Moderation rules alcohol consumption for good health

Drinking alcohol is part of everyday life in many circles.

Occasional happy hours and watching sports with friends often involve having a few alcoholic beverages. Holidays typically include special dinners with wine and so forth.  And enjoying alcohol with meals and beer while watching TV can be commonplace as well.

The U.S. Government dietary guidelines notes that alcohol can be consumed in moderation – defined as one drink a day for woman and two drinks a day for men.  But depending on which study is viewed, even so-called modest drinking can be suspect.

For example, a study of brain scans by researchers in a BMJ (British Medical Journal) report noted that moderate drinking over 30-plus years was associated with degeneration and shrinking of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory and navigation as well as degeneration of the brain’s white matter.

On the other hand, some information suggests potential benefits, such as references to links of moderate red wine consumption to fewer heart attacks. There seems to be indications that antioxidants in red wine, such as flavonoids and a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits. However, encouraging people to drink for this reason is not universally accepted, especially without research about prevalence of alcoholism in a person’s family.

Some benchmarks, keeping count

With an understanding that there are varied points of view on alcohol consumption, for purposes of this article, we will look at the topic in the Mental Health First Aid teaching manual, which is used to teach 8-hour Mental Health First Aid courses. The course is often offered by mental health clinics and mental health services.

According to the manual: “At risk drinking for men is more than four drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week and for women is no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 per week.” Furthermore, it advises being knowledgeable about types of alcoholic drinks and amounts. A 25-ounce bottle of wine is considered five drinks, because five ounces of wine is one drink. A 22-ounce bottle of beer is considered two drinks, and 3 ounces of liquor that is considered 40 percent is 2 drinks. And beware, when drinks are topped off now and then, the ounce count can be significantly higher than realized.

Along with this information, the manual warns that 75 percent of people who develop substance use disorder (SUD) do so by age 27, and notes that alcohol use disorders are almost three times as common as drug use disorders. With this information in mind, it is a good idea to monitor alcohol levels as one begins to enter the adult world of drinking and, of course, at any age when drinking habits become elevated.

When is help needed

When the ability to function appropriately and carry on life’s responsibilities lapses, it may be time for intervention. The Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen (RAPS4) is one common screening measure.

The screen consists of four questions:

  • During the last year, have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
  • During the last year, has a friend or family member ever told you about things you said or did while drinking that you could not remember?
  • During the last year, have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
  • Do you sometimes take a drink in the morning when you first get up?

A yes to at least one of these questions suggest that alcohol consumption has become harmful to the person’s physical and mental health.

With treatment there are many options, such as individual and group counseling, inpatient and residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, partial hospital programs, case or care management, MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), IRT (Intensive Residential Treatment), recovery support services, 12-step fellowship and peer supports. And keep in mind, it sometimes takes more than one attempt for those experiencing alcoholism to secure a road to recovery.

Moderation mode

Practice moderation, but also know that for some people abstinence from alcohol is the path to a healthful lifestyle. If you have a substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, we are glad to consult with you. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Watching for suicide warning signs

 

If you notice someone struggling, it’s important to be aware of suicide warning signs. As it happens, showing concern and suggesting a friend or loved one talk to a mental health professional can sometimes be all that is necessary for someone to secure the help they need.

Professional help is very important because suicide can be an outcome of treatable mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

Oftentimes stress and health issues can converge to make a person feel overwhelmed and hopeless. When people feel this way for extended periods of time it can cause depression, which is often associated with suicide. Let’s consider some suicide warning signs.  

Some warning signs

A change in behavior can be triggered by a loss or a painful event. The intensity of a grieving process usually subsides over time, but when it does not, there is cause for concern. Regardless of the triggers, there are a variety of warning signs listed in the Mental Health First Aid manual. They include when someone is:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill himself or herself
  • Looking for ways to kill himself or herself, seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Expressing hopelessness.
  • Feeling rage or anger, seeking revenge.
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
  • Feeling trapped, like there was no way out.
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Experiencing anxiety or agitation, being unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time.
  • Undergoing dramatic changes in mood.
  • Feeling no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life.

The Mental Health First Aid manual notes that people may have one or many of these signs and may show signs that are not listed.

Health and environmental factors

Health factors have a significant impact. Extended serious physical health conditions including pain and traumatic brain injury can contribute to depression. The loss of the ability to engage in activities a person enjoyed prior to becoming ill can be difficult.  Health problems related to substance-use disorders contribute to stress and suicidal ideation.

Environmental factors should be considered with warning signs. Eventualities, such divorce, financial challenges or other losses, all contribute to stress. Prolonged stress from relationships, unemployment and harassment can all contribute to the development of depression. And any environment where basic needs are not being met can contribute to stress and depression, which can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Reducing stress

Finding ways to reduce stress is key to good mental health overall. If you are concerned about someone you know, encourage them to do things that are pleasurable from reading to gardening. Eat healthful well-balanced diets. Exercise. In fact, exercising with a partner is often very effective.

Reaching out

If you are interested in learning more about risk factors for suicide and how to intervene, sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one or want more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is an observation that draws attention to what a pervasive problem suicide is. It also highlights the fact that there are behavioral health resources available from places like Community Reach Center’s crisis center in Denver for people who are considering ending their life and for family members and friends of people who are at risk of attempting suicide or who have completed suicide.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide each year
  • For every person that dies by suicide, there are another 25 who attempt suicide
  • Suicide costs the U.S. $69 billion annually

However, there are things that loved ones can do to help prevent suicide. First and foremost, it is important to recognize the indicators that some is at risk.

Signs a Person May be Considering Suicide

While not everyone who attempts or completes suicide exhibits observable behaviors before they take action, many people do. These behaviors may include:

  • Talking frequently or passionately about death, dying, self-harm or suicide
  • Attempting to obtain the means of suicide such as firearms or other weapons, drugs, chemicals, rope, etc.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Withdrawal from family and friends, and avoiding activities previously enjoyed
  • Expressing feelings of self-hatred or guilt
  • Reckless actions, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, etc.
  • Getting affairs in order such as selling or giving away possessions
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones as if they won’t be seen again
  • Demonstrating sudden calmness as they come to terms with the action they are about to take 

It is important to treat any of these behaviors as issues that should be addressed and not a “phase” that the person is going through.

The Right Response is to Take Action

If you have any suspicion that someone is considering suicide, the right response is to take action. If it turns out you have misunderstood their behavior, you can apologize and move on. However, if you are correct, your intervention may save their life.

It is a common belief that talking with someone who is considering suicide may cause them to move forward with their attempt. However, providing an opportunity to talk about what has them on the brink of ending their life can help relieve some of the pressure they are feeling and give them a chance to consider alternative actions including getting help from a crisis center in Denver like Community Reach Center.

When talking with someone you think is at risk of attempting suicide, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be honest. Don’t try to hide the fact that you are worried about them attempting suicide. It is important that you be truthful about your fears for them.
  • Take them seriously. If a person says that they “just can’t go on,” you should take them at their word and not be dismissive about their situation.
  • Be understanding even if you can’t relate. It may be that suicide is something that would never cross your mind. However, what matters is that it appears to be on theirs.
  • Be a good listener. Generally what people in crisis need is not advice but an opportunity to express themselves. 
  • Provide hope. The mental health conditions that lead people to consider suicide are treatable and a better life is possible.
  • Promise support. In many cases, simply knowing that they have someone who will stand by them as they seek treatment can make all the difference.

If at any point before, during or after a conversation you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, seek help immediately. Transport the person to a hospital or mental health center if they will allow it and you are able to do so. If not, call 911, prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.

How to Talk with Suicide Loss Survivors

Like a person who is at risk of attempting suicide, suicide loss survivors also need the support of loved ones. Here some recommendations on how to talk with them:

  • Avoid saying “I know what you’re going through.” Even if you are a suicide loss survivor yourself, you can’t fully understand their situation.
  • Don’t imply or assign blame to them or to anyone.
  • Know that just being there for them can be helpful, even if a few words are spoken.
  • Don’t ask questions about how the person died.
  • Offer whatever assistance you are able to provide.
  • Don’t make statements that minimize the pain of the situation like, “He’s in a better place.”
  • Don’t place value judgments on the act, such as saying it is selfish, a sign of weakness, etc.
  • Be patient with them.
  • Check in often.

Assistance is Available

Talking with a behavioral health counselor can help a person keep from getting to the point where he or she is considering suicide. Learn about our crisis center in Denver at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

Staying on track with medication

Job one when taking medication is to read the label and remember the advice of your physician or whomever wrote the prescription. Overlooking instructions for other matters — such as a minor repair around the house – often doesn’t present the health risk associated with taking medications. When it comes to taking pills or dosages of medications, it is simply crucial to take as directed.

How crucial can it be?

A recent study by the National Consumers League reported about three of every four Americans do not always take their medications as directed. The report links nonadherence to medicine-related hospitalizations and nearly 125,000 deaths each year. Keep in mind that sometimes people cannot afford a medication or have other significant challenges that are contributing factors beyond forgetting to take a daily pill now and then.

Be in the know

Ask for a printout regarding use of your medication. It’s always good to have the instructions in print to refer to along the way because there may be a lot of details to remember. Be alert to instructions about taking medication with meals and plan accordingly. Further it’s always wise to remember the name of each medication, and your experience with it, for future reference.

Tips for good habits

Choose a memory device or habit that works to keep on track. It may take a try or two to find a method that ensures you take dosages consistently. Here are a few options:

  • Purchase a seven-day pillbox. They come in all colors and sizes, and in monthly versions.
  • Set an alarm, which can be a traditional alarm clock or a smart phone or a watch, to alert you when it is time to have a dose.
  • Pair taking a dose with another activity, such as brushing your teeth. Or perhaps establish your dosage habit before or after a specific meal each day. Or perhaps another healthful habit, such as drinking glasses of water at certain times of the day, can be linked with medication dosages.
  • Team up with your significant other or someone else who takes medications. Keep track together and help each other.
  • Simply find what works for you. Perhaps that means placing X’s on the calendar in the kitchen and bypassing all electronic options. Finding a method that works is so important to stay on track, especially with multiple prescriptions with various dosage intervals.

Find the right balance

Staying on track can help to better assess how well a medication is working and help the physician gain a clear sense of any adjustments that need to be made. And it’s a good idea to write notes about how you feel along the way to share with your physician. If the cost of a medication is a barrier, please talk to your doctor and ask if there are generic options or other approaches to consider.

Sometimes medication and therapy go together in the mental health treatments we provide, so we strongly support consumers finding the best way to succeed in taking medication as directed. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, we are glad to consult with you. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.