A Personal Message to All Struggling, Especially teens and Young Adults: I See You, I Hear You, AND If My Words Could Make a Difference, This is What I Would Say to YouRead Now
If you were having symptoms of a heart attack would you call yourself “crazy” or would you call 911 and get help? Here’s what I would do.
I would definitely not be calling myself “crazy.” I would be calling 911, telling them it was an emergency, that my life was in danger, and I need an ambulance and paramedics sent as soon as possible to get me to the hospital.
If I could not call, my loved ones or friends would call. Even a stranger would call if they saw me collapse. If I saw someone in such a crisis, I would make the call to 911 myself.
And what if medicine or life enhancing therapies such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction could help save my life? I would ask my doctor to educate me on the best “heart health” practices. I’d ask for prescriptions and referrals because I want to stay alive, be healthy, and I don’t want to die.
So why do we insist on thinking our brain is not part of our body and act so differently when our brain health is at risk?
Why do we dismiss or hate ourselves and/or think others will ridicule and/or shame us if we have a “mental” illness? Maybe in part it’s the stigma we feel and fear we’ll feel that’s so associated with the words “mental” illness.
I don’t like how that word has been used. It’s said in disparaging ways, in unkind, and untrue ways - as in - she’s “mental” and he’s “mental.”
“Mental” meaning “crazy” - less than human - an aberration. Being “other” than everyone else.
“Just pull yourself together. Snap out of it! Stop wallowing. I’ll give you something to really cry about.” That’s some of the unhelpful comments we hear.
And how about, “It’s all in your head?” Meant as a put down, but in reality, yes, that’s true. Inside our head is our brain and it needs help not sarcastic, shaming, or demeaning remarks and criticisms.
Do I call my lungs “crazy” when I’m having an asthma attack? Definitely not. My lungs are not well, yes. But crazy? No. And what do I do to help myself? I’ll use my inhaler. If I’m still in an acute crisis - as in - I’m wheezing so much that I'm having real trouble breathing, I’ll get myself to an emergency room. Will I be ashamed of being asthmatic? No way. I will tell the nurses and doctors I have asthma and ask for medical help.
How different, though, it can be for psychiatric illness that strikes at the brain. It’s essential to remember that the brain is part of the body.
“Mental” illnesses are in reality physical illnesses. Our brain and our mind may suffer, but that does not mean we are “looney tunes, crazy, or nuts.” After all, the brain impacts our whole being - how we think, feel, act, speak, eat, sleep, and more.
Think of it this way. When our brain is attacked from inside itself, we might experience a depression attack, manic attack, anxiety attack, panic attack, suicidal attack, self-hatred attack, what’s the point of living attack, an urge to self-harm attack, body image distortion attack, and other such “attacks” whose source is invisible from the outside while all too painful and real from the inside.
Our brains are not “crazy.” These types of attacks are just as real, just as important, and are just as in need of help as when we have a heart attack. A heart attack can be life threatening. A brain attack can also be life threatening in terms of life and death, as well as the on-going quality of how we are able to live our lives.
Let me ask you this. Do you know that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States? Here in Oregon where I live, the number one cause of death for ages 10 to 24 years old is suicide.
These deaths did not have to be. The flesh and blood lives that could have still been lived now forever lost into the abyss of suicide.
We must be vigilant and aware of “psychiatric brain attack” warning signs such as change in mood, suicidal thoughts and actions, self-harming, change in sleep and eating, alcohol and drug use, anxiety, panic, and despair.
Our brain deserves respect, and it deserves help. We deserve our and others’ understanding and compassion, and not the cruelty of being shamed.
Silence, shame, and stigma need to be banished. That will happen when the truth about psychiatric illness is known and we bravely share our mental health stories.
Let’s make everyone aware that illness attacks on brain health are real. They can be life threatening and should be approached just as one would any other health crisis.
Now that you know the truth and that medication and/or therapy help is available, please don’t become a statistic. Save your life. That’s what your brain and your heart want you to do.
Have my words made a difference?
I pray that they do.
Your voice has power in The “If My Words Could Make A Difference” Youth Mental Health Campaign.
Teens and young adults can share their own creative pieces of work or view those submitted by others on ASHA International's website. They can not only be part of the conversation but help lift their peers up as well.
Our youth are in a crisis, with a national emergency declared. please share OUR message and THIS campaign.
Please share our message as well as this youth campaign with those who may benefit from hearing it or taking part in the conversation, and sharing their story. Let's all be there during this National Emergency for Youth Mental Health. Our youth are in a crisis. We cannot let them down. Let's remind them:
"You are important. Your thoughts, feelings, and observations are important. You can make a difference. What if your ideas could help change the world? What if your ideas could help improve the life of just one person? Would it be worth it? We think so!"
Do you need help now? Please reach out. help is available.
If you're in a crisis, please reach out now.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Or, to connect with a Crisis Counselor, text HOME to 741-741.
You can do this. You matter.
Dr. Diane Kaufman, MD, Child Psychiatrist, Humanism in Medicine Awardee, Founder-Director, Arts and Healing Resiliency Center, Mind Matters, PC; and, Suicide Prevention Collaborator, Accelerating Social Good.
So Many Hearts Ache for Lives Lost to Suicide THAT We, The Living, Must Shine a Healing Light on Silence, Shame and Stigma: AN Interview with Child Psychiatrist, Artist and Poet, DR. DianE Kaufman, MDRead Now
Hope lives. shame kills. everyday is suicide prevention day for Dr. diane kaufman, MD.
Kerry: As suicide survivors and mental health advocates, Lucia and I both so deeply appreciate your tremendous body of work in suicide prevention. Your award-winning poems, songs, posters, videos and even an opera have inspired hope, encouraged people who are hurting to reach out and offered solace to those who have lost a loved one to suicide. Can you tell us why suicide prevention plays such a prominent role in your life and work?
Diane: In August 2019, my friend and mental health colleague Stacy ended her life by suicide. Her tragic death was and still is a shock to me. Stacy was a psychiatric nurse practitioner of great skill and compassion. I respected and admired Stacy for having so many positive qualities.
I used to tell myself, if a family member of mine needed care, I would send them to Stacy. Her taking her own life and leaving behind two sets of young twins was absolutely one hundred percent out of character for Stacy – the woman, friend, and mental health professional - that I knew her to be.
What ended Stacy’s life – what devoured, destroyed, and killed her – was depression. Even as I say these words, tears come to my eyes. I still can’t believe she is gone. Depression is a physical illness that invades the mind, body, and spirit. And, it can kill.
There, however, have been other significant events. When I was a medical student, I attempted suicide, and was medically hospitalized. When I was married, my father-in-law killed himself by gun shot. My teenage patient, who seemed to her mother, her teachers, and to myself to be doing so well, hanged herself in 2016. The best friend of my young adult patient died by overdose in 2020. My patient, who had her own history of suicide attempts (prior to when I began treating her), found her friend, and then became at increased risk for suicide herself. All of these tragic events have transformed me into a suicide prevention activist.
poetry transforms depression and despair into Healing and hope
Lucia: Why do you choose to express yourself through poetry? And, what was the impetus behind writing the poem, “Don’t Give Up” which you would later turn into lyrics with a song-writer and then a Suicide Prevention PSA?
Diane: I turn to poetry to express myself when I am feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings. It’s a way to safely get what is inside of me – what’s troubling me – out into the world and onto a page. It often feels like the poem is a living thing wanting to communicate and be expressed, and I am the one listening and holding the pen to let it out – to be taken in and experienced by another.
“Don’t Give Up” was an outpouring of my heart listening to the sadness, depression, despair, and suicidality of my youth patients. It’s a conversation with a suicidal person. The poem is saying even though you want to kill yourself, please don’t do it because I understand how you feel, and I know that your choosing death is not the answer. There are reasons for you to keep living and people who truly care and can help you.
How do we convince those feeling hopeless to not give up?
Kerry: There is a quote by Hal Lindsey, “Man can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air, but only for 1 second without hope.” Not surprisingly, hopelessness is the leading predictor of suicide. Speaking as a suicide survivor, I can certainly attest to that being the case for me. For months on end, I battled with feeling like there was no hope that anything was going to get better, no hope I was going to feel anything other than this unbearable sense of loneliness, bleakness and foreboding, no hope for a better tomorrow … really that there was no hope for me. And, then to see those I love seeing me that way and not knowing how to help me was just too much to bear. I was not only hurting but I was hurting them.
How do we get people to not give up and give into these feelings of hopelessness?
Diane: The first line of the poem/lyric is “Don’t give up even though you want to.” Many people – maybe all people – have at times felt like giving up - wishing they were never born, wishing they could just sleep forever, wishing they could be dead, and for some – wanting to end their emotional pain by killing themselves.
I want the person listening to the song to feel the song is being sung just for them. For them to know they are not alone in feeling hopeless, and yet also to know that this day is not forever, there will be another day and life can change for the better. As long as there is life and there is help available there is hope.
Suicide is forever. The severe emotional pain coming from depression and/or severe life stressors can be helped, lessened, and improved while we are still alive. We don’t have to kill ourselves to stop the pain.
I know this to be true as I have lived it. When we are depressed, our thinking gets distorted and it’s as if all we see is darkness. It’s important to be compassionately reminded that, “There will be a better now even when we don’t see how” and that “Tomorrow’s light is a gift from the night.”
What more can we all be doing to help our CHILDREN struggling with their mental health?
Kerry: Given your specialty is child psychiatry and you see in your practice teens who struggle with suicidal ideation or who have attempted to take their own lives, what more do you think we need to be doing to help our kids given suicide rates are increasing in this demographic?
In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in youth mental health. This declaration should inspire and galvanize us to collaborate on behalf of youth mental health by improving access, services, and resources.
We need more mental health providers and services available. We need more in-patient psychiatric beds available, as well as a higher level of care and specialty programs.
Social media can damage youth mental health when self-worth is judged by “likes” and when sense of self and self-esteem plummets by negatively comparing ourselves to online profiles of others. Youth need healthy social connections and to experience themselves as worthwhile.
They need caring adults who will ask the questions – “Are you okay? Are you feeling anxious and/or depressed? Are you thinking about hurting, cutting, and/or killing yourself? You can tell me because I care about you.”
Youth need to know there is no shame in seeking help and that mental health is physical health and help is available. Mental health education should be integrated into all school settings.
There are skills and coping strategies we all need to learn and practice. We also need to understand the warning signs of mental illness so we can better recognize when things are not okay with us.
honoring and practicing THE human art of connection To promote mental health and NUTURE resiliencE
Lucia: Diane, you have also worked for many years as a Child Psychiatrist back East and now in Oregon, and have extensive training in the therapeutic use of poetry, art, and story. Now, as Founder and Director of the Arts and Healing Resiliency Center at Mind Matters, PC, how are you working to eliminate silence, shame, and stigma to prevent suicide?
Mental health well-being can be nurtured in many different ways. I have Bipolar II Disorder, attempted suicide as a young adult, and became a child psychiatrist. Sharing my story helps break through silence, shame, and stigma.
I am an ASHA International storyteller and am on their Board of Directors. It’s a great organization that highlights the “superpower” of our personal mental health stories.
The expressive arts can also play a vital role in facilitating and fostering mental health. The inspired mission of the Arts and Healing Resiliency Center is to honor and practice the caring art of human connection. The ARTS Program, our unifying concept, inspires Adolescent and Adult Resiliency Training as well as Skills and Support by interweaving evidence-based mental health skills, positive psychology principles, and the creative arts to promote, nurture, and build mental health and life affirming resilience.
The goal of the program is a felt sense of personal integrity, authenticity, and responsibility leading to social-emotional and behavioral well-being. We offer online workshops, special events, mentoring, and therapy.
Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder, and Lucia Martinez Rojas, Social Media Strategist and Videographer, Accelerating Social Good with guest Diane Kaufman, MD, Child Psychiatrist, Humanism in Medicine Awardee, and Founder and Director, Arts and Healing Resiliency Center, Mind Matters PC.
Three Words, I Need Help, Changed His Life - A Father Finds Happiness After Suicide Attempt And is now Helping Others do same as Stigma Fighter And Mental Health advocateRead Now
Meet Pat Lawson, one of our stigma fighters on our Wall of Solidarity in our Accelerating Mental Wellness Campaign.
Pat is many things to many people but I will try and sum it up here. He is a loving, devoted and amazing husband and father, a much loved son and brother, incredible friend, international keynote speaker for mental health and suicide prevention and founder of 3Words Mental Health Awareness.
From the outside looking in it seems as if he is totally fine doesn’t it? Looks can be deceiving.
Pat has his own mental health challenges and diagnoses and things got so bad for him that he tried to end his own life.
"DON'T MAN UP. IF YOU WANT TO BE TOUGH, EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS."
Nobody knew the internal pain Pat was suffering. He hid it from his wife, his parents, friends and sisters. On the outside he was this exuberant happy go lucky man, but on the inside he was struggling.
He didn’t reach out for help as most men don’t. Men are far less likely to seek help for a mental illness due to a number of reasons, e.g., societal factors like they have to suck it up and be a man, stigma and long standing cultural issues around men.
While Pat hid his mental health from everyone, he sought no support. He thought he had to “man up”. It was this that led him to the fateful day he tried to take his own life.
Thankfully Pat wasn’t successful. The world would have lost someone really special if he had been.
After his attempt he told his wife, who had no idea that Pat was struggling. It took him attempting to take his own life to finally open up to his wife and family, who were in disbelief as he didn’t portray any outside symptoms of mental illness.
In Pat’s own words, asking for help was the hardest thing to do but he was so relieved when he did.
This isn’t a story that ends with Pat. Countless men go through the same thing and they don’t seek help as it’s seen as a sign of weakness.
But, Pat has a message to men: “Don’t man up. If you want to be tough, express your emotions.”
how 3 words - "I need Help" - changed his life
Here is a video of Pat explaining his story and how three words - “I need help” - changed his life. They are the hardest words to say and Pat still has difficulty saying them.
Share his story to help other men say 3 words
Pat is now an amazing advocate for men's mental health and works tirelessly to help those in need.
Sharing his story has helped him recover and while he still struggles, he has tools and support around him now which makes things easier.
We are so grateful for Pat letting us tell his story and for being one of our amazing stigma fighters.
Follow 3Words on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with Pat’s advocacy work.
And, let's share his story to help others share his 3 words. We all deserve to find happiness.
Post by Erin Macauley, Chief Operating Officer & Mental Health Advocate, Accelerating Social Good; Australia Chair, Accelerating Mental Wellness Campaign.
Mental health stigma could have been difference between Me living Or being yet another mental illness statistic: workplace terminates me and takes away my bipolar lifeline, my health insuranceRead Now
workplace terminates me and takes away one of my lifelines, my health insurance
Ultimately, I was fortunate. With the support of my friends and family, and drawing upon my own hard work and determination, I was able to improve and become the person I am today.
But mental health stigma was another barrier to wellness that could have easily been the difference between me living this life or becoming another mental illness statistic.
Don't those of us with bipolar disorder already have to fight hard enough to stay alive corporate america?
Next year, over 25,000 Americans will die by suicide. Half of them will have bipolar disorder. How many can be saved is up to us. Up to Corporate America. Up to those workplaces that continue to allow stigma to fester. That continue to fire those with this serious brain disorders because we are too depressed to work. To string two coherent thoughts together. Or, we are too manic and we upset your work-life culture or you work us too hard and force us into manic states. Or, because we are simply misunderstood as people. Yes, we are just like you. People.
We, as a society, can come together and eradicate the stigma which is quite simply killing us and putting us in early graves. For far too long, the bipolar community has been ignored. Just but one example, in a post explaining why, A Call for Spending Equality Given Devastating Impact of this Killer Disease by Kerry Martin, our Chief Purpose Officer and Mental Health Activist.
It is currently estimated that 4 to 6% of the population has some form of bipolar disorder, with the disease affecting 5.7 million adults, 2.6% of population age 18 and older. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 83% of these cases are considered severe, with 51% not receiving healthcare treatment.
The risk of suicide among those living with bipolar disorder is 20 to 30 times greater than the general population and significantly higher than other depressive disorders. Over their lifetime, 80% battle suicidal ideation and approximately 28% will attempt suicide within five years.
Fifty percent of those with bipolar will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, with up to 11% dying by suicide. Some studies indicate that the suicide rate is closer to 20%.
addendum: WHY ACCELERATING SOCIAL GOOD LAUNCHED, IN COLLABORATION WITH MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATES & CONCERNED CITIZENS, A CAMPAIGN TO CREATE STIGMA-FREE WORKPLACES
Gabe didn't deserve what happened to him but we are so happy here with us now as he is an outstanding mental health advocate and a treasured member of our mental health community. However, he like anyone else with a serious brain disorder or, anyone else who is in need of mental health support (clinical diagnosis or not), deserves empathy, grace, caring and kindness at the workplace. In too many workplaces however, that is simply not the reality.
We also all deserve to work in stigma-free environments that enable us to flourish and do our best work for our employers and for ourselves so we may feel of the utmost value. So we feel we belong. So we feel worthy. Not a total lack of empathy and caring friends. Because we as human beings always deserve that. Always.
Today, our workplaces, more often than not, are not safe places. They are not empathetic, kind or caring. And they are chock-a-block full of stigma. Case in point, the Great Resignation where droves are leaving as they don't feel they are getting the deserved mental health support. Whilst it's easy to build a business case for why companies should bring in proper mental health programs and supports, still far too many have failed to do so.
Gabe Howard, Bipolar Speaker & Writer, Host: Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast, Author, Mental Illness is an Asshole & Kerry Martin, Chief Purpose Officer, Accelerating Social Good & Mental Health Activist Flourishing with a Bipolar Diagnosis
Why aren't we doing more in Australia to prevent suicide When more people die each year by suicide than the national road toll? Let's Stand Together and Stop SuicideRead Now
Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 44 in Australia. More people die by suicide annually than the national road toll.
If this is the case, why isn't more being done to lower this statistic?
With road accidents, they build things to lower the death toll. They have more speed cameras, billboards about the dangers of driving tired, more police doing drink driving testing. The list goes on.
So, why then is the government not stepping up to lower the suicide rate?
The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that approximately 40% of people who take their own life have a diagnosis of depression. We lose over 3,000 people per year to suicide. It is very clear something isn't working.
Stigma, shame and barriers to access mental health support are part of the reason the death toll is so high.
suicide is preventable. Let's Stand together and Stop it.
As an advocate for mental health, I am trying my hardest to get word out for suicide prevention awareness. As Chief Hope Officer at Accelerating Social Good, a social good consultancy focused exclusively on the mental health space, we have adopted suicide prevention as our cause.
But what really needs to happen here in Australia is an open round table discussion with government officials to come up with a better suicide plan to lower the number of deaths. And those with lived experience needed to be invited to take a seat at the table.
To make suicide less of a taboo subject, we also need more awareness, equitable access to mental health support and more lived experience voices courageously speaking up in general. Hopelessness is the leading predictor of suicide. By sharing our stories, we can give those struggling a reason to hope.
Let's change take bold and decisive action. Let's change the narrative. In this way, we can hopefully lower the statistics and stop preventable suicides.
We have the power to elicit great change if we all come together and collaborate on mental health and suicide prevention.
With gratitude and with hope.
Erin Macauley, Chief Hope Officer & Mental Health Activist, Accelerating Social Good.
How Would Chicken Little Respond to COVID's Impact on Mental Health AND Suicide? Courageously, laying hope for our most vulnerable. We're responding too.Read Now
“You’re going to have suicides by the thousands. ... People get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies.” — President Trump
Yes, perhaps as President Trump cavalierly warns us — breaking all common-sense rules about publicly talking about suicide — the sky is falling. But this is not the time to scramble. We must rise to the occasion, recognizing the psychosocial fallout from COVID is massive and will reverberate for years to come.
Let us remember the moral of the traditional Chicken Little story is too have courage even when it feels like the sky is falling. Let’s come together and lay a four letter word for our most vulnerable populations now at an even higher risk of suicide: HOPE.
Otherwise, COVID is going to take an enormous toll on the mental health of Americans. And, cause an unprecedented increase in suicide rates resulting in the preventable loss in life far outweighing the heartbreak caused by the virus itself.
While the nation’s attention is largely focusing on the active physical treatment of patients, suicide populations are at higher risk than ever before. Despite this, they are being overlooked. This must change. And, change immediately.
Our President’s comments do not leave you with a lot of faith in the federal government’s likelihood of responding compassionately nor do his off-handed remarks suggest he is going to direct federal agencies to take any actions to prevent this outcome.
We can’t just sit back and acknowledge — as our Commander in Chief has already gotten that out of the way for us — that yes, we are going to have a problem on our hands of potentially epic proportions.
Nope, not good enough. Not when lives are at stake.
Whenever and where ever people turn — regardless of how much they have in their wallets — they simply must have access to mental health care. Please keep in mind that of those who die by suicide, 90% have an undiagnosed mental illness at the time of their death, most saw a health care professional in the year prior, with up to 45% of individuals visiting their primary care physician within a month of their death.
We must call suicide what it is, a public health epidemic. And, we must fight it as such, with epidemic measures.
We must marshal as many resources as possible and mobilize an all out war on as many fronts as possible to make mental health care on parity with physical health care.
Let me paint a picture for you of what will happen if we don’t courageously respond and give people hope.
What do we Know About Impact of COVID on Mental Health, Suicide and Suicide Attempts?