Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Seriously, We Need to Wake Up About Mental Health Issues

Rumination from the Rock and Beyond

Did you happen to see an interview or read about Kevin Hines and his attempted suicide jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge? Or have you been concerned by the number of not only prominent people, people in general who seem just like us and are ending their lives? Please read on.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his teens, Kevin Hines spiraled the rest of the way downhill and decided to end his life by jumping, as had more than 1,600 others, off of the Golden Gate Bridge.

He said to himself, while standing on the walkway, that if anyone, anyone, showed him the least bit of kindness, he would not jump. Many people passed him by and then one woman addressed him.

“Excuse me,” she said. For him, any positive interaction would end his mission and he felt hopeful. “Would you mind taking some pictures of me on the bridge?”

He took photo after photo of her posing and with each snapshot felt more cut off and desolate. When she left, he jumped.

The second he jumped, he realized it was a mistake and that he didn’t want to die. He hit the water at about 80 mph and had severe injuries, including broken vertebrae and a broken wrist. He couldn’t swim, but through an unlikely miracle was alive. No spoiler, go check it out.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates are rising across the United States with increases across many demographics including age, gender, race and ethnicity. Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in 2016 in the United States. Surprisingly, homicide rates were half the number of suicides, but undoubtedly received more publicity.

An important issue that coincides with this is the influence of the opioid crisis. The CDC has determined that suicides from opioid overdoses almost doubled from 1999 to 2014. This is concerning for a number of reasons. First, the increase in opioid use, second the question whether the deaths were suicide or accidental, and third, habitual opioid users and addicts are more likely to attempt or have suicidal ideas.

I don’t know about you, but this sends off firecrackers accompanied by red flags with me. We spend an inordinate amount of money on crime prevention and it’s certainly both needed and justified. But, how do mental health issues affect the x2 homicide rate and the recent school shootings? There has to be a correlation. A person can’t be mentally stable and decide to obliterate fellow students and teachers, could he? And if it was a suicide wish, shouldn’t that also alert us to mental health concerns?

My belief that is that earlier identification of mental health issues, with the appropriate treatment and interventions, can help. I’m not saying that it could cure all society’s problems, but it can’t hurt. Remember, just one optimistic and productive experience could have prevented Kevin from jumping that day, not to mention appropriate treatment in the years before attempting to end his life.

Thoughtful dialogue between knowledgeable professionals can help lessen the stigma attached to mental illness and enable necessary assistance to reach those in need. It is now Kevin Hines’s mission to do exactly that in the hopes of saving victims of this epidemic.

There are proactive steps being taken in Collier County to increase understanding and lessen the effects of mental illness, which I support and I hope you will also see the value.

One, is the commitment by the David Lawrence Center to increase their number of beds and services to treat people with mental health issues. Second, is the focus on hiring more mental health professionals in Collier County Public Schools to help with identification and interventions. Third, is the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, which is offering training to religious and laypersons to become more knowledgeable about mental illness and how to intervene with assistance in a positive, non-threatening manner. Contact leslie.weidnhammer@colliersheriff.org for more information about training. Tell her I recommended her.

Go to psycom.net for a 3-minute Depression Test based on the Depression Screening Test by Ivan Goldberg, M.D. (Over 15 million people in the United States are affected by depression.)

For more information on the David Lawrence Center please visit www.davidlawrencecenter.org or call 239-455-8500. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential support and is available 24 hours a day. Call them at 1-800-273-8255.

Jory Westberry has been a dedicated educator for over 40 years, the last 14 as Principal of Tommie Barfield Elementary, where she left her heart. Life is rich with things to learn, ponder and enjoy so let’s get on with the journey together!

One response to “Seriously, We Need to Wake Up About Mental Health Issues”

  1. Harold A Maio says:

    —-help lessen the stigma “attached to” mental illness

    No thank you.

    Stop attaching it.

    And please, do not advise anyone to keep some of it.

    Harold A Maio

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