*Linda Tate is on medical leave, but we are posting this blog that she wrote in 2017. The information is still relevant. If you do nothing else, please watch the video*
Many of us have considered the idea in the past. We’ve been overwhelmed with life, finances, relationships, or loss, and maybe even felt that the world would be better off without us. Oftentimes, we think these thoughts, but that’s the end of it. We don’t tell anyone what we are thinking about, and we certainly don’t seek out help for the “thoughts”. Did you know that keeping those thoughts to ourselves increases our risk of actually being someone who completes suicide?
Life/work balance. We hear a lot about that, don’t we? We talk about it with our friends, patients, and may even attend mandatory lectures at work, depending on what field we are in. But do we actually put the idea of life balance into motion? In order to have “balance”, the following areas of our life should be in a place that doesn’t feel chaotic to us: Physical, Family, Mental, Spiritual, Community, Social, Financial, and Professional. You can break these areas down in your own way, using your own perspective. No one area will mean the same thing to any one person.
For example, you may see “Spiritual” as walking in the woods at least once a day, and someone else may see “Spiritual” as going to church once a week. Both are legitimate ways of expressing yourself Spiritually. But if you find that you can’t get out to the woods once a day because work is taking up too much of your time, or you find that you aren’t making it to church once a week because you are staying at home cleaning the house, then you are indeed “off-balance”. This can eventually create stress if it continues for a long period of time, which can then increase your risk of suicide. Life starts to feel chaotic, and suddenly you find yourself getting short-tempered, irritated more than usual, or unable to concentrate…all signs of trouble within.
You may not think Life Balance is important, but it truly is. Suicidal thoughts sneak up on a person. The CDC states that overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, 44 thousand people completed suicide, and 1.4 million more attempted to complete. Now, you may be one of those folks who is cynical and doesn’t worry about that which doesn’t affect you personally. You might say, “well, I don’t feel suicidal, and I don’t know anyone who does…what do I care?”. Perfect. Then let’s talk about the financial aspects.
The cost to society due to increased medical bills and work loss was 56.9 BILLION dollars in 2015. That amounts to $1,287,534.00 each. One must remember, for every person who completes a suicide, there are an estimated 6-32 survivors who are impacted…family, friends, coworkers…all needing therapy, medication, and time off work. Staggering.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are hit hard when it comes to statistics. CBS News reported that nationally, Idaho came in 11th with the most deaths by suicide, Oregon 9th, with Montana number 2 only to Alaska who was number 1 in completed suicides for 2016. This impacts you, in one way, shape, or form.
Mental health has, for too long, been swept aside. We don’t fund it, we don’t connect it to our physical bodies, and we don’t see it as an illness, rather, we see it as a weakness. This misconception keeps one who is ill from seeking out help, and worse yet, thinking about preventative actions. Nobody bats an eye when a mother takes her newborn in for wellness checkups…but if a coworker mentions an appointment with their therapist, we raise an eyebrow.
So what is the answer? The answer lies within us. We set the tone. We take care of ourselves without worrying about “what other people will think”. We get our tune-ups just as we would get our yearly physical. Take an inventory of yourself. See a therapist once a year. Make a list of that which causes you to feel stressed and DO something about it. Don’t just keep plodding along, waiting for the crisis to hit, because it will.
What can you do? Do you have a life/work balance? Did you vote YES for increases in your state budget for mental health care? Did you choose a health care plan that includes mental health? Are you paying attention to family, friends, and coworkers’ behaviors? Are you asking that important question when you see red flags? When someone mentions an appointment with their therapist, do we say “oh, that reminds me…I need to schedule my own appointment” much like we would if a woman mentions her mammogram in October or a man mentions his prostate exam in September? Do you know which month is mental health month? It’s May. It’s been May since 1949.
How many times since you were born have you had your annual mental health assessment as opposed to your annual check up?
Don’t wait. Depression kills. Encourage your friends, colleagues, and loved ones to read this blog. You may save a life.