Mental Health America Indiana Blog

Mental Health America Indiana Blog. Keeping your mental health informed.

About Suicide: The Passing of Rick Dawson (from a recent NUVO article written by Shannon Dawson)

About Suicide:  The Passing of Rick Dawson (from a recent NUVO article written by Shannon Dawson)

The following is an excerpt from an article written by Shannon Dawson about her husband Rick's depression and suicide in 2013.  Shannon will be a speaker at the annual Mental Health America of Indiana Annual Symposium on Friday, June 13th.  Join us to hear more of her story and how she and her children have been able to use this tragedy to help others.  Register under the EVENTS tab - hope to see you there!

We had never lived extravagantly as a family, and as parents had never tried to hide from our children that many of the things they wished for we did without because we simply couldn't afford them. Yet in the months, then years, following the loss of Rick's job at WISH-TV, the kids began to feel the financial pinch more acutely.

They would lament when we weren't going on vacation or bemoan another problem that went unrepaired at our old farmhouse; they'd have to adapt to a vehicle being driven until it literally fell apart. I knew we still had it pretty good. I would often find myself reminding them that we were okay. Who were we to complain when other friends were in direr straights, forced from their homes, being diagnosed with serious illnesses, losing loved ones? We were good. No one was sick, no one had died.

But someone was sick.

And someone did die.

My loving, funny, talented husband killed himself because he suffered from depression. So many of our friends and colleagues were so stunned at the turn of events that I felt as bad for them as I did for us. Why — and when — had Rick taken a 180-degree turn from the man they knew? The man I married was a happy, adventurous guy who loved learning new things, loved to travel, loved his three children desperately, and loved, loved, LOVED telling a story. Depression was the greatest of the factors that folded into the picture of the man Rick had become before his death; ultimately it was his sense of personal failure, his loss of hope that stole any light that could have lifted him out of it.

Don't get me wrong: Rick was far from a paragon. We came into the marriage knowing we each had a considerable temper. I've never been against arguing. I think arguing can be productive when done properly. Rick was not a fair arguer, and while he wasn't averse to admitting when he was wrong, he really, really wanted to be right. In his career as a journalist, accountability loomed large. In life, I thought he was overly willing to assign blame, to others and to himself.

For a guy who could build a great relationship, he didn't mend well the ones that went awry or fell apart because of his own lack of attention. He wanted to be able to fix them, but in the last years of his life he became more and more haunted by the isolation he was building around himself. He saw himself as diminished. He didn't want friends and loved ones to see him that way. He felt he had lost face, lost ground in troubled relationships he might otherwise have healed.

Rick didn't really have a public persona versus a private one — no more than the next person, anyway. He was pretty much what you met, the guy you got to know. He was interesting, smart, charming, a good listener. He took his responsibility as a journalist so seriously that there was no budging him on ethics. The structure of that world fit him wonderfully, although he came to it by something of a happenstance. Rick actually entered IU as a freshman Fine Arts major. He was a gifted artist, his pen-and-ink drawings something to behold. The 1980s version of the art scene didn't seem to suit his personality and he eventually wound up with a double major in Journalism and Psychology. I have a houseful of his awards showing that he'd made a good choice.

I am still often asked if Rick's suicide makes me angry. No, it just makes me sad. When I found his body, I just kept telling him I was sorry, over and over. I was sorry that he'd felt that was his only choice, because it wasn't. I'm sorry we lost a good man, I'm sorry we lost our future together, because we didn't have to.

You can read the rest of this story at Nuvo.net 

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Mental Health Issues in Indiana Youth: Not the Typical Teen Angst - original post by Bill Stancykiewicz

Mental Health Issues in Indiana Youth: Not the Typical Teen Angst - original post by Bill Stancykiewicz
April 16, 2014

Artist Name - teensuicide.mp3

INDIANAPOLIS - Hoosier children are facing a health crisis, experts say, with almost 20 percent experiencing mental health challenges.


Many are not getting the care necessary to help them deal with those issues, said Bill Stanczykiewicz, president and chief executive of the Indiana Youth Institute. Even more concerning, he said, is that 19 percent of Indiana students have contemplated suicide - the highest rate in the nation.

"Eleven percent of Indiana teenagers have actually attempted suicide," he said. "That's the second-highest rate in the country. So here in the Hoosier State, our teenagers are telling us this is a serious challenge that we need to be aware of."

Stanczykiewicz said the best prevention and detection of mental-health challenges happens through relationships at home, at school, and at community organizations. The State Commission on Improving the Status of Children listed undiagnosed and untreated mental illness as top concerns among Hoosier youth.

Stanczykiewicz said parents and educators should watch for warnings signs including changes in behavior or attitude.

"Young people who are overly despondent, overly sad for weeks at a time, not just the normal teen angst," he said. "Kids who start giving their possessions away, start talking about not being around anymore. Kids who had favorite activities and they abruptly stop. Kids who had friends and they abruptly stop hanging out with those friends."

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressful life events such as death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, or school difficulties can increase the possibility of suicide. In addition, youth who identify as homosexual, bisexual or transgender are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.

Stanczykiewicz said the key is to detect that a child has a challenge and get them the help they need. He said the family physician is a good place to start.

"Physicians more and more are receiving specific training on mental illness," he said. "Even if they are not an expert themselves, they have enough awareness to watch for the warning signs to detect where mental illness may be occurring and make the proper referral."

If the situation seems urgent, he said, people should call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.

 

 

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More Than A Bump on the Head

There are several bills this session that address student athletes and concussions.  We are now learning the long term, potentially deadly impact, of repeated concussions through sports or accidents.  There has been more than one professional sports player who has committed suicide and was found to have brain damage from repeated concussions.   What we once though as just a little "bump on the head" is now a serious injury.  The following is an article from the Science Digest that discusses the connection between concussion and an increase in depression.  Let's keep our kids safe!

Teen Concussions Increase Risk for Depression

Jan. 9, 2014 — Teens with a history of concussions are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression as teens who have never had a concussion, finds a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


 

"What this study suggests is that teens who have had a concussion should be screened for depression," said lead study author Sara Chrisman, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Concussion, considered a mild traumatic brain injury, can also have serious psychological effects. Most prior research on these psychological effects has focused on adults. However, many teens experience concussions through sports injuries or accidents, and less is known about long-term complications in adolescents.

The study used data from the 2007-2008 National Survey of Children's Health and included health information from over 36,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17. 2.7 percent of the sample had had a concussion and 3.4 percent had a current depression diagnosis.

Teens who were 15 years or older, lived in poverty or who had a parent with mental health problems were more likely to be depressed than other teens, said Chrisman, "but what was surprising was when we took those factors into consideration, it didn't take away from the association between depression and a history of concussion."

Chrisman also cautioned that it's not known what exactly might account for higher rates of depression in teens with a history of concussion. It could be the brain injury itself, diagnostic bias due to repeated medical visits for concussion, doctors mistaking symptoms of a concussion for depression, or from the social isolation that they may experience while recovering.

Jeffrey Max, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in psychiatric outcomes of traumatic brain injury in children and adolescents at the University of California, San Diego noted, "In our research, we've found that about 10 percent of the kids had a full depressive disorder or subclinical depressive disorder 6 months after a concussion." Children who have a history of concussion are more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and have difficulties controlling their moods, especially anger, rather than experience depression, Max added.

Unlike Chrisman, however, Max observed that the actual brain injury associated with concussions is probably a major cause of depression in the first few months after injury. "In the clinic, we've certainly seen cases where within hours [of sustaining a concussion], a kid who's never had depression before is suddenly depressed and suicidal. One of our studies found that the brain images in children with traumatic brain injury and depression were actually quite similar to those seen in adults who develop depression as a result of traumatic brain injury".

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When the Holidays Aren't Joyous: 5 Tips for Helping Children Cope With Loss - written by Bonnie Rubenstein for the Huffington Post

When the Holidays Aren't Joyous: 5 Tips for Helping Children Cope With Loss - written by Bonnie Rubenstein for the Huffington Post

For kids, the holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and excitement. However, for some children who have suffered a recent loss, the holidays can be especially hard. The reason is simple: Everyone else is seemingly having a good time, and no matter how hard you try, you're still hurting.

Loss for children isn't just the loss of a family member. It can be experienced in any number of forms: a loss of a house/physical structure due to a fire or natural disaster, erosion of a family structure through divorce or the loss of a beloved family pet. Loss is more common than we think, and it touches just about everyone.

The warning signs for teachers and parents that a child is grieving can be withdrawal from family activities or friends, increased number of angry outbursts or a decrease in academic performance.

So, what is a parent or teacher to do? As someone who has spent more than two decades directing counseling for the Rochester City School District, I wanted to offer a few tips for both parents and teachers to help children through the bereavement process.

Listen
We have to be able to validate a child's thoughts and emotions. It is OK for children to feel sad, afraid, confused and lonely. It is important for parents and teachers to understand that children have to learn to express their grief. Statements such as "everything will be OK," or "I know how you are feeling," don't serve the best purpose. Those statements dismiss a child's feelings and tell them what they are feeling is wrong. While parents may be going through a similar grieving process, parents don't know how a child is feeling.

We Grieve Because of Love
A difficult concept for young children is understanding that grief exists because they knew love. Parents and teachers should reassure kids that the love and memories they have will always be with them. For some children, knowing the hurt is a result of love can sometimes be comforting.

Find Ways to Express Grief
We all grieve in different ways. For children, expressing that grief may take many forms. Parents and educators can help students express their feelings through creative exercises. For example, constructing and filling a memory box with photos or poems may be something that helps the healing cycle. Or creating a dream catcher to prevent bad dreams has shown to help with the healing process. Some children have a worry stone they hold on to that soothes one's fears. For others, singing, drawing or other creative expressions can help.

The New Normal
Kids like rituals and predictability. School, for many kids, is a predicable, safe place. After a loss, kids may fear that rituals will no longer be there. And some rituals won't be there. We have to tell kids the holidays will be different, but that different isn't always bad. I caution parents not to abandon every ritual, but instead make new traditions and keep some of the old ones.

Parents and Teachers Need to Take Care of Yourself
One of the best ways adults can care for their kids is to take care of themselves. Knowing if there is a particularly tough anniversary coming up, plan ahead so it is not so stressful. For example, even though you used to make five dozen holiday cookies, perhaps this year you scale back and slow down.

The holiday season can be a raw and depressing time for children and families that have experienced loss. While adults cannot do anything to fix the loss, what they can do is be there to help their students and children cope and express their feelings.

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