About briannadalej

In the American society, many subjects are considered taboo and we are taught at a young age not to talk about them. Two of these topics are depression and suicide. I wanted to give people a place to talk openly about this subject and delve into why this topic is not talked about and what can be done to help raise awareness.

Social Media & Suicide Prevention

Last year I wrote about an update to Facebook and Instagram that was aimed to help connect people who were suicidal to professionals at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Now, a little over a year later, Facebook has taken this a step further and stated that they’ll use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to flag posts that could be concerning and connect those to a human who can then contact mental health professionals and local responders.

“This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process, especially in Facebook Live,” says VP of product management Guy Rosen. Over the past month of testing, Facebook has initiated more than 100 “wellness checks” with first-responders visiting affected users. “There have been cases where the first-responder has arrived and the person is still broadcasting.” – TechCrunch

This update comes at a time when there are over 2 billion monthly Facebook users, nearly 5 billion YouTube videos are watched every day and 200 million people check Instagram on a daily basis. Whether you think social media is the greatest thing in the world or you can’t stand it, the truth is that most people in the world use at least one form of social media and this update is a step in the right direction for suicide prevention.

facebook-live-suicide-prevention

 

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Giving Thanks Part 2

Happy Thanksgiving, all. I hope your belly is full and your cheeks hurt from laughing, but if this day is also a tough one for you, I feel you. There is always an empty seat at our holiday table but instead of focusing on the heartache, I wanted to partake in what this day is all about: giving thanks.

In my first Giving Thanks post, I talked about my sisters who are some of my favorite people in this life, but part 2 is about the non-blood support system that I have. That means you Janelle, for sticking by my side these past (nearly) 20 years. For you, MacKenzie, for keeping me sane and being the tough love I’ve always needed; I know my mom would be thankful that you’re still dishing that out. This is for you, Danielle, for being my awkward counterpart and sitting with me in silence when you knew I couldn’t muster up any words. For you, Val, for giving me books to get lost into and always encouraging me to become the most successful version I can be. To you, Emily, because Lord knows it hasn’t always been easy, but I couldn’t do this life without you by my side. For you, Matilde, for not allowing the distance to ever stop us from having the good, and difficult conversations, and knowing that there’s nothing we have to go through alone. And you, Brie, for showing me that life can give you all of the lemons and it’s still possible to figure out how to make lemonade, even if it takes years and years.

I could go on and on about these amazing friendships and support system of mine, but I’m hoping these women already know that I wouldn’t be who I was without them, or maybe I wouldn’t be here at all. It’s been a crazy road with each of these friendships but they each give me something that I need.

Thank you all for listening to me and for telling my story back to me on days when I don’t think I’ve gotten far. For always remembering the days that are hard and always, always being open to talk about mental health, sometimes even before I was ready.

For the rest of you that I’m missing, whether you were a glimpse in my life in high school or college or we used to be close and our worlds have drifted apart, I am who I am because our paths crossed.

And for the rest of you that hardly know me at all but read my blog, thank you for allowing me to tell my story and give me an outlet.

My life wouldn’t be the same without you and I am forever grateful for you in my life.

You Will Be Found

Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?

These words are ringing in my ears hours after I listened to them for the first time. Today, one of my friends sent the video below and it really struck a chord with me.

As we go into Thanksgiving, we’re often thinking about the ways in which others have been there for us this past year, and I find myself extremely grateful for all of the supportive relationships in my life. From friends who send encouraging messages, to others who read and share my blog, and for the people who are there for me on a daily basis, I’m thankful. But, it also makes me think how I can be there better for others.

I know I’m saying this for the millionth time, but I mean it every time, if you’re reading this and need someone to reach out to, I’m here. I never want someone to feel as though nobody was there for them, as the song states in the beginning.

My challenge for you this week is simple: read about the musical Dear Evan Hansen that the song below is from (I need to see this ASAP) and go out into the world being open to listening, and helping others, where you can.

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
When you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

‘Tis the Season

It happens every year, the fall weather turns cooler and it feels like it was just days ago that people were picking out their Halloween costumes. However, the trick-or-treaters are long gone and next comes the full blown holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. While many people count down the days and weeks leading up to these holidays, it’s important to keep in mind that this time of year isn’t always the easiest.

I know people who have been prepping their Thanksgiving meals for a week and others who have already had multiple Friendsgivings leading up to the holiday. While Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and give thanks, it’s also important to remember that this holiday isn’t easy for everyone. Just as Father’s and Mother’s Days are hard for those who have suffered a death from one, or both of their parents, Thanksgiving can be hard on those who don’t have a family or others who suffer from eating disorders.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think you should absolutely be thankful and celebrate if you so choose, but I think it would also be great if you could think of others who have a difficult time with the holidays.

Me? I haven’t been a fan of Thanksgiving since I was 16. It brings back so many terrible memories and, when my mom died shortly after Thanksgiving five years ago, it made things even harder for me. So this past weekend, when I suddenly burst into tears for no apparent reason, I took a step back to recognize why I was suddenly so emotional and tried to be a little easier on myself.

The holidays can be stressful with family dynamics, tight budgets and the pressure to eat, drink and be merry, but I encourage you to recognize that not everyone is capable of this. If you’re one of the people who struggles with the holidays, know that you’re not alone. If you’re not, remember to take it easy on those that do.

Looking for ways to cope this holiday season? The Healthy Place has you covered.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

When I first heard of this day six years ago, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the name. Survivor Day? It made me sound like some sort of hero or lucky person, neither of which I would ever label myself. Unlucky and heartbroken? Yes. But then I thought about what I did in the days and years following Luke’s death and, aside from breathing, surviving is really all I did. I had a sick mom and friends and family who relied on me to do so, so it really didn’t feel like I had a choice.

Six years later, I choose to not focus on myself or what I went through. I think of Luke’s family, and Luke, and my heart breaks for them. And I try to educate others on things to look for in someone who could be suicidal. Of course, the signs may or may not always be there, and you may not be able to stop it but education is one thing I’ve tried to do these past six years and it’s something I plan to continue. So today, I ask you to give this a read and know what signs to look for so that you, and others, will never have to wear the label of suicide survivor.

Survivor Day

Preparation for Tomorrow

You may or may not know that November 18th is Survivor Day. Don’t know what that is? The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention details it here. The short version? It’s a day of remembrance and support for the people who have suffered the death of a loved one due to suicide.

There are many things I would have done differently in the days and months after Luke’s death and there were many things I wished others would have done differently as well. I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable, and outright inappropriate questions, I was asked in the days after his death.

As I was reading about events for Survivor Day, this article popped up and it couldn’t be more spot on. As you’re preparing to attend these events, see posts tomorrow or just grow your knowledge in general, read this.  It details what to say, and what not to say, when speaking to suicide survivors:

  • Don’t ask details about the death.

  • Don’t pretend everything is normal or that nothing happened.

  • Share positive memories of the deceased.

Read the full article here for more and learn how to best support survivors tomorrow and every day.

Coping

Life is tough. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, in fact, it often isn’t either one of those. Days that start out great can wind up being terrible and vice versa. I’ve had many days that make me feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster with the highs and lows. So what can you do on those days? Whether it’s a bad day, you’re struggling with your mental illness or you simply want to help out with someone who’s struggling?

There’s so many ways. As discussed previously, know when you’re hitting your breaking point, and do something for yourself. But what does that entail?

This contributor to The Mighty talks about her 1 hour rule, which I think is incredible. I, too, am a competitive person and giving yourself a deadline to get going for the day, but also giving yourself the chance to opt-out if it doesn’t get better, is great.

For others, the reminder of just breathing and taking the days from moment to moment is enough to combat bad days. This is something I needed as a reminder so much that I permanently attached it to my body. Positive words & reminders are definitely things I need on bad days.

Survive

What are your coping skills, either with your mental illness or making it through a tough time in your life? Let me know below.

Triggers

The word trigger isn’t something I heard often when I was first diving in and learning more about mental health. Now, it’s a slang term that people often use lightly, but sometimes is brought up in conversation to actually talk about a traumatic event. This morning, and many other mornings since the Harvey Weinstein case has come out, I’ve heard this word or phrase used fluidly in conversation.

So what is a trigger?

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 10.23.54 PMtrigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma. Lately, this has been brought up in regards to many sexual assault cases but is also something that can relate to mental health issues including PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.

Knowing that an anecdote or story you share could potentially trigger someone and bring up traumatic memories is the first step to being aware and helping combat the potential issue. Just as you wouldn’t give away the plot to a new movie to a friend who hasn’t seen the movie, knowing your audience and warning people when you’re going to sharensomething that could affect someone in your group is the first step to helping.

Looking for other ways to help? Take a look at what someone dealing with triggers goes through on a daily basis to prepare themselves and take note when you’re out with a group and know that your words have consequences and could send someone spiraling into a place they fought so hard to get out.

 

It’s Okay to Say No

I failed at my challenge to myself and to you. Let’s just hop in the confessional here: It’s been 3 days since my last blog post. I beat myself up over it when I realized I was going to miss the first post, it hung over my head all day long, but I just couldn’t get to it. The second day, I had every intention of sitting down to write but I just didn’t know what to say at that point and I felt so bad by day three that I just couldn’t force myself to sit down and write. I felt like a failure even though I’m sure nobody actually cared. But I did.

Adam and I were out of town this past weekend for his belated birthday present and then went down to see his family and there wasn’t much time to myself outside of being in the car. I realized that this added pressure to write was taking its toll on me and that’s why I didn’t force myself to write by day three. I took to hear that, sometimes ,the best medicine is time with friends and family, which I had a lot of over the weekend.

This whole situation made me think of how many times I forced myself to do something I didn’t want to do. How many times did I put the state of my mental health at risk for forcing myself to do something I wasn’t ready, or simply couldn’t do? It’s been as great as sitting on a panel at a mental health conference, going back to school 2 months after Luke died, and sometimes as simple as leaving the house when it was the last thing I wanted to do.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine gave me advice that is so simple but so necessary: Say no.

No

It’s not earth shattering or mind blowing but it is something that I often forget to do. I’m a people pleaser and, though this has been a hard lesson for me to always put into action, it feels oddly satisfying to say no to a night out with your friends when you know full well the only other plans you have involve Netflix and your couch. It’s about learning your limits and knowing when you’re hitting a breaking point and saying enough is enough for now and doing something that will actually benefit yourself.

One thing Adam has implemented in our wedding planning process is asking if everything we include in our Big Day adds value. If it does we include it, if it doesn’t, we don’t include it. It’s hard to do sometimes but it works for our planning and for so many other aspects in my life.

Run through your day in your head really quick and tell me how many things actually added value to your day? If the answer is one or none, it wouldn’t hurt to reevaluate the things you’re saying yes to. Now, of course, there are things that we must say yes to even when we don’t want to – work, commitments to your children, etc. – but outside of those things, take it all into account. If you get invited to happy hour and catching up with an old friend is going to add value to your day, great, you should go! On the other hand, if you’ve had a really stressful day with work and know you’re closing in on your breaking point, know that you don’t have to go to the gym after your 10 hour work day; take a mental health night to yourself and read a book or go to bed early, the gym will be there tomorrow. I promise.

Life is all about balance, we know that, but sometimes taking a step back to evaluate your day and your decisions can help you decide just how much balance you’re actually giving yourself. If it’s not much, fix it, say no. Sometimes, it also helps to hear someone else say that it is okay to say no every now and then. Your mental health will thank you.

Medication

Nearly 10 days into my challenge to myself, and my promise to you, and I have to tell you, the amount of conversations about mental health I’ve had in the past 10 days are more than I’ve had in the past 6 months. I believe there’s something comforting about someone else sharing their story and talking openly about a subject that has so much stigma attached to it that it opens the door for others to talk about it, too. And I’m so thankful for that.


Today, I had a conversation about the stigma attached to medicating for help with mental illness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing wrong with getting help. That help for some may be seeking out a therapist, taking medication or possibly just taking the first step to recognize they may struggle with a mental illness. Everyone is different and what works for some (read: medication) may not work, or be the best option, for others. The topic of medication is one that often gets brought up in mental health conversations. It blows my mind that people look down upon taking medication for a mental illness, but don’t see a problem with taking medication for a physical disease. This open, honest conversation I had tonight (which I loved, by the way) reminded me of a video I saw on Facebook of a person who attempted suicide on the Golden Gate bridge and survived. While telling his story the survivor said, “Suicide, mental illness and addiction are the only diseases that we blame the person for perpetually, but people die from suicide just like they die from any other organ disease,” and this stuck with me. Shaming someone for taking medications or blaming someone for their mental illness is the last thing we should be doing for those who are struggling. Mental illness affects everyone differently and I think that, if an individual has found something that works for them and makes it more bearable to get through the day-to-day, then why should we question that?