A column in Psychology Today, written by Dr. Peggy Drexler, poses the question: Why do we fear mental illness?
In particular Dr. Drexler notes that often when people encounter signs of mental illness in another person, the instinct is to not get involved.
“when it comes to mental illness, helping is, unfortunately, not our natural response. Instead, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health, most people shy away from or avoid someone experiencing a mental health emergency. They think whatever the person is going through is “personal,” or that “it’s a family matter.” Often, they’re afraid to intervene or get too close. And so they don’t.
And yet it’s hard to imagine this same sort of reaction in other health contexts: witnessing someone slip and fall while crossing a busy street, for instance, or seeing someone have a heart attack or faint in a bookstore and passing by without stopping to help or make sure he or she is okay.”
A unique, and nostalgic, activity has gained quite a bit of attention in recent months.
I’m talking of course about adult coloring books. I first started hearing about them last summer and by the holiday shopping season ads and stories filled my news feed. I LOVED (seriously, I cannot emphasize enough just how much) coloring and drawing as a little girl, so the idea that this was now an acceptable past time for me 30+ years after I first used a crayon was exciting.
In addition to being just plain fun, there are many reasons to believe this activity has mental health benefits.
According to this article in Psych Central, part of soothing our stress comes from calming our amygdala, the part of our brain that alerts us to danger and gives us a panicked feeling. Problem is, if this area is overactive we might feel highly stressed even when we’re actually not being threatened, and that can lead to anxiety and levels of stress seen in other mental illnesses. Focusing on something like coloring an image can have a centering effect that gives your amygdala some time off, experts suggest.
Other experts note that when you color, you’re using both hemispheres of your brain. On one hand it’s a very creative activity, but behind that creative action is a focus on a strategy, whether or not you realize it at the time. You’re also making color choices as part of that strategy, and practicing fine motor skills.
Now where did I leave those crayons…
Engaging in coloring and art projects before bedtime can also help you sleep. Many authorities on sleep and circadian rhythm advise against using your mobile phone, computer, or watching TV within an hour or more of bedtime, because their screens and deeply engaging content have a stimulating effect. Like reading, coloring could be a great non-technology activity to help you wind down before your head hits the pillow.
Of course there’s something to be said for any activity that reminds you of back when you were a kid and had far fewer worries on your mind. We might not have realized it at the time, but being picked last for dodgeball or not being invited to the popular kid’s birthday party was small potatoes compared to the stressors we’d face in college, careers, relationships, raising kids, or caring for aging parents.
So not just because I used to love it so much as a kid, but also because I struggle with mild to moderate anxiety, I’m anxious (see what I did there?) to give it a try. Have you gotten in on this latest trend in mental health? Let me know how it turned out by leaving a comment.
For more on this topic, check out some of these articles:
Self-Soothing: Calming the Amygdala and Reducing the Effects of Trauma
The Therapeutic Science Of Adult Coloring Books: How This Childhood Pastime Helps Adults Relieve Stress
Coloring books for adults: we asked therapists for their opinions
7 Reasons Adult Coloring Books Are Great for Your Mental, Emotional and Intellectual Health
Anti-Stress Coloring Books for Adults: The Latest Way to Relax
Will a coloring book help you sleep better?
Why adult coloring books are good for you
Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama laid out plans and proposals aimed at curbing the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
His comments included a desire to help people living with mental illness get the care they need. Our friends at the North Carolina chapter of NAMI were interviewed and provided comments for this story. See the video below, and you can click here for the full article accompanying the video.
Our thanks to NAMI and all of you who are providing your expertise on this critical issue. It’s a delicate subject; on one hand we must have conversations about mental illness and firearms especially as it pertains to suicide and also gun access by those who may be experiencing intense pain, clouded judgment, or issues of perception due to a mental illness. It’s imperative that communities have the tools they need to help at-risk individuals and others who may be suffering, with more funding for intervention, proper care, community training, and other services.
At the same time as we have these discussions, we must be extremely careful not to inadvertently suggest that those experiencing mental illness are inherently violent or should be feared, as this is categorically untrue and not supported by statistics, and it only adds to the prejudices and stigma associated with mental illness that keeps so many from getting the help they need. We’re inspired by how so many of your organizations are intelligently contributing to this conversation and striking that delicate balance so well.
Want to add to this discussion? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below! Is your agency taking action on this topic or participating in events, providing expert commentary, or otherwise taking part in the discussion on this topic? We’d love to hear about it so we can highlight your work on our blog. You can comment below, or .
On Tuesday the The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced they’ll accept applications for up to $2.1 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Crisis Center Follow-Up program grants for up to 3 years. This program promotes systematic follow-up assistance to suicidal persons who call the Lifeline and persons discharged from partnering emergency departments.
Grantees will provide telephone follow-up to Lifeline callers who have been assessed at imminent risk of suicide and emergency interventions.The positive effects of follow-up for those having thoughts of suicide is apparent and confirmed in many studies. This particular program has provided life-saving intervention to many people since 2008.
SAMHSA is projected to provide an estimated six selected crisis centers with up to $115,000 per year for up to the next three years. Actual award amounts may vary and depend on the availability of funds. For more information and to apply, visit SAMHSA’s website.
The New York Times published an article last week detailing the rising suicide rates throughout small towns and rural areas in the US.
The findings stem from a few different studies and reports, namely a report by the CDC on rates of suicide by urbanization of the county of residence, and Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics division outlining widening rural-urban disparities in youth suicide.
The article discusses several theories on potential contributing factors including:
- Ease of access to high lethality means like firearms
- A “Cowboy up” attitude to addressing problems, and resistance to asking for help
- Limited access to sufficient mental health care — The Department of Health and Human Services says 55% of counties in the United States have no psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers
- Stigma of mental health treatment exacerbated by lack of anonymity
If interested, you can read the full article here.
What do you think of the findings outlined in the article, and the contributing factors they pose? If your helpline is in a rural area, would you agree with what’s outlined in the article? How is your community addressing these issues? We’re interested to hear what you think, leave us a comment!
Reaching out to talk about your problems and stresses can be tough for anyone, especially teens. According to the staff of Kids Help Phone, teen boys are less likely to reach out than their female counterparts, accounting for only 1 in 5 of their contacts. By the time they do contact someone, the situation has often become critical or even life threatening.
In an effort to encourage young men to reach out about any topic, big or small, Kids Help Phone has launched Bro Talk, a service aimed specifically at teen guys. The newly launched website provides information about topics of concern to teen boys, real life stories, an FAQ about the service, and provides multi-channel communication options for them to speak to Kids Help Phone counsellors. Bro Talk was made possible by the Movember Foundation, a global men’s health organization.
We’re honored to be working with Kids Help Phone on this and other projects, and we’d like to thank them for stopping by our Toronto office with some of these cool Bro Talk tee shirts! We think Mike and Spike made the perfect bro models!
Learn more about Bro Talk by visiting the website, and check out the news story below.
We’re very happy to help spread the word that the Bell Let’s Talk initiative has been extended for five years, with funding increased to $100 million!
Read more here. You can also read Bell’s announcement here.
This is excellent news for Canadian mental health initiatives. Congratulations to all the agencies that benefit from this campaign, and we look forward to participating in Bell Let’s Talk for years to come!
Congratulations to iCarol clients Help4WV on starting the first statewide 24-hour mental health and substance abuse hotline in West Virginia. Read the governor’s announcement and other articles, and be sure to follow them on Twitter, too!
Congrats again to the staff of Help4WV from the team here at iCarol, and thank you for your service to the people of West Virginia!
Want your helpline’s accomplishments featured on our blog? You can anytime!
Suicide Prevention Week will be here soon, recognized from September 7th – 13th with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. There are lots of ways that crisis centers or the general public can recognize this upcoming event.
Join an Out of the Darkness Walk near you. These walks help raise awareness as well as money for research and education. During the month of September, particularly during suicide prevention Week, dozens of these walks will be held. Find one near you and register today.
Donate to a suicide prevention service in your area. You can donate to organizations that focus on research or education, though we humbly suggest you consider donating to a helpline that provides direct help and suicide prevention to those in need. Whether you’re in Canada, the US, or another country, there are suicide prevention lines near you that would greatly appreciate your donation and will put it to excellent use in directly preventing suicide in your community.
Volunteer for a suicide prevention service. These services are always looking for qualified volunteers to answer phones, help with fundraising efforts, and more. Suicide prevention month is a great time to start the application process. Suicide prevention centers could also run volunteer recruitment campaigns to coincide with the heightened awareness and attention.
Fundraise for your local suicide prevention helpline. Much like volunteer recruitment, the increased attention and awareness of suicide prevention will mean that many people will be compelled to do something to help the cause, and so your message and request for support will resonate with your community.
Educate yourself on the topic of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in Canada and 10th in the United States, or that the elderly are at the highest risk of suicide? By learning the notable statistics, risk factors, warning signs, and myths and facts about suicide, you’ll be empowered to do more and share that knowledge with others.
Receive training on how to help others who are suicidal. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility. We’re all capable of doing something to prevent it. Trainings like ASIST, safeTALK, QPR, and Mental Health First Aid, and training from the Suicide Prevention Resource Centerare some examples.
Spread the word with social media. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or all of the above, post information in support of suicide awareness and prevention. Try sharing some of those facts you learned, or share a personal story about how suicide has touched your life, or the life of someone you care about. Discussing suicide goes a long way in reducing stigma and bringing the issue out into the open where it belongs! If you run a helpline, you can ramp up your social media presence as well by sharing facts about your helpline, success stories, requests for support, suicide myths vs. facts, etc.
Alert the media and use your expertise or experience as a helpline agency to do a story on suicide prevention in your community and how people can be helped by contacting you. Agencies that have texting and live chat services always have a great angle for contacting the media to do a story on how those struggling with suicidal thoughts can use those services if they don’t want to call on the phone.
Whether you take one of these actions, or do something different, it’s important to recognize suicide prevention week. Your actions will show others that you care about raising awareness of suicide, and preventing it.
One year ago today the world lost a beloved actor, comedian, and humanitarian to suicide. For many people this was the first time suicide touched their life, and for others it was a reminder of painful losses or struggles they personally experienced in their own lives. Universally Robin Williams’ death ignited a conversation about suicide, recovery from substance abuse, depression, and other mental illnesses. Many helplines reported increased call volume for weeks and months following his death.
The American Association of Suicidology released a statement that includes some helpful information. We encourage you to take a look by visiting their Facebook post about this anniversary.