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September is here and that means Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is upon us. It’s a cause that is very near and dear to my heart and one that I will always advocate for. It is a month to remember the lives lost, the millions of people who struggle, and those that have been impacted. Although mental health and suicide prevention is important to address year-round, this month provides a dedicated time for people, organizations, and communities to join their voices and share that there is HOPE, HELP is available, and HEALING is possible!
The theme of this post is CONNECTION. According to the CDC, connectedness may protect against suicidal behaviors. Connection decreases isolation and encourages healthy coping behaviors. Connection can be found within oneself, within relationships, and within community.
CONNECTION FOR OURSELVES. Connection is not just nice to have, but it is essential to health and well-being. People with meaningful social connections have less stress, better sleep, healthier habits and behaviors, a sense of belonging, and better overall health that can lead to a longer life. Connecting can be as deep as a heart-to-heart conversation, or as simple as sharing a “hello” and a smile. Meaningful connections come from people like family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Connection can look like someone willing to help you with a task or someone who listens and validates your feelings. Maybe someone can give you a different perspective than your own or provide advice and support for something you are struggling with. While there are no official guidelines to forming new connections, here are some suggestions for finding and fostering connection with others.
- Start a conversation. Talk to people that you already know and build upon that relationship. Take the time to authentically get to know your co-workers.
- Join a club or enroll in a class that intrigues you. The people that will be there will already share a common interest with you.
- Get involved in your community. Attend events and do things that you have not tried before.
- Explore opportunities to serve and help others. Many organizations offer volunteer opportunities that can give you the chance to contribute to something that you find important.
Sometimes it is hard to know when you need to connect with someone to support you with your mental health. Seek help during times of struggle with loneliness or isolation by reaching out to a friend, a family member, a health care provider or by using the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
CONNECTING WITH LOVED ONES. If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, connecting with them can be the difference in getting them the help they need. Talking to a loved one about mental health and suicide can be uncomfortable, but it is also one of the best ways to prevent it. We can all take action to have these conversations with someone who may be suicidal by using these five action steps from #BeThe1To.
- Ask. Findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce suicidal ideation.
- Keep them safe. Knowing the answers to the questions can tell us about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in.
- Be there. Connecting and limiting their isolation has shown to be a protective factor against suicide.
- Help them connect. Work with them to develop a safety plan to guide them through crisis, keep them safe, and get them help.
- Stay connected. Make sure to follow up with them to see how they’re doing. This is a great time to see if there is anything else that you can do to support them.
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY. While we trust our closest friends, family and loved ones, the broader community where we live, work and play also contribute to our feeling of connection. Communities can provide us with an emotional connection with people who share similar experiences. It can also bring a feeling of belonging, a sense of support, and a way to have our voices heard and valued by a wider group of people. Surrounding people and families with neighborhoods, businesses, and services is a critical way to support every person. Communities that work collectively in an intentional and proactive way is vital to creating the changes needed to increase social connectedness and belonging.
While formal programs and policies can be impactful, the norms and culture of how we engage one another, significantly influence social connection. In addition to this culture, here are additional ideas that organizations and communities can consider.
- Cultivate values of kindness, respect, service, and commitment to one another.
- Model connection values in positions of leadership and influence.
- Create opportunities and spaces for social connection.
- Offer community-based education, skill-building classes, and encourage attendance at social events and volunteerism.
- Actively seek and build partnerships with a variety of community institutions, like schools, health organizations, and workplaces. This can create a culture of connection with the broader community and support those who may be struggling with isolation, their mental health, or having thoughts of suicide.
- Know what supports are available for people who need it and provide resources and support to promote mental health and well-being and prevent suicide.
- Expand conversations on the importance of social connections where we live, work, learn and play.
CONNECTION TO HOPE AND HEALING. When your mental health is off, it is important to find the help that is right for you. Finding hope and healing can be found in many places and comes in many forms to give you the type of support that you need. People you already have a connection with is often a good place to start. This could be your friends and family, a co-worker, your primary care doctor, or someone else that you can trust. Sometimes it is nice to know you are not alone in your struggle. Having peer support can be a great way to connect with others that may have similar experiences as you. If you are unsure about what to do and need to talk to someone, try a local or national phone line to get assistance. This could be calling one of Minnesota’s warm lines or attending a support group. They have trained counselors available to speak with you or your loved one and assist. Professional help can make a big difference, but sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Ask for referrals from your family, friends, physician, or other people you trust. Another starting point is to call the number on the back of your insurance card. They can help you identify what providers are a part of your plan.
People finding hope and healing is happening every single day. Exploring stories of how others have found hope and healing can also be a powerful way to learn how others have found ways to cope with life’s struggles. Even if you’re not sure that you would benefit from help, it can’t hurt to explore your different possibilities.
Until next month, stay happy, healthy and safe! ~Sally~
Join us on Wednesday, September 20th at 6:30pm at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center for Dennis Warner and the D’s! This concert is a part of the Plum Creek Library System’s annual get together and it is free and open to all. Meinders Community Library will be closing early at 6:00pm on Wednesday, September 20th so staff can attend the event.
Summer Reading may be over, but we have our three Grand Prize winners just in time for opening weekend at Bole-Mor Lanes! Congratulations to Coral, Ezra and Jasper—we have your certificates at the library! Thank you to the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library and United Way for Pipestone County for supporting Summer Reading at Meinders Community Library.
We have a couple fun events coming up. On Saturday, September 16th from 10am-1pm, join us for Paper Plains at the library. Next Wednesday, September 20th join us for a concert with Dennis Warner & the D’s at the Pipestone Performing Arts Center. Both of these events are free and open to all!
Join us this Saturday, September 16th from 10am-1pm at Meinders Community Library to create your own plantable paper with Paper Plains. This event is free, open to all, and fun for all ages!
Due to maintenance work, the library will be without water between 10am and 5pm today, Tuesday, September 5th.
Better late than never! It took me way too long to prepare an August post, but I’m back! You would think someone who has been on a mental health journey for more than half her life, and writing about it for nearly three years, would have no trouble at all finding a topic for this month’s blog post. Well, not this gal. My brain is either frazzled with anxiety, foggy with depression, or all of the above and wants to shut down completely. The struggle is absolutely real and you are never alone when it comes to your mental health journey.
I took the month of July off to sort of re-group and get back into the blogging groove. In June, I wrote about grief and your mental health. That’s pretty much what my July was filled with. Grief. The intense pain and sadness while mourning the loss of my best friend was almost unbearable, and really took a toll on my mental health and well-being. If you are local, you may know that the community of Pipestone lost a young, forty-five year old wife and mother of six children to Metastatic Breast Cancer. She was diagnosed after her very first mammogram at the age of forty and fought the disease for almost five years. Although there was no cure, her treatments prolonged her life as long as she could tolerate. She had amazing strength and will forever be loved and missed!
That brings me to this month’s mental health check in post. August is National Wellness Month, or also called Self-Awareness Month. This month is observed to remind us to promote healthy routines, manage our stress, and focus on self-care. It is the perfect time to focus on taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. These three things will definitely go hand in hand. If you are thriving with one, you are more than likely thriving with all. But a simple setback, either physical or emotional, can really alter your mental clarity.
Let’s start with promoting healthy routines. There is a long list of things we do on a daily basis that can be overwhelming. Whether it is working, grocery shopping, cleaning, making sure you get the kids to school and practices on time, or even just getting enough sleep. (Does anyone else do the “If I fall asleep right now, I’ll get this much sleep” math at night?) There seems to never be enough time during the day and it can feel impossible to finish every task. And if you already struggle with a mental health concern, like depression or anxiety, it can be even harder to take care of yourself. Here are some tips for success from Mental Health America. They also have a PDF from Tools 2 Thrive for Creating Healthy Routines.
- Create a routine that is right for you. We don’t all have the same schedules and some of us struggle with certain parts of our day more than others. Your routine may not be exactly the same every day, but all routines should include eating a nutritious diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep.
- Start small. Changing your routine all at once probably won’t get lasting results. Small changes add up. It could be just adding something new and positive, or cutting out a bad habit.
- Make swaps. Take away something that isn’t so healthy and swap it for a better behavior. Do you feel sluggish in the afternoon and find yourself eating sugary snacks? Try taking a brisk walk to get your blood pumping and your endorphins flowing.
- Plan ahead. When life gets hectic, try doing things like meal prepping or picking out an outfit the night before work. If you can’t make it to the gym, try a home workout instead.
- Reward yourself for small victories. Set goals and celebrate when you reach them. Have you worked out every day as planned? Treat yourself!
- Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Making changes is hard and you might forget to do something new once in a while. You don’t have to be perfect, just try to do better the next day.
Next is managing stress. Stress affects your entire body, both mentally and physically. But when stress is intense and frequent, it can strain your body and make it impossible to function. Some common signs include headaches, trouble sleeping, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and feeling overwhelmed. Stress can contribute to worsening symptoms of your mental illness. Knowing your triggers is the first step in coping with this experience. Everyone has their own threshold. Once you’ve learned what your triggers are, experiment with coping strategies. Here are some ways to reduce stress from NAMI.
- Accept your needs. Recognize what situations make you physically and mentally agitated. Once you know this, you can avoid them when possible.
- Practice relaxation. Take a break to refocus. Deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation are good ways to calm yourself.
- Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be a movie, a massage, or even just reading a book.
- Eat well. Well-balanced and nutritious, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit.
- Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress. In fact, it often will worsen it.
- Talk to someone. Whether to family, friends, a counselor, or a support group, airing out and talking can help.
And finally, self-care. Take the time to do things that help you improve both your physical and mental health. Even small acts of self-care can have a big impact. Here are some tips from the National Institute of Mental Health to help you get started.
- Get regular exercise.
- Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated.
- Make sleep a priority.
- Try a relaxing activity.
- Set goals and priorities.
- Practice gratitude.
- Focus on positivity.
- Stay connected.
Self-care looks different for everybody. It may take trial and error to find what works best for you. Although self-care is not a cure for mental illnesses, understanding your symptoms and coping techniques can help you manage your mental health. Don’t wait until your symptoms are overwhelming. If you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms, seek help. Talk about your concerns with your primary care provider and they can refer you to a mental health professional, if needed.
Stay tuned for a September check in for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. In the meantime, stay happy, healthy, and safe! ~Sally~
Meinders Community Library will be closed Saturday, September 2nd through Monday, September 4th in observance of Labor Day.
This week is the last week for many of our Summer activities! We’re wrapping up Walk & Talk Book Club and due to the heat, we will not be walking tomorrow (Tuesday 8/22) at the Pipestone National Monument. There will be Storytime on Tuesday, 8/22 and Crafternoon on Wednesday, 8/23. We will then take a two week break and resume both activities the week of September 11th.
Don’t forget to finish your Summer Reading Bingo card! We still have ice cream coupons for bingos and we’ll be drawing from the blackout entries for bowling parties after Labor Day.
Castle! We may still be working on our Stick Together, but someone figured out what it is. Congratulations to Linda Farmer for correctly identifying the castle!
People have been trying to guess the picture since the early stages and we had a lot of fun answers. We drew five winners from our guess bucket and here’s what they thought our picture might be:
- Cooper: Something with fish
- Isabell: A pool!
- Lane: Bowling party
- Lydia: Farm
- Violet: Beach photo
Thank you to the Pipestone Area Friends of the Library for providing a gift card for Linda and craft kits for our young winners!