Haims: It’s OK to not be OK
Tragedy has come once again to our community. While the subject matter of death by suicide is not something I am formally educated in, I would like to share some information that I hope will be helpful to our children, parents and community at large.
In many unforeseen ways, modern society has robbed our youth of the simplicities of being a child. There are many reasons why this has occurred — the prevalence of electronic devices, social media, 24/7 news, increased pressure to succeed and pampering parents to name a few.
Regardless of the cause, pressures felt among our community’s youth have resulted in dramatic increases in death by suicide. This is a serious and complex concern that Eagle County is working hard to address.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24. Within the past few years, our community has witnessed heartbreaking examples of this trend. Addressing this concern must involve not only our medical and mental health providers but also the commitment of everyone within our community — particularly our youth themselves.
Understandably, with so much unrest throughout the world and in so many aspects of our children’s lives, it must be unsettling, confusing and stressful for them. Compared with when many of us were children, children today are now often exposed to 24/7 news, social media, violence and crime at early ages. As such, it is no wonder stress and anxiety may be higher than when we were children.
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Children today have so much more to contend with than many of us ever did. Therefore, it’s probable that most of us can’t fully understand what they are going through. As adults and community members, we have an obligation to help our youth to manage, process and share with others what they are going through.
In Eagle County, concerns regarding the well-being and mental health of our youth are being addressed by Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and partner organizations like Your Hope Center , My Future Pathways and SpeakUp ReachOut. These organizations are addressing suicidal commonalities like anguish, despair, hopelessness, loneliness, unmet and frustrated needs, depression and anxiety.
Research shows that our community can assist those in need of assistance by focusing on actions that have the greatest potential to prevent suicide. Such approaches focus largely on intuitive and intentional actions to prevent the risk of suicide before it occurs.
There is no exact science or definitive signs of identifying someone contemplating suicide. Rather, there are some common red flags that we should all know about. While there are many more, some concerning signs include:
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Expressing feelings of being trapped
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Loss of interest in usual activities
Frequently, when someone believes that suicide is the only option, they feel that no one may understand what they are going through. One of the most powerful things we can do to assist those who may be at risk is to be there for them by listening and empathizing. In researching the subject matter of suicide, I came across these suggestions:
- Listen with compassion. Show someone you care by giving your full attention.
- Acknowledge their pain and their feelings.
- Don’t judge. Avoid “fixing” their problem. Realize that their perceptions are their reality.
- Use your own words to reflect back on what they have told you, and say, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.” “Thank you for telling me.”
- Just listen. Those who have really struggled say this helped them the most.
The journey of life will always present us with formidable challenges. Learning resilience and coping skills are great tools for overcoming life’s obstacles.
When life gets too tough, we need to help ourselves and others by reaching out for assistance and guidance. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and its partner organizations are here to help.
Coming up next week at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, a free program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training will be offered to people 16 and older. The program will teach participants to recognize when someone may have thoughts of suicide and work with them to create a plan that will support their immediate safety.
There are many programs offered in our valley meant to assist people both at risk and those interested in learning how to help others. If we all had at least one friend who took the time to educate themselves about suicide, we could make great strides in helping a friend, loved one and our community at large.
Our youth need our support, not judgment — they need someone to just be there and listen. Please go to Eagle Valley Behavioral Health’s website and educate yourself with the tools available to help yourself and others.
It’s OK to not be OK.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.