October 24, 2022

By Diana Hembree

Good morning, MindSite News readers. In today’s edition, you’ll find a MindSite News Original about peer providers – people using their own experiences dealing with mental health or substance abuse challenges to help others. We follow the story of Miguel Rodriguez, who had his first episode of psychosis when he was 18 and now is proudly graduating as a certified peer support provider, with a job offer already on the table. Says Rodriguez: “It feels like the start to something super-promising.”

From around the web, we find reports from the U.S. Surgeon General that documents what many of us have long suspected: Toxic workplaces are bad for our mental and physical health. A grieving Calgary musician explores her husband’s suicide with her new single. North Carolina high schoolers meet to meditate and work through mental health challenges. Plus: An invitation to join the Out of Darkness Community Walks this weekend. And more.


Can Peers Power the Mental Health Workforce of the Future?

Miguel Rodriguez experienced his first episode of psychosis at 18, and it forced him to drop out of college and move back home with his parents. Now, seven years later, he takes a seat in a convention hall in Concord, California, wearing a blue cap and gown that matches those of his classmates.

It’s graduation day for a group of nearly 50 people who have completed a 9-unit course called SPIRIT – Service Provider Individualized Recovery Intensive Training – and have become certified peer support providers. The graduates aim to be part of the solution to a problem that keeps growing bigger: More and more people need mental health support and services, but there are far too few clinicians available to meet their needs.

Continue reading…


A toxic work culture undermines our mental and physical health: Surgeon General

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Whatever U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is smiling about here, it’s not about the kind of awful workplace too many Americans (and others around the world) have had to put up with just to pay the bills. Toxics workplaces are bad for your mental health, Murthy has said in a new report.

This may not come as a bombshell to some of us, but as CBS News reports, “The Surgeon General has explicitly linked job factors such as low wages, discrimination, harassment, overwork, long commutes and other factors to chronic physical health conditions like heart disease and cancer. Work-related stress can also lead to mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety, according to the report.” Like his cogent advisory on the youth mental health crisis, Murthy’s new report is one of those few government documents some of us are eager to read cover to cover.

Meditation, camaraderie and opening up: A high school group takes on the mental health crisis

via Twitter

When you think back to your high school, some of your most indelible memories may be of the friends you made during drama class, sports, student activism, work on the school paper or the breaks in which you were just hanging out, talking and joking, often with some stellar music blasting in the background. Unfortunately, kids enrolled in high school during the pandemic missed months and even years of this camaraderie. The resulting isolation and loneliness likely fed the youth mental health crisis, in which 2 out of 5 students last year reported persistent sadness or hopelessness, 1 in 5 have seriously considered suicide and 1 in 10 have attempted it.

To meet teens’ thirst for connection in his town, high school senior Davis Cooke, 18, founded a meditation group in Charlotte, North Carolina. A recent CNN report takes viewers inside this group, visiting the teens who meet monthly at the Myers Park Presbyterian Church for guided meditation and a support group. The episode also shows them talking and laughing together and getting training in skills that include self-compassion, problem-solving, mindful breathing, and “de-catastrophizing,” such as imagining what they could do if they didn’t get into any of the colleges they applied to. (Spoiler alert: They discussed taking a gap year, getting an internship or working abroad, doing volunteer work, and then trying again.) The monthly session also gives teens a chance to open up about their own mental health issues, and there are always adults in the room to help them through a crisis and to make sure they get the help they need. 

The latter is important, since teens don’t always know to alert other people if friends are planning to harm themselves. The group is about getting them the tools and resources they need, says Michelle Thomas-Bush, the associate pastor for youth at Myers Presbyterian. “(The teens) realized this is a national emergency, and this is about life and death,” she told CNN. “We’re all going to have a crisis, we’re all going to have a hard day…We want to give them the life tools and the resources so that they can face it.” If they get the resources for the chronic stress they deal with, she adds, “that may be a lifelong gift.”

Military suicides dropped last year, but

Photo: Shutterstock

A new report shows a 15% drop in suicides in 2021 among active-duty troops compared to the record high the year before, but military experts caution that military suicides are still  on a decade-long upward trend, according to Stars and Stripes, an independent news source for the U.S. military. “While we are cautiously encouraged by the drop in these numbers, one year is not enough time to assess real change,” Beth Foster, executive director of the Pentagon’s Force Resiliency Office, told reporters on October 22. “We need to see a sustained long-term reduction in suicide rates to know if we’re really making progress.”

The Defense Department anticipates hiring 2,000 more mental health workers next year, according to defense secretary Lloyd Austin. Saying that it was “incredibly powerful” that the DOD had made mental health of service members a priority, Foster concluded that “we must continue to work to break down barriers to help, to address stigma, and build healthy climates and a culture of connection where all our service members can thrive.”

Vets and service members: To reach the Veterans/Military Crisis Line, dial 988, then press 1, or text the crisis line at 838255. You can also chat online at veteranscrisisline.net.

Calgary musician’s new single confronts unanswered questions about her husband’s suicide

(Trigger warning: Reader discretion is advised)

Via Twitter

Canadian singer Kristen Scott suffered an unspeakable loss four years ago, when her husband Ira killed himself while she was at work. She returned to the house find her three-year-old daughter asleep and her five-year-old son crying. His father had left him in front of the television, then walked downstairs and killed himself.

Scott was undone by grief and horror. She was also furious. “It left me with a lot of PTSD, a lot of fear, a lot of trauma, a lot of what-ifs and a lot of anger,” Scott told community newspaper LiveWire Calgary. “I was so angry and mad at him and in so much shock and confused why he wasn’t saying anything.”

Scott wrote private songs of comfort for her children and love songs for her husband, telling him her heart was broken. “I would never share those songs with anyone,” she told the newspaper. But grieving through her music finally allowed her to come to terms with Ira’s suicide. Her new single “I Feel Nothing, Nothing At All” was taken from something Ira had told her shortly before he died. “That’s what he said to me, ‘I feel nothing,’” Scott told the newspaper. “I took it more personally, that he didn’t love me, that he didn’t love the kids.” But processing her sorrow, she says, “made me see his mental illness differently than ‘he did this on purpose.’”

She wants other people to see the warning signs she didn’t. “I didn’t see that he slowly didn’t have a shower for a week or he wasn’t sleeping at night,” she said. “These are signs of depression that I kind of missed.” She is grateful that her music has brought her a modicum of healing and acceptance, and she hopes her single will help raise awareness about mental health. “The main idea of the whole song in the end is just showing someone it doesn’t matter if they have their children and a wife and are living a happy life,” she said. “What people see on the outside is not even close to what people are dealing with inside.”

In other news….

Labor shortages, old buildings spell an end to beds at three Michigan psychiatric facilities, according to Becker’s Hospital Review and ABC affiliate WXYZ. In total, 70 beds are unavailable at Kalamazoo State Hospital and two other sites in the state. 

The upcoming Out of Darkness Community Walk this Sunday offers hope and support to those affected by suicide, CBS News in New York reports. “The Community Walks, held in hundreds of cities across the country, are the core of the Out of the Darkness movement, which began in 2004,” explains the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on its website. “Friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers walk side-by-side, supporting each other and in memory of those we’ve lost.” Register for a walk near you at afsp.org/walk.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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