Those Left Behind: The Aftermath of Suicide

young-women-comfortingEarly yesterday morning I got a call from the Health Services Administrator (HSA) at the jail informing me that a nurse had committed suicide overnight.
It was a shock because I knew this nurse and had just saw her two days earlier. The HSA wanted me to come in and help break the news to the other medical staff and offer support to those who needed it.
I prepared myself for that, but what I wasn’t prepared for was getting a call from her grieving fiancé who of course was having a very difficult time dealing with the tragedy.
He had spoken to her before she committed suicide, through text messaging. She had texted him a picture of a bunch of pills, but she had done that before and he thought it was an attention seeking, manipulation game and so he ignored it.
Now that she is gone he is blaming himself.
The night shift nurses, the ones that worked closes with her took it the hardest. Especially one young nurse who had grown attached to her. She broke down and sobbed continuously. She kept talking about how strange it was going to be to come to work and not see her there.
This woman also left behind two young children.
It is estimated that each suicide affects at least six people, including family, close friends, co-workers and neighbors.
After a loved one has committed suicide, it’s not uncommon for those affected by their death to start falling apart from the intense grief and the fruitless search for the answer “why?”.
The people left behind to deal with the impact of suicide often find themselves so emotionally devastated that it’s hard to move forward.
This feelings often include:
  • Shock– most people experience shock or a sense of emotional and physical numbness as the first reaction to learning someone they care about has committed suicide. It’s the mind and bodies natural way of trying to slow things down until it can try to make sense of what happened.
  • Anger– people often feel anger, either directly or indirectly. They may be angry at the person who committed suicide, angry at themselves for not being able to prevent it, or angry at the persons therapist for not being able to “cure” the person.
  • Guilt– Loved ones, in an attempt to find answers to why a person killed themselves often ruminate on signs they may have missed. They may blame themselves for not expressing love, for being too distant, for not believing the person when they said they were depressed for the 1ooth time. The “what ifs” can go on and on.
  • Fear– Once someone has committed suicide, it’s not uncommon for family members to become afraid that they will lose someone else to suicide or that even they themselves could possibly commit suicide.
  • Relief– It’s also not uncommon for family and friends to feel a sense of relief, especially if the individual suffered from chronic mental or physical illness (i.e, intense pain) or even if they person had been on a long, steady decline of self-destructive behaviors such as drug addiction.
  • Depression– While it’s natural to go through grief when you’ve lost someone close to you, it’s not uncommon for grief to turn into depression if that loved one took their own life. The person may experience sleep disturbance, lose of appetite and loss of energy.  This can translate into feelings of life being worthless and losing joy in things one once found enjoyable.
In normal grief, all of these feelings will start to ease up overtime, it only becomes concerning when they remain very intense and do not seem to improve with time.
For people affected by an individuals suicide, it’s important that they:
  • Stay Close to family and friends– having a good support system is important to keep an individual from isolating themselves and ruminating on the suicide, especially in the first 6 months. The person may not feel like being around others and may not be ready to talk about their feelings, but they still need to have supportive contact.
  • Give children special attention– Children especially may have a hard time coping with a loved ones suicide. They need special attention so that they can express their emotions and talk them out. They need to know that grief is a normal process and need the adults in their lives to model healthy grieving for them, including open communication, sharing feelings and reminding them that they are loved and supported.
  • Be aware of special occasions– holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., can all be very stressful times.People may need extra support or checking up on.
It takes time to heal from the loss of a loved one, especially when that person has committed suicide. While the pain may feel like it’s never going to go away, it will get better. Having the support of loved ones will help with that process.
Remember to express love for the person that was lost, love for the family and friends that are still here and and love for yourself.

One Day At A Time: Dealing With A Highly Suicidal Person:

So this is a delicate post to write about so I will try to do it without giving too much detail. This week I came face to face with a highly suicidal person in possession of a firearm.

As the Director of Mental Health at a county jail I deal with suicidal inmates everyday, but they of course are never in the position of anything as lethal as a firearm.

This individual was very distraught, hopeless, felt worthless, overwhelmed and had a history of  mental illness. It was an intense situation because of the firearm and the fact that this person repeatedly said that they wanted to die and had nothing to live for.

What made it more intense is that there were officers near by waiting to see if I could diffuse the situation. The number of officers quickly grew from two to at one point as many as six before I was able to get them to give us some space, yet at least two officers remained nearby at all times.

The funny part is that I was never scared. I think I was shocked when I saw the firearm and at times afraid that I was going to witness someone kill themselves. I was more afraid that this person was going to get shot by the officers either accidentally (by the way they were handling the firearm) or on purpose (suicide by cop).

It definitely was a stressful situation that played out over the course of over an hour in the Florida heat. It was a situation that tried my patience, skills and instincts as a therapist.

I was appreciative that the officers on the scene were also patient and allowed me to pretty much take control of the situation. I knew that I was the only one there who could get that close to the person without feeling threatened myself or causing them to feel threatened.

During this “standoff” of sorts, we talked about everything from this persons depressing home life, dysfunctional childhood, isolation from family and friends, and frustrations at work.

We talked, but mostly what I did was listen and attempt to encourage this person to live just one more day. I said, “If you are convinced you want to kill yourself then no one can really stop you, but don’t kill yourself today.”

One day at a time.

After sometime I convinced this person to contact someone in her family over the telephone, something they had been unwilling to do because they were convinced that they were going to kill themselves that day.

Eventually this person agreed to relinquish position of the firearm and was willingly taken into custody where they were transferred to a mental health hospital for evaluation. The situation ended peacefully. That was all I could ask for.

I received several “thank yous” from the officers involved who were also happy that the situation ended peacefully. They didn’t have to shoot anyone. They weren’t shot at. They didn’t have to notify a family member of this persons death.They told me multiple times that they were worried about my safety, but I never was. I never felt threatened or in danger.

I don’t feel like a hero and I don’t feel like I was brave.

What I saw was someone in emotional pain who needed someone with a level head to guide them and that’s what I did. It almost came natural. It’s something I do at work nearly everyday. The only thing that was different was the firearm and the fact that his person was out in the community and not in jail.

I don’t know what happened to this person after they were taken away. I may never know. What I do know is that at least for that day, they chose to live.

One day at a time.

 

Why I Became A Certified E-Therapist

Young Man Using Laptop At Home
embracingyourinnerpower.org

When I first started this blog, I had no idea the number of people I would be reaching from not only across the country, but across the world! It wasn’t long before I started getting comments and emails asking for help with a multitude of issues.

As I started to answer questions and provide guidance and referrals, I realized that many people wanted more than a onetime interaction.

Many of them had situational problems and wanted help to solve that problem over the course of a few email exchanges. Others had more in-depth concerns and wanted ongoing contact with me to help move them to a better place.

It literally became overwhelming trying to keep up with all of the inquires, but at the same time, it was some of the most rewarding work I had done.

For instance, I found myself helping a man and his wife in England who didn’t live near any licensed psychotherapists. I found myself helping people who were too ashamed to go to face-to-face counseling or who just wanted the convenience of talking to a professional therapist from their living room.

Just the yesterday I helped a mother and grandmother get their daughter/grand daughter involuntarily hospitalized due to frequent suicide attempts when they were frustrated and thought they had ran out of options. It felt good to be able to do the research, make the contacts and guide them to a resolution even though it was all through telephone contact and they didn’t live anywhere near me.

I realized through helping so many people that I needed to do something that gave these readers turned clients more. That’s why I started Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC (www.embracingyourinnerpower.org) and became a Certified E-Therapist.

E-therapy (electronic therapy/online therapy) is a growing form of delivering therapy that is just as effective as traditional in-office therapy in most cases, while being more convenient.

I had heard about e-therapy several years ago and over the years it has become more and more accepted and I can easily see why.

The family I helped just yesterday lived in a rural area, didn’t know where to turn or even really what they were asking for. I was able to not only help them identify what they needed, but I was also able to help walk them through the steps as they were driving to a graduation.

I’ve found and research suggests that online counseling can be even MORE effective than face-to-face counseling because clients are more relaxed and feel less intimidated than they would in traditional settings.

Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer face-to-face counseling when possible, but I have also embraced technology and the way people are interacting more and more today through social media, chat, email and text messages. People are also becoming more comfortable with technology assisted care.

I’ve helped people with anxiety disorders, social phobias, people who were too busy to drive to a counseling session or just not motivated enough to go to face-to-face therapy, but were willing to turn on their computer and communicate with me. Because of this, the missed appointment rates for online counseling is less than that of traditional counseling.

My main goal as a therapist and my main goal with Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC is to reduce a person’s distress, depression, anxiety or concerns by helping them build on the strengths they already possess.

I’ve found that I am just as effective doing that through online therapy as I am face-to-face. I’ve also found that the people I have helped probably wouldn’t have reached out for help otherwise if it meant physically going somewhere or even inviting a therapist into their home.

Simply put, online counseling works, especially when you’re paired with a therapist who, like myself, works with a limited amount of clients and therefore is able to deliver very professional and personal counseling and not canned or rushed responses and sessions.

Some of the benefits of online counseling include:

  • Convenience– you can receive counseling from your living room, while on vacation… virtually anytime that is convenient for you.
  • Affordable– Online therapy is a lot less expensive than face-to-face therapy which averages over $100 per hour easily. Even when paying out of pocket, online therapy is usually cheaper than the deductible would be for traditional counseling.
  • Licensed– As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified E-Therapist, I deliver the same professional and high quality service online as I do face-to-face.
  • Secure– All information is kept secure and confidential.
  • Sigma Free– You can remain as anonymous as you want through message based, email and telephonic counseling.
  • Multi-modal– You can choose from video counseling, chat, email or telephone counseling depending on your needs.
  • Effective– as I stated earlier, online counseling in general is just as effective as face-to-face counseling in most situations.

As a Certified E-Therapist, I am constantly working on making Embracing Your Inner Power, LLC, the best it can be and it is a work in progress. I am dedicated as always to helping individuals discover their true potential and am appreciative that this blog and my readers have allowed me to grow and share so much with them.

I’ve been able to help individuals and families from 6 continents and it’s been an amazing learning experience.

 

Psychological Truama: A Brief Overview

Psychological Truama: A Brief Overview

Psychological trauma is sometimes hard to understand. Because of this, many people who have suffered from it do not realize how it affects their lives. More sadly, many parents who have children that have undergone psychological trauma, do not realize the importance of getting them help because they do not realize the damage that has been caused.

They believe that children are resilient and will get over or forget something traumatic that happened to them when they were one, two, three or four yeas old. Depending on the child, the traumatic event and what protective factors were or weren’t available to the child after the event, that child may suffer psychological damage for life.

Psychological trauma is the unique individual experience of an event in which the individual’s ability to integrate his/her emotional experience is overwhelmed or the individual experiences a threat to their life, body or sanity.

A traumatic event creates an overwhelming feeling within a person where they are not able to cope and are left to feel as if they will be killed, seriously injured or psychologically damaged. The person may feel overwhelmed emotionally, cognitively and/or physically. This type of situation is common with abuse, entrapment, helplessness, betrayal, pain, loss and/or confusion.

Trauma is a very broad definition and includes responses to powerful one time events such as natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and crime, deaths, and even surgeries.  It can also include responses to repetitive events such as combat, urban violence, concentration camps and abusive relationships.

The key component in trauma is feeling helpless and endangered. No two people will experience the same traumatic event the same. As a matter of fact, what may be traumatic for one person may not be at all traumatic to the next.

For instance, earlier this week I did crisis counseling with four female inmate workers who were out clearing road debris when a man came out of the woods with a machete and chased them back to the van. The man was apprehended, but the four women were brought to me to be evaluated.

Out of the four women, three appeared to be handling the situation relatively well, even able to laugh and joke about the incident while also describing it as terrifying.

One woman however, was obviously more shaken up. She sat nearly stone faced with tears in her eyes, not saying a word during the counseling session. I quickly learned that she was the last woman to make it safely to the van and was the one whose life was most in danger. She also has a history of mental health problems which may make her predisposed to developing signs of trauma which include:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief.
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings.
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame.
  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Avoidant behavior

Out of the four women, she is the one I most worry about and the one I will observe closes during the days to come to see how she processes this trauma and to help walk her through it if needed.

That is the interesting part of trauma and why trauma is defined by the experience of the survivor.  We can’t say one event will cause trauma and another will not or that one person will be traumatized by this experience while another will not. Trauma is too broad for such simple explanations.

 

“Big T” versus  “Little T”

It’s hard to go through life without being traumatized in some way. Most of us have experienced some type of event that has affected us either consciously or subconsciously. It could be the divorce of our parents, being bullied in school, seeing a pet die when we were young.

Many of us don’t even know we walk around caring these traumas with us or how they affect our lives.

For instance, a man whose favorite pet died when he was five may never like pets for the rest of his life and grow angry and anxious when his kids ask if they can have a pet.

These types of traumas are called “Little Ts” or “Little Traumas”. They do not have the severe impact that  “Big Ts” or “Big Traumas” usually have such as flashbacks, avoidant behavior, severe anxiety and nightmares that lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. Still, “Little Ts” can unconsciously disrupt our lives.

Most men I’ve worked with in anger management don’t even realize why they are so angry, why they hit their wives or bully their children. It’s only after some intense introspection that most of them can identify traumatic events in their childhood such as being bullied by their own father, watching their father beat their mother or watching their mother go through abusive relationship with one man after another, that they realize the reason they carry around so much anger.It’s once we deal with the root causes of their anger that they began to truly heal.

I myself as a child watched as my father often abused my mother. I never had any nightmares, flashbacks or anything that would make it a “Big T”. I never felt that my own life was in danger, but I did feel like my mothers’ life was.

Still, one of the affects it had on me was that for many years I thought that’s what love was. That if you loved someone you fought, made up and then fought again. It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned I was wrong. For many years, that “Little T” of watching my parents fight had me living in a world where fighting verbally and physically meant love.

A woman I counseled with was claustrophobic and afraid of the dark. She had no ideal why until one session we processed the fact that her older siblings used to play a game where they would lock her in a closet when she was very young. They thought it was funny, but she was tormented. She never viewed that as a traumatic event until years later, sitting across from me crying.

Trauma doesn’t have to be a negative word. Often times the way we respond to trauma, the way it changes us, the way we adapt to a traumatic event, is natural given the coping skills, circumstances and knowledge we have at the time.

The topic of trauma is too broad to cover in one post. I’ve actually been on a radio talk show discussing trauma twice within the last two months and will likely be on a third time because it is such a huge topic.

My bottom line for this post is to help others realize that you don’t have to go off to war or survive some horrific event to suffer from the affects of trauma. Even “Little Ts” can rob us of our full quality of life and “Big Ts” can devastate us.

Once we recognize this, we can change it through self help, the help of loved ones and even professional help if needed and reclaim the joy and full life we deserve.

 

 

 

You Are A Gift

iStock_000018620938_Medium-500x333Earlier today I was speaking with a fifteen year old girl in our juvenile detention center. She is experiencing depression and is 6 weeks postpartum so I was concerned about her. As we talked, I started to understand some of the sources of her depression.

During our session, she revealed that her mother also gave birth to her when she was fifteen and that her biological father has been in prison since she was three years old. Her mother is currently married to a verbally and physically abuse man that she feels her mother places before her in order of importance, attention and affection.

As this young lady and I talked, she described how she grew up feeling like a burden to her young, single mother and how after her mother had other children and multiple boyfriends, she was always made to feel like she was “in the way”.

It became very apparent that this young woman, consciously or unconsciously, had a baby at fifteen years old, partly so that she could have someone in her life that didn’t make her feel like a burden, but gave her the unconditional love she has been yearning for. However, due to her own psychological damage, she now sees her 6 week old baby as a burden and if she doesn’t learn to change the way she views herself, she will pass on that damage to her child.

What I discussed with her this morning and will try to instill in her is this:

We are the greatest gifts we can ever give ourselves. We are also gifts to other people and the Universe. Our children, if we have any, are also gifts.

Too many people grew up being made to feel, even as children, that they were a burden. Maybe they were born to parents who themselves were brought up in painful situations where they did not truly know how to love and appreciate others.

Maybe their parents conceived them as a resolution  to fixing a broken relationship or “save” a troubled marriage. Maybe their parent expects them to be their caretaker, or they were simple born during a difficult time of their parents lives and they were never able to be truly enjoyed, loved, appreciated and viewed as precious gifts as children.

Many of us have grown up never feeling truly accepted and carrying these feelings on unconscious and conscious levels that we were and are a burden.

This is how people can fall into a deep depression or become suicidal, thinking that the World would be better off without them.

This type of thinking is what keeps people from truly connecting with other people on any level or truly enjoying life.

Because of this they end up beating themselves up all the time with negative self-talk, not appreciating themselves, walking around apologizing for themselves, feeling like other people know better and are better than them.

For those of us who have received this terrible message growing up, it’s time to change it.

You are not a mistake. You are not here by accident. You are here because we are supposed to be here.

Our lives have purpose and intention.

We don’t have to apologize for being here or for being ourselves. We don’t have to beat ourselves up over our past mistakes or experiences that have helped create who we are now. We don’t have to be ashamed, apologetic or doubt the beauty that is our unique selves.

We are not a burden and if our parents are the ones who tried to put that on us, it’s time to recognize that it is their issue and not ours. We don’t have to carry that with us. We can let it go.

We are precious gifts and today we will start treating ourselves as gifts to others, the Universe and especially ourselves.

Embracing Your Inner Power

istock dollar inner childSometimes you just have one of those days where it seems like the sun isn’t shining on you. In that darkness it’s easy to beat yourself up over the past and become anxious and negative about the future.

I’ve been there. It used to happen to me a lot actually and sometimes it still does. In the past, I dealt with those days the only ways I knew how which were becoming cling, needy, depressed and anxious. All maladaptive coping mechanisms I had picked up sometime during my life.

In return, I found myself trying to control other people and situations. Wanting people to do what I wanted them to do, think what I wanted them to think and feel the way I wanted them to feel. This rarely worked out in my favor. Usually the people I was trying to control either pulled away or responded negatively which in the end only made me feel worse.

Even when I did get what I thought I wanted, I usually still felt empty and overtime I realize the reason I still felt empty was because the real issue was within me and I couldn’t fix that with people or things.

I realized overtime and from doing therapy clients who suffering from anxiety, depression, and anger issues, that people and things do not stop our pain or move us to a better place. Only we can do that for ourselves.

We are the only ones who have the inner-power to end our suffering and angst. Sure sometimes we need the help of our support systems and/or our spiritual beliefs, but all change truly begins within us. That is when we truly heal and move beyond that pain and darkness.

Once we dig into and heal ourselves, peace, love and trust will return to use easier and quicker than we thought. Trust me. I’ve been there time and time again and it never fails. Our past neurotic attempt to bring back balance and peace to our universe happens much more naturally when it comes from within.

We have to deal with our feelings and accept them as ours. We have to stop our need to control. Peace, love and happiness will return. Remember, a bad day is just a bad day and we don’t have to make it last any longer than absolutely necessary.

I’m not saying it’s easy to stop the pain and anxiety when it comes rushing in. Sometimes even for myself today it takes a moment for me to recognize it, stop from going to my default maladaptive coping mechanisms, and reach inside my own inner-power, but I am better at it today than I was yesterday and will be better at it tomorrow than I am today. That’s all I ask of myself and all I ask of you.

We are much more powerful than we believe we are! We can control not only our thoughts and feeling, but our destinies! We have to learn to harness and embrace our inner power.

It doesn’t matter if you have anger issues, depression, low-self-esteem, whatever it is. The faster you realize you have all the control and no need to try to control other people or situations, the faster you will have the strength to overcome any obstacle that’s in your way, even if that obstacle is yourself.

 

Micropsychosis: Temporarily Losing Your Mind

loses their minds 

Have you ever heard someone say that they “lost their mind”? Perhaps you’ve even witnessed a seemingly normal person “lose it”, such as the JetBlue pilot in 2012 that had to be subdued by passengers because of sudden, erratic behavior during a flight, or when a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight began speaking erratically over the intercom.

There are multiple medical conditions that can trigger psychotic like episodes such as brain tumors, thyroid conditions, fever, infection and substance abuse. There are also multiple psychiatric conditions that can cause a person to have brief psychosis such as bipolar disorder and major depression.

However, there are times when relatively healthy people can for an incredibly short amount of time, lose touch with reality, becoming paranoid, hearing voices, having a sense of depersonalization (a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself, or in which one loses all sense of identity) or derealization (a feeling that one’s surroundings are not real).

This condition is called micropsychosis and generally last only a few minutes to a few hours and typically occurs during times of heightened anxiety and/or stress. Afterwards, the person goes back to him or her normal self and may never have an episode again. It’s not to be confused with a brief psychotic episode which by definition last longer, typically one day to a month and is not re-occurring.

Micropsychotic episodes are what I think often happens when someone goes into a rage and is seemingly out of control. Afterwards, many of them can’t remember what happened, or feel as if they were watching themselves do things as if it were a movie.

Whenever someone who has never had a psychotic episode suddenly has one, it usually takes them and everyone by surprise, but in retrospect, there is usually some early symptoms that may have gone unnoticed or ignored. Often times it’s the way someone is dealing (or not dealing) with stress.

While having a micropsychotic episode may actually be quite a normal psychological response under some extreme stressful conditions, there is probably some underlying condition that needs to be investigated, even if it’s just talk therapy to help deal with stress or a visit to a medical doctor to rule out a medical condition.

Below is a video of a character with Borderline Personality Disorder and her Micropsychotic hallucination. A funny title for this video would be, “How To Make Your Hallucinations Disappear”.

We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid

istock0000179371As a mental health professional, I have found myself spending a lot of time trying to convince people that they need to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. Meaning, I run into people who are working two jobs, taking care of their family and everyone else around them, but are letting themselves go mentally and are getting sicker and sicker over time.

Or, I meet someone who is obviously not dealing with various issues in their lives, probably hoping that ignoring them will make them go away, but all the while they are growing emotionally unhealthy.

It reminds me of when a parent would bring a child in to see me for therapy and it would become apparent pretty quickly that it’s the parent that needs therapy, not the the child. Many times the parent would like at me as if I was crazy. They couldn’t see that their own neurotic behavior, substance abuse or even past childhood issues are creating the “problem” they are prescribing to their child.

It’s easy to tell when someone is physically not doing well, but it’s not always easy to tell when someone isn’t mentally doing well, especially when it comes to everyday things like anxiety, depression and self-esteem. Things we all deal with from time to time.

I have a sister who at one point was working a very demanding job, raising a challenging teenager on her own,  volunteering her sparse free time to multiple organizations and if that wasn’t enough, she was trying to help every friend that called and needed something from her.

On the outside she looked ambitious, energetic, like a true type A-personality. On the inside she was feeling overwhelmed, flustered and fragile.

One night, while having dinner with our family which should have been relaxing, seemingly out of the blue she had what some would call a nervous breakdown. She started crying, hyperventilating and felt as though she was going to lose control of her mind. I could look at her and tell she was having a classic panic attack, but she was too far gone to hear me and was convinced she needed medical attention.

Soon afterwards she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and was told to cut back on the million and one things she did in her day to day life to take care of other people and to start taking care of her own mental health, something many of us don’t do enough of.

Sometimes I even catch myself too caught up in work, life and everything else and before I realize it I am dealing with some type of anxiety, insecurity or dysthmia. I have to slow down, stop myself and figure out a) where is it coming from and b) how do I take care of it. Often times for me the solution is simple awareness and acknowledgement that something is bothering me. Other times it takes journaling, reading something inspirational or processing my feelings with someone I trust. I’m usually that person for everyone, but sometimes I need someone to be that person for me.

It doesn’t always have to be something major and it doesn’t always take a therapist, but sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s simple mindfulness, meditation, or getting out and having some fun, but many of us have no real idea of what it means to administer emotional first aid to ourselves which is why I included this Ted Talk by Guy Winch: Why We All Need To Practice Emotional First Aid

123 Mentally Ill People Killed By Police So Far This Year

In the first six months of the year, nationwide police have shot and killed 462 people. Out of those 462 people, 123 of them were in the midst of a mental or emotional crisis according to a Washington post analysis. c07_jd_02jul_shootinggraphic-640x230

To be fair, most of these individuals were armed, but mostly with weapons less lethal than a firearm such as toy guns, knives or a machete. Only 3 officers have been killed by a knife or machete in the past decade according to the FBI.

Below I have included a video of a mentally ill man shot and killed by police only seconds after they arrive on the scene. The mans mother called because her mentally ill son was acting erratic. He was armed with a screw driver. You can watch the video with caution and judge for yourself.

The police who responded weren’t usually called to respond to a crime, but were called by concerned family members, bystanders and neighbors because a person was acting erratically. 50 of them were outright threatening suicide.

In more than half of those killings, the officers who responded did not have adequate training in dealing with persons with a mental illness. Most of them actually responded with tactics that escalated the already volatile situation.

Yelling and pointing guns at a person with a mental illness is like pouring gasoline on a fire. A person in the middle of a mental crisis is not going to respond like someone else would, they have too much going on in their heads.

Almost a dozen of these individuals killed by the police were military veterans, many who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One was even a former California Highway patrolman who was forced into retirement after a severe beating during a traffic stop lift him suffering from depression and PTSD.

Forty five of these cases involved someone who was seeking medical treatment or had been turned away from medical treatment.

John Guillory, a 32 year old father of two had worked as a contractor in Afghanistan. He was having what his wife called a mental health emergency. He went to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Arizona, but was turned away because they were too busy. He went home and called 911 twice, hanging up both times. When the police showed up to his house he pulled a gun out of his waistband saying, “I bet I can outdraw you”. The police shot him six times killing him.

Suicide by cop is real thing and accounts for a number of these killings.

One individual in San Francisco who pulled a BB gun out on a group of officers and was shot and killed, had left a message on his phone telling the officers “You did nothing wrong. You ended the life of a man who was too much of a coward to do it himself.”

On average, police have killed someone who was mentally ill every 36 hours so far this year. Police are starting to acknowledge the lack of effective tools and trainings they have in dealing with this population. Without large-scale retraining and a nationwide increase in mental health services, these deadly encounters will continue.

While officers on average spend 60 hours in firearm training, they only spend 8 hours on learning to de-escalate a tense situation and 8 hours on handling mentally ill individuals. Otherwise they use tactics that are counterproductive and increase the risk of violence when they encounter these individuals. Most of these individuals end up dead within minutes of encountering the police.

Some of these killings probably couldn’t have been avoided. In some of the situations the individuals had guns pointed at the police. However, a large number of these individuals could still be alive if the officers had proper crisis intervention training.

Drawing From Emotional Pain: One Artist’s Struggle With Mental Illness

DestinyBlue's photo.
In psychology there has long thought to be a link between mental illness and creativity. While disorders like depression tend to affect many people, creative types such as writers, musicians, inventors and dancers seem to get hit twice as hard.
I will follow this post with a discussion on mental illness and creativity later, but today I would like to share something special.
One of my favorite artists, Destiny Blue recently shared with her fans her struggle with anxiety and depression. Her story was touching and powerful. The fact that she shared it on her birthday, May 22nd made it even more special as she was giving such a great gift to so many other people. She wanted her story shared and with her permission, I am thankful that she is allowing me to share it here in hopes that it will help others who think they are suffering alone or are ashamed of their illness. We both hope it will inspire others to reach out and seek help.

Destiny Blue

Hi I’m Blue, and I struggle with mental illness.

Some of you will dismiss me, some of you will be scared of me, some of you will blame me, but a surprising amount of you will understand me, because 1 in 4 people experience mental health issues. Considering so many people experience it, we hear so little about it; it’s the family secret you can’t tell anyone, the fake smile so know one knows, the calling in sick but blaming food poisoning. It’s hard for me to write about, but I write this hoping it makes it easier for the next person to speak about it.

I am going to tell you my story, of my path with mental illness. I don’t know if it has a happy ending yet…

It began with a tough situation at home, which triggered the anxiety. It’s hard to explain the exact feeling. It’s kind of like where you’re leaning back on your chair, and go that bit too far and you just about to fall back. That sudden jolt of panic inside your chest, that half second spike that makes you fling your hands forward and grab the desk infront of you to steady yourself. That ‘oh shit’ moment. It’s that. Only it didn’t last for half a second, for even a minute, it lasted years. I thought I’d just have to live with it until the situations improved, but even when it did anxiety still clung to me like a scarf of live electricity. That feeling could come when I was alone in a room, sitting comfortably, with nothing to do and a clear day ahead. The world would spin and tumble, and I’d want to put my hands out to grab the desk and steady myself, but there was nothing there. Nothing to grab onto. Over and over.

And so, through anxiety’s hot trickery depressions cold crept in, it sat at the back of my mind and laughed at me. “Why are you even trying? It’s useless anyway” and when you’re fighting a non-existent force from a chair you’re not even really sitting on it’s hard to argue with that. And this feeling spread.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t feel happy, and it wasn’t total sadness per-se, I did feel sad, but the harshness of depression is that it makes the process of living excruciating. It’s like walking through thick treacle, every movement pushed against and held back by sticky tar. Suffocating and exhausting. Even when there’s no energy left you still have to walk. This same tar is in your brain, slowing your thoughts, numbing your feelings, even when there’s no energy left, you can never stop thinking. Then everything feels overwhelming. Even the small things, one task in particular for me, washing my clothes, was a mountain, even to think about it required so much energy, I could wash my clothes, but then I’d have to pick up the dirty clothes, taken them to the washer, open the washer, put the clothes in the washer, close the door, open the detergent bottle, put the detergent in. It was just too much. So the clothes sat there. And you know it’s absurd, everyone else can do it no trouble, so, I thought, maybe I’m just lazy, I should push on, I’m a strong person, so I pushed. Now you can push yourself do enough to look like your functioning normally, but it doesn’t get rid of the tar, the sticky molasses in your veins, on the outside I was normal enough, inside I was decaying. My mind was ablaze trying to grab a desk and my soul was swallowed in the bitter treacle. The worst thing, was that I never felt at peace, however still I sat, however beautiful the morning, however hard it was searched for, no peace arrived. It was torture, and my own mind was the torturer.

I didn’t -want- to kill myself, that’s messy, and probably involved going out of the house, a body, sad friends. I just wanted to be dead. My brain fantasized about it. That sweet release of deep restful unexistence, it seemed so much better than existing like this. If only, I thought, there weren’t people who loved me. It’s a sick twisted logic you don’t have control over; to you it all makes sense. I didn’t even know I was depressed, I thought what I was feeling was justified, life -was- meaningless, I -would- be better off dead. It had been a slow decline into darkness, the light wasn’t just switched off, I had no ‘oh shit it’s dark’ moment, I didn’t even realise I couldn’t see properly, my eyes had adjusted to the dark as the light faded, my mind replacing reality with it’s own twisted night vision, of strange shadows and dark half logic.

Yeah, I won’t go out today, no I don’t need to do my essay yet, it can wait, they probably don’t want to hang around with me anyway, It’s not worth it, I’m not worth it, I’m worthless.

So I hurt myself. Mostly to feel better, or to feel something, I’m not sure, but it proved a point. When I saw what I had done to my own skin, I had a thought: “This is what sick people do” The thought turned over a few times in my head and twisted into a lump in my throat “Am -I- sick?” That was the first time I really realised. Despite crippling depression, despite feeling suicidal, being unable to properly care for myself, I had barely thought I was ill, I’d just thought I was lazy, or sad, or worthless. But I looked at the blood, and the damage I’d done, and knew I needed help.

So I went to the doctor, and yes, I was sick, and the slow process began. Full of relapse and recovery. It’s not over, and it may never be for me, it’s more complicated than I can say here. But now I can recognise the signs and know what to look out for and I have learned how to manage my condition. I took a break at the start of this year, and didn’t do any conventions, just focused on getting better and giving myself a steady foundation to stand on for the rest of this year. At the moment I am doing well, and I appreciate the peace in my head so much more now I’ve known such darkness. But life is worth living, and I try and do it with vitatily.

Depression is so disgusting because it erodes the you-ness of you, the qualities you like in yourself are taken over, even the things you enjoy doing you have to do in the tar. It is not your fault, though it can feel like it is, and others may think it is. I hate that some people think it shows weakness. It shows no more weakness than walking up a mountain with a broken leg shows weakness. Your brain’s broken and you must get on -despite- that, doing the washing can be a huge victory, higher than climbing a mountain with a broken leg, and a lot more sensible. People congratulate me for creating a piece of art, or running my own business. No one congratulated me when I did my washing. But really, in my darkest time, it was one of my greatest achievements. And, on some future day where I’m feeling bad, putting another load of washing on will be a big achievement again.

I juts wanted to let you guys know that you were a small light in the huge darkness. Thank you so much for all your comments and notes, I treasure each one of you. Thank you for always being there for me. It’s a wonderful feeling to know I can reach out and so many people would grab my hand to help. I know many of you are suffering with the same thing I did. Please reach out, and for those of you willing to, please offer a hand to someone when they reach out, they probably need it more than you know, they might even need it more than they know.

It’s my birthday, and if I have a birthday wish, it’s for this message to be shared.

Peace, love, and mental well-being,

Blue x