A look at suicidal tendencies and how to help

The signs and symptoms of suicide risk are well documented, so it is important to take the time to know what to watch for and how to help. You could be the helpful friend or family member that aids and encourages someone to connect with needed professional services.

Common factors

People face different challenges at different times of their lives, and according to the Mental Health First Aid manual some common factors associated with someone being suicidal are:

  • Mental illness: People who are depressed are more likely to die by suicide. Depressive symptoms contribute to risk of suicide as the person may feel overwhelmed and helpless.
  • Suicide risk is increased by alcohol or drug use - and in some cases, a combination of both.
  • Certain age groups are more at-risk, typically adolescents and older adults.
  • Males kill themselves more often than females although females attempt suicide three times as often.
  • Lack of social support. For example, not having a spouse is a risk factor for males.
  • The fact that other family members or significant persons have taken their lives by suicide.

Of the suicide risk assessments related to: gender, age, chronic physical illness, mental illness, use of alcohol and other substances, less social support, previous attempt and organized plan, it so happens that previous attempt and having an organized plan are the most significant factors. Having a plan means discussing specifically how someone might take his or her life.

What to watch for

A variety or warning signs of suicide are evident. They include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself
  • Seeking access to means
  • Talking, writing or posting on social media about death dying or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling worthless or a lack of purpose
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from family friends or society
  • Demonstrating rage and anger or seeking revenge
  • Appearing agitated
  • Having a dramatic change in mood

Please keep in mind that some of these warning signs alone may not be related to suicidal ideation but fall under the context of life’s general pressures or what teens sometimes experience in the process of growing up. The Mental Health First Aid courses outline how to help and provides several exercises to teach skills in reaching out. One key point is to let the person know you are concerned and willing to help. Secondly, if a person has a plan and is a high risk for suicide, it is most important to stay with that individual until professional help arrives.

Learning opportunities

Mental Health First Aid courses are provided through Community Reach Center. Please register at Community Reach Center. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructs people how to identify, understand and respond to others experiencing a behavioral health crisis. This 8-hour class teaches recognition of risk factors and warning signs and how to provide basic, appropriate interventions for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is a two-day workshop that prepares caregivers to provide suicide life-assisting, first-aid intervention. Anyone 16 years and older are welcome to attend. Also, safeTALK is a three-hour training program that prepares helpers to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first-aid resources. To register for ASIST, visit Community Reach Center.  For safeTalk, training, visit Living Works.

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, we have a continuum of mental health services at Community Reach Center. To learn more about our services, visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Learn About the Role of Sleep in Mental Health

Man enjoying good sleepEvery year, researchers discover new links between sleep and health, and it's become apparent that sleep is something that everybody needs to take seriously. There are a number of health complications that can arise as a result of disturbed sleep, a lack of sleep, and a slew of other factors. At our mental health clinic, we emphasize that restful sleep is essential to good mental and emotional health. 

 

Physical and Mental Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

Everyone experiences occasional sleeplessness. However, people who fail to get seven to nine hours of sleep on a regular basis and consequently have an ongoing “sleep deficit” are at a higher risk for a number of medical problems including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Sleep difficulties can also cause or worsen mental and emotional health issues. This includes:

  • Decreased ability to think clearly
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased reaction time (which is especially problematic when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery)
  • Increased symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Strained personal and professional relationships

 

Sleep and ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that is closely linked to sleep. While the relationship is not fully understood, most experts agree that there is a connection. The National Sleep Foundation quotes multiple studies in pointing out that in children in particular:

  • Children who have ADHD have higher rates of daytime sleepiness than children without ADHD
  • About 50 percent of children with ADHD exhibit signs of sleep-disordered breathing as compared to just 22 percent of children without the disease
  • Periodic leg movement syndrome and restless legs syndrome are common in kids with ADHD

Making matters worse is the fact that while adults tend to get lethargic when they don’t get enough sleep, children often compensate for feelings of daytime sleepiness by being more active. Consequently, sleep disorders and ADHD may both mask and magnify one another, making it more challenging to assess and treat either condition. However, treatment can be effective, and it is critical as both conditions can lead to other health problems.

 

10 Tips for Better Sleep

Whether sleep issues are causing you to have health concerns or simply impacting your quality of life, there are steps you can take to get more restful sleep. They include:

  1. Sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends
  2. Avoiding long or irregular daytime naps
  3. Increasing exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day
  4. Reducing caffeine consumption later in the day
  5. Sleeping in a room that is comfortably cool, dark and quiet
  6. Avoiding late meals and minimizing water intake in the evening
  7. Reducing “screen time” as bedtime approaches
  8. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualization, taking a hot bath or shower, meditating or reading a book just before going to bed
  9. Getting regular exercise, but not in the evening
  10. Being evaluated for physical or mental health concerns that may be affecting your sleep

 

Helping Clients Understand and Improve Their Sleep

At Community Reach Center, we know how valuable it is to get restful sleep on a regular basis. Our counselors also understand that sleep, mental health and physical health are intertwined and can help you address the challenges you face. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have mental health centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

What are “Evidence-Based” Practices?

Doctor helping patient with paperworkThe term “evidence-based practice” (EBP) is widely used in behavioral health settings today. In fact, it is used in many areas of healthcare and beyond. But, the people we serve at our mental health clinic will often ask, “What does it mean?”

Healthcare professionals first began referring to evidence-based medicine (EBM) in the context of medical research. In particular, randomized clinical trials were, and are, considered to be the best source of evidence on the efficacy of a particular drug or treatment. The concept then spread to other allied health and educational fields, and the more general label EBP was applied. And while “evidence-based” first referred to a process, it now is a descriptor for any treatment model that is supported by a reasonable amount of evidence.

 

From Initial Reluctance to Widespread Use

Initially, some behavioral health professionals were reluctant to adopt EBP as a standard of care in mental health for a few reasons. One was that unlike a clinical drug trial in which the results were fairly clear (i.e., a medication either killed the targeted cancer cell or it did not), the “results” of a behavioral treatment are harder to define. Is the patient experiencing fewer symptoms of depression this month as compared to last month? If so, how much fewer? Another point of resistance was that mental health professionals did not want to ignore the important role that their judgment plays in helping patients get well.

However, EBP is now widely accepted as an effective way to approach the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral health conditions. For example, the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has established an Evidence-Based Practices Resource Center whose goal is “to provide communities, clinicians, policy-makers and others in the field with the information and tools they need to incorporate evidence-based practices into their communities or clinical settings.”  

Nonprofit mental health organizations like Mental Health America (MHA) are chiming in as well. MHA’s Position Statement 12: Evidence-Based Healthcare says that the organization is “dedicated to accelerating the application of scientific and practical knowledge to help in the recovery of people with mental health and substance use conditions.”

 

EBP and the “Three-Legged Stool”

Evidence-based practice is sometimes defined as a “three-legged stool.” The three key principles are:

  • Leveraging the best available evidence on whether or not a treatment works and why it works
  • Using clinical skills and judgment to assess a client’s condition and weigh the risks and benefits of potential treatments for them specifically
  • Considering the client’s values and preferences

Fortunately for behavioral health professionals at mental health clinics, web-based “clearinghouses” of information are continually becoming larger and more accessible. Consequently, the evidence needed to choose intervention approaches is more accurate, up-to-date and clearly articulated. As a result, clients are getting treatment plans that more effectively address their conditions and produce better outcomes.

We feature evidence-based practices at our Community Reach Center mental health clinics. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call us 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.

Gain knowledge about eating disorders

The goal of National Eating Disorders Week, Feb. 25 to March 3, is to address myths and better understand eating disorders. Most people with an eating disorder are concerned about appearing overweight or physically unattractive. However, a person with an eating disorder can be underweight, normal or overweight.

Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder and affect about 30 million people per year in the United States, according to the Mental Health First Aid curriculum. The median age for onset of eating disorders is between 18 and 20 years old. A high percentage of people with eating disorders have other mental health disorders, such as anxiety, mood and substance use disorders.

There are many warning signs that an eating disorder may be developing. A few of them are:

  • Extreme dieting behaviors, such as fasting, obsessively counting calories and avoiding some food groups
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Evidence of vomiting or laxative use (making trips to the bathroom after eating)
  • Obsessive exercise patterns
  • Avoidance of eating meals
  • Behaviors focused on body shapes and weight (interest in weight loss websites, books and so forth)
  • Social withdrawal or avoidance of previously enjoyed activities

Some physical warning signs include weight fluctuations, sensitivity to cold most of the time, changes in menstruation and fainting.  Some psychological warning signs include preoccupation with food, sensitivity to comments or criticism, and extreme body dissatisfaction.

A few questions

The SCOFF Questionnaire developed in the United Kingdom in 1999 helps to detect eating disorders. For each “yes” answer, there is one point. A score of two or more indicates a likely eating disorder.

  • Do you make yourself sick (induce vomiting) because you feel uncomfortable full?
  • Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
  • Have you recently lost more that 12 pounds in a three-month period?
  • Do you think you are too fat, even though others say you are too thin?
  • Would you say that food dominates your life?

These are a few of the warning signs and factors to be aware of in your circle of friends and family. There are self-help books and websites to assist those with eating disorders, but we encourage professional help for the best results.

As part of the National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, look for activities to learn more. The Come as You Are campaign sponsored by NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) features interactive learning challenges and events on its website.

Be assured that good physical health and mental health go together at our metro Denver mental health centers. To learn more, 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. Additionally, our website has a link to sign up for free Mental Health First Aid courses

 

Trauma-Informed Care: Why Our Crisis Center Uses This Approach

Talking with doctor about trauma

Merriam-Webster defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” This state can develop as a result of a wide range of stressors including abuse, witnessing violence, experiencing homelessness or being affected by a natural disaster. A large percentage of the people we see in our crisis center have had trauma-inducing experiences at some point in their life. The same is true for other providers of behavioral health services. This trauma often contributes to the development of mental illness and co-occurring conditions like chronic health issues, eating disorders and substance abuse, as well as contact with the criminal justice system.

 

Symptoms of Trauma

People who experience trauma may exhibit a number of symptoms. These signs can occur immediately after the experience or may not surface until a later time, and include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Self-blame or guilt
  • Withdrawal from people and activities
  • Loss of memories
  • Inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Disbelief
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Feeling emotionally numb or unable to relate to others

 

What is Trauma-Informed Care? 

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach in which an organization like our crisis center ensures that all staff members understand the impact that trauma can have on a person’s mental and emotional health. Team members also learn about triggers that can cause the person additional stress and how to avoid them and prevent new trauma.

Behavioral health organizations trained in delivering TIC exhibit certain characteristics, including that they: 

  • Respect the need of survivors to be well-informed about their treatment and hopeful about their recovery
  • Educate all staff members, from care providers to business staff and leadership, on the effects of trauma so that a culture of compassion is developed and maintained
  • Have a deep understanding of the many ways that trauma can manifest in a survivor (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Recognize the importance of collaborating with survivors, their loved ones and other human services agencies to support recovery
  • Work continually to destigmatize mental illness

 

How to Respond to Trauma

If you have experienced trauma, there are certain steps you should take to address it and lessen its impact on your mental and emotional health. First, if the trauma-inducing issue is ongoing, you should attempt to remedy it if possible. Next, you should talk about the trauma with a trusted friend or loved one. Simply expressing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful. It is also important that you take care of your physical health while working to overcome trauma, including avoiding the use of substances as a coping mechanism.

Finally, please take advantage of resources like Community Reach Center. Remember our Colorado Crisis Services line at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) for immediate needs. We have a 24-hour walk-in center in Westminster at 2551 W. 84th Ave. and there are several other centers in the Denver metro area. As a highly respected crisis center in the Denver metro area, we use Trauma-Informed Care to help people take a proactive approach to their mental health challenges. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

February is American Heart Month. What is the Connection to Mental Health Services?

Mother and daughter holding handsFebruary is American Heart Month. The federally designated observation puts the focus on heart disease and stroke, which are the number one and number five killers of Americans respectively. In Colorado, it kicked off recently with the Annual Wear Red Day to draw attention to the importance of achieving and maintaining good heart health. The month also emphasizes the importance of mental health services, as heart health and mental health are more intertwined than many people may know.

 

The Heart Health/Mental Health Connection

Heart disease and mental health challenges involving depression and anxiety are often what are referred to as “co-occurring conditions.” This means that a person suffers both from cardiovascular issues and, for example, depression. The relationship between the physical and mental conditions is complex, with each having the potential to be a cause and a result of the other.

For instance, a person who has had a heart attack and as a result has limitations on physical activity may become depressed about the situation. Or, a person who suffers from depression may stop exercising and develop a generally unhealthy lifestyle, which causes their physical fitness, including their heart health, to deteriorate.

And, depression isn’t the only mental health challenge related to heart health. A person who has been diagnosed with heart disease may fear a heart attack or other cardiac events and as a result develop anxiety. That anxiety may play a role in raising blood pressure, which worsens the heart condition.

 

The Good News: Both Heart Disease and Mental Health Conditions are Treatable

Fortunately, people can take steps to improve both their heart health and their mental health. The first is to evaluate where you are today. Ideally your physician and a trained mental health professional will work with you on these assessments. However, you should also be aware of the symptoms.

 

Signs of heart disease will vary based on the specific condition, but may include:

  • Pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain in the neck, back, upper abdomen, jaw or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, weakness, numbness or cold feeling in the legs or arms
  • Racing or slow heartbeat, or fluttering in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
  • Fatigue, especially if it occurs easily with exertion or activity

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or irritability
  • No longer enjoying favorite activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering facts
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Excessive appetite or no appetite
  • Difficulty managing everyday obligations

Signs of anxiety may include:

  • Persistent worried feeling
  • Inability to relax
  • Unexplained intense fear or panic
  • Rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, trembling, sweating or feeling faint
  • Avoidance of potentially anxiety-inducing situations
  • Uncontrollable and recurring worrisome thoughts

 

Whether you experience any of the above heart health or mental health symptoms with another condition or independently, it is important to talk with your doctor about them. Both heart disease and mental health conditions are treatable, and the sooner you get help, the better your outcome is likely to be.

 

Mental Health Services for Whole-Body Wellness

At Community Reach Center, our focus is on providing mental health services. We know that mental and emotional health are a key component of whole-body health, and we strive to help people reach their holistic wellness goals. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call us 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.

 

Gain awareness of physical and mental health challenges for seniors

Various advertisements for seniors – often involving sailing or hiking – celebrate that it is no small accomplishment to live long enough to become old. It’s so true, and worth a smile every time. With mounting milestones, we know that aging doesn’t get any easier due to evolving physical and mental health considerations. It is important to understand this late-life stage for yourself and your loved ones.

Growing numbers

Services for seniors have advanced through the decades and the needs will be greater than ever. Due to the aging baby boomers and increases in life expectancy, the senior population is dramatically increasing.

The number of adults aged 65 and older will almost double between 2005 and 2030 from 37 million to more than 70 million, accounting for a population increase of 12 to 20 percent. Consequently, if the prevalence of mental health disorders among older adults remains unchanged, the number of older adults with mental and substance use disorders will nearly double from about 8 million to about 14 million over the next two decades, as noted in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum.

MHFA is a public health education training that teaches participants how to recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatments and other supportive help.

Information from MHFA points out that most older adults go through their later years in good mental health while they experience circumstances that can elevate their risk for mental illness. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems that develop, and one in four people 55 and older experience a mental health disorder that is not part of the normal aging process.

A concerning statistic is that fewer than 40 percent of older adults with mental or substance use disorders (SUD) get treatment. Further, those who receive treatment from primary care physicians were provided adequate care only 15 percent of the time.

Health conditions

In any event, it is important to advance your general knowledge about common health conditions that raise the risk for late-life mental health problems. They include: heart disease and recent heart attack, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), migraines, thyroid disease, stroke, brain injury, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, acute chronic infection, dementia, conditions reducing mobility and function, conditions that are painful, and use of multiple medications.

Life circumstances

In turn, common life circumstances raise the risk for late-life mental health and substance use problems. Those include: onset of pain and disability, sensory deficits (vision and hearing loss), loss of loved ones, retirement or job loss, financial difficulties, mobility and functional challenges, change in lifestyle or living arrangements, threats to independence and autonomy, loss of social supports, challenges to self-esteem, cognitive changes, fear or prolonged distress, sleep disturbances, decline in health status, uses of certain over-the-counter or prescription medications or multiple medication use, prior depressive episode or family history of depression, providing care to a dependent person, and extended or longstanding bereavement.

So many factors

As you read these lists, you may instantly recognize signs and symptoms in yourself or your relations. For older adults, it is also good to know that mental health problems often “co-exist” with other health problems, and, most of all, remember that people are never too old to recover and have better quality lives.

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. Additionally, our website has a link to sign up for free Mental Health First Aid courses.  

Mental Health Apps? A Mental Health Center Highlights Some Helpful Tools.

Woman using mental health appThere is no substitute for the assistance of a trained mental health professional in some situations. In other scenarios, however, a mental health app may provide all the insight and encouragement a person needs. At our mental health center, we encourage people to take advantage of the full spectrum of mental health treatments as needed, from regular in-person counseling sessions to free or low-cost mobile apps.

 

There’s an App for That

The number of digital tools that can be used to supplement professional therapy is growing rapidly. For people who can’t get in to see a counselor as often as they would like to, these apps can serve as a bridge between sessions. While no one is predicting that mental health apps will ever be sophisticated enough to empower the kind of results that come from highly-personalized sessions with a therapist, they are improving with each iteration.

Here are just a few of the low-cost or free apps that may be helpful for people with mild mental and emotional health challenges:

 

MoodKit

Based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), MoodKit offers more than 200 unique mood improvement activities. The app was created by two clinical psychologists, and helps users generate self-awareness and practice more effective self-care.

 

Quit That!

This app is designed to help users break bad habits and beat addiction. From alcohol and drugs to cigarettes, Quit That! makes it easy to monitor and track your progress toward being addiction-free.

 

Stigma

What are the words you use most often when describing your mood in the app’s journal? Stigma uses a “word cloud” to help you visualize your emotional landscape as an aid in navigating it more successfully.

 

Headspace

Headspace is a popular app that provides guided meditation instruction. There are hundreds of lessons covering everything from basic techniques to specific meditations designed to help with stress, sleep issues, focus and much more.

 

Mind Shift

Created for use by teens and young adults, Mind Shift doesn’t encourage users to avoid anxious thoughts and feelings, but instead to change the way they look at anxiety. Its goal is to encourage people to take charge of their lives and to make it through the tough periods that inevitably arise.

 

Rise Up and Recover

Designed for people who are recovering from an eating disorder, this app enables users to log the meals they eat and how they feel in general, with an option for generating a printable PDF of their progress. It also provides quick coping skills for users who are feeling the urge to skip a meal or binge eat.

 

These are just a sampling of the long (and growing) list of mental health apps available. If you are struggling with a particular mental or emotional health challenge, it may be beneficial to search the app store on your mobile device to see if there is a digital tool that can help.

 

A Mental Health Center That’s Here When You Need More Than an App

Apps are great for encouraging and enabling self-care. However, some mental or emotional health challenges reach a level where you need guidance from a trained professional. Community Reach Center is a mental health center staffed by skilled and experienced counselors who can provide the help you need to bring your life back into balance. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information 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.

A regular general health check-up makes a good mental health move

One of the best items to put on your new year calendar is an appointment with your primary care physician or PCP. This habit is so very important for your general health and – as it turns out – for your mental health.

When you have concerns about your mental health it can be understandably tough to seek advice. It helps to have an established relationship with someone you trust – ideally someone who knows you and your past.

One answer? Look to your family physician or PCP when you have mental health concerns. They play an important role in your overall health – general and behavioral. In fact, the development of integrated care, the systematic coordination of general and behavioral health care, has been advancing for many years. PCPs are becoming more and more skilled in identifying behavioral health concerns in their patients..

Once you describe what you are facing, a physician may ask a few questions about signs and symptoms, and your environment in general terms. Ideally, PCPs are trained to know when to refer a problem to someone else when it goes beyond their expertise or ability to address. At the same time, mild physical or behavioral issues can be appropriately cared for in a primary care setting without specialists.

If you are given a referral and you acquire behavioral health care services, perhaps with prescribed medication, it is always comforting to have your PCP still guiding your general health care on the road to complete good health.

Additionally, a good PCP can be of help even when you might not be aware you need assistance because he or she has established the trust to obtain candid responses from general questions, such as: How are things at home, do you feel safe, how much do you worry, how well do you sleep or how well are you eating?

What if I don’t have a primary physician?

Finding a primary care physician can be a challenge. Sometimes people get off track when they move, switch doctors or providers, and they simply need to make a concerted effort to reconnect. Sometimes securing a PCP has just not been happening for a variety of reasons, so establishing a new habit requires a lifestyle shift.

But let’s stop right there for a moment. If you have a pressing mental health concern, don’t worry about securing a PCP first, please call our Colorado hotline at 1-844-493-(TALK) 8255. These very helpful confidential services are provided 24/7 and associated with six walk-in crisis centers throughout the Denver-Boulder metro area. 

Now back to a PCP search. First, allow plenty of time to research and make your decisions. Many people find it takes longer than expected. Most insurance companies have a “find a doctor” tool to help sure you stay within your insurance network and consider the options. There you will find information about experience and perhaps patient reviews. Or to reach Colorado’s Medicaid Program, the link is Colorado Health First.

Secondly, when you secure a first visit, it is very smart to do some prep work: 1) Have a good grasp of your health care history: prescriptions, chronic conditions and previous procedures; 2) Write down questions you have well in advance, so you cover them all. Appointments can go rather quickly; and 3) Ask the best way to share medical information with the office ahead of time. Sometimes sending information in advance is very helpful.

Here to help

Integrated care is making significant strides. Consequently regular visits with a primary care physician goes a long way toward peace of mind in good general and behavioral health. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. Further we can assist with integrated care options through our Mountainland Pediatrics center and through our Health Home program. 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.

 

Finding the right words to help

One big key to helping someone is providing a good mix of listening and well-chosen words.

When you are concerned about someone who may be struggling in the aftermath of a traumatic event, depression, substance use disorder (SUD) or just plain having a garden-variety bad day, trust your instinct to reach out. Of course, the natural worry is always what to say, what words to use.

You might first ask: “How are you feeling?” or perhaps a little stronger, “I am concerned about you, are you okay?”

Then just listen. Listen some more. If a long pause seems a little uncomfortable, just wait and be patient in the silence. It’s not uncommon for someone who is not feeling well to need a bit more time to express their thoughts. Perhaps ask a question again, but be prepared to respectfully pull away if through active listening you get a sense that the time is clearly not right for this conversation.

And when the talking starts, your acquaintance or loved one may gush with comments or slowly measure each word to share thoughts. Either way, let him or her have the floor. Listen and let your words be calm and of comfort. Good listening is key to helping you find the words you need.

The Mental Health First Aid course, offered across the globe, coaches participants to “Listen Nonjudgmentally,” as a key step in a five-step action plan. When you respond, be empathetic.  Your acknowledgement of that person’s emotional pain can be a tremendous source of comfort to them. Resist the temptation to tell a story about something similar that you may have experienced. Instead concentrate on understanding what he or she is sharing. Most importantly, not judging also means avoiding cliché responses like “man up” or “snap out of it” or “stop thinking about it” as if what they are experiencing is minor.

Mental Health First Aid courses involve a mix of listening and responding skills with knowledge and identification of signs and symptoms. The five steps in full are: 1) Assess for risk of suicide or harm, 2) Listen non-judgmentally, 3) Give reassurance and information, 4) Encourage appropriate professional help, 5) Encourage self-help and other support strategies.  Visit Mental Health First Aid Colorado to locate a class at a date and location that is convenient for you.

Words and phrases

Here are a few more tips:

1) Show you are listening. Sit together. Perhaps offer to go to a quiet place. Some good words might be “I am here for you. Let’s go for a walk and talk.”

2) Be empathic. Some good words might be “I can see that that is painful for you.”

3) Clearly offer to help. Some good words to express your sincere offer might be, “How can I help you right now?” or “Let me bring you dinner tonight, would that okay?”

4) Breathe. Offer to breath together. Perhaps suggest taking three deep breathes. Maybe it will work or maybe you both will crack up and start laughing. Either way the power of doing something together moves the discussion forward.

Trust your intentions along the way

Give yourself permission to show you care, knowing you might not muster the perfect words at the right time – especially following a traumatic event. A passage in the Mental Health First Aid manual sums it up this way:

“When talking to someone who has experienced a traumatic event, it is more important to be genuinely caring than to say the right things. Show the person that you understand and care and ask how you can best help. Speak clearly and avoid clinical and technical language, and communicate with the person as an equal, rather than as a superior or an expert. If the person seems unable to understand, you may need to calmly repeat yourself. Providing support doesn’t have to be complicated; it can involve small things like spending time with the person, having a cup of tea or coffee, chatting about day-to-day life, or giving a hug.”

As to giving a hug, it’s courteous to first ask permission if it’s someone outside your immediate family, but the point is to trust yourself. Showing you care will help to make your words ring true.

Finding the right words is key to helping someone with a mental health challenge or anything else. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. 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.