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Mental Health May

This month I was fully prepared to write about strokes. What they are, the symptoms, the different types, causes, risks and preventions.

This month, the month of May, is American Stroke Awareness Month with the National Stroke Association; it’s also Mental Health Awareness Month with Mental Health America.

Nationally, health awareness months, weeks and days exists to highlight, bring awareness and bring people together.

This past month I wrote about suicide. Suicide itself is not a mental illness nor does it usually occur by itself; meaning, it is usually a consequence of a treatable mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, personality disorders, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders; and can co-occur and/or be triggered by a life experience; or induced by substance use; e.g., drug and/or alcohol use.

When I wrote about suicide this past month, I referred to it as the person “committing suicide.” I had a mother write me, sharing a beautiful story about her teenage child, who died by suicide. She asked that I quit using the term “committing suicide.” I simply can not imagine a worse pain than that of losing your child.

Years ago, a social worker with whom I worked—he did grief counseling, used to quote another, loosely saying: to lose our parents, was to lose our past; to lose our spouse, was to lose our present; to lose our child, is to lose our future.

I started this column in 2012 to educate and bring the community together on issues surrounding death and dying, life and living, and quality of life. I am a continuous learner.

I turned to my daughter who is a social worker in a nearby town. She said, “Yes, mom, I just completed a workshop on suicide.” Language, how and what we say is powerful. I am using specific language, with the hopes of shedding light on mental illness and suicide. When we use the term “committed suicide,” there is a connotation that there was a crime ‘committed.’ People commit murder. People commit treason. People die from cancer. People die from car wrecks. People die from suicide. By taking the connotation out and saying, “died by suicide,” it also allows for a larger discussion to be brought forth, regarding mental illness.

Many people avoid treatment or therapy due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, or they are simply in denial.

Much the same as an individual goes to a provider and shares and discusses the symptoms of thirst, frequent urination, fatigue and blurred vision. He or she will be diagnosed, treated with medication and on-going visits to suit that individual. Without it, his or her quality of life will probably be poor.

Depending on a person’s diagnosis for mental health, a combination of medication and/or therapy may be suitable. There are different types of therapy available and used. Research has shown, a minimum of 12-16, or three to four months of once weekly sessions are necessary, in order to be productive.

Seeking therapy is an individual choice; we will never be able to make someone do it. Not to save themselves, not to save their families. On occasion, the court system can mandate an evaluation and/or therapy.

When you have two or more of these five signs, you might have a mental illness, and it might be worth starting a conversation with your provider.

These include: 1. On-going sadness or extreme irritability 2. Going between extreme high and low moods (considered moody) 3. Excessive amount of fears, worries, or overall, is an anxious person 4. Easily withdrawals 5. Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits

Suicide, unfortunately, cannot be prevented. We can, however, look for warning signs: sudden sadness or moodiness that doesn’t seem to improve; sleepiness; withdrawal; recent life changes; making life changes; or talking about suicide.

If you think someone might be suicidal, don’t leave the person alone—ask for help from friends

and/or family, if necessary. Call 911 or take the person to the nearest emergency room. There is help: Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) National Suicide Prevention Hotline at


Gina (Paradiso) Cathcart is the director of CareCorner, Ltd., Colorado Respite Care. She is a healthcare educator, passionate about service to others and quality patient care. She can be reached at carecornerof

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