International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

International Day of Suicide Loss
Image
 
Dr. Kartiki Churi, M.D.

Grieving a Suicide Loss

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is held on Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. In the year 2022, it occurs on November 19th.  It is sponsored annually by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). (1) It is the day when people affected by suicide loss gather at events in their local communities to find comfort as they share stories of healing and hope.  

As we head into a busy holiday season, it is important to be aware that this time can be very challenging for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. In the year 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide and there were estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts. (1) Current statistics indicate that each incident of suicide results in 135 acquaintances being impacted and 25 in the category of suicide survivors- these are individuals who are profoundly impacted and bereaved. Each loss leaves the family and friends grieving and struggling to understand and cope. Some individuals may feel guilty and wonder how they did not see the signs and what could they have done to prevent it. For others there could be feelings of extreme sadness and anger about their loved one loss.  Yet because of the stigma around suicide and mental illness, and difficult emotions surrounding suicide loss, many of us hesitate to reach out for support or get needed help to cope with the tragic loss. Most of us are not aware of the resources available and some of us may struggle with the motivation to seek support. This can lead to feelings of isolation and further complicate the grieving process.

The highly stressful ramifications due to losing a loved one to suicide, can put the survivors at high risk for developing anxiety and depression, including pathological complicated grief. Complicated grief is defined as prolonged, unresolved, or traumatic grief characterized by intense feelings associated with acute grief. (2) If unaddressed, complicated grief can cause significant distress and, persistent feelings of longing and yearning, eventually resulting in substantial deficiencies in their occupational, social, and interpersonal functioning. Furthermore, they may experience increased rates of psychiatric co-morbidities, increased medical issues, insomnia, and substance abuse. One may start to suffer from recurrent major depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behavior.

A study completed in 2019, inferred that the interpersonal factors of belonging, self-disclosure, and social support play a very important role in facilitating growth for those who have experienced traumatic suicide loss of a loved one. (3)  Self-disclosure is the process of sharing one’s personal feelings and has been found to be an important component of dealing with grief.  Utilizing appropriate tools and support systems can help us identify and understand our emotions to promote a healthy healing journey. Talking to a network of people who you feel safe with, who will understand your sense of loss or connecting with a network who might have shared a similar experience of loss, can be immensely helpful. Not rushing yourself through the process of grief and allowing you the time, space and grace needed to address the trauma of suicide loss is important. If the grief persists for a prolonged period, and there are feelings of unrelenting anguish, depression, hopelessness, or suicidal thoughts, seeking professional help can be helpful and necessary. Selfcare, wellbeing, joy, or laughter do not mean less grief, but it means giving yourself the permission to heal and grow, despite the grief.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. 

Family Care Center is also here to talk. Please reach out with any questions, we are always here to help. 

References:

  1. https://afsp.org/ive-lost-someone
  2. Levi-Belz Y, Lev-Ari L. "Let's Talk About It": The Moderating Role of Self-Disclosure on Complicated Grief over Time among Suicide Survivors. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Oct 4;16(19):3740. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193740. PMID: 31590225; PMCID: PMC6801618.
  3. Levi-Belz Y. Growing together: interpersonal predictors of posttraumatic growth trajectory among suicide-loss survivors. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2022 May;35(3):284-297. doi: 10.1080/10615806.2021.1958791. Epub 2021 Jul 27. PMID: 34314267.

National Health Education Week

National Health Education Week
National Health Education Week
 
Dr. Kartiki Churi, M.D.

Observed in the third full week of October, for over twenty years, it has been celebrated as National Health Education Week (NHEW). The Society for Public Health Education, co-sponsors the week along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental health is integral part of our health and can be impacted by complex set of factors, including our demographics, genetics, biology, past experiences, and spiritual beliefs.  Mental Illness is highly prevalent with nearly one in five adults in the United States being diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder (52.9 million in 2020), this represents 21 percent of all the U.S adults. (1) Of these, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting nearly 40 million adults, representing 19.1 percent of the population. (1) The five commonly seen Anxiety Disorders are:

Generalized anxiety Disorder (GAD):

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent worry or anxiety about various areas of life, with little or no reason to provoke it. There are times when these worries might not be all consuming, but still, you feel anxious for no reason and a general sense that something bad is going to happen. There can be physiological symptoms that accompany GAD, and these include fatigue, trouble falling or staying asleep, muscle tension, irritability, nausea, or diarrhea and feeling twitchy or getting easily startled. GAD affects 6.8 million adults, which is 3.1 percent of the U.S. Population, yet only 43.2 percent of those are receiving treatment. (1)

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder and is characterized by pattern of unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Though obsessions are typically associated with compulsions, it is possible that that you might have only one of the symptoms. Commonly seen compulsive behaviors include hand washing, counting, checking, or cleaning, often performed with the hope of preventing or getting rid the distressing obsessions. However, these rituals offer only temporary relief. OCD can be very distressing, lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment, and impact day to functioning at home, school and in social settings. OCD affects 2.5 million adults, which is 1.2 percent of the U.S. population. One out three affected adults, first experience these symptoms in childhood. (1)

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a form of Anxiety Disorder characterized by repeated and unexpected bouts of overwhelming fear. It is accompanied by physiological symptoms which include chest tightness or pain, racing heart, shortness of breath, nausea, shaking, excessive sweating, lightheadedness, sense of choking and often feeling out of control. Panic attacks can last anywhere from few minutes to several hours. Panic disorder can be disabling and prevent you from leaving the home and participating at work, school, or the society. Panic Disorder affects 6 million adults or 2.7 percent of the U.S. population. (1)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that is triggered after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.  PTSD can cause intense, intrusive thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic experience that last long after the traumatic event has occurred. You may relieve the event though flashbacks or nightmares. There may be disturbing emotions including sadness, fear, or anger, and avoidance of people and situations that remind you of the trauma. It may cause feelings of detachment or estrangement from other. PTSD affects 7.1 million adults or 3.6 percent of the U.S. population. (1)

Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder):

Social Phobia is characterized by intense fear of talking with strangers or in a social setting, worry that you might embarrass yourself or may get judged negatively and fear that others will notice your anxiety. Social anxiety can significantly impact day to day function in the society as you may avoid new situations, events or speaking with people, due to fear of embarrassment.  Many times, anxiety may worsen just with the anticipation of social interaction. Social Phobia affects 15 million adults, which represents 7.1 percent of the U.S. population. Approximately 36 percent of these individuals wait for ten or more years before seeking treatment. (1)

Anxiety disorders can present in many other forms, for example, specific phobias, acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, hoarding body dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania or could be induced by substance use or a medical issue. Anxiety disorders co-exist with other mental health disorders, most commonly with depression and others such as ADHD, Bipolar disorder, Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder. Anxiety disorders also commonly co-occur with other medical illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, thyroid, and other endocrine disorders. People with anxiety disorder are 3-5 times more likely to have a doctor’s visit in a year and 6 times more likely to be psychiatrically hospitalized. (1) It is important to identify and treat both the co-occurring illnesses and the anxiety. Anxiety disorders are very treatable utilizing various forms of therapy, psychotropic medications and in certain cases with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

Despite the significant negative impact that anxiety disorders have on the suffering individuals physical, emotional, and social wellbeing, many of us hesitate to seek treatment. In fact, only 36.9 percent of people who struggle with anxiety receive treatment. This could be due to lack of awareness, stigma related to mental illness and poor access to mental health treatment services. Anxiety and other metal health disorders impede our wellbeing, decrease our productivity, and reduce our potential to participate fully in our community. Call us today at, 888-374-5066, and know your treatment options for anxiety and related mental health disorders!

Reference:

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health