Mental health, News

Ugly Truth 52: Suicide Rates Are Rising Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

“We need to change the culture of this topic and make it okay to talk about mental health and suicide.” -Luke Richardson

Dear Readers,

It is no secret we are living in unprecedented times.

Our nation’s capital would rather use their election platform to throw temper tantrums and popularity contests than serve those in need. A gruesome pandemic has swept across the globe, robbing us of our wellness, and leaving lasting dents in our populations. Our health care system (which was already atrocious) is now inundated as a result. Unemployment rates sky rocketed while our economy plummeted. Travel industries and non-essential workers were suddenly faced with unique challenges. Schools closed early – if not completely. Grocery stores struggled to supply our panicked demands, and it wasn’t long before meaningful assets were lost and family owned businesses were forced to shut down for good.

Furthermore, consider the cultural crisis of the Blake Lives Matter Movement, the ever pressing women’s rights and LGBTQ+ issues, a lack of access to spiritual services, and the civil war that seeks to divide us all within our already government issued isolation – and it begs the question: What will our mental health response consist of when faced with what it means to be alive in this specific time and place in history? Drawn in this light, we can easily see how dynamic our challenges are from a socio-economic psycho-social perspective.

In some weird way it is no longer special interest groups being targeted, but humanity as a whole. Indeed, it has become frighteningly easy to lose our bearings given the state of things. I do not envy our city leaders who are now tasked with equipping their populations to adapt or die. Is it any wonder why so few of us are sleeping at night? Perhaps the year of 2020 has the potential to be our great equalizer. Perhaps we can choose to come together to find solutions, or be driven further apart by the media and those in positions of power.

The truth is it’s too early to tell. Numbers for suicide rates typically run two years behind, but many clinicians suspect an increase as a direct result of the generational opposition we are currently facing. Interestingly enough, I haven’t done suicide prevention advocacy field work myself since 2018. As both a suicide attempt and suicide loss survivor, this work seems more important than ever. In an interesting article by Townhall, the CDC Control Director, Robert Redfield, attempts to compare the rate of suicide to Covid-19 deaths. In short, he suspects a rise in suicide rates, as well as deaths resulting from substance abuse in the coming reports. Likewise, he cites a disproportionate decline in the mental health of our youth specifically.

Even though things are very loud right now, we must not let the silent epidemic slip under our radar. The truth is our children are in trouble having made more attempts on their life than in years prior. Even more scary, we are seeing more successful completions of suicide by young people than ever before. At first it seems incomprehensible, but then we remember we’re living in an age of information with more platforms than ever before. While many count these as valuable resources to be utilized for good, they also make us more vulnerable to invasion. Let this be a gentle reminder to check in with your kids, especially if they appear to be unaffected.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is a major public health concern. More than 48,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States; it is the 10th leading cause of death overall. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. See below to learn the signs, action steps, and locate shareable images to spread awareness on your own social media.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Blogging, Mental health

Provider Tales: Deskraven Welcomes Special Guest Randy Withers, LCMHC!

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view.”
– Henry Ford

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where I tackle the ugly truths of mental health as it relates to parenting and relationships – and what you can do about them. If you’ve been a reader for some time, then you know my writing style consists of pairing comprehensive mental health articles with personal insight and resources. Having held the spotlight for two years to find my own healing, I am now more eager then ever to offer up the Deskraven platform to hear your stories, as well as those of mental health providers. My hope is that we can continue to serve each other and our mental health community by sharing our stories and normalizing mental health language.

In this new series I will be sharing Reader Tales and Provider Tales on behalf of anyone who wants to participate. If you’re interested in sharing your mental health story in confidence, or know someone who is, please email me at contact@deskraven.com to find out how it works! As we move forward together, you will notice an interview template with the intention of readability. These questions may change or evolve over time.

Without further adieu, I give you Randy Withers, LCMHC! Earlier this year my good friend and colleague reached out to tell me the Deskraven Blog wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. He gave me the opportunity to write for his project, Blunt-Therapy, a blog about mental health, addiction, counseling, and relationships – edited by a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I could think of no greater advisor in the same vein of mental health writing so I jumped at the offer. You can check out our first collaboration, “5 Ways You Can Help the LGBTQ+ Community Fight Stigma”, available on Blunt-Therapy.com.

This time, the tables have turned and Mr. Withers has graced the Deskraven audience with his invaluable wisdom! In addition to being the Managing Editor for Blunt-Therapy.com, Randy boasts a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Education. He is recognized as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). Furthermore, he is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) who has done extensive work with LGBTQ+ clients and survivors of various types of abuse.

THE INTERVIEW

Provide a little backstory. Who are you? Where are you from? What inspired you to enter the mental health profession?

My name is Randy Withers, LCMHC. I’m a licensed therapist in North Carolina, where I work at a state psychiatric facility and see clients in private practice. I am also the managing editor of Blunt Therapy, a blog about mental health. I am originally from Florida, where I worked as an educator for over a decade. For most of that career, I was an academic advisor and counselor, which is where I learned that mental health counseling was my true passion. I went back to school in 2011 and have been in the field ever since. I went to Florida State and I have a dog named Daisy, who is smarter than I am.

Have you ever experienced mental health struggles in your personal life?

I have battled depression and anxiety for more than 25 years. If I’m honest, probably since I was a small child. I’ve never felt comfortable around other people. I’ve always felt different. The problem grew worse as I got older. It led to a severe case of depression about 12 years ago, which almost killed me. So yes, you could say that I have experienced mental health struggles.

As a provider, what do you consider to be the most important aspect of mental health treatment?

I’m a big advocate of a holistic approach to mental health. I don’t really believe that any one thing is most important. Having said that, for obvious reasons I’m a huge proponent of good therapy. Often, people have no idea where to start the process of managing their mental illness. A good therapist provides direction, accountability, and most importantly – hope.

Mental health treatment usually requires a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, it requires that the client accept responsibility for their situation and for them to be willing to do whatever it takes to tackle it.

As a provider, what challenges have you faced?

Graduate school was intense. It was a three-year program and quite demanding. But I was well-trained, so it was worth it. My biggest challenge personally has been working at various agencies with people in charge who have no business making clinical decisions. In North Carolina, you don’t have to be a doctor or a therapist to own a mental health agency. Most of these places are profit-driven and run by incompetent fools. Thankfully, I work at a hospital now that is well-run and well-managed by talented clinicians. And so is my private practice. It is, quite simply, the difference between night and day.

Many therapists struggle with issues related to boundaries. They get too emotionally invested in their clients, or they work too much, or they get burnt out. Thankfully, I’ve never really struggled with that. At least, not for a while. Good boundaries are essential for mental health.

As a provider, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?

This is a hard question. Often, you don’t really know how effective you are. Therapy is like pouring wet concrete. It takes a long time to dry, and often you’re not there to see the finished product. I suppose if I had to focus on specific accomplishments – I have prevented a handful of suicides and even homicides by talking some clients off the proverbial ledge. One time I even took a handgun from someone. I used to work at agencies that liaised with Child Protective Services, so I can also say that I was able to protect a number of children from abuse and neglect.

Have you ever experienced stigma as a direct result of being a mental health provider? How did you react?

I wouldn’t say stigma. It’s not exactly that. But being a therapist is an inherently isolating field. You are a keeper of secrets and a witness to extreme trauma. It’s hard to shut that off sometimes. Truthfully, the biggest problem I’ve faced is in the dating world. I’d say about half of the women I’ve dated simply could not separate my career from me as a person. In fact, several months ago while on a first date, my date spent the better part of 90 minutes telling me all about her childhood trauma and her awful mother. Not exactly first date material. I have a policy of politeness and compliance, so I listened and tried to be helpful. But you can’t really move forward after something like that.

Fortunately, my current girlfriend is a psychiatric nurse and couldn’t care less about what I do for a living. It’s really nice.

What piece of advice would give to those suffering from a dual diagnosis?

That you can’t treat one without the other. Does an alcoholic drink because they are depressed or are they depressed because they drink? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got to stop drinking and treat the depression. You have to conceptualize the problem as an actual medical illness, because it is. It is chronic, unforgiving, and requires a lifetime of support and management. But I’d also say that you can have hope. I’m dually diagnosed and my quality of life is pretty high.

What piece of advice would you give to friends and family who want to support someone with a mental health condition?

The problem with friends and family is that they want to fix things that they don’t understand. I remember, for example, my mom telling me to look on the bright side of things when I was clinically depressed. That’s just not helpful. My advice? If you want to be helpful, start by learning all you can about whatever disorder it is that your loved one struggles with.

What are your favorite mental health resources?

I’m a huge proponent of two seemingly different things. The first is CBT. The second is 12-Step programs. Both of which share the same goal, which is to help people change the way they think about things. So, for me, the recovery community is a huge resource. For the CBT, I really like worksheets. You can get these on sites like TherapistAid.com or you can order workbooks off Amazon. However, these really should be done under the supervision of a mental health professional.

I also believe in online counseling, but it depends on the issue. Severe mental illness? No. Relationships, self-esteem, goal setting, etc. Absolutely, yes.

I would encourage you all to visit Blunt Therapy, which is my blog. I and about two dozen other writers focus on topics related to mental health, therapy, addictions, and parenting. We’ve got some good stuff.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Medium.

Discuss: Did Randy’s words resonate with you? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!

Mental health

Ugly Truth 021: The Hidden Symptoms of PTSD

“PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions.” –Susan Pease Banitt Dear Readers, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in 2014. While it explained so much, it also left me with more questions than answers. The consequences of traumatic experiences on the mind are visceral and despite common misconception, not isolated to Veterans of war. When I began to dig my heels into real trauma work, I learned just how relative and complex this disorder can be as no two people experience it the same way. Some people are survivors of one major traumatic life event, while others have many. I fall into the latter category, making the recovery process that much more challenging. Much of this disorder includes managing symptoms by understanding their roots and the dynamics of intense fear. The media has done a great service to this population by highlighting things like agitation and mood swings in major motion pictures; however, there is more to unearth about this disorder. Below you will find the less well known symptoms of PTSD in the spirit of offering additional support and resources to those in need. Depersonalization ➡️ Emotional, physical or cognitive detachment from one’s surroundings or sense of self. Feelings or unreality. Nightmares ➡️ Intense graphic dreams of horror with reoccurring themes of traumatic events, feelings of helplessness, harm or entrapment. Avoidance ➡️ Avoiding people, places or things that remind the person of traumatic events often including crowds, particular sights, sounds or smells. Hypervigilance ➡️ Heightened reaction and intolerance toward light, sound, verbal conflict or physical touch. Inappropriate Guilt ➡️ Feelings of worthlessness or regret surrounding the circumstances of one’s trauma, often including convictions that the situation could have been handled differently. Flashbacks ➡️ Sensations of time travel, hallucination and confusion including loss of the present moment and physical, emotional and/or auditory sensory experiences related to past traumatic events. Migraines ➡️ Trauma-related headaches including tension, chronic pain and nausea. Treatment Options Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images while generating one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping. If you or someone you love is struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, please know you are not alone and help is available. PTSD Help Guide: Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help for PTSD **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health, Relationships

Ugly Truth 020: Change is Good

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” –Leo Tolstoy
Dear Readers, Welcome back to Deskraven, your mental health home! In today’s Ugly Truth post we are learning how the dynamics of change can be complex, but ever important in terms of self-development. If you know me personally, or have read any of my previous posts, you know I have not been shy about my struggles. I understand the personal and professional risk I take by telling the truth, however the benefit of diminishing mental health stigma and comforting others is worth every moment of glaring discomfort in the unmasking. This week a deep dark depression was scratching at my door and while I often pride myself in my ability to cope, I soon found myself in the depths of crying spells, incongruent thoughts, and hopelessness. When internal events take place, namely mood shifts, I often internalize while trying to rationalize what is happening by being logical, isolating and inventive. Still, even I can fall short of the very message I so often send to others: Know when to ask for help. Communication is a master key in the game of life. It is so important whether you have a mental illness, or just want to maintain healthy relationships. Half the battle is knowing what you need, the other half is asking for it. I am an inherently passive individual. Usually this serves me well in terms of tolerance and conflict avoidance, however when it comes to communication, passivity can prolong suffering and even lead to resentment. A lot of the time my depressive episodes are chemical requiring nothing more than self care and a waiting period, but sometimes they are circumstantial. It is the circumstantial kind that really require the most work, including the concept of change mentioned earlier in this post. Viewed in this light, depression becomes something of a riddle. Therefore, solving the riddle becomes a reasonable course of action to lessen depression and demonstrate self responsibility. When my tears dried up it dawned on me that I needed change. I learned change can be as big as a new career, or as small as a new haircut. All I knew for certain was that things were not working for me the way they were. If you or someone you love is struggling, be encouraged by the notion of change. When you find yourself suffering you must examine the phenomena to get to the whys and find resolution. The answer may be a painful one, or it may be simpler than you realized. The important thing to remember is that happiness is something to be looked after. You are responsible for being proactive in all areas of your health because internal experiences are forever solitary ones, and no one can do it for you. If you are unhappy in your relationship, talk about it. If you are miserable at work, seek out alternatives. If you are in need, ask for help. Change is scary and can create good stress, but ask yourself if complacency is keeping you pinned to the ground. Ask yourself if finding a way to create movement in your life will bring relief. **If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!** For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide! In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!
Mental health

Ugly Truth 019: I Feel Like I Have No One

“If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”

Dear Readers,

Despite all the advocating I do for others, I often feel isolated by my own chaos. Loved ones offer words of comfort and well-meaning friends, but the only one who can ever know your truth is you. Insofar, despair remains an endlessly solitary experience.

I want for just one reliable family member to take care of me when I feel like I’m bottoming out. Crisis intervention and medication are not going to stop me from being overwhelmed from a functional stand point from the chronic pain and psychological symptoms of my daily struggle. Stress is the worst possible thing for my health. I just keep pushing and pushing, and it makes me dangerously impulsive as I begin to flail desperately, dying to escape. Even when I try to proactively create change for myself, I feel like I am failing.

The truth is, I want to be taken care of for once in my life. I want someone to kiss me and promise me everything will be okay. I want to believe them.

**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at contact@deskraven.com!**

For more excellent insight and entertainment through a collaborative approach to all things mental health, including a guest post from yours truly, visit the Blunt Therapy Blog by Randy Withers, LPC! For additional perspectives on suicide prevention from master level mental health providers visit, 20 Professional Therapists Share Their Thoughts on Suicide!

In collaboration with Luis Posso, an Outreach Specialist from DrugRehab.com, Deskraven is now offering guides on depression and suicide prevention to its readers. For more information on understanding the perils of addiction visit, Substance Abuse and Suicide: A Guide to Understanding the Connection and Reducing Risk! In addition, for a comprehensive depression resource guide from their sister project at Columbus Recovery Center visit, Dealing with Depression!