Identifying warning signs for suicide

A person who may be thinking about suicide likely does not want to die but is in search of some way to make pain or suffering go away. Older people who attempt suicide are often more isolated, more likely to have a plan, and more determined than younger adults. Suicide attempts are more likely to end in death for older adults than younger adults, especially when attempted by men. But suicide is 100 percent preventable.

Use the checklist to determine if you or someone you know may be showing warning signs of suicidal thoughts.

Risk factors and warning signs

Suicidal thoughts in older adults may be linked to several important risk factors and warning signs. These include, among others:

  • Depression
  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Marked feelings of hopelessness; lack of interest in the future
  • Feelings of loss of independence or sense of purpose
  • Medical conditions that significantly limit functioning or life expectancy
  • Impulsivity due to cognitive impairment
  • Social isolation
  • Family discord or losses (i.e. recent death of a loved one)
  • Inflexible personality or marked difficulty adapting to change
  • Access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, other weapons, etc)
  • Daring or risk-taking behavior
  • Sudden personality changes
  • Alcohol or medication misuse or abuse
  • Verbal suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
  • Giving away prized possessions

Preventing suicide

It is crucial that friends and family of older adults identify signs of suicidal thoughts and take appropriate follow-up actions to prevent them from acting on these thoughts. Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of depression and should always be taken seriously.

Passive suicidal thoughts include thoughts of being “better off dead.” They are not necessarily associated with increased risk for suicide but are a sign of significant distress and should be addressed immediately.

In contrast, active suicidal thoughts include thoughts of acting toward hurting or killing oneself. An example of an active suicidal thought would be answering yes to the question: In the last two weeks, have you had any thoughts of hurting or killing yourself? These thoughts require immediate clinical assessment and intervention by a mental health professional.

If someone you know has a suicide plan with intent to act, you should not leave them alone – make sure to stay with them until emergency services are in place.

Key takeaway

If you or someone you know is experiencing passive or active suicidal thoughts, or has described a plan with intent to act, it is essential that you intervene and get help from a mental health professional immediately. A timely and appropriate intervention can prevent suicide and addressing issues sooner rather than later often results in better treatment outcomes.

 We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for these insights during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this month, and all year long, it is important for people suffering from mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance.

Remember that our Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in Adams County, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. 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. Community Reach Center provides leading Denver mental health centers to visit. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Everyone needs empathy

What is empathy? Simply put, it is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position both intellectually and emotionally.  When we experience empathy, it provides us with the sense that we belong and are not alone. No one is immune from the need for empathy from others, as it helps us face the arduous challenges of the human experience.

Empathy is one of the qualities people need and expect from a counselor or health practitioner. It involves the open-minded response to convey compassion and understanding. Interestingly, the connecting power of empathy benefits the person who is going through difficulty, as well as the person who is listening and responding. The person who is helped by empathy can feel empowered with rekindled spirit and light, while the act of successfully helping someone else can feel similar.

To be able to honestly say “I understand” is helpful. This connection naturally occurs when we can thoughtfully convey to someone that we have “walked in their shoes” or understand their experiences. Sometimes it is difficult to understand what someone is going through. Remember that showing you care and acknowledging their discomfort is more important than conveying shared experiences.

Group activities

Therapy groups often focus on a specific symptom or issue. They are created so that people who are experiencing the same symptoms can obtain help. Support groups function in the same way. Empathy helps us realize we are not alone, ends isolation and gives members of the group a chance to provide care to others – which can be therapeutic in and of itself.

Being empathetic

Anyone can learn how to cultivate and express empathy. You can do this by becoming more sensitized to others, listening with an open mind and by practicing a mindfulness meditation known as “Loving Kindness.” It is a simple meditation where we imagine or connect with a feeling of respect, kindness and caring to one's self. One way to start this process is to think of someone or something that you care about to engender a feeling of kindness and compassion. It could be a partner, a child, a pet or anything that puts you in touch with someone or something you love.

Once you notice the change in your feelings, take a little bit of that caring back into yourself. Hold it there for a few moments. As we cultivate the feeling toward our self, the good feelings start to expand to friends, family and others. By practicing this even for a short time each day, we start to draw a sense of caring into everything and everyone around us.

Seek it out

Empathy is something of enormous value to our lives each day, if we will only take a moment to connect to it. Empathy can have a powerful impact on all our relationships. Eventually you will notice how much it is improving your life as people you care about will notice the empathy and support you offer.

Reach out

At Community Reach Center, a leading Denver mental health clinic, we understand empathy and can help anyone who feels overwhelmed to enjoy a happier, healthier life. If you are feeling sadness for an extended period of time or are concerned that you are experiencing a mental illness, 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.

This blog was written by Michele Willingham M.A., L.P.C., L.A.C. who is a therapist for the Justice Accountability and Recovery Team at Community Reach Center. She specializes in trauma-informed care with an emphasis on the use of mindfulness skills and is an EMDR practitioner. Michele also runs a wellness group that utilizes walking, Tai Chi exercise and yoga to help improve symptoms.

 

Why people don’t seek treatment for depression

What prevents people from taking steps to obtain treatment for depression?

Sometimes the needed services are simply not available, so there is nowhere to turn. Even with available options, there are numerous other factors that prevent people from obtaining help – either to take the first step to meet with a practitioner or to pursue treatment once diagnosed.

An average of one in four Americans experience a mental illness every year, yet only about 41 percent seek mental health services.  In fact, the median time frame for seeking treatment is 10 years.

Some of the most common reasons people do not take the steps needed to obtain help for depression include:

  • Fear and shame: People recognize the negative stigma and discrimination of being associated with a mental illness. Fear of being labeled weak is part of the human condition, and it is natural to worry about impact on education, careers and life goals.
  • Lack of insight: When someone has clear signs of a mental illness but is convinced nothing is wrong, this is known as anosognosia.
  • Limited awareness: A person sometimes minimizes their issues and rationalizes that what is going on is “not that bad” or “everyone gets stressed.” Learning more about symptoms and conditions is advised for everyone wanting to better understand depression.
  • Feelings of inadequacy: Many people believe that they are inadequate or it would mean failure to admit that something is wrong. They believe they should be able to handle it.
  • Distrust: Some find it difficult to share personal details with a counselor, and may worry that information will not be kept confidential
  • Hopelessness: Sometimes there is a feeling that nothing will ever get better and nothing will help.
  • Unavailability: Some may not know how to find help, and in underserved areas this problem is more significant.
  • Practical barriers: A lack of reliable transportation or the ability to pay for services or appointments times that conflict with work or school schedules are significant.

Communications and programs are continuously working to make mental health treatments as accessible as possible. The continuing integration of primary care and mental health services is meant to streamline the processes involved in getting people to the help that they need. Visit the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council for nearby mental health centers, and for immediate concerns please call the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255).

The challenge is clear. A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine indicates that of those who are newly diagnosed, only about a third get treatment, and the statistic is even lower among minorities and older adults. Consequently, it is important to educate yourself about mental health providers nearest you.

We have a broad and diverse 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 outpatient and residential centers in the north side Denver metro area, including Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Learn About Family Counseling as National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week Approaches

Father hugging sonNational Drug and Alcohol Facts Week  is Jan. 22-27. This important observance is designed to give teens and their families helpful, accurate information on drug and alcohol use. Too often a teen’s attitude toward substance abuse is shaped by influences in movies, TV shows, music and video games that don’t accurately depict the toll that substance use can take on them, their friends and families.  

A wide variety of events and the distribution of science-based materials aims to bust the many myths about drug and alcohol use during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Many parents find that the observance can create positive momentum toward intervening in a teen’s substance abuse through treatments like family counseling.

 

7 Tips for Talking With Teens About Drugs and Alcohol

At the core of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is the idea that teens who have accurate information about substance abuse and open lines of communication with their parents and other adults are empowered to make smart choices about their behavior. To make that vision a reality, parents must initiate a dialog with their adolescent children.

Below are seven key concepts to keep in mind as you take that first step:

1) Give your teen ample notice. Conversations about drug and alcohol use can be difficult. If a teen is caught off guard, a common reaction is to become defensive and uncommunicative. On the other hand, a teen who has some time to gather their thoughts is much more likely to be open and engaged in the conversation. 

2) Start talking with your children when they are young. Many children have their first experience with drugs or alcohol earlier than parents might think — before they are even teenagers in some cases. Ideally, you should open a dialog before they begin experimenting.

3) Don’t make accusations or demand information. Unless you know for certain that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, you should not accuse them of doing so. You also should not demand that they disclose information about their behavior or that of their peers. The goal of this conversation is to encourage openness going forward and to indicate your willingness to be a resource for your teen.

4) Avoid scare tactics. While there are many serious consequences of drug or alcohol abuse, you should not attempt to shock your teen into abstinence. Doing so may make them hesitant to have conversations with you in the future. 

5) Set expectations and discuss consequences. Be sure your teen is clear on your rules regarding substance abuse and what the consequences are for breaking those rules. Then, be sure to follow through if the need arises.

6) Give your teen a safe way out of difficult situations. Let your teen know that they can call or text you at any time of the day or night and you will come to get them, no questions asked. 

7) Consider professional help. If you think opening a dialog with your teen will be too difficult, it may be helpful to have a therapist participate in the conversation.

 

Helping Teens and Families Find Common Ground Through Family Counseling 

Community Reach Center provides a wide variety of mental and emotional health services to help teens and families come to an agreement on issues around drug and alcohol use. This includes individual counseling, family counseling and other treatments. 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.

9 Tips for Enjoying Stress-Free Holidays

Woman deep in thought

The holidays can be a wonderful time of joy and celebration with family and friends. However, they can also be a source of anxiety and stress. Fortunately, steps can be taken to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. As a provider of mental health services, we encourage our consumers to be proactive and to celebrate in the ways that work best for them.

 

Festivities That Fit Your Lifestyle

Too often the holidays are focused on pleasing others in everything from the way we decorate to the gifts we give. That feeling of being “out of control” is one of the main reasons that the holidays can be stressful. Use the nine tips below to make the season more fun and festive.

  1. Make decisions early. Should I serve ham or turkey? White lights or colored lights outside? Real tree or artificial tree? There are no right or wrong answers to these kinds of questions. Rather than pondering them endlessly, give them brief consideration, make a decision and move on.
  2. Set a gift budget and stick to it. Financial stress is an unfortunate aspect of the holidays for many people, especially when they spend more than they had intended. Set a reasonable budget for gift purchases, write it down and stick to it.
  3. Consider a break from tradition. Enjoying the holidays in the same way each year can be a source of comfort, but it can also start to feel restrictive. Don’t hesitate to break from certain traditions if doing so will lower your stress level.
  4. Take care of your mind and body. In the last few months of the year, it’s easy for all the activities and obligations to push the things you do to maintain your mental and physical health to the back burner. Don’t let that happen. Eat well, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, pray or meditate and in general make an effort to be good to yourself.
  5. Learn to say “No.” The demands on your time during the holidays can be overwhelming. Make a list of all the activities you could participate in and then scratch items off the list until you have a reasonable agenda. It may be hard to do, but it is well worth the effort.
  6. Overcome perfectionist tendencies. Trying too hard to make everything about the holidays “perfect” is a major source of stress. Remind yourself frequently that letting go of perfectionism lets you get a better hold on happiness!
  7. Ask for help. As they say, “Many hands make light work.” Get other family members involved in decorating, cooking and cleaning. They may groan at first, but they will likely find that shared tasks bring a sense of camaraderie that makes the holidays more fun.
  8. Go tech-free now and then. Especially during holiday meals and events, put your smartphone away and ask that others do the same. The constant distraction of alerts and updates can keep your body and mind in a perpetual “fight or flight” state that can be exhausting.
  9. Focus on gratitude. If the holidays have been stressful for you in the past, it’s easy to have expectations that the same will be true this year. Rather than thinking about the negative aspects of prior holidays, keep redirecting your mind to the things you are grateful for. It can be difficult to break free from pessimistic thought patterns, but if you are persistent, you can do it!

 

Social Anxiety Disorders and the Holidays

The holidays can be especially stressful for people who have a social anxiety disorder. Using the tips above can be helpful, but consider professional mental health services for you or a loved one. A skilled counselor can talk about specific situations and help to develop strategies for navigating the unique challenges of this time of year.

Fill out our contact form or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our counseling services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Making mental health part of everyday conversations

The campaign to reduce mental health stigma is a topic covered often in our blogs, and we proudly report progress is being made. The 2017 Colorado Access Survey of more than 10,000 households reported that stigma as a reason for not receiving services decreased to from 47.7 percent in 2015 to 38 percent. On that good note, we will keep working on it.

In continuing efforts to reduce stigma, the comment is often made that mental health issues are like other health issues. Further, they should be talked about openly to share information and in turn help those experiencing a mental health problem. The idea is that when we can talk about mental health as openly as we talk about a stomach ache, we are making progress. Increasing open conversations about how we feel is a positive shift.

Many parallels exist in considerations between general health and mental health. Interestingly a person with a mental health or a general health challenge does not always know they need help. That is where people need each other and need to watch out for each other. And while we want to talk openly as possible about mental health there is another parallel in privacy to remember. When someone is in treatment, he or she might not want to discuss all the details and symptoms that they are working through with their mental health professional, just as someone with a physical health issue may want some privacy. Compassion and paying attention are always key.

Upping your knowledge

We tend to talk about caring for our general health openly. To stay healthful in the winter, we talk about washing hands. All year round we talk about drinking enough water and eating vegetables. We talk about having enough exercise and the importance of walking. As it turns out all these habits support good mental health. Habits so key to mental health, such as having enough down time and a support system, connect with general health as well, and we should always encourage these conversations.

To counteract stigma and improve the environment, take time to sharpen your mental health knowledge and vocabulary. For example, it is good to know that someone who is clinically depressed would have at least one of two symptoms for at least two weeks: An unusually sad mood or a loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Statistically, a depressive disorder like this effects about nearly 7 percent of the United States population is a given year, and with professional help this can often be treated before the symptoms worsen.

Much in the way we discuss aches and pains before we make an appointment with a primary care physician, we should discuss: sadness, anxiety, guilt, mood swings, lack of emotional responsiveness, feeling of helpless, hopelessness and irritability in relation to mental health.

There are numerous sources online and in bookstores to learn about mental health, and if you would like to take a Mental Health First Class, which is often free, please visit Mental Health First Aid. The class teaches general mental health signs and symptoms, and how to assist someone who is facing a mental health challenge until help arrives.

Language skills

And as you learn more about mental health, please notice how to show respect to people with mental health concerns. For example, it is better to say, “Emily has schizophrenia,” than “Emily is a schizophrenic.” The label equates the person with the illness and perpetuates a negative label. Emily is a person, not a diagnosis. She has a mental illness, but it doesn’t define who she is as a person. Put the person first no the illness.

Other phrases that are preferred include saying someone is:

  • “being treated for” instead of “is suffering from”
  • “has a mental illness” as opposed to “is mentally ill”
  • “died by suicide” over “committed suicide” (because the word “committed” can be associated with committed a crime)

If you have a concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, 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.

 

A Time For Moms

Teaming up to wash Mom's car for Mother's Day.

Being a mother and being busy are synonymous. Mothers have things they have always wanted to do, things they would enjoy doing when they find the time. Some moms have a “get-round-to-it” list, which may be written down or not. The list usually has some chores or projects, which constantly filter into the lives of moms. But whether the list is called a bucket list or something else, it’s important because it may be a mix of fun and items also related to all-important wellness.

First let’s look at the fun things.

‘Team family’ in Action

With Mother’s Day this month, it is a great time for family members to ask mom what she likes to do. “Team family” needs to be ready. Who knows what she will say? Perhaps it means watching movies all day. Perhaps sitting outside and tasting samples from a favorite bakery. Perhaps it means planting the gardens with flowers, vegetables and herbs. Perhaps it means looking through scrapbooks, talking about childhood and telling stories.

And since we live in Colorado, maybe it is having someone give the family a lift to Vail Pass with bikes so it can enjoy an all-downhill family bike ride to Breckenridge, followed by lunch.

Regardless, the aim is to make it fun for mom. However, as we know moms are always on duty, always wanting to get things done. So maybe she just wants breakfast in bed topped off with the family washing her car. Heck, she just plain loves to have her car washed and save those car wash dollars. And moms love handmade. Show your skills – or at least your love – by making a handmade card.

And of course you can think about what mom enjoys and surprise her. In some families, surprises are expected. Taking some notes throughout the year is really helpful for the most amazing ideas to come together on Mother’s Day. When the family hits the mark, it is richly rewarding all around.

Chores, Chores, Chores

Look to make the most of Mother’s Day, just as mom looks to make the most of everyday. While you may key on completing some chores as a gift, take another step and ask yourself: Is there more that can be done by the rest of the family on the chore chart? What is standing in the way of mom doing some of the things on her get-round-to-it list?

And think of this in terms of time. If mom cooks every night, take a night off her plate, no pun intended. Don’t try to be flashy, just choose some familiar recipes and start chopping. If she has expressed frustration that things keep coming up, and she cannot find time to get to the gym, then give her the choice to add a specific weekly “mom’s day”, in which she leaves a list of chores and departs to have some quality life –balance time.

Drill down and ask these questions: What can I do to help mom achieve the balance she is looking for? What can I do to help her find the time to do things important to her? Does she need space to set up her activities? Does she need time blocked off just for her? Does she need the family to be willing to change habits – dietary or otherwise?

You get the picture. And if you find yourself really revved into the “team family” mode, an excellent book for the whole family is “The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family,” by Patrick Lencioni. The book starts with identifying what makes your family unique. From there, the family focuses on what is important in order to thrive. It is a fun, quick read and suited for all family members with a middle-school reading level.

Remember, It’s Okay To Ask

And for mothers feeling overwhelmed day in and day out, remember it is okay to ask for help. It is okay to ask family members to help more with chores and other tasks. It is okay to ask family members to make tough choices for the good of the family.

For example, if family members do an amazing job keeping abreast of pop culture but the house is messy and the grades could be better, perhaps the screen time needs to be cut. And it is okay to ask colleagues to lighten the load at work now and then. The quest for balance involves the work world and the home front, and it’s important to make sure to urge your workplace to have the correct mindset on work-life balance.

More Information

Sometimes a few tips to find happiness can help, such as online links about habits for motherhood happiness or the array of blogs featured on our website. And remember we offer a variety of mental health programs and treatments. So if you are feeling anxiety or in need of our mental health services in any way, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Sounds of Self-help

The concept of self-help is a common topic in our blogs. Making time to relax, exercise and maintain a good diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit are central to self-help strategies. Our topic this week – listening to music – is one of the more subtle techniques for self-help and overall wellness.

Studies indicate that music can help manage stress and can be an important tool for recovery from depression and anxiety. And on a basic level, we know that music can be calming – as well as inspiring.

Nature and Music

The place to draw the line between music and the sounds of nature is debatable. Beautiful music is soothing, but so too are the sounds of nature. Smartphones and computers conveniently offer recordings of the shoreline waves, seagulls, rain, gentle breezes and so forth, such as Nature Sound. Of course, the sounds of birds in the spring are “music to our ears,” so for purposes of this article we’ll draw no line between sounds of nature and music.

Science and Music

Whether the sound of music brings a smile or makes people want to dance, research indicates during peak moments of music, the brain releases dopamine, a hormone linked to feelings of reward. So listening to songs, or extended classical pieces, can provide positive feelings as our bodies experience a physiological reaction to the music we love. Music can serve as a convenient, natural boost for positive feelings, so key to good mental health. Consider having some fun and making a handy playlist of favorites.

Making Music Together

Studies showing the scientific benefits of music are abundant, but another way that music syncs with self-help is in ensembles. Author Daniel Pink in his most recent book titled “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,” recommends joining a choir. While he writes about timing and making music, he also points to research that choral singing calms heart rates and boosts endorphin levels. Actually, participation in any type of groups – faith groups, exercise groups, support groups related to specific conditions and so forth – can provide benefit for people experiencing anxiety and depression.

Self-help and Professional Help

Numerous other self-help strategies are highlighted in our Mental Health First Aid courses we offer to the community. And please be mindful to consider professional help for an identified mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association describes a mental disorder or mental illness as a diagnosable illness that affects a person’s thinking, emotional state, and behavior, as well as disrupts the person’s ability to work or carry out other daily activities and engage in satisfying personal relationships.

So with this definition in mind, please consider professional help if needed as well. Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be an important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Come rain or shine, improve your mental health

In Colorado we revel in the outdoors – blessed with about 300 sunny and partially sunny days every year. But we do have a fair amount of rain through April, and we actually want lots of rain because we know the dangers of drought. So how do we match up our desires to improve our mental health and general health with the varied weather that Mother Nature delivers?

When it rains, it’s a good time for mental stimulation such as puzzles, and working up some new recipes. When it shines, the benefits of enjoying the outdoors and seeing new sights are outstanding. And let’s put all-important exercise under both categories of rain and shine.

Here comes that rainy day

Children love snow days and rainy days. Why? Because it’s a timeout from routines and presents a wide open day to do other things – most often fun spontaneous things. Rainy days on weekends can have the same effect for adults.

Puzzles: Different regions of the brain benefit from puzzles. Crossword puzzles challenge language and memory skills. And as you become proficient with a puzzle, you improve memory skills, which is helpful in solving problems. You gain clarity of mind. And the act of doing puzzles slows the heart rate and can be somewhat like meditation, in which the body and mind relax and tune out the surrounding world. And meditation is one of the key self-help recommendations in our Mental Health Frist Aid courses provided at Community Reach Center.

And perhaps music to teens’ ears, go ahead, play a video game. These games can provide the calming benefits mentioned above plus the opportunity to develop hand-eye coordination. While the risks of excessive video gaming are in the news often, so are the benefits of playing a video game for say 30 minutes a day to help alleviate depression and anxiety. Whether it’s cards, board games or screen time, it’s all about moderation.

Diet: A slow rainy day is also a good time to read up on diets. When people eat the right foods, they often feel better physically. When a person feels better physically, they feel better mentally and emotionally.

Whether it’s chicken noodle or something else, soups have a deserved reputation for easing the mind. There are countless choices on the internet from pea and mint soup to at polenta sweet corn soup dubbed appropriately Mental Health Soup. So try one out.

And if you want to cook with whatever is in your house, give the Chef Watson app a chance. The app asks you to list what you have in your kitchen, then enter a main ingredient and several optional ingredients, and it will drum up a recipe. Just choose a style, whether it is soup or one of other numerous other choices.

And finally, when you have a rainy day, think about how to make comfort food that is not so high in sugar. Perhaps go lighter on the cookies, ice cream and hot chocolate.

Exercise: don’t let the rain stop you from exercising. If the gym is out, find a place to exercise. Perhaps doing some aerobics in front of the TV screen or some other activity will do the trick. Aerobic exercise produces the endorphins, which makes for positive moods. And we know that exercise improves cardiovascular exercise and in turn, blood flow to the brain. Move some furniture if necessary, but make it happen.

When it shines

When the sun shines, the parks and trail systems in our region are among the best. It’s so easy, no excuses. Take time to walk, run or ride.

Exercise: If you are not in a club, think about joining one. We know joining a support group is a common self-help tip for better mental health due to the experience of sharing time, relating stories and gaining knowledge. So if you think about it, bike clubs and exercise groups have elements of support groups combined with exercise. It’s a win-win in mental health.

Sightseeing and enjoying the outdoors: Camping provides endless sight-seeing opportunities to capture the entire sunrise to sunset experience. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are good for the body and mind. When you sightsee be sure to get out of the vehicle and get in a good number of steps. Colorado trails are amazing. Just remember to keep the sunscreen coming, especially at higher altitudes.

We all need reminders about the mind-body connection and to take steps to care for our mental, emotional and physical health. If you have questions about our mental health 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.

Kinda blah: Just a sad day or depression?

Close-up of face of young Caucasian businesswoman sitting in deep thought with clasped hands

What is the difference between having a sad day and depression?

We know that the word “depression” is used in many ways.

“That movie was depressing,” is a common retort. And when something in the course of a day doesn’t go so well, we might hear someone say, “I am so depressed I didn’t complete the project,” or “I am so depressed the food did not taste as good as we had hoped,” or a student might say, “I am so depressed I bombed on the test.”

Depression and feeling sad or blue are two different things.

Two weeks of feeling blue can be a red flag. One definition of clinical depression means we see either an unusually sad mood or a loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyed nearly every day for two weeks, according to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, an internationally acclaimed public health education course provided at Community Reach Center.

In addition, the person may have these types of symptoms:

  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Feeling worthless or feeling guilty though not really at fault
  • Thinking often about death or wishing to be dead
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming more agitated and unable to settle
  • Having sleeping difficulties or sometimes sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in food or habitually eating too much, leading to either weight loss or weight gain.

When the two-week timeframe and symptoms are evident, it might be time to reach out or encourage your loved one to reach out to a healthcare professional for assessment. One recent internet MHFA survey noted that the top three measures rated as most effective were: antidepressant medications, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and interpersonal psychotherapy. Engaging in self-help and support strategies is another important step. Self-help involves reaching out to available support, such as family, friends, faith communities, support groups or others who have experienced depression. And this can mean to encourage exercise, self-help books, relaxation training and light therapy.

For a case of the blahs, listening to music is often a good way to create a different mood.  Sometimes right after a vacation, we feel the letdown – so don’t hesitate plan something to look forward to. Heck, if it makes you feel better to count how many weeks until the next vacation, don’t hesitate. A few more ideas: Make a to-do list and work it. Spend time with people you love or do something for others. Exercise, of course.

The road to recovery is not often a straight line – like driving across a flatland state – so maintaining resolve and constant recommitment is important. We all have good days and bad days – as the saying goes we must take the good with the bad.   But if you are noticing symptoms persisting over a period of time – such as a two-week benchmark – it may be time to seek advice.

If you have concerns about 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.