Many work­ing to shed stigma of men­tal ill­ness

Just reach­ing out in that mo­ment can make a dif­fer­ence. By know­ing that one per­son cares can snap some­one who is sui­ci­dal out of that state of mind.

Gulf Times Community - - MENTAL HEALTH - By Luz Moreno-Lozano

LSui­cide is the sec­ond-lead­ing cause of death for peo­ple be­tween the ages and 10 and 24, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. ake Travis area com­mu­nity mem­bers have com­mit­ted to tack­ling men­tal health by equip­ping the pub­lic with tools and re­sources about how to help some­one who is strug­gling from de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sui­ci­dal thoughts.

Lo­cal ther­a­pist Sarah Cortez said that ev­ery day, 3,000 mi­nors at­tempt sui­cide in the coun­try and four out of five of them showed clear warn­ing signs. Out of those 3,000, she said, 20 per­cent sought men­tal health care.

Sui­cide is the sec­ond-lead­ing cause of death for peo­ple be­tween the ages and 10 and 24, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Cen­tres for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

“Tak­ing fear away about men­tal health or just talk­ing about men­tal health em­pow­ers some­one to no­tice some­one who may have sui­ci­dal thoughts,” Cortez said. “And the more ed­u­ca­tion you have, the more you feel em­pow­ered.”

A new non-profit in the area, Tune Into Life, is just get­ting on its feet, but, founder and Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Kath­leen Hassen­fratz, said the group’s two main goals are to pro­vide par­ents and the com­mu­nity with tools to bet­ter un­der­stand men­tal health and the strug­gles kids deal with daily, and to get kids more in­volved.

Hassen­fratz said sui­cide is not stereo­typ­i­cal to one type of child. While there is no one an­swer, she said, a lot of time kids feel dis­con­nected or face a lot of pres­sure

For a lot of peo­ple so­cial me­dia is ev­ery­thing. It can be ex­hil­a­rat­ing and it can be the worst thing and it can cause anx­i­ety and stress.

when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial me­dia. Cortez cited hear­ing sim­i­lar things from some of her clients.

“What we’re see­ing is more stress and anx­i­ety,” Cortez said. “And what is caus­ing this? There are big­ger ex­pec­ta­tions now be­cause the world is ex­pand­ing, so there is pres­sure to suc­ceed. So­cial me­dia, there is a lot of pres­sure there. For a lot of peo­ple so­cial me­dia is ev­ery­thing. It can be ex­hil­a­rat­ing and it can be the worst thing and it can cause anx­i­ety and stress.”

Hassen­fratz said her goal is to cre­ate a place where kids can come to de­com­press, talk and learn how to help oth­ers and them­selves. The or­gan­i­sa­tion hosts monthly open com­mu­nity meet­ings where lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als are avail­able to talk. Meet­ing lo­ca­tions in the Lake Travis area vary monthly.

As the or­gan­i­sa­tion con­tin­ues to grow, Hassen­fratz said her next step is reach­ing more high school stu­dents.

Lake Travis High se­niors Mia Perl­man and Tif­fany Sun are work­ing on just that. The two have put to­gether a class, the Pos­i­tiv­ity Project, that ed­u­cates stu­dents about men­tal health and recog­nis­ing symp­toms of de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sui­cide.

The two have put to­gether com­mu­nity pre­sen­ta­tions where lo­cal ther­a­pists and coun­sel­lors talk with guests about men­tal health. Top­ics ranged from sui­cide pre­ven­tion to stress and anx­i­ety to de­pres­sion.

“We had a few friends that did com­mit sui­cide and we didn’t think there was enough aware­ness in our school about how we as stu­dents can help, and aware­ness in gen­eral that this is a prob­lem that we have within our school,” Sun said.

Perl­man said the hope is that talk­ing about men­tal health and ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents about the is­sue will also break the stigma of not seek­ing help through coun­sel­lors or ther­a­pists. Sun said some peo­ple might not be open to it be­cause they are afraid of talk­ing to a stranger, or what coun­selling and ther­apy de­fines as.

“That is why we wanted it to be stu­den­tled,” Perl­man said. “So there is a medium area. Maybe stu­dents will feel more com­fort­able if it’s run by some­one that goes to their school.”

Cortez said just reach­ing out in that mo­ment can make a dif­fer­ence. By know­ing that one per­son cares can snap some­one who is sui­ci­dal out of that state of mind. She said learn­ing what to say and how to re­act in that mo­ment can go a long way.

“One of the most in­ter­est­ing things is it’s not al­ways what you say, but just be­ing there for the per­son,” Perl­man said. “It’s one of those ac­tions speak louder than words things.”

While Perl­man and Sun will grad­u­ate in May, they hope that some­one will con­tinue to carry out their project and per­haps ex­pand on it. Hassen­fratz shared a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment, adding that her goal is to cre­ate a cen­tre that is wel­com­ing to all.

“I en­vi­sion a com­mu­nity cen­tre with pool tables and a place where they can hang out and play ping pong,” Hassen­fratz said. “The idea is to equip par­ents with re­sources and tools to rec­og­nize signs of men­tal health, and then also equip­ping stu­dents and chil­dren with sim­i­lar re­sources.” – Austin Amer­i­canS­tates­man/TNS

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