Common Threads

Here we are at six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re still trying to manage so much uncertainty. Parents, whether your child has started school in-person, online or the hybrid model, just remember that nothing is easy for anyone right now. It can be especially difficult if you’re a parent struggling with anxiety, depression or other conditions that require medical intervention. If you are having difficulty, then your child might be exhibiting social, emotional and behavioral problems, too. When we are experiencing difficult emotional states, we may go into fight, flight or freeze mode. It’s our brain’s survival reaction to highly stressful situations. As a mental health consultant, I am recommending another option:  a “sit” response. It might look like “freeze,” but it includes staying with your or your child’s emotional state and feel the sadness right now, because it’s real.  

First, we will work on sitting while we unravel the complex knots that are creating immediate stress within your/our family circle. Here are some things to do at home with your child to alleviate some of the complicated stress affecting you and your child.  

  • Observe and read your own and your child’s social-emotional state. Adopt the “sit” response by slowing down your reaction to your child’s emotional cues and just sit with your child to quietly observe in the moment as you both self-regulate and calm.  
  • Reign in your “future thinking”, i.e. stop being the doomsday parent.  All the overthinking in the world won’t change that every child in every school all over the country is going through the same thing. Read here about how two kindergarten classrooms are handling their day.
  • Relax your expectations but do your best to maintain routines: Make the simple activities of daily living enjoyable: Check out this dad’s grooming ideas, and watch how to motivate young children to clean-up. Developmentally appropriate chores, or as I like to call them “contributions to the household” help build self-efficacy and respect.  

Now on to unraveling the bigger social connection threads as we seem to be stuck in crisis mode knots. Here are some images to sit with as you go out into the world each day. 

  • Find our common thread: Stress and anxiety were already a chronic problem pre-pandemic. So, one way to approach our new normal is to “normal”ize our fears. Thinking about the global pandemic as a common thread currently woven into everyone’s daily existence. Before you get angry at your child for a behavior that they don’t know how to control, look for that common thread and realize he/she is afraid just like you.  The same grace goes for your child’s teacher, the grocery store cashier, your partner or spouse. We’re all experiencing the same stress together, but in different ways and at unexpected times.  
  • Find your unique thread: Think about your own, and your child’s strengths. Are you calm and compassionate? Brave and resilient?  Spiritual and prayerful or meditative? Look for ways to weave your unique thread into daily life to lessen the fear that gives way to stress and anxiety.   
  • Accept the worn-out thread: This may be the news that seems to play on repeat, the person in our family we don’t agree with and who we think causes our stress and anxiety to escalate. You may ask, “Are you for real?  Shouldn’t we avoid or cut-off these people?” Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s go back to our common thread and practice radical acceptance. Holding on to that common thread that binds our humanity will help us to sit with the experience of empathy.   

Now, I didn’t provide any quick fix to the stress involved in the 2020 back-to-school dilemma, but the hope is to increase our ability to better manage the common stress we are all feeling - because our children are trying to make sense of it all too. Afterall, they’ve only been on this planet for a very short time.  

When anxiety, depression and other emotional states become too debilitating for you or your child, it might be time to connect with a Community Reach Center therapist.  

Rachel Rossi, MS, LPC is a school-based therapist with School District 27J in Brighton.

A Therapist's Thoughts on Suicide Prevention

Michael Driscoll, LPC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2020.  Ah, what a year.  It feels like Murphy’s Law has been in full force.  In the midst of a global pandemic of historical proportions, our nation has faced increasing political turmoil, competing ideologies locked in civil conflict, an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression and, of course, murder hornets.  As we do our best to get through these societal and environmental challenges, we must not lose sight that suicide remains the tenth leading cause of death in the United States - seventh in Colorado.  Given the recent and long-term problems faced by our country, this issue may be more prevalent than ever. 

Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss and often related to a mental health issue such as Major Depressive Disorder, unbearable mental anguish and pain.  Depression is a disease like any other.  It can occur with sudden rapid shifts in a person’s life or with a prolonged chronic health condition lasting months or years.  No one chooses to develop a disease, but we attempt to deal with it in the best ways we can.  Depression is no different. People with depression respond well to social connectedness and conversations supported by empathetic understanding.  Loneliness and isolation are common precursors to depression symptoms. 

In an article “The Social Cure” published in Scientific American, one study of some 1400 people indicated that loneliness was often a big predictor of depression, occurring in about one in four older adults.  On the flip side however, depression and anxiety plummeted the more social connectedness the person felt, such as engaging in multiple group activities.  Even better, it didn’t matter what kind of groups the person was involved in … could be sports, birdwatching, painting, behavioral health groups, or just about anything.  The more groups and social connectedness, the better the participants felt.  This speaks strongly to the power of social connection and its healing impact on depression, loneliness, and suicidal thinking.

We need to talk

As friends, co-workers, family-members and as a community, we need to start having weekly, if not daily, conversations with each other about suicide if we are ever to move the needle on suicide prevention and intervention.  We must break through the stigma and discomfort of discussing this topic with others.  The journey out of suicidal thinking can be greatly assisted by a caring person or a group of acquaintances.  Offering a gentle, non-judgmental curiosity to the conversation, as well as just thirty minutes of empathetic listening, can go a long way.  It’s okay to ask even when there is no indication of suicidal thoughts, because contrary to common opinion, asking will not place the idea in their head and will open the door to future conversations.  Starting the conversation is easier than you think.

Try to remain relatively quiet, calm, and non-judgmental for approximately ten minutes, only repeating back what you heard them say in your own words.  Do this several times to help convey that you understand.  It’s critical for the person to feel heard, understood, and validated, as this provides a release for them.  Recommend contact with their therapist, family/friends, or crisis services if indicated, and identify two coping skills they can use to calm down and wait out the ideations, as suicidal thoughts are time limited and usually pass.  Help them to identify their reasons for living, and who would be impacted by their death.  Call 911 or drive them to your nearest behavioral health crisis location if they cannot be safe on their own.  You might not be able to change their mind, and remember the decision is ultimately not yours.  A person must decide to help themselves in a moment of crisis. 

We need to listen

As the listener, reactions to suicidal discussions can feel overwhelming, anxiety producing, and difficult to sit with.  The best advice that I can give is to remain calm and take deep breaths, signaling that it is okay to talk about this subject.  Becoming comfortable with this subject will take time and practice.  Understand there is a significant difference between suicidal thoughts and imminent risk.  If we can help them identify their coping skills for triggers and occurrences of suicidal thoughts, then they take a step toward early intervention, resiliency building and resources at their disposal as well as strengthen their crisis prevention skills for imminent risk.  Finally, as a helper, please do not make the mistake of taking responsibility for someone else’s decision.  Ultimately the individual must make a choice.  Outcomes will vary in all situations. 

Thankfully, around ninety-five percent of suicide survivors report later in life they are glad they lived and that someone was there to listen to them and provide support when it was needed.  They remembered they are never truly alone if they ask for help.  Most survivors have common themes in describing their experience, whether they were interrupted by other persons or lived through the experience, and that is they are incredibly grateful for their connection with another human being during their darkest moments.  Many in this state of mind wished that a stranger on the street had asked them how they were doing.  The innate human need and desire for social connection is powerful - equally incredibly healing and potentially very damaging.  One human connection at the right moment in space and time can alter the life path of an individual forever.  How will you choose to act in that moment?

Finally, many of the previously mentioned issues can generate huge disruptions to people’s lives, creating shifting circumstances suddenly and dramatically, so be on the lookout.  Sadly, suicide is never fully predictable, but the least we can do is ask and check in with our friends, family, and co-workers.  Hindsight provides us data regarding the precursors and indicators of suicidal behavior, so we know what to watch for in people.  Take a few moments right now to research the common symptoms of suicidal behavior, as it just might be that you are in the right place at the right time one day.  If someone you know has had a major life change recently, it doesn’t hurt to ask them how they are doing, and if recent changes have led to recent suicidal thoughts.  And plug 1-844-493-8255 (Colorado Crisis Services) into your phone.

Some resources:

www.NAMI.org  National Alliance on Mental Illness

https://coloradocrisisservices.org/   Colorado Crisis Services

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/    Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Denver based therapist Michael Driscoll is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor of Staff for the Thornton Outpatient Therapy team of Community Reach Center.  He has been working in the field of mental health for over 16 years, has been an outpatient therapist for more than 10 years and specializes in the treatment of PTSD, Major Depression, Bipolar and Schizophrenia disorders.  Michael is a certified EMDR therapist, a facilitator for Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR) trainings and is the lead for Community Reach Center’s Suicide Prevention Committee. 

 

Learn more about suicidal ideation

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. So, as we go into this time period, be ready to learn more about suicide starting with this information provided by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):  

Suicide Awareness

It can be frightening if someone you love talks about suicidal thoughts. It can be even more frightening if you find yourself thinking about dying or giving up on life. Not taking these kinds of thoughts seriously can have devastating outcomes, as suicide is a permanent solution to (often) temporary problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 30 percent since 1999. Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016 alone. Comments or thoughts about suicide — also known as suicidal ideation — can begin small like, “I wish I wasn’t here” or “Nothing matters.” But over time, they can become more explicit and dangerous.

Warning Signs

Here are a few other warning signs of suicide:

  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and community
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior

Suicidal behaviors are a psychiatric emergency. If you or a loved one starts to take any of these steps, seek immediate help from a health care provider or call 911:

  • Collecting and saving pills or buying a weapon
  • Giving away possessions
  • Tying up loose ends, like organizing personal papers or paying off debts
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

If you are unsure, a licensed mental health professional can help assess.

Risk Factors

Research has found that 46 percent of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Several other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:

  • A family history of suicide
  • Substance use. Drugs can create mental highs and lows that worsen suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. More than 1 in 3 people who die from suicide are under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
  • Access to firearms
  • A serious or chronic medical illness
  • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • A history of trauma or abuse
  • Prolonged stress
  • A recent tragedy or loss

Support in a Crisis

When a suicide-related crisis occurs, friends and family are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. The behaviors of a person experiencing a crisis can be unpredictable, changing dramatically without warning.

There are a few ways to approach a suicide-crisis:

  • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?”
  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?”
  • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
  • Express support and concern
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong
  • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace
  • Be patient

Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. Unlike other health emergencies, mental health crises don’t have instructions or resources on how to help or what to expect (like the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR). That’s why NAMI created Navigating a Mental Health Crisis: A NAMI Resource Guide for Those Experiencing a Mental Health Emergency, so people experiencing mental health emergencies and their loved ones can have the answers and information they need when they need it.

If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through. Make sure that you adopt an open and compassionate mindset when they’re talking. Instead of “arguing” or trying to disprove any negative statements they make (“Your life isn’t that bad!”), try active listening techniques such as reflecting their feelings and summarizing their thoughts. This can help your loved one feel heard and validated.

Let them know that mental health professionals are trained to help people understand their feelings and improve mental wellness and resiliency. Psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate their feelings and learn coping skills. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.

Always here for you

Thank you for reading this information from NAMI. If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

 

Mental health: How to tap into good online internet habits

Therapist Benjamin Dungan holds “Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids – and How to Break the Trance,” by Nicholas Kardaras. Sign up for his upcoming presentation on internet habits.

 

Online video screens are kind of like windows – as glass rectangles we look through to see the world outside. However, internet screens are not like windows overlooking calming vistas but are more like windows on a fast-moving train. The scenes can change from serene to jarring at a moment’s notice.

Furthermore, online viewers can engage in limitless information, activities and games. Sometimes the hours go by, the days go by, and the engagement becomes compulsive. This behavior is sometimes described as internet addiction.

While excessive internet use has not been recognized as a disorder by the World Health Organization or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), discussion of these conditions and use of the term Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) abounds. Many of us are faced with keeping our online habits in check.

 

Adding it up

So, just how much time do we spend online?

The Digital 2019 report by HootSuite and We Are Social reports consumers in the U.S. are online an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes each day.

Secondly, how much time is too much time?

The short answer is that it depends on how that time is being spent and how it relates to a person’s overall lifestyle balance. This where it gets extremely complicated because for the most part our sources for learning, work, entertainment and recreation are together in one place – on the internet.

 

Compulsivity and addiction

Compulsive behavior can be identified when someone is always looking forward to getting back online, as well as being online constantly. Being compulsive is not uncommon in various ways and can often be corrected with habit improvement efforts. 

With substance use disorders, addictive behaviors include a condition when a person gives up or significantly reduces social, occupational or recreational activities due of substance use. Likewise, it’s easy to see how this parallel to the word “addiction” can be made when a person’s lifestyle and responsibilities unravel due to an excessive amount of time spent on the internet.

 

Taking action

Setting limits is a key component to improving habits. As parents, this might involve technically limiting the capability of computers for children in the home or having the internet connection shut down at specified times. For adults, better habits simply involve a self-accountability effort.

To get a grip on level of use, it may help to:

  • Track the amount of time you are online.
  • Schedule the times of day when you are online and off.
  • Take a digital detox break now and then. Have a friend unplug with you.
  • Don’t use your smartphone when you are lying in bed.
  • Just “let go” in general. Release the urge to keep up with all email and posts instantaneously.

 

Join us for a webcast to learn more

Community Reach Therapist Benjamin Dungan will present “How to Develop Healthy Internet Habits,” online at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27. He will be be available to answer questions from viewers after the presentation. To sign up, please visit the Community Reach Center Facebook link or register to participate via Zoom.

Dungan will explore recent statistics, neurological impacts of internet use, physical and sleep impacts, mental health impacts and signs of problematic use. He will cover how to use internet technology in healthy ways, and he will provide sources to look to if you or a loved one needs to consider professional help. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has experience working with children and adults in a variety of therapy, hospital, community and school settings. He developed an interest in helping those with addictions such as substances, food and technology.

Remember the presentation is free. Please join us.

Always here for you

If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Older adults: How to navigate life transitions

Our lives go through several major transitions over time, including school, work, family life and more. Older adults encounter some impactful life transitions as well: Becoming empty-nesters, retirement, moving or downsizing, health changes, and personal loss are all common life transitions. Some easier to handle than others.

Life changes are sometimes difficult. This can be caused by our fears around change: fear of the loss of control, of losing our independence, fear that life won’t be the same and even a fear of the unknown. Fear of change is a top reason for the resistance to change. It might be helpful to know there are ways to better manage the transitions – even the difficult ones – by addressing these fears.

How to manage your fears

What can we do about fear? Experts tell us there are six ways to manage your fears.

  • You can embrace them, recognize that fear heightens your awareness and gets your adrenaline going.
  • You can take an immediate leap. One way to manage your fears is to just dive in and go for it.
  • Getting real: Remember that fear is rarely based in reality, it’s mostly made up of the stories we tell ourselves.
  • Another way is to cultivate acceptance. Accept that bumps and roadblocks are part of the journey and they will happen.
  • You can face your fear head on.
  • Lastly, remember that your fears aren’t really that scary.

Manage change

Another way to ease life transitions is by becoming better at managing change. How do you manage change? First, understand that if you initiated the change, it becomes a positive act, which can make it easier for you to adapt to the new environment. You might even look forward to the challenges and rewards that come from your change. However, if you’re the object of the change, and it is happening to you without your decision, your reaction may be less positive. You could be experiencing less control, more unknowns about the outcome.

So, you can better manage transitions by trying to anticipate changes and prepare for them, even for the ones like moving, or giving up driving, etc. Anticipating what might be coming and taking steps to prepare could include communicating with family members around what you want to happen, or planning for eventualities like transportation, downsizing, even how you might anticipate and plan for health changes or other major events.

Having the “survivor mindset” can also make you better at adapting to change. This includes having a deep sense of strength in self, taking stock, evaluating what you have and what you need to navigate through the transition. Committing to re-assess as you go will enable you  to adapt and adjust to situational events along the way. Survivors also admit to themselves and others that it isn’t easy, they communicate and ask for (and accept) help and support as needed. This is easier to do if you have support systems (friends, family, caregivers) already in place and active. Overall, preparing yourself for changes to come and communicating with friends and family can really improve your ability to manage changes, even ones that are difficult.

Focus on self-care

Another thing to keep in mind when dealing with change is to take good care of yourself. Keep up your normal routine as best you can, which includes getting adequate sleep and exercise, eating at regular times in normal amounts, and continuing everyday activities and appointments. Keep things simple, participate in activities you enjoy. Being gentle and kind with yourself as you experience the feelings and emotions that come up with adapting to change can really assist in getting through this time of transition. Take time for yourself, nurture your spirit.

Along with good self-care and being gentle with yourself, try to keep your expectations manageable: be realistic about what you can and cannot do. This is a time to pace yourself and organize your time. It might be helpful to make a list and prioritize activities that need to happen throughout the time of change.

Adapting to the changes

Here are three final tips for adapting to change:

  • Let go of the past. Find or create new ways to celebrate in your new environment. Start new traditions to honor things important to you, and mark successes in your transition with new celebrations.
  • Allow yourself to feel the feelings that come up for you along the way. Change isn’t always easy, and there might be times of sadness, loneliness and grieving the loss of the way things were. All these feelings are normal.
  • As you move through a transitional time, having a positive attitude is a way to better manage situations. A focus on what you do have, rather than what you don’t have is a positive way to adapt and manage change, even the changes you didn’t choose yourself.

The only constant in life really is change. As your life transitions, know that your attitude is the key to making a difficult transition more manageable.

Some good reading

Here are a few books on life transitions:

“Making Sense of Life’s Changes” by William Bridges

Pivot: The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life” by Adam Markel

“The New Old Me,” by Meredith Maran

“Third Calling,” by Dr. Richard Bergstrom and Leona Bergstrom

Here for you

If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Our experts

This column is written by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

 

Fathers and mental health measures

Father’s Day is a great reminder of the importance of a mentally healthy dad. A father who makes his mental health a priority is more present with his children, happier at home and a more supportive partner.

Many dads can struggle with mental health issues like depression. The mood disorder can appear with the birth of a new child or emerge later in life. Fortunately, depression is treatable. With the proper help and support, dads can find even more enjoyment in parenting while learning to cope with their feelings of depression or even anxiety.

Statistics

According to a study published in 2015, two in five new dads reported concern about their mental health. Lack of sleep, changes in relationships and lifestyle, and new responsibilities were most often the cause. With ample opportunities for mothers to seek help for mental health issues postpartum, men are sometimes left with fewer resources. Stigma also can be a factor, preventing many men from speaking up and seeking help.

When a dad’s mental illness is untreated, the whole family can suffer. If a man is concerned that he may be struggling with depression, it is important for him to talk about it with his partner and doctor.

Take steps

Acknowledging that there is a problem is a crucial first step. Exercise, eating well, and taking a little time to pursue a hobby can also be helpful. Therapy and medication may be necessary. Finding an effective treatment that works for each person is important.

As a dad’s health improves, so will the health of the family. Dads who are more in tune with their own feelings can help their children do the same. Research shows that when fathers are able to handle their emotions, children have improved social skills and emotional intelligence.

A healthy relationship between the father and child is important too. A study at the University of Maryland School of Medicine concluded that children with fathers actively engaged in their lives learn better, have higher self-esteem, and are less prone to depression than those who don’t.

Take time to acknowledge the dads in your life and be on the watch for any symptoms of depression. Remember a healthy dad helps to make a healthy family.

Here for you

If you want to speak to someone about mental health, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Our experts

This column is written by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

 

 

Manage information overload, minimize stress

The news stream has been a 24/7 stream of updates and information about the COVID-19 pandemic and more recently updates on protests following the death of George Floyd. If all this information has you feeling overwhelmed, depressed, unable to focus, helpless or fearful, please know you’re not alone.

So, how can we be more intentional with managing all that information and the stress and anxiety it may be creating in our day?

Here’s a five-step plan that might help you better manage the information overload.

Step by step

First, identify the sources. How are you receiving information and news throughout the day, by radio, TV news, social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.,) or from friends and family? Take an inventory of how many ways you are exposed to news and information.

Secondly, start filtering the information you’re receiving. What news outlets do you find a best fit for you? Do you prefer to listen to news on the radio, or a podcast, or is it better for you to watch a local or national news station? Is social media helping or hindering your feelings about information overload?

Some people avoid watching the news because the graphics and videos can be startling and prefer to read an article or just listen to a newscast. Here is a good link from Forbes that is one way to choose news sources. Take time to decide the best format and sources that give you the information you need to make good decisions without becoming overwhelmed or overloaded.

Habits and actions

Next, set up a scheduled time to review information. Perhaps you only watch the news at lunch, follow social media for an hour each morning or listen to newscasts before dinner. Creating some structure on how and when you access information updates can help you stay well informed without the news taking over your entire day.

Pay attention to how you feel after that scheduled time. Was it too much, or are you wanting more information? Adjust until you reach a balance that works for you.

When accessing news information, the next step is to decide whether to act on it. This step can really help with feelings of being overwhelmed. When you are watching the news or reading a news article that has a call-to-action (donate to a food bank, for example) decide in that moment to act on it or not. Then let it go. Perhaps you read an article about connecting with family during this time of social distancing. Take action on it right away, call the friend or family member on your mind. This action can help you feel a little more in control in this unsettling time.

Set your boundaries

Lastly, turn it off. Try to not take in news first thing in the morning or the last thing before bed. Give yourself some space to start and end the day without the bombardment of local, national, and world news that can be emotionally upsetting.

Columnist David Brooks in a column titled, “The Stem and the Flower,” warned of spending too much time consuming politics in particular and wrote, “I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun.”

In other words, be informed about matters of importance, but don’t let the news cycle take over your day. Set your limits and see how this improves your overall well-being.

We are here for you

Of course, some people are more adept at dealing with information overload than others, but if you have been struggling, you can improve how you deal with it. If you want to speak to someone about the feelings you are experiencing, please reach out to us at Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call the free Warm Line at 303-280-6602.. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. Call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.

Our experts

This column is written by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders.
As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

Ring in Mother's Day with gratitude for care

Anyone know what day of the year sees more phone traffic than any other?

That’s right, Mother’s Day, which this year falls on Sunday, May 10, in the United States. Phone calls typically rise by as much as 37 percent, as dutiful sons and daughters across the country get on the phone to convey something of the gratitude, love, and appreciation they feel for the person who brought them into the world.

There is a reason we celebrate Mother’s Day in May. This special day has its origins in the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” Celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, this was a time for the faithful to come home and attend a special service at the “mother church” in the town where they were raised.

In our country

The Mother’s Day we observe in the United States grew out of Mothering Sunday. It was the special project of a woman from West Virginia who had lost her own mother a few years before.

In May of 1908, Anna Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of the month to recognize the many sacrifices mothers make for their children.

For years, she campaigned to make it an official holiday and in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

Placing the apostrophe

A frequently overlooked fact about Mother’s Day is the apostrophe placement. If all mothers are honored on this day, why not write it plural, Mothers’ Day?

Anna Jarvis made a specific point of naming it with the singular Mother’s in order “for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” That makes sense.

It is not the idea of motherhood that we honor on Mother’s Day, but the actual moms who played such an important role in the upbringing and care of each of us.

Moms and mental health

It is perhaps a fitting coincidence that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which was started in the United States in 1949 by the Mental Health America organization (then known as the National Association for Mental Health). Parenting has become more of a team effort through the years, but mothers are often the primary caregivers, and nothing needs caring like the appearance of a mental health problem in someone you love. At Community Reach Center, we very much appreciate the roles mothers play in good mental health practices, such as self-care and seeking assistance when needed. 

This coming Sunday I will be honoring my own mother, Rose, as well as Christine, the mother of my son and my lovely wife of 25 years. And especially for this year we would like to declare this Sunday “Mothers’ Day” (notice the placement of the apostrophe) in honor of all moms and female caregivers.

Let’s take it upon ourselves to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and social distancing and find a way to express appreciation on Mother’s Day – even if it’s just on the phone, in a card or a drive-by wave while throwing kisses.

Thank you for your caring, and Happy Mothers’ Day to all of you!

Here for you

This column was contributed by Program Manager James Kuemmerle with assistance by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours.

To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.

Maintaining recovery through COVID-19

In the treatment community, it’s said that social isolation is addiction’s worst enemy. Those struggling with substance use disorder may be at heightened risk for relapse during Colorado’s stay-at-home order that has closed gyms, recreation centers, libraries and other facilities that many rely upon as healthy social outlets to safeguard their sobriety.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has provided a steady stream of memes about people soothing their fear and anxiety with alcohol, intending to lighten our mood. No one would argue that we could not all use a lift right now.  However, for people in recovery – particularly those early in their recovery journey – the message could be perceived as a hall pass to use during this unprecedented period, like a “loophole” in the 12-steps. 

Balance

Maintaining healthy life balance is a no-brainer. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing right now. A disciplined balance between work and social activities, between online entertainment and physical exercise, between healthy food and treats. We know. The state’s stay-at-home order has knocked the guide rails off our daily routines, altering the rhythm of our weekly schedules and making life balance difficult. Difficult but doable.

It’s time to be intentional about what we eat, when we move our bodies, how frequently we connect with friends and family, when we go to bed and when we wake up. Tapping into available resources designed to support recovery, coupled with intentional self-care strategies, will help people to maintain recovery during this trying time.

Resources

With some willingness to try an untried strategy, there’s a wide range of resources readily available to support anyone seeking sobriety. Online Intergroup offers virtual AA meetings in more than a dozen languages. Take advantage of this extra time to shop around for good podcasts focused on supporting sobriety, like The Bubble Hour and The ODATT Chat Podcast. Search for free guided workouts on YouTube – there’s a zillion of them. 

Here for you

Community Reach Center’s Behavioral Health Urgent Care is open 24/7 for anyone who is concerned about having a relapse and wants to talk to a therapist immediately. No appointment is necessary. Walk-in services continue to be provided at Community Reach Center locations in Thornton and Brighton for new clients. Visit www.CommunityReachCenter.org for more information or call 303-853-3500.

At Community Reach Center, we believe that no one should be defined by a diagnosis, and no one should be judged for their struggle. We’ve got you.

Listening is key to helping others with grief

Life-changing events can happen at any age. This includes things such as the death of a loved one, newly diagnosed health problems and job loss. As people age, these events become more common.
Grief is a normal, healthy response to loss. Over time it can take a toll on emotional and mental health. It can even lead to depression. If you’re a caregiver or if you spend time with an older adult, you can expand your capacity to support them by helping your loved one cope with loss.

Path to improved well being

Understand the grieving process:
• There are common physical and emotional symptoms of grief. The grief and loss process is different for everyone. There is no “right” way to grieve. Each loss is different, too. Allow your loved one the time and space to grieve his or her own way.
• Listening is the most important thing you can do for a loved one. If you don’t know what to say, just listening to them makes a big impact. Your loved one may need to express his or her feelings. The daily act of processing loss can be overwhelming. Small tasks may seem exhausting. That‘s why an offer to help makes such an important difference. Don’t wait for your loved one to ask for help. Offer to do things like make dinner, pick up groceries or a prescription, do laundry or clean.

Things to consider

The symptoms of grief and the symptoms of depression are similar. It’s normal for a person to feel sad after a loss. That is temporary. Your loved one may be depressed if:
• He or she doesn’t feel better as time passes.
• His or her emotions get in the way of daily life.
• He or she no longer takes pleasure in the things they used to love doing.
• He or she mentions or has thoughts of suicide.
What you can do to help a loved one who has depression:
• Don’t be afraid to remember the person who passed in fond conversations. This may help your loved one feel less alone.
• Avoid saying “I know how you feel” or he or she is “in a better place.” This minimizes your loved one’s feelings. Instead, say things like, “I know this must be difficult,” or “You don’t have to be so strong.” This helps draw out your loved one’s feelings.
• Just sit with your loved one. This can be comforting, even if he or she doesn’t want to talk.
If you notice any of these signs, you can contact the Senior Reach program for assistance. Therapists on the team can help treat the depression so your loved one can start to feel better.

Here for you

This column was contributed by Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center. It is important for people experiencing mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. The Senior Reach provides treatment for depression and trauma, as well as many other mental disorders. Please don’t hesitate to seek assistance.

Around the clock

Also, remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield. As always, we are here to enhance the health of our community. Mental wellness for everyone is our goal.