Editor’s Column: Don’t ignore your mental health

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October 10 is Mental Health Awareness Day. If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org and Click to Chat.

Today (Thursday, Oct. 10) is World Mental Health Day 2019. This year’s focus is on suicide prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-34, and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-54. In 2016, the suicide rate for our veterans was 1.5 times higher than for non-veterans.

Undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions frequently play a role in death by suicide. Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and more are mental health conditions that are diagnosable and treatable.

These conditions can afflict anyone, regardless of age, sex, race, religion, financial status or good behavior. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. People do.

We still live in a culture where mental illness carries a negative stereotype that can lead to discrimination in the form of bullying, avoidance, etc. That leads me to believe one of the most powerful things we can do to prevent suicide is to focus more attention on mental health, and we can start by erasing the stigma.

I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression most of my adult life. My first panic attack occurred—based on symptoms I remember—when I was in second grade. My parents told me I had “an overactive imagination.” I didn’t have a name for what was happening until I was 13, and then only because I read about panic attacks and anxiety in a magazine. At 18 I finally told my family physician what was happening. He told me to “get more exercise.” (He was right about that, exercise does help, but it’s not a simple fix.) My church told me to “pray more.” (Again, helpful, but not a cure-all.) I was in my 30s before I yielded to medical treatment. Medication was beneficial for awhile. By far the biggest help? A couple years of psychotherapy that helped me locate the actual source of my anxiety and gave me tools to deal with it. Today, I’m incredibly glad I went through that process when I did. It was worth it, even though it was hard.

I’ve spent multiple hours in the last month researching a story with a direct connection to untreated mental illness and it’s been heartbreaking. I have a friend who has been fighting to find an in-patient treatment situation for her child. I have another friend who has been trapped in the prison of depression. My daughter has been very open about her battle with postpartum depression that nearly took her out. If you start looking around, and you start asking questions, you’ll probably discover you know at least a few people who are, or have, struggled with mental health.

Take a minute today and give yourself a mental health checkup. If you think something is “off,” make an appointment with a mental health professional.

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If you need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org and Click to Chat.

Niki Turner is the owner and editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times.

By Niki Turner | editor@ht1885.com