Wednesday, December 28, 2016

MREs Aren’t the Only Thing That Can Make You Feel Like Crap: Veterans and Mental Health/Suicide Prevention

MREs Aren’t the Only Thing That Can Make You Feel Like Crap:
Veterans and Mental Health/Suicide Prevention

Carson J Spencer Foundation’s Monthly #ElevateTheConvo Twitter Chat

January 5, 2017
5:00 PM PT/6:00 PM MT/7:00 PM CT/8:00 PM ET

This Twitter Chat will bring together perspectives on “upstream” mental health promotion and suicide prevention for Veterans/Military sharing expertise from research, clinical and lived experience. Conversation will explore topics like screening, early intervention, and so called “alternative” approaches to traditional mental health services. 

Panelists will be discussing:
  • ·       What are some of the main drivers of mental health crises and suicide risk among Veterans? What are misperceptions?
  •      What barriers do Veterans experience when engaging in traditional mental health services (talk therapy/medication)?
  •      How can screening and early intervention help Veterans? Peer Support? Wellness? Animal Assisted Therapy?
  •        What else would you like Veterans to know about proactively taking care of mental health and building resilience?

Panelists include:

Sean Barnes, Ph.D. joined the Rocky Mountain MIRECC team as a full clinical research psychologist in 2013. Dr. Barnes contributes to the MIRECC through investigatory research (Principal Investigator and Co-PI for multiple projects), consulting (expert input for mental health and medical providers on suicide risk management), assessment, and treatment (group and individual). Dr. Barnes also holds a local academic appointment as Assistant Professor at the University Of Colorado School Of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. @Sean_M_Barnes

Tomas K. Cruz is an Active Duty Master Sergeant in the Unites States Army with over 21 years of service.  He has deployed in support of Operation Joint Guardian, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  MSG Cruz has lived experience with suicide prevention and awareness as he attempted in 2010 to take his life.  Since his attempt MSG Cruz has become a huge advocate of more awareness and prevention for Veterans.  He has taken his skills to social media where he assisted in pioneering two organizations to identify and assist Veterans with mental health issues, suicidal ideations, relationship issues, financial concerns and other Veteran specific issues. @TCruz76

Major General Mark Graham retired from the US Army as the Director U.S. Army Forces Command after almost 35 years of service. Major General Graham and his wife, Carol, tirelessly champions mental health and suicide-prevention awareness. They both speak across the nation to honor the memory of their two sons, 2LT Jeff Graham who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in February 2004, and their son Kevin a Senior Army ROTC cadet who died by suicide in June 2003. @mgrahamm2

Sarra Nazem, Ph.D. joined the Rocky Mountain MIRECC staff as a Clinical/Research Psychologist. Dr. Nazem’s primary research interests are focused on the identification of underlying processes associated with the acquired capability to enact lethal self-injury. Additionally, Dr. Nazem also has a secondary interest in examining the association between sleep disorders and suicide risk. @SarraNazem

Andrew O'Brien is an Iraq war veteran and suicide attempt survivor. After being lucky enough to wake up, he decided to make a difference for all communities suffering from suicide. He now travels across the world speaking to both military and civilian communities. He helps people realize that they are no longer alone in the way they feel or think, giving them courage to seek help for their mental struggles and helping their peers as well. @LivingResilient

Matt Podlogar, M.S. is a 4th year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student who works with Dr. Thomas Joiner at Florida State University in the “Joiner Lab” for the study and prevention of suicide-related conditions and behaviors, and a research assistant for the Military Suicide Research Consortium, part of an ongoing strategy to integrate and synchronize U.S. Department of Defense and civilian efforts to implement a multidisciplinary research approach to suicide prevention. Matt’s current research interests are focused on suicide risk assessment and measurement, particularly among military and veterans. @JoinerLab

Nickie Silverstein joined Give an Hour in September 2015 as a volunteer and currently serves as a Campaign to Change Direction Liaison. She and her husband have both served in the Army. She served as a finance officer in the Army for nearly nine years. After the Army, she became a government service employee serving as the Executive Officer to the Garrison Commander for both Fort Riley and Fort Leavnworth, Kansas. Her husband retired after 27 years of service and deployed three times throughout his career. @SignsForChange

Caitlin Thompson, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office for Suicide Prevention. She is responsible for the office’s vision and mission, including the development of VA suicide prevention policy initiatives. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Thompson directs VA’s epidemiological and clinical research in suicide prevention and is recognized internationally as an authority on Veteran suicide. @VeteransHealth

Friday, December 23, 2016

NHL Goalie Talks about Surviving a Suicide Attempt and Becoming a Mental Health Advocate

Clint Malarchuk, otherwise known as the “Cowboy Goalie” is a retired NHL goalie who played for the Quebec Nordiques, the Washington Capitals, and the Buffalo Sabres between 1981 and 1992. On March 22, 1989, Clint survived a life-threatening injury during a NHL game when a Saint Louis Blues player's skate blade sliced his jugular vein. 

March 22, 1989
On October 7, 2008, Clint survived a suicide attempt after decades of living with PTSD, Obsessive compulsive disorder, addiction and depression. In 2014 he published a memoir, A Matter of Inches: How I Survivedin the Crease and Beyond.” Currently, he and his wife Joanie are relentless in their effort to help promote hope and healing to the millions of people living with mental health conditions and suicidal thoughts.

Clint encourages all Coloradoans to attend the Avalanche Hockey Team’s Mental Health Awareness night on January 12, 2017 at 7:00 PM. To purchase tickets ($5 of each ticket will benefit the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado):

In Clint’s own words…
View PSA by Clint:

Every suicide attempt survivor I’ve meet is grateful that they are alive - me included.

Every time I hear of a death by suicide, I can’t help but cringe and think, “Had they survived and received help, they, like me and others might be healthy happy and productive.”

I have also meet people who are still suffering. I know how they feel. They say they wish they would just die. I have heard them say, “But I don't have the courage to do it.”

Some people think suicide is cowardly. So what was I? Cowardly or courageous? The answer is I was suffering with depression, obsessive compulsion disorder, anxiety, PTSD, with extreme paranoia. Simply, I was not healthy. I literally thought I was not in control of my mind. After my suicide attempt, I spent months in rehab and learned how to manage my mental health conditions. Today I am here living a full life and advocating for others to do the same.

In recent years we have had several suicides, suspected suicides and overdoses by former NHL players like Tom Cavanagh, Todd Ewen, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, and Derek Boogaard. It has been debated that concussions may attribute to depression and anxiety; however, many of these players where enforcers.

On average, someone attempts suicide every 40 seconds in the US. These are not cowardly or weak people they are in unimaginable pain. Their pain is as real as any physical ailment.

We need to help all people and prevent suicide.

You can help save a life! Please help by supporting suicide prevention. Join the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Colorado:

Friday, December 2, 2016

Good Pitching, Running into a Screen Door, and How Anger Screws Up Men’s Brains

Guest Blog By Zachary Gerdes

Pitching can win pennants. Plain and simple. Whether it’s Cofax's curve, a Randy Johnson fastball, or basically anything Andrew Miller threw during that pennant run for Cleveland last month. Watching guys swing at garbage that looks in the zone until it breaks is like watching a kid run into the screen door not knowing it’s closed. It’s ridiculous and glorious in such a sick way. And it’s just not even fair. The kid falls down and cries. The hitter throws a bat and yells something the camera has to break away from so you don’t read his lips watching at home. Either way, somebody ends up looking ridiculous. And they don’t even know what hit them.

So the victim of the breaking ball or screen door gets pissed. Anger is a pretty common default emotion for men and boys. That hitter or kid is actually probably ashamed or embarrassed. But that defaults into anger for a lot of guys and here’s what happens. Anger literally shuts down the smartest parts of your brain.

Wait … what?

Yeah. Because science. Anger fires up the amygdala and shuts down the prefrontal cortex responsible for rational thinking. This sucks because the amygdala is often called the “reptilian” part of the brain. In other words, anger fires up the parts of the brain that humans have in common with snakes and shuts down the higher level functioning parts of the brain unique to humans. The parts that are responsible for self-control and logical reasoning. Anger activates a fight or flight response rather than a response that will get anger under control. This is key because we know uncontrolled anger can create stress on the brain that, if prolonged, can lead to a whole host of terrible stuff including depression and even heart disease. This is why anger is actually considered a symptom of depression for men. Catharsis – the idea that we release anger by getting it out (like throwing the bat or charging the mound) – isn’t actually true. The only way to reduce anger is to use the parts of the brain that get shut down by it. Anger perpetuates stress on the brain rather than a solution.

The good news is that anger is actually controllable, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. That’s why Man Therapy exists. To provide resources when life throws junk. Breathing is legit for controlling anger. Seriously. Or just breathe how a man should do it. Every day might not be a good day. Sometimes you just wake up in a slump or get thrown an unhittable curve. We’re not going to make contact on every pitch. Shit happens. Life throws some ugly side-armed crap like trauma, depression, anxiety, and stress. In response, we’ve got to figure out what to do that isn’t defaulting to exploding anger. Like this guy’s version of “yoga.”

Instead of swinging at junk, sometimes all it takes is one pitch. Sometimes all it takes is staying alive long enough for that pitch. Eventually, that pitch is gonna come, I don’t care who’s on the mound. But getting pissed doesn’t make a guy a better hitter, it spins him out of control to the point that he keeps swinging at junk. If every swung-on-and-missed leads to uncontrollable anger, the brain won’t be tuned in for the next pitch or at-bat. The rational part of the brain shuts down. Emotions like anger aren’t bad, their important information. We’ve just got to notice them and dissect things like anger. If, as men, we keep defaulting to getting pissed and don’t get anger and stress under control, it’s not just a whiff, it’s a strikeout with two outs and two on.