Postpartum Depression and Suicide in New Mothers

Although being a new mother can be a wonderful experience, it can also be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. In some cases, the stresses associated with motherhood, and other factors, can cause a woman to experience what is known as postpartum depression (PPD). Also called postnatal depression, this is a serious mental health condition that can lead a mother to attempt or complete suicide. Consequently, it’s important that mothers and those around them understand what PPD is, and if they observe signs of it, seek help, including suicide prevention assistance if necessary.

Causes of Postpartum Depression

There is no one cause of PPD. Experts believe it results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. New mothers tend to experience a number of physical challenges ranging from pain and discomfort produced by the birthing process to dealing with intense sleep deprivation. The result tends to be exhaustion, which can be a contributor to PPD. Hormones are believed to play a role in the condition as well. Following childbirth, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly. This results in chemical changes in the brain that can produce mood swings.

While PPD is not fully understood, there are identified risk factors, including:

  • Symptoms of depression in the past, whether associated with childbirth or not
  • Depression or mental illness in other family members
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Troubling life events during pregnancy or soon after giving birth (e.g., domestic violence, personal illness, death of a loved one, relocation, job loss)
  • Difficult or premature delivery
  • Health problems with the baby
  • Lack of assistance and/or emotional support in caring for the baby
  • Uncertainty about being a parent (whether the pregnancy was planned or not)
  • But, one thing is clear: PPD does not result from anything a woman does or fails to do.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression should not be confused with the “baby blues,” which affect up to 80 percent of new mothers and leave them feeling tired and sad. Baby blues involve mild symptoms and resolve in a week or two. PPD is a serious mental illness that the National Institute of Mental Health describes as having these symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious
  • Feeling moody, irritable or restless
  • Oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking about harming herself or her baby
  • PPD typically develops between a week and a month after delivery, and only a healthcare professional can diagnose it. So, it is important that new mothers or their loved ones seek help if the condition is suspected. And, as with any form of depression, it is critical that family members and healthcare providers take suicide prevention steps if needed.

Treating PPD

Postpartum depression can be treated with different forms of counseling (also called talk therapy) including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). It can also be addressed with antidepressant medication. And, the two types of treatment can be used together. A woman’s healthcare provider determines the proper approach based on her individual situation.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

Too often women feel pressured by the expectation that motherhood will be a “joyous” experience and consequently don’t feel comfortable taking action when symptoms of postpartum depression appear. The fact is, PPD is common and very treatable. If you or someone you know is experiencing it, seek help promptly. And if you feel the urge to harm yourself or your baby, call 911 or a suicide prevention hotline like the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255) immediately. You will receive caring, compassionate support and assistance. If you have a non-urgent desire to talk with someone about how you are feeling after childbirth, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Social anxiety versus the holiday season

While so-called party people revel during the holidays, others with social anxiety can find it intimidating.

Social anxiety disorder is the dread of any situation where public scrutiny may occur, usually with the fear of behaving in a way that is embarrassing or humiliating, according to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) manual used to teach MHFA courses in the Adams County community.

The MHFA manual further notes that this type of phobia typically develops in shy children as they move into adolescence. Feared situations may include speaking or eating in public, dating and social events. Anxiety disorders are typical in those who have a more sensitive emotional nature in childhood, abuse alcohol or have had a traumatic experience.

As we mentioned in previous blogs it is important for those who live with depression and anxiety to plan ahead by thinking about the triggers that may cause anxiety and take preventative actions.

This tack can work for other phobias, such as agoraphobia, which involves avoidance of situations where a panic attack may be triggered, or for phobias considered slightly less disabling, such as fear of enclosed spaces.

With social anxiety, oftentimes one of the best courses of action is to plan a specific time for departure at holiday events, and then stick to it.

Perhaps two hours at an unnerving social gathering is manageable. However, as the evening progresses into three and four hours, the prolonged exposure can take its toll – especially coupled with drinking alcohol and eating sugary and salty festive food.

You may want to consider informing the party host you are leaving at such and such a time. This gives the host a chance to be a good host, gaining notice to share whatever they would like to share and make time to converse. And with notice, the departure may not seem so abrupt. This can be truly a positive approach because hosts by-in-large aim to please. Taking time to find that middle ground can make the holiday season better for everyone.

What else can you do about a social phobia?

There are a variety of natural ways to address anxiety in general, such as exercising and meditation, which can fall by the wayside during the holidays. It is so key to carve out downtime. Also please consider these natural activities as a first line of defense.

And if you seek professional help, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another therapeutic practice that in very general terms involves challenging negative thoughts and rationalizing them. You may want to visit a mental health center and learn more about this approach.

At Community Reach Center, we provide an array of mental health services, so please do not hesitate to call us with your questions. We also provide family counseling among a continuum of services. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How does what we wear make us feel?

Can what we wear impact our mental health? Let’s take a look.

As parents, we instinctively make sure our children are comfortable. In the winter that means making sure they are warm when they go outside. In turn, we try to make sure the clothes are not too warm when inside – or itchy or tight or too loose or made of a fabric to which the child is allergic.

When clothes worn day after day cause discomfort or stress, it stands to reason that that’s not good for mental health. And as children grow up we know they need clothes that help them to “fit in.”

So we’ll go with yes, dress matters. Be smart, read the school newsletters, listen to the children and look for dressing tips all the time.

Various sources note that people feel better when they wear the right clothes, and they may think more clearly as well. Here are some examples:

+ In research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the benefits of dressing like a doctor were shown as subjects made half as many mistakes on attention-demanding tasks when wearing a white lab coat.

+ In a study discussed in a Social and Psychological Science paper, people wearing business attire increased abstract thinking, which is an important aspect of strategizing.

+ In a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, male subjects who dressed up obtained more profitable deals than two other dressed-down control groups.

Looking at choices in another way, for a book titled “Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion,” by Karen Pine, students were required to put on Superman T-shirts so the professor could assess whether it made them feel more heroic. She found wearing the T-shirt boosted their impressions of themselves and made them believe they were physically stronger than the other control groups – and more likeable.

Clothing and many, many things in the world around us impact our mental health. If you need to talk with someone about your mental and emotional health through the holidays or anytime, don’t hesitate to call us. Visit online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

A Proven Strategy for Staying Grounded: Journaling to Minimize Anxiety

On any given day, you likely experience success but also make some mistakes. That’s part of being human. However, it’s easy to focus on places where you did something incorrectly and let that have a lasting effect on your outlook, which can promote or amplify unhappiness and anxiety. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques that can be used to override our natural tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing how and why we have fallen short of our expectations.

Documenting Your Day to Maintain a Realistic Perspective

Taking a few minutes each day to make a written record of the things that have gone well and those that have not can help you be more balanced in your evaluation of yourself. Specifically, journaling can help you:

  • Understand yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you experience tension and anxiety? Stopping to think about that on a daily basis can ensure you have a firm grasp on what is driving your feelings and your behavior so that you can make changes if needed.
  • Lower your stress level. Describing what is stressing you doesn’t immediately fix the problem, but it does help you release your feelings, which can allow you to be more relaxed and more focused on the “here and now.”
  • Explore solutions to interpersonal problems. The emotions that arise when you are in the presence of someone with whom you are having relationship challenges can make it difficult to see how the problem can be resolved. Writing about what you are feeling and also what the other person might be feeling (and why) can help you perceive a better path forward.
  • See how an issue has evolved. Looking back at past journal entries can allow you to realize that an issue that caused you great stress months ago is less stressful (or completely gone) today. If the reverse is true, reviewing the “paper trail” for an issue can provide insight on a better approach to resolving it.
  • Use the other side of your brain. Writing is an activity that can help you switch from the left-brained (analytical) approach to problem solving that we tend to use to right-brained (creative and intuitive) thinking.

To get started with a journaling practice, simply set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to create an entry about what you have been thinking, feeling and experiencing. You can jot down random, unrelated thoughts or create an entry on a particular theme (love, anger, frustration etc.). And, it’s best to write quickly, with no concern about spelling and grammar so your internal “censor” doesn’t have time to make you question what you’ve put down.

Staying Centered is the Key to Emotional Wellbeing

Coming to the realization that your efforts on any particular day are, on balance, rarely at one end of the succeed/fail spectrum but more often somewhere in the middle can keep you from focusing too much on your mistakes. Putting your thoughts on paper is a great way to achieve that realization. Another effective way to address your anxiety is to talk with a counselor. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Strategies for Managing Anxiety Caused by Holiday Spending

It’s the most wonderful time of year, or is it? The pressure around the holidays to spend money on gifts, host get-togethers or carry out other perceived obligations can cause or exacerbate anxiety. But, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment of the season.

Tips for Keeping Your Seasonal Stress Level Low

Rather than resigning yourself to the “inevitable” holiday overspending and accompanying stress and anxiety, use some or all of these strategies to take charge of your actions and your outlook:

  • Focus on your physical health first. What does your health have to do with your finances? The holidays are busy times packed with events that often include delicious but unhealthy dishes. We tend to consume much more sugar and alcohol at this time of year. What’s more, your packed agenda may mean you choose to skip your workout occasionally or entirely until after the first of the year. As a result, your body isn’t as well-fueled or fit. And when our energy level drops, it’s easy for our stress level to rise. Be sure to eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep during the holidays.
  • Set a budget for every person on your gift list. Heading to the store or getting online with no parameters around what you’ll spend on a particular person is a recipe for overspending. Choose an amount in advance and stick to it. If you have a chance to go window shopping with your loved ones, this can be a good way to get gift ideas and discuss how much you are willing to spend, which helps to manage expectations. Window shopping is a little bit of an old-fashioned activity in our digital world, but the keep-moving combination of walking, talking, looking, chatting and laughing can be a stress reducer. Go soon, before the pressure builds.  
  • Do your research. Before making a purchase, do some checking to see if it can be found at another store for less, if there is a coupon that will reduce the price, etc. Not only will you save money, the feeling of being more in control of how much you spend is empowering. Shopping online provides a convenient way to compare products and read reviews. Having items delivered to your home can reduce the stress of holiday traffic as well.
  • Remind yourself frequently of the reason you are celebrating. Gift giving (and receiving) is fun, but the real joy of the season comes from our interactions with friends, family and even strangers on the street. You know this, and your gift recipients know it as well. Be confident in giving gifts of whatever amount you feel comfortable with.
  • Plan a one-day shopping blitz. For many people, repeated trips to the mall elevate their stress level. Always shop from a list, and if you can, plan a day when you can go from top to bottom in one outing.
  • Pay with cash. Whenever you can pay for holiday expenses with cash. Large credit card bills that come due in January are an unwelcome second serving of holiday stress and anxiety.
  • Don’t procrastinate. If shopping causes you stress, it’s easy to find reasons to put it off. Unfortunately, that delay tends to lead to even greater stress as your gift-giving deadline approaches. Make your list, do your shopping, and then sit back and truly enjoy the season.

One More Stress-Reduction Strategy

By using the tips above, you can better manage your holiday-induced financial anxiety. However, if you need to talk with someone about your mental and emotional health at the holidays or anytime, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Utilizing our services is another strategy for helping to make the holidays merrier. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Wellness and Pet Care Go Side By Side

Health Literacy Month is a good time to tackle medical terms and concepts, which we have covered in recent blogs. And it is also a time to think about healthy habits. The common activity of caring for a pet can play directly into good health. This blog from Scientific American points out having a pet increases interaction with family and community, helps to encourage routines and often provides regular exercise – all good for mental health. The article notes that pet owners describe receiving what psychologists call “social support” from those that they meet while caring for their pets, a type of interaction that often breaks the surface and can involve sharing a concern or advice. 

To learn more about Community Reach Center services, contact us at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Word by word: Learning about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Health Literacy Month provides an opportunity to focus on health information within the context of terminology. It’s important. Having an accurate idea about what a mental health word or concept means is key whether you are helping someone else or helping yourself. And why is mental health treatment so important? Because statistics tell us that left untreated, the person experiencing a mental illness will quite often get worse and even suffer a shortened lifespan.
We have introduced other terms during the month, so for this blog, let’s just take one item. How about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? That is quite a mouthful – 11 syllables – but in some ways the practice is not so complex.
A very short definition is: when someone considers their thoughts and reactions, and “changes the way” they think. In fact, a clinician could be considered a bit of a “coach” in the aid of a consumer on a journey.
The Mayo Clinic has a longer, excellent definition that reads:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
In Mental Health First Aid courses provided by Community Reach Center, we share a cartoon that shows numerous perspectives several people at a bus stop can have when a bus is late. It ranges from a child who is happy to be late for school to an adult quite unhappy about being late for work. The cartoon illustrates how differently the eventualities of life are viewed by each individual.
The MHFA course notes that CBT has strong effectiveness that includes:
• Education about self-managing anxiety.
• Problem solving where the person and the clinician work to identify problems and design solutions.
• Exposure response therapy to feared situations to overcome avoidance behavior.
• Focusing on identifying automatic negative thoughts and considering alternative ways of thinking.
• Emotion regulation through relaxation and learning detachment from strong anxiety.
• Social skills development to use in anxiety-provoking situations.
• And a relapse prevention plan for coping with anxiety if it returns.
A person can undertake a CBT program in a number of ways - including self-help books. The National Council for Behavioral Health is a good place to begin research at www.TheNationalCouncil.org. 
To learn more about Community Reach Center services, contact us at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Tips for Talking with a Loved One About Depression, Anxiety or other Mental Illness

Starting a conversation with a loved one who you believe needs treatment for a health condition can be challenging. When that condition involves mental health illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, it can be especially difficult. While people generally wouldn’t object if you encourage them to better manage an illness like diabetes, their reaction may be different if you try to talk with them about mental illness.

In the Mental Health First Aid program,  we encourage people to be gentle and patient when talking with a loved one. Often it takes time for a person to realize to seek help and make some changes that will be better for them and those around them in the long run. If you give them some time to process your conversation before talking with them again, it’s much more likely that they will be receptive to the idea.

How to Break the Ice

One of the most effective ways to start a conversation with a family member or friend about mental health treatment for conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and others is to ask questions. Here are some examples:

  • I’m concerned about you. Can we talk about what you are going through? And if you prefer not to talk with me, who would you be most comfortable talking with?
  • I want you to know that I care about you and will always listen if there are life challenges you are struggling with and want to discuss. Are there things you want to talk about now?
  • Can I help start a conversation with your friend/parents/significant other etc. about what you’re going through right now?
  • I’m asking because I care about you, and, have you thought about harming yourself? (which is a question to ask if you suspect a person is considering suicide.)
  • For most problems that we face, there are people, often called peers, who have gone through the same thing. Can I help you find someone who can share their experience with mental illness?

Of course, listening attentively as the person answers your question is critical, as is following through if they take you up on your offer to help connect them with mental health resources.

Key Considerations as the Conversation Takes Place

There are a number of things to keep in mind about talking with a person who you suspect may need mental health treatment. For example, it’s helpful to do some research in advance regarding how and where they can get treatment in case they ask. Also, you should initiate the conversation at a time and place that the person feels that they can open up to you.

As you talk with them, be sure to discuss the issue in a way that is age appropriate. Throughout the conversation, you should look for cues that may indicate they are struggling to understand you. If so, slow down or repeat things as needed. And, you should have a plan for what you will do if they volunteer that they have had suicidal thoughts, including transporting them to an emergency room or other appropriate care provider or calling 911 if you feel that a harmful action is imminent.

You are Doing the Right Thing

If you feel that someone is suffering from depression, anxiety or any form of mental illness, your willingness to talk with them about it may be just the encouragement they need to seek help. Don’t hesitate to start the conversation. To learn more about our services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

October is Health Literacy Month

In order to properly manage our physical and mental health, it is critical that we are able to communicate effectively about related issues. For example, it’s important that you and your doctor understand that you are talking about the same condition when one of you uses the term “anxiety” and the other says “stressed out.” That is the idea behind Health Literacy Month. Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, who is an occupational therapist, educator and author. This annual, worldwide event raises awareness about the importance of being knowledgeable in the language of health and wellness.

Health Literacy Month is often recognized with educational programs for students, wellness programs for patients, workshops for professionals and other events put on by government agencies, colleges, community service groups, health literacy coalitions and healthcare organizations. “Be a Health Literacy Hero” is the theme for Health Literacy Month. It’s meant to recognize and celebrate the efforts of people who are furthering the cause of health communication. This involves both identifying problems in this area and taking steps to resolve them. If you know a Health Literacy Hero, we encourage you to thank them for their efforts.

Five Key Health Terms

There are, of course, hundreds of physical and mental health terms that everyone should be aware of. But, in honor of Health Literacy Month, here are five examples:

1) Resting heart rate - This is how many times per minute your heart beats when you are at rest. The healthier your heart is, the more efficiently it moves blood through your body and the fewer times per minute it has to beat. A healthy resting heart rate for adults is 68 - 80 beats per minute.

2) Anxiety disorder - Anxiety is the feeling of excessive nervousness or worry, often described as feeling “stressed out.” While anxiety is a normal part of life, repeated bouts of intense worry may be an indicator of an anxiety disorder.

3) Blood pressure - This is the force with which your heart moves blood through your body. When your blood pressure is too high, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and other problems. If your blood pressure is too low, you may lose consciousness. A healthy blood pressure for adults is 120/80 mmHg, the two numbers representing the pressure as your heart beats and relaxes respectively.

4) Major depressive disorder - Also known as depression, this condition is marked by ongoing feelings of severe sadness and despondency. It can lead to many emotional and physical problems.

5) Psychotherapy - Also referred to as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves a trained mental health professional helping a patient resolve mental and emotional issues through communication, as opposed to using medication.

Knowledge is Power

Whether you are anxious and stressed out, depressed, in need of marriage counseling or suffering from insomnia, the more you know about your condition and the more clearly you are able to express yourself to your caregiver, the more efficient and effective your treatment will be. If you are in need of our services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Understanding the nature of suicide

(Brought to you by the Community Reach Center Suicide Prevention Committee)

As we wrap up Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we want to help increase awareness around myths of suicide. We know that when it comes to the complexities of mental health, there is more than meets the eye.

So as we care for those around us, it is important to be mindful of changes in behavior and to become well educated about warning signs.

Here is a partial list of some myths, as well as a few of links to more information:

Myths of suicide

  • Suicides peak during holidays.
  • Adolescents are at the highest risk.
  • Depression is always the cause of suicide.
  • Suicide is more common than in the past.
  • Few people call hotlines.
  • Asking about suicide puts the idea in the mind.
  • Talk of suicide is attention seeking.

More details on commonly held incorrect beliefs about suicide

http://suicideprevention.nv.gov/Youth/Myths/

Six myths vs. six facts

http://www.suicidology.org/resources/myth-fact

 

Populations at higher risk for suicide

(According to  National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare)

 

White males age 65-plus

 

3 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

Veterans/military

2 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

Alaskan natives/American Indians

2 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

LGBTQIA+ youth

2 to 3 times more at-risk than general population

Individuals with serious mental illness

6 to 12 times more at-risk than general population

 

If you or someone you know needs support, please don’t hesitate to:

  • Ask a family member or friend for help.
  • Call your doctor’s office.
  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the nearest crisis center.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline – 1-844-493-TALK.

If you have concerns about suicide, depression or any other mental health questions, call Community Reach Center at 303-853-3500 to learn about our services. We have centers in the north Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.