The Last Straw

Earlier this week, I read an article that broke my heart. In one of the high schools in the state where I live, they reported that seven students have lost their lives to suicide since May of 2020. Seven lives that are no longer with us. And this is just one high school that has reported numbers. I feel that there are probably quite a few more.

This is not an article to blame Covid for yet another thing. It is very likely that most of those who have taken their lives since Covid began were struggling well before that with depression, anxiety, trauma or some other mental health issues. It is unlikely that Covid was the only reason for their feeling they had reached the end of their ability to go on. Although, there may be some for which that is true. It is impossible to know.

What I do know from data I have seen reported all over the country is that the impact of Covid has pushed many with mental health issues over the edge. For some, it is quite possibly the last straw. And I am not talking about the illness of Covid as much as the surrounding fear, isolation, increased depression, lack of normalcy and chaotic changes.

Covid especially for school age individuals has caused periods of isolation, sometimes long periods of isolation from friends and a normal routine. It has caused a huge increase of fear and possible loss of loved ones. It has increased depression through these things. The constant changes of what is going on with Covid, with schools, with jobs, with family and friends results in a large amount of increased anxiety. And the feeling that this may never end adding to the already present thoughts of nothing ever changing for the better.

When taken together, the many things that surround Covid may be considered as the last straw. The situation that has pushed people over the edge. The thing that has increased suicidal thoughts and ideation. Again, it is not the only thing and these thoughts and ideation did not start in 2020 for most, but they were likely increased.

The other thing I have noticed is that while much attention is being paid to Covid and illness and health care and vaccines, much less attention is being paid to mental health issues. While schools are focused on masking, vaccines, quarantining, and mitigation of illness, they are far less focused on addressing the mental health of their student population nor have they been throughout this crisis.

My school age clients report that during the many months of remote learning, no one called or checked in from the school on their mental health. They were only concerned with academics. No one asked if they were depressed or anxious. No one asked them about suicidal thoughts or plans except for me. Imagine how many more school aged children were out there not going to counseling with no one to ask them these questions.

Of course, it is not only school age children who had an increase in suicide through this crisis. Many people did of all ages. Mental health was never high on the priority list of any organization or government entity and it still is not sadly.

When you talk to people about how they are handling Covid, why not ask them how they are feeling. Ask them how this has all affected them emotionally. Ask them how they are coping with the things they have to go through with this crisis. Ask them if they need help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or intent, please seek help or help them to find help. Reach out for counseling services. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 both available 24/7. Find out resources in your community and have them handy for referral to those in need. Check in on the mental health of those around you, it could be just what someone needs to keep going.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

Lack Of Margin

Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

Over the last couple of weeks, many of my clients have been stating the same thing. They say that they have no margin. This has been an ongoing issue throughout the pandemic, but with the addition of the holidays, it has increased exponentially.

What does having no margin mean? For most people, it is that there is no pause in the response time to any stressful situation or emotion. When people have margin, there is the ability to pause before reacting. The ability to engage in rational and logical thought processes. The ability to utilize tools for management of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression.

When people do not have margin (or feel already pushed to the edge of management), there is no pause before reacting. There is no ability to engage in rational and logical thought. The ability to use any helpful tools seem to vanish.

The result is immediate reaction. Going zero to 100 in microseconds, less than a blink of the eye. There is no pause, no thought, no tools. Only reaction. And generally the reaction is very big, sometimes very out of character, and hard to reign back in.

Someone cuts you off while driving. With margin, we can pause and be thankful there was no accident or use a stress reducing tool such as deep breathing or grounding. Without margin, we are yelling, cursing, sometimes confronting people, and generally letting it ruin the rest of our day or even our week.

Unable to spend holidays with family members due to Covid19. With margin, we can pause and be grateful for our health and healthy family members or use logic and rational thought to know that no situation lasts forever and the pandemic will end and we can see more family then. Without margin, we are sad, angry, and feeling overwhelming grief at the loss of normalcy. We can let it affect us for days, weeks or even months without margin.

Lack of margin has a way of building up and exploding. We may be able to manage the first few times someone cuts us off or the first couple of times we have to say no to family gatherings. But the more these things add up, the less margin we have and the less ability we have to control our response.

So what do we do? Firstly, we must acknowledge that we are short of margin. We must tell ourselves the truth about our capacity to pause and respond – the truth is that we usually are not going to be able to. We must give ourselves grace because our current state of mind and emotions is what it is.

That being said, we do have moments in this lack of margin where we can find quiet to pause and reflect and think rationally and logically. We can find moments for meditation and calming. During these times, we can also reflect on the times where we haven’t had margin and if there is anything we can do next time to try and avoid the explosion.

Communicating to other that we are short of margin and that we are trying to respond appropriately but we may not always do so. Communicating the first time members of our family or friends or others we have regular contact with do something that pushes over the margin line how it makes us feel and how we may need them to interact with us differently. Be proactive. Do not let it build up.

We are all short of margin at times during this ongoing pandemic that is now accompanied by the holidays. We are all trying to do the best we can. But sometimes our margin runs completely out. Recover in the the times that you can and let go of what anger, sadness, and grief that you can while building in self-care and resilience.

Nothing lasts forever and this too shall pass.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

You Are My Sunshine

Living in the northern latitudes, such as Montana, means that we are exposed to far less sunshine than other parts of the United States. The lack of sunshine exposure especially in the winter months, with much shorter daylight hours and lots of cloudy, snowy days, we get a lot less Vitamin D than many of our southern neighbors.

Many studies have been done on this lack of Vitamin D and the connection to depression and depressive symptoms. Montana has a very high rate of depression and suicide and this can be one of the reasons why. It is not the only reason, but many of the people I have worked with over the last few years have been very deficient in Vitamin D. Some when having their blood work done, have found that they had almost NO Vitamin D in their bodies and all of them had depression and depressive symptoms.

One study Depression and Vitamin D Deficiency: Causality, Assessment, and Clinical Practice Implications talks about the various causes for this deficiency and ways of possible treatment. It lists many foods from which we can get Vitamin D and unfortunately many of them are not foods that a lot of the people I see eat, such as liver, sardines, tuna, salmon, swordfish. Other causes are insufficient sunlight and malabsorption diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and others.

Anyone can be Vitamin D deficient. The only way to know for sure is to have blood work tested. Correction can be made in several ways adding Vitamin D2 or D3 supplements daily, increasing certain foods in your diet, and getting sunlight either outside or by using a seasonal affective disorder light.

I am NOT saying that a Vitamin D deficiency is the ONLY cause of depression nor am I saying that taking Vitamin D will cure all depression or that anyone should take Vitamin D instead of prescription medications. I am saying it can be an additional cause of depression and depressive symptoms and in some people a significant cause depending on the level of deficiency. If it can help then it is a very easy and natural way to boost how we feel.

If you or someone you know living in northern areas of the country has depression and/or depressive symptoms, it may very well be worth the time to have some blood work done to see about Vitamin D deficiency. It could be of a great deal of help to know and then to work to reduce it.

Here are some other articles for the link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression:

Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?

Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression

Until next time,
Deborah

I am now accepting new clients (girls and women) for counseling. To set up a FREE initial consultation call 406-413-9904 or email mindfulmontanawellness@gmail.com