WARNING: This article describes the signs, symptoms, and statistics of mental health challenges, particularly suicide, which may be triggering or unsuitable for some readers. Reader discretion advised.
The United States is currently experiencing a mental health crisis. The isolation and confusion of the recent pandemic brought to light an astounding number of people living with depression, anxiety, and other mental health and substance use challenges. While many of these people have been dealing with these challenges since before the pandemic, the sheer scope of the crisis has been brought into sharper focus since the onset of COVID-19.
One of the most difficult mental health issues to talk about is suicide. For many people who struggle with suicidal thoughts or for the families of those who die by suicide, it can be very painful and stigmatizing to discuss. Even for those outside those two groups, suicide is often a taboo subject.
Supporting someone during a mental health challenge is just as important as supporting them during a physical challenge. By working together, we can help reduce the stigma of mental illness. (Photo source: UF/IFAS File Photo)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall suicide rate in the U.S. decreased 3% during the pandemic despite the fact that calls to suicide hotlines went up nearly 800%. For me, what this shows is that when people suffering from suicidal ideation reach out to the resources available to them, they improve their chances for a better outcome.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares these statistics on their website: 79% of all people who die by suicide are male; suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 and the 12th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.; 18.8% of high school students and 11.3% of young adults aged 18-25 experience suicidal ideation each year.
When a person dies by or attempts suicide, those left behind often claim they did not see it coming, that they had no idea their loved one was having suicidal thoughts. In many cases, the person experiencing suicidal ideation conceals their thoughts and feelings from those around them. However, there are certain warning signs that may be observed in people experiencing suicidal thoughts.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) lists the following warning signs: talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself; looking for a way to kill oneself; talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose; talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to others; increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; acting anxious, agitated, or reckless; sleeping too little or too much; withdrawing or feeling isolated; showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and displaying extreme mood swings.
(Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but these signs may be indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help.)
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While suicide prevention is important every day of the year, I encourage everyone to take some time this month to learn more about mental illness and suicide. Taking the time to increase your awareness will help reduce the stigma of mental illness and suicide and may allow you to support someone experiencing a mental health challenge.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call or text 988 or text TALK to 741741.
UF/IFAS is an Equal Opportunity Institution.
The Art of Effective Communication
SMART Couples Florida Celebration
Statewide Virtual Event
February 19, 2022
6:00 – 9:15 p.m. EST
Photo source: Victor Harris
It’s time to talk about love! Join us online for a night of real talk about building stronger relationships from marriage and family professionals across the nation. Learn how to improve your communication and keep the romance alive. Tickets available now!
Learn more here: https://smartcouples.ifas.ufl.edu/flcelebration/
Photo Source: Auburn University IHSA Equestrian Team
Claire Reach is the UF/IFAS 4-H & Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) Agent in Calhoun County, Florida. For 4-H, she specializes in animal handling, animal safety, and animal sciences. For FCS, she mainly specializes in food safety and healthy living, but has found a new opportunity to work with First Time Homebuyers and the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program (SHIP) in the county.
Claire grew up in Alabama, splitting her time between Birmingham and her family’s farm, L & L Angus Farm, in Auburn. The family farm is Claire’s driving force behind the passion that she has for agriculture, which is a large part of the work she is doing in Extension.
These pictures are of my family on the farm in Auburn, AL. Photo Source: Dave Davis.
Peep some of the cows in the background. Photo Source: Elise Reach.
With a family background in Ag, she decided to study Animal Science-Production Management at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. While completing her undergraduate degree, Claire competed for Auburn University’s Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, worked at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in a research barn, and continued to work on the family farm. She graduated in May of 2019 with her Bachelor of Science and a minor in Agricultural Business.
Several home cooking/canning classes offered in 2021. Strawberry jam, chicken, pepper jelly, salsa, and mozzarella cheese have been made! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.
The Calhoun County 4-H Horse Club recently started up! (The 2 horses on the right side of the image also belong to me.) Photo Source: Dave Davis.
Shortly after graduation, she moved to Florida to work for Deseret Cattle and Timber as a Heavy Machinery Operator, but soon realized that her passion was Extension. The position in Calhoun County became available and she jumped at the opportunity to apply for it. Having just started in May 2021, Claire has not been with UF/IFAS Extension long, but she cannot wait to see what the future holds for her county. Claire says that she aspires for the Calhoun County FCS Program to be the area’s leading program for adults in practical home practices, whether that be home canning or healthy eating, and healthy living. All the programs that she offers, whether it be 4-H or FCS, follow the same motto: ‘learn by doing’. This drives the experience of each program, allowing participants to fully understand a concept or ask questions when they do not.
These are the “goodest” dogs of all time! Evie (Chocolate Lab), Diesel (Black and White Mutt), and Hank (Bassett Hound-laying down) Peep the chickens, turkeys, cat, and horses in the back ground! Photo Source: Claire Reach UF/IFAS.
This is Chick! For a mare, she’s pretty special. We have a great bond and she trusts me to do just about anything with her (i.e. shoot a gun off of, rope cattle, stand on, lay on, or let little kids ride) Photo Source: Tanner Mayo.
When Claire is not at work, she says there is always more work to be done at home. Living on a functioning livestock operation, she has several animals, including: chickens (about 50 at the moment), 5 guineas, 4 turkeys, 2 cats, 4 dogs, and 3 horses. She hopes to be able to add cattle to the ever-growing “funny farm” soon! It isn’t always about work, though. In her spare time, Claire enjoys spending time with family, riding her horses, long walks with the dogs, dirt road riding, and paddle boarding at the beach!
Managing your time wisely can reduce stress.
Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Sally Lanigan.
Time management plays an important role each day. All people have 24 hours in a day, but how those hours are used can be different for each person. Individuals can have more control of their lives, less stress, and more free time if they have good time management skills.
Many people may feel like they have too much work to do, which causes assignments and tasks to be completed late or not at all. Individuals are late to school or work, which can cause stress throughout the day. Everyone would love to have more time to do their favorite things.
Time Management Tips
The key is to use time wisely so individuals will have time for both their needs and their wants. Time management tips will help structure their day. Each day, make a “To-Do List” – write down the items from the most important to the least important. Second, staying organized is a big time saver. Preparing for the next day before going to bed will reduce morning stress so you can enjoy your breakfast. A planner will track assignments, tests, and appointments. A wall calendar can help schedule significant events and deadlines.
On Sunday night, plan out the week and review time for each daily step in the schedule. When writing the schedule, include all appointments, practices, chores, and mealtimes; it will help show times for homework, studying, relaxation, and social activates.
Successful individuals use tips such as the ones below to help manage their time:
- Use free time in school or work wisely.
- Review time while waiting. An example of this is reviewing notes while waiting for a ride.
- Create routines – good morning and nighttime routines can save time.
- Say “No!” – do not let things get in the way of reaching a positive goal.
- Sleep healthy – do not give up a good night’s sleep; this will increase stress.
There are 24 hours in a day/168 hours in a week, and it is up to the individual how they use their time. Planning for free time plays an essential role in time management. An individual needs to balance doing things alone or with their friends, managing time inside and outside, and prioritizing throughout their lives.
Everyone gets stressed out, discouraged, or overwhelmed sometimes. The idea is to keep a positive attitude and design ways to stay motivated. When people have a positive attitude, they will go far in life.
Sometimes, someone may give up on schoolwork, think negative thoughts, feel frustrated, or would like to have more optimistic goals. When a person is having a rough time, they can surround themselves with positive people, believe in themselves, and move forward with positive energy.
Throughout life, they will come across all kinds of people. They will meet positive influences in their lives. People who have a great support system can achieve their goals and realize their dreams. Next, people need to believe in themselves by recognizing their talents and abilities and succeeding. Lastly, move with positive physical characteristics by walking tall, moving with confidence, and smiling with a positive purpose in life.
When people plan for success, they can focus on setting goals. Goals will give direction and help guide the path toward what the individual would like to achieve. It would be great if short-term and long-term goals were in place throughout the person’s lifespan. Remember to focus on the strengths an individual may have, such as interests and talents. Everyone will have weaknesses, and it is essential to notice and work on improving each weakness. People can use positive “self-talk” to help change their attitude from a negative one, such as “I can’t write this assignment,” to a positive one, “I can write this assignment!”
Quote by Brian Cavanaugh
Photo credit: Gretchen Thornton
A person can stay engaged when they use motivating “self-notes:” Some examples are: “Day-dream Success,” “Turn a Frown Upside Down,” “Hit a Refresh,” and “Figure Out Yourself.” During the day, write motivating words or ideas on bright sticky notes and post throughout your home or office.
Time management is the ability to get the right things done effectively. Managing time will decrease stress and allow the person a healthier state of mind. Research has shown that long-term stress can lead to health problems. The idea of time management with positive goals can help reduce heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. An excellent remedy for stress is to follow a plan of success with time management and a positive attitude.
UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document HR014: Managing Time in the Workplace
Some house plants are very easy to keep alive, even if you are a first-time gardener. Photo source: Melanie Taylor
As July begins, one mental health topic we repeatedly hear or read about is how stress is negatively affecting so many Americans right now. In these unprecedented times, many people are reaching out for guidance from their doctors, therapists, friends, and family. Depending on how your stress levels are affecting you, there are numerous suggestions ranging from exercise to therapy to medication and the list goes on. There may be one solution right at your fingertips that can help you begin to find a little peace of mind starting today. Gardening…. Let’s DIG IN!
Gardening does not have to be growing a large vegetable garden in the backyard. It can be planting flowers and plants in your landscape, maintaining potted plants on your front porch and deck, or growing houseplants inside your home. One easy way to start if you have never been a gardener is by growing herbs inside or out. Many people find gardening helps them escape to a place of peace as they dig in the soil and watch their plants and flowers grow and prosper.
This idea is not new. Horticulture is the art and science of growing plants. Horticultural therapy is the practice of engaging people in plant or gardening activities to improve their bodies, minds, and spirits. Research confirms that healthful benefits accrue when people connect with nature and plants by viewing and/or interacting with them.
Enjoy socializing with friends and neighbors in the garden. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Horticultural therapy has been around for a very long time. In the 1600’s, the poor often worked in gardens to pay for their medical care. Physicians quickly noticed these patients recovered faster and had better overall health than patients who did not work in the garden. Today, many hospitals, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, schools, social-service facilities, and community centers use people-plant interactions as a form of treatment for persons with physical or mental disabilities. Horticultural therapy may include meeting with a therapist specializing in this area or trying something on your own or with family, friends, or a local gardening group.
Saturday mornings are family time at the local community garden plot. Photo source: Julie McConnell
Some benefits you may receive from gardening include:
- Physical: Provides exercise at various levels. (Easy, medium, and strenuous levels – it all depends on what you decide to create.)
- Emotional: Promotes and satisfies your creative side, increases your feelings of confidence and self-esteem, promotes a new interest and enthusiasm for it, and even relieves tension.
- Physiological: May help lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease cortisol levels, and ultimately relieve stress.
Even if you think you do not have a “green thumb,” you should try gardening on any level and see if it will be a healthy mode of stress release for you. Happy Gardening!
UF/IFAS Extension EDIS Document ENH970: Horticultural Therapy, Elizabeth Diehl and Sydney Park Brown.
I’m BORED!” is not a statement a parent/caregiver wants to hear just days into summer break! Boredom is a feeling. The feeling of being unsatisfied or uninterested can lead to boredom. Boredom can also result from too much time on your hands. Boredom may occur when you do the same thing over and over again. Boredom can affect both physical and mental health and, let’s face it, it is not just kids who get bored!
Nevertheless, boredom, like any feeling, is important to recognize and manage. In fact, people who are good at noticing how they feel and adjusting (self-regulating) their behavior are more likely to do well in school and life, have healthy relationships, and manage difficulties and setbacks – boredom included.
How can we combat boredom? We can counter boredom with constructive activities. Constructive activities are those that require a bit of personal output, or something one actually has to do.
Therefore, before your summer vacation takes a nosedive, think of ways to ward off the doldrums. Know, too, that watching too much screen time can only make boredom worse because screen time, for the most part, is a passive type of activity/entertainment. While there is certainly a place for passive engagement (watching a movie, for instance, or reading a book), you do not have to do anything! Moreover, when the body and mind are not actively engaged for hours on end, things can go downhill… quickly. Many find actively or constructively doing something satisfying can enlighten your body, your mind, and your soul.
Think about it… while reading a book is passive, your mind is 100% active; the same goes for a movie or your favorite show. However, being engaged, like talking to someone about what you are watching or reading, takes the passive activity to a new level; talking about the activity makes it more constructive because you get really involved in it by sharing. It’s the non-participatory part repeated hour upon hour that can cause the negative effect. The body needs a balanced diet of both passive and constructive activities.
Constructive activities help activate your body, mind, and soul. So, before boredom happens, take a proactive approach to finding a solution before the problem starts. Of course, the internet is full of ideas; some of them are quite good! Personally, I like the approach where the set up requires a few easy to use resources that can quickly engage the user.
Parents and caregivers should help model the behavior they want their charges to follow. Knowing a few tricks to turn passive activities into constructive ones will help the long, hot summer be the best one yet.