The deadliest epidemic that mankind faces: What can you do?

The deadliest epidemicOur children are dying. Simply put, no beating around the bush; our children are dying and we are standing around watching helplessly. Oh yes, we all exclaim “what is happening in the world”, though that is often the extent of our response.

Simply because we have no idea what we can do about it!

Last week I wrote about addiction proofing our children and the week before that we explored what addictions are.

This week I want to explore practical steps that we can do to act now against what I believe is arguably the most deadliest epidemic facing humanity:

Suicide!

According to Psychology Today, people with substance use disorders are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Rehabs.com, an American rehab database website, highlights that while addiction increases the likelihood a person will take their own life, it also sets the wheels in motion as the means of carrying through with suicide are at their disposal and a reduction in inhibitions that might otherwise deter them from such a consequential decision.

So the risk is high – though we have more resources than we realise!

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

First things first, we need to have an understanding on suicide and what we need to look for. While this isn’t preventing addictions, it will give you something to implement now for those who are already in the grips of an addiction.

According to SuicideLine, there are 4 key points that all professionals, trained in identifying suicide risk, use – and you can use them too!

Thoughts:

  • Are suicidal thoughts present?
  • When did these thoughts begin?
  • How persistent are they?
  • Can they control them?
  • What has stopped the person acting on their thoughts so far?

Plan:

  • Has the person made any plans?
  • Is there a specific method and place?
  • How often does the person think about the plan?

Important note: A suicide plan or preparation for death, such as saying goodbyes and putting affairs in order, indicates serious suicidal intent.

Means:

  • Does the person have access to means to carry out their plan? For example, is there a firearm available?
  • How deadly is the method?
  • Type of occupation? For example, police officer, farmer (access to guns), health worker (access to drugs).

Important Note: If a person has developed a potentially fatal or effective plan and has the means and knowledge to carry it out, the chances of dying from suicide are much higher. 

History:

  • Has the person felt like this before?
  • Has the person harmed themselves before?
  • What were the details and circumstances of the previous attempts?
  • Are there similarities in the current circumstances?

Communicating with an emotionally distressed person can be difficult, but it is important to persist and gather the information required to estimate the risk, identify protective factors and determine the appropriate management.

To summarise the above, go through this list:

Have they had suicidal thoughts?
If yes 

Do they have a plan to carry out the suicide?
If yes

Do they have the means to carry out the plan?
If yes

Have they attempted suicide before?
If yes, then the risk is high and you need to seek help from a professional.

Below are services that are open 24/7 and trained to attend to crises just like this, though if you feel that the threat is imminent, call the police on 000 for immediate assistance.

SuicideLine

Lifeline

Suicide Call Back Service

Kids Helpline

Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and wisdom so we can take action when it is most needed.

If you have lost someone to suicide or are having thoughts of suicide, please contact one of the above crisis lines today to get the support you need, whether it be counselling or referral to the best services for your needs.

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Addiction proof your child

Habits

This may be a shock to you, though 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis; 7.7% of Australians aged 14 and over have used analgesics for non-medical purposes once or more in their life; 4.5% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used tranquillisers/sleeping pills (including benzodiazepines) for non-medical purposes one or more times in their life; 34.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cannabis one or more times in their life; 8.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used cocaine one or more times in their life; Ice (crystal methamphetamine) is the 4th most common drug involved in ambulance attendances, following alcohol, benziodiazapines and non-opioid analgesics (such as paracetamol).

As you can see, substance abuse is up and running in Australia, these stats aren’t even addressing all substances that are often abused and it isn’t addressing other areas of addiction such as pornography/sex addiction, gambling, technology/internet, co-dependency, and the list goes on.

I mentioned in a previous blog, that addictions are defence mechanisms used to protect oneself from the real world. Unfortunately, addictions tend to have an alluring persona to begin with. People seek out different areas in their life, waiting for the hit of ecstasy (either the drug or the emotion), to help them to get through the moment – though not always considering the life long consequences.

There are many things we can do to prevent addictions from developing, though when someone is determined that life will be better with just one more hit, then we need to recognise we don’t have the control we desire to have to save our loved ones.

Consider this thought – that your child is not under your complete control as they age.

How does that feel?

Personally I feel very insecure and worried about my child’s future.

Will she make the right decisions?

Will she consider the needs of others in these deliberations?

Does she understand how important she is to so many around her?

I don’t know yet, she is only 5 and as far as I am concerned, she is actually under my control. I say when bed time starts and screen time ends, when it’s time to eat and time to sleep, time to wash and a time to play.

How long this will last for, I am yet to find out.

Though what can I do in the meantime, while she is under my control, while she remains a captive audience to my every statement and observation?

As much as I would like to give you all the answers now, I can’t.

This is such a complex and far-reaching issue that to give 5 steps to avoiding addictions will simply just not give it the justice it needs, much less deserves. Instead I would like to invite you to join me on a journey to discover a world that so far has remained elusive and transparent; intriguing and beguiling to the unarmed wanderer.

Through this journey, let us work together to work towards ending the life of addictions, releasing one person at a time.

Drugs and the addict: A destructive relationship

Addict

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
Stephen King

Have you ever heard of anyone that began taking drugs with the intentions of becoming an addict? Addictions often start slowly, just one use at a time, then before we know it, a person is hooked. There are many different reasons one may try drugs in the first place, whether it is curiosity or a pain so intense nothing so far has been able to dull the intensity.

For whatever reason, one thing is certain. The person begins to rely on the drug to the point where it feels normal. Like Stephen King’s quote, it feels like it fits where it is. It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong, a perfect dream – until it is too difficult to tell the dream apart from reality. Suddenly the fog begins to lift alongside a whole heap of undesirable consequences and the harsh reality of the control the drug has begins to become clear, though at this point, life without the drug feels incomprehensible. It is no longer a choice, but a necessity for survival.

Unless we have been in that place, it is difficult to appreciate the complexity of the situation. The most commonly asked question is “why don’t you just stop?”. Good question, though don’t expect the answer to be simple or straightforward.

The decision to say good-bye to addiction needs to be made by the addict themselves. No amount of begging, pleading, desperate actions, or harsh words can possibly cause the addict to change their lives around. This is because the addiction has a toxic hold, it promises to make everything better, to treat them the way they are supposed to be treated – not the way their family and friends are treating them by trying to stop them from feeling good.

No. It is an entwined, toxic relationship. One in which there is only one person who can end it.

So what can you do to help your loved one with their addiction?

This will feel like it is totally in the wrong direction. Though the biggest thing we can do, is to support them. Now I don’t mean enable them. What real support looks like is giving them what they need – not what they physically feel like they need. So what is this?

Well, what do you need as a person?

  • Respect?
  • Love?
  • Relationships?
  • Encouragement?

Everything the drug provides. If the addict can see they can get what they need elsewhere, consistently and genuinely, they will feel safer and more empowered to make that life-changing choice.

Though again, it is still up to them. You cannot take responsibility for their decisions. Once you accept that you are powerless to change them, you can then freely provide what they need from you in the way they need it.

Saying NO to the Addict you Love

 
Saying no

Empowering words from Karena for anyone who loves an addict.

Mental Health Week: 5 ways you can respond 

5 ways to respond to Mental Health WeekToday is the beginning of Mental Health Week, though how does it affect you? Does it cause you to stop and think? Or do you find you continue on your day-to-day routine, forgetting until you see that post on Facebook?

Just like mental illnesses, this week can often be unseen – either because we do not see, or because we do not wish to see (now I am quoting  Dreamworks – The Prince of Egypt!). It isn’t nice to be reminded of issues that we would prefer to avoid, that make us feel uncomfortable, that remind us we might need to do something about it.
Sometimes it just seem like there is nothing we can do about mental health issues – the whole situation can feel really out of control.

So how can we respond to this week?

Here are 5, simple, yet effective ways we could respond with:

1. Research: There is so much out there that we do not realise we don’t know about mental health! We hear the basics and think we have been given everything we need to know. As the internet is so advanced, and I am assuming you have the internet to read this, you could choose just one mental health issue to research. Preferably one that is close to you or you know someone who lives with that illness. Another way of researching, is talking with others. You will be amazed to hear the wealth of knowledge others have about the illness they are living with or have researched themselves. This can be really empowering and uplifting for both of you!

2. Self-care: This is a really powerful tool to help prevent mental health issues, and it is much easier to prevent than to treat. If you are living with high-stress each day, it will take its toll and affect you in ways you could not imagine. Taking an hour out of your busy schedule to spend on yourself, perhaps some gardening, or walk the dog, take the bus or ride a bike; can repay you ten-fold.

3. Examine: Examine yourself. We get caught up in the busyness of life that we can lose sight of our identity. If we feel that we need to chase after the next best thing, we can turn off the beaten track we are on and get entirely lost! Examining ourselves frequently is an easy, yet effective way of checking into where we are up to. If we start to feel agitated, instead of band-aiding it – look at why we are feeling like that in the first place. We need to continually examine our bodies for signs of skin cancer, likewise we need to examine our minds for signs of illness.

4. Sleep hygiene: This is a tough one for me! Having a good sleep hygiene routine is really important and yet so hard in this switched on world! – I have personally experienced both sides and having a healthy sleep pattern is definitely the way to go. Though I do admit I struggle with keeping to a good bedtime each night, it is also difficult to retreat from electronics before and during being in bed. It is best to have a routine and stick to it, avoiding using devices while in bed can be really helpful to allow your mind to begin switching off, otherwise you will find you are too wired up to actually sleep well! Stay tuned for my journey of healthy sleep hygiene, I will be keeping a journal on what I did and how helpful it was which I will share with you over the next few weeks.

5. Coffee (or tea!): (Such an important one!) This is great for relationships. In order to help others and yourself, have hot/cold beverage together! Many a word of wisdom, encouragement, affirmation can be shared over the dainty little tea cup and a sense of togetherness that we often leave last on the priority list. There is real safety in number, the more connected you feel, the more supported you will be – and vice-versa. Besides, it is a great way to push those fluids into our thirsty bodies!

So instead of letting this week pass you by, try implementing some of these things, just in small doses, and take note of any changes you experience.

Helping others: 5 questions to boost your helping productivity

Helping OthersGrowing up I dreamed of having 6 kids, going to Africa to help with missions, explored every opportunity to sponsor kids, I jumped at every opportunity to help others before considering what was involved.

I still do mind you, though I have improved a lot.

A lot of my desire to help others, was actually to feel good about myself; that I was contributing to the lives of others, to be seen as a hero.

It felt great when I did actually help others, though when there was a lull, when no one needed me, I felt really low. I couldn’t see my purpose.

The big question is: was I actually helping people?

It felt fake, it felt like I wasn’t helping people because they needed it, it felt like I was helping people because I needed it.

What was I doing wrong? I wanted to genuinely help people because I see everyone as valuable.
Through challenging myself, I came up with 5 questions to genuinely help people – and they all involved looking at myself:

• Do they actually need my help?
Usually we are in conversation when I hear of a need and my usual pattern involves me starting to think about what I could do to help. Though too often they are actually needing someone else to do something about it. They may need a social worker, counsellor or doctor? They may need their spouse, family member or friend to specifically help them. In that case, am I content to refer them on to someone more appropriate? Leading to my next point…

• Have I understood what they need help with?
Are they actually asking for practical help? Or are they just wanting the opportunity to explore things, get outside of their head and just vent to think clearly?

• Do I have the resources?
In times when they are actually asking for help, I need to consider if I have the resources. This does not necessarily mean can I carry out the task, it also includes how much is it going to cost me and those around me. Have I said yes to a number of different people recently? Do I have any looming deadlines that need priority? Have I had enough me time? Sleep, exercise and rest. If I don’t, I need to explore the next point…

• Is it urgent?
Can the request wait? I might have the resources available soon, can I say yes at a certain time? If the request can wait, I do not need to jump in with the help straight away and do a half job, I can wait and do my best job which would be more helpful in the long run.

• What does it mean for me if I say no?
Finally the biggest question of all. If I say no, what does that say about me? Does it mean I am a bad person? Or am I being genuine in wanting the best help for the other person and not promising myself when I am not able to?

After all, it is only when I say ‘no’ that my ‘yes’ truly has value.

As you can see, we can only help others when we invest in ourselves.

Anxiety: Is it really a bad thing?

bench
The first thing I do when I begin to get anxious is to try and distract myself from the anxious thought. Funny thing is that when I try to not think about it, I find I can’t think of anything else!
So why do we get anxious?
Everyone gets anxious – the year 12 student studying for the test of their life, an expectant mother, a father providing for his family, the two day old baby unsure of when the next meal is coming, and so on.

Getting anxious motivates the student to study hard, the expectant mother to learn everything there is to know about labor and how to care for her baby, the father to ensure he has  good health and employers, and the motivates the baby to scream down the house to ensure their message is sent to the food provider!
So in these cases anxiety is actually a good thing. I would go as far as calling it a tool for our personal tool boxes.

A hammer is a very helpful tool when you want to put a nail into the fence – however it is also a dangerous tool if not used correctly. The same with anxiety, there are healthy levels/uses of anxiety and unhealthy levels/uses.

Anxiety disorders can develop from a traumatic experience, learned behavior as a child or just from a normal anxious thought (for instance the year 12 student may have spent the whole year preparing for their final tests that they have a long period of anxiety and have trouble letting go, continuing the high stress levels into further education/employment only to burn out).

This kind of anxiety can be extremely debilitating, often made worse by society in their often genuine desire to take away the pain! So how do we control those initially rational anxious thoughts? After all the best lies have an element of truth in them, the same with anxious thought patterns.

Here are five helpful tools to start with:

♦ Exercise: I am no expert in the science of physical exercise, however i have heard that endorphins in the body helps us to cope with the physical and mental stresses in life.

♦ Meditation: Yoga is a common one, however meditation can be focusing on anything you prefer such as through prayer, reading the bible, music, nature walks, etc. Just ensure they are healthy to focus on.

♦ Breathing exercises:Similar to meditation, only you can do it anywhere you are when you start to begin to panic.

♦ Distraction/diffusion: This does not involve removing the anxiety, just lessening the impact of the symptoms. When anxious thoughts arise you can say “thanks mind for that thought” or imagining the thought as a physical being altering its appearance to look funny or change your perspective on it. It is important to come back to the thought addressing it in the new perspective, it is important to listen to yourself and not ignore your own needs.

♦ Counselling combined with medical assessment: Anxiety does not generally have a medical cause as it is a secondary emotion, however stresses in the body can mimic anxiety symptoms which may then cause anxiety that they may return. So it is best to ensure there is nothing physically wrong as well as receiving tools and techniques to help deal with the root cause of the anxiety. The key in all these techniques is to not dismiss your feelings – they are real and need to be addressed.

The following story explains the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety really well:

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” Remember to put the glass down.

Maria Ciancarelli.

You Don’t Have to Fight Alone


Even the strongest

In a war, a country never fights on their own – allies are drawn in through their friendships with other countries in order to fight the battle.

So why should anyone fight a war within themselves by themselves? Why do it alone when there is always someone to recruit, no matter where they come from or how they arrived – be active in seeking support!

Even the strongest need someone to lean on when they are tired and weary.