unresolved and unprocessed. I was referred to a TREMs group, trauma processing, where I was able to work through much of my past trauma. I was then recommended for Peer Specialist training, where I signed on with The Center for Mental Health as a peer volunteer. I began participating in some peer led groups. Doors began to open for me, where I was invited to participate in various efforts, representing the lived experience, e.g. Zero Suicide Task Force.

A life worth living

I embrace my lived experience. I have acquired an expertise that cannot be taught through formal education. Expertise can only be acquired through the lived experience. I make meaning and purpose through my experiences by sharing my story to advocate, educate, and be a voice for the behavioral health population and cause; I am an agent of change. I get involved in our community and on a state level too. I am making this a better world to live in by “spreading good.”

I no longer require services, beyond medication management. When I am challenged, I have the tools to rely on that assist me to work through those challenging times. Now, it is quite a rare occasion for a suicidal thought to arise, and on the rare occasion one does, it no longer holds the power it once held. In a blink of an eye the thought disappears. THERE IS HOPE! There are solutions. Recovery is possible. You can create a life worth living.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call The Center for Mental Health 24/7 Crisis Line at 970.252.6220 or text TALK to 38255 to talk to someone.

Better yet, reach out to 970.252.3200 to learn how to access behavioral health therapy and other services to get on the road to recovery today.

More information on The Center for Mental Health’s Crisis Services can be found on our crisis services page.

Rana D. Shaner, B.A., A.A.S.
2019 Behavioral Health Champion for The Center for Mental Health
Depressed mom looking at baby

Coping with Postpartum Mood Disorders

By CMH Blog

As many moms (and dads) know, the birth of a child is one of the most joyous events in the life of a family. There is so much excitement about this new arrival, we’re not always ready for all of the emotions that come with it. Surrounded by enthusiastic and well-meaning friends and family, new parents can experience an often-overlooked mental health concern, Postpartum Depression (PPD) or Postpartum Mood Disorders (PPMD).

These conditions are more widespread than you might think. Statistically, 1 in 7 women encounter major symptoms of depression and anxiety and 1 in 10 men become depressed in the first year after having a new baby. Parents of every age, income level, and culture can get Postpartum Mood Disorders, and symptoms can appear any time within the first year after childbirth.

Possible warning signs of PPMD may include increased tension or irritability, feelings of panic, difficulty enjoying oneself, feeling sad, feeling as if things are “out of control,” or difficulty bonding with your baby. If you or someone you know is having such difficulties, there is support and effective, well-researched options available. Postpartum Mood Disorders are not uncommon, and no one is to blame.

Parents can be isolated from family and friends; one parent can be working long hours, leaving the other at home with the newborn and without traditional support. Some parents are caring for two or more children under the age of four. Some parents feel obligated to keep the house as clean as it used to be, neglecting to take care of themselves. Other new parents spend much of their time in debilitating worry about their baby, concerned that something may happen to their baby, or they will make a grave error in caring for their newborn. It can be easy to feel as though things are spiraling out of control or that we are “not good enough.” These concerns, often a usual part of becoming a parent, can be magnified during a pandemic.

There are a number of things we can do to address PPMD, from taking care of ourselves to seeking the support of other new parents or reaching out for professional help. Taking care of ourselves allows us to provide the best care for our families. Make sure you get exercise, eat a healthy diet, and stay connected with family and friends.

Having a new baby is an exciting experience, but it can be overwhelming. If you need more support, consider talking to a counselor, learning more about PPMD, or getting support from others. Ask for help when you need it. Support groups for new parents are available online and in person. You can seek professional help from us at The Center for Mental Health by visiting www.centermh.org or call 970-252-3200.


Resources

The Center for Mental Health (se habla español): A community behavioral health center serving individuals and families in Gunnison, Delta, Montrose, San Miguel, Ouray, and Hinsdale Counties.

Centro comunitario de salud al servicio de las personas y familias en los condados de Gunnison, Delta, Montrose, San Miguel, Ouray y Hinsdale.
www.centermh.org

Western Slope Postpartum Peer Support Group
Meets 2nd and 4th Saturdays, 9:30 to 10:30 AM
Bloomin Babies Birth Center, 2241 N 7th St, Grand Junction, CO 81501
970.549.1711  | Free childcare

Postpartum Support International
Learn more at www.postpartum.net or 1-800-944-4773

Contributed by Rebecca A. Lister, MS, LPC, integrated therapist at The Center for Mental Health

Socially Connected While Physically Distanced During COVID-19

By CMH Blog

Part of the code of the west is the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors. It’s often understood within the code that we should look out for our own, be courageous, and help others in need, and residents across the 6 counties we serve have been doing just that by practicing proper precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19. We’re washing our hands regularly, wearing masks, and practicing physical distancing when out and about.  

With these precautions in place and even as they loosen in some places, it can be tough to maintain our social connections with others, which can leave us feeling vulnerable, alone, and depressed. Social connections are as important as health precautions, leaving us with the question of how to practice physical distancing while also maintaining vital social connections. Luckily, we have many options for staying connected during this time. Here are some we’ve picked up along the way.  

In your home:

  • Reconnect with your family. Do things you haven’t had the time to do before. 
  • Teach kids life skills like baking, laundry, ordering food, cleaning the bathroom, or mowing the lawn. 
  • Play games together—there are so many options, from board games, to puzzles, to video games, and lawn games. 
  • Plant a garden. Maybe start vegetables that you can use in cooking dinner together.  

In your neighborhood:

  • Driveways, yards, cul-de-sacs, and sidewalks make great places to picnic with neighbors while still staying six feet apart. 
  • Kids can stay connected too by creating sidewalk chalk art, blowing bubbles, having water fights, and painting colorful rocks to place around the neighborhood.  
  • Have neighbors create chalk art on their driveways and host a “gallery walk” where people stroll by to check out the artistic creations. 
  • Kids can use washable markers to draw or play games with friends on either side of windows or storm doors. 
  • Host a neighborhood scavenger hunt, looking for items that are visible from the sidewalk. 

Online: 

Attend a class or event virtually. Gyms, museums, zoos, and other places are offering services, classes, attractions, tours and more virtually. And many of these events are free.  

Stay connected with friends and family. 

  • Have virtual check-ins or virtual happy hours. Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts are all good options for talking with friends and family and seeing their faces. 
  • Start the day with friends and coffee or host an end-of-the-day get together. 
  • Join a virtual watch party of a movie or show. 
  • Host a digital dinner party and include a virtual cooking lesson of the main dish. 
  • Read grandkids a bedtime story over video chat. 
  • Play your favorite board game with friends online. Try Tabletop Simulator—a program that allows people to play virtually any game. Popular games available include backgammon, chess, and mahjong, along with Settlers of Catan. Or try Twitch, a streaming platform that allows people a place to get together online and chat while playing games or watching others do so. Discorda free voice and text chat app, is primarily focused on audio, so you can talk with your friends while playing your game together. 
  • Take up the lost art of letter-writing—there’s something truly special about receiving a personal, handwritten letter in the mail, instead of the regular mailers and advertisements.  

Physical distancing shouldn’t mean total isolation. Following health guidelines for maintaining safe distancing becomes much easier with all of the options we have for staying connected. And being a good neighbor, friend, and family member means helping others in need. Despite all of our ways of connecting, this can be a difficult time. If you, or someone you know, seems to be struggling with mental health, please reach out to them and offer help.  

If you are feeling lonely or worried, we offer 24/7 phone support via The Center Support Line at 970-252-6220. If you would like to learn more about treatment options, reach out to The Center for Mental Health at 970.252.3200.  

We offer access to a free online screening tool here. 

We also offer free access to an online mental health support tool called myStrength. Learn more here.