What is the stigma behind suicide? Here are a few marked differences in stigmas:

-Stigma: “A Mark that denotes a shameful quality in the individual so marked, or a quality that is considered to be shameful in a certain individual”

-Social Stigma: “Prejudicial attitudes and discriminating behavior directed towards individuals with mental health problems as a result of the psychiatric label they have been given”

-Self Stigma: “Internalizing by the mental health sufferer of their perceptions of discrimination”

(seattleu.edu)

Examples of suicide stigmas – remember that each of these are harmful:

-Asking someone about suicide may plant the idea in their minds (false)

-Suicidal people are fully intent on dying (false)

-Everyone who dies by suicide is depressed (false)

(seattleu.edu)

Stigma can come from many areas of life including family, media, teachers, peers, and more. The reasoning behind why stigma can be so damaging is that it does not promote healthy recovery, it can negatively affect treatment outcomes, and it can negatively affect the perception of self and others. Stigma can be rooted internally and externally, and if not broken or addressed, may cause harm.

How to combat suicide stigma:

-Accept differences in others

-Don’t rely on stereotypes

-Offer a safe space to talk  

Resources:

https://www.seattleu.edu/wellness/mental/stigma/

Community violence has been recognized as a major public health problem impacting both youth and adults. Some studies show that between 50% and 96% of urban youth have witnessed some type of community violence in their lifetime. Exposure to community violence is associated with a variety of emotional and behavioral problems including: PTSD, anxiety, depression, internalizing symptoms, suicidal behaviors, antisocial behavior, social withdrawal, substance use, and academic problems.

What is community violence? Community violence is the violence that happens between unrelated individuals, generally outside the home. Some examples of community violence can be:

-Assaults

-Shootings

-Fights among groups

Ways we can prevent community violence:

-Changing social norms through street outreach/violence interruption programs 

-Changing the physical environment through Crime Prevention organizations

-Preventing future risk and lessening the harms of violence exposure through hospital- community partnerships

-Strengthening economic support through job training and job programs

-Connecting youth to caring adults and activities such as mentorships

Ways to cope with community violence:

Know the facts. Do not get caught up in rumors!

Minimize media. Its okay to take a step back from the news for a mental and/or emotional break. Reading or watching the news too much can make you feel worse. 

Make a plan with loved ones. Talk with friends and family about what to do in case of an emergency. Having a plan can help you feel more at ease and in control. 

Distract yourself. Do things that you can control like working, exercise, socializing with f riends/family, etc.

-Be healthy. Stress can affect your health, so take care of your body with adequate meals, exercise and sleep!

By: Megan Eckles

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event through experience or witnessing (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

In the DSM-5 there is a distinction between PTSD in those 6 years of age and up, and those under the age of 6.

Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, does not meant that a person will automatically develop PTSD. 

What does PTSD look like?

  • Adults-NAMI (2022) notes that PTSD characterized generally by 3 categories:
    • Re-experiencing type symptoms- which can include flashback, intrusive thoughts, and bad dreams
    • Cognitive and mood symptoms- issues with recalling the evet and/or negative thoughts about self
    • Arousal symptoms- the state of hypervigilance or exaggerated responses
  • Children 
    • According to Stanford Children’s Heath (2022), children and teens with PTSD feel a lot of emotional and physical distress when exposed to situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Some may relive the trauma repeatedly.
  • Children (under the age of 6)
    • Re-enacting the event 
    • Nightmares about the event

Treatment:

Treatment for PTSD is similar for both adults and children

  • Psychotherapy
    • Cognitive therapy 
    • Exposure therapy
    • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medication 
    • Antidepressants
    • Anti-anxiety medication

Seeking help with PTSD symptoms as soon as possible is helpful for both client and family. 

When someone you know has PTSD:

  • Be aware and learn more about PTSD
  • Notice symptoms and warning signs, such as withdrawal or suicidal thinking 
  • Seek personal help or therapy 
  • Have a safe place if a loved one becomes abusive or violent 

Resources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Posttraumatic-Stress-Disorder

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=post-traumatic-stress-disorder-in-children-90-P02579

By: Hailey Robertson

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental illness that severely impacts individuals’ ability to regulate their emotions. This disorder is marked by instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. 

In the United States, Borderline Personality Disorder is only present in 1.6% of the general population and 20% in the inpatient psychiatric population. 

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorders include: 

  • Wide mood swings that last hours to a few days, this can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values
  • Intense fear of abandonment, even taking extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person does not care enough
  • Impulsive and risk-taking behaviors 
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Intense anger, losing temper, sarcastic, or having physical fights
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection 

If you or someone you know has symptoms or a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder here are resources for help:

  • Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist can help with diagnosing and providing medication that may be needed for treatment
  • Therapist- A Therapist can help you understand the diagnosis and help you process your thoughts, emotions, and feelings. 
  • Client Support Specialist- A Client Support Specialist can help support you through treatment and equip you with the skills necessary for everyday life. 

Resources

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, July 17). Borderline personality disorder. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Borderline personality disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Personality Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved April 25, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/personality-disorders

By: Kristin Trammell (Therapist/Training Specialist)

Today, war and large tragedies may be happening over 1,000 miles away, but with the common use of cell phones and social media the war and other tragedies’ impact can feel much closer to home. Many times, people with social media or access to live-feed news sources can constantly seek updates or monitor various situations. This compulsive behavior of constantly checking and monitoring is called doomscrolling. Doomscrolling initially can serve as a coping mechanism, because having constant information can help people feel reassured or feel a sense of control in uncertain situations (Liu, 2022). Although doomscrolling is a coping mechanism, it can quickly become unhealthy and become a barrier to mental health due to the access it provides to images, content, sounds, and stories regarding violence, war, and tragedy. It is not uncommon now to see videos and hear stories of families being separated, of bombings/shelling, and of people being critically injured, dying, or dead. Unfortunately, these events occur often throughout the world, but have become more prevalently witnessed due to the usage of cell phones and social media. 

Vicarious Trauma:

Witnessing war, violence, and other tragedies through secondary sources, such as television and social media, can lead to symptoms relating to vicarious trauma. Vicarious trauma, otherwise known as secondary trauma, has historically been discussed as what people in helping professions can experience when serving others with first-hand trauma, but with the high intake of online content regarding trauma events, others can experience vicarious trauma, as well (Vicarious Trauma, 2022). Vicarious trauma means that people who witness or hear about the trauma secondhand can experience traumatic effects or stress responses. It is important to note that children, adolescents, and adults all can experience vicarious trauma, but symptoms may present differently according to age. 

Symptoms of Vicarious Trauma:

Children and adolescents can often experience stomach aches or headaches, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, increased emotional reactions, such as tantrums or feeling more irritable or sad, as well as experiencing changes in interests or avoidance of others (Torres, 2022).

Adults can often experience a change in worldview, distressing intrusive thoughts or images, increased feelings of sadness, irritability, or hopelessness/helplessness, difficulty at work and with relationships, as well as changes in sleep patterns and appetite (Torres, 2022). 

Coping with Vicarious Trauma: 

For children and adolescents with vicarious trauma, we want to limit access to content that continuously presents war, violence, and tragic events. We then want to be open and curious in helping them understand events and their related reactions. It is okay to ask questions regarding if something is upsetting them. We can then validate and normalize the child’s feelings regarding traumatic events. We let them know that it is okay to be scared, concerned, sad, or angry and assure them that they can talk with a safe adult whenever they have questions. We can also search for ways to increase hope and resiliency with the child by exploring ways they can help others, no matter how small. It is also important to discuss how the child is currently safe, if they are concerned about their own safety. 

For adults with vicarious trauma, it is important to also limit access to content that continuously presents war, violence, and tragic events. For peers who are experiencing vicarious trauma, we want to provide support to them by offering a judgement free, listening ear. We want to validate their feelings and ask if there is a way we can help them through this time. We can offer a snack, a break, or a change in schedule, if needed. If we are the ones experiencing vicarious trauma, we want to step back and remind ourselves that it is okay to feel confused or upset and it is okay if we need time to take a break to gather ourselves. It is okay to ask for help from safe individuals. It is also helpful to remember that the basics go a long way; ensuring that we eat well, drink water, and practice healthy sleeping habits. 

If you, a friend, coworker, or a loved one are experiencing distress that hinders day to day tasks or are having difficulty managing strong emotions and intrusive thoughts, seeking professional help through counseling, peer support, or skills building is recommended and can be beneficial in the path to healing. If you would like further information in seeking help, go to https://gahope.org/ or call 706-279-0405. 

References

Joyful Heart Foundation. (2022). Vicarious trauma. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/learn/vicarious-trauma 

Liu, J. (2022, March 3). How to stop Doomscrolling when tragedy strikes-and what you could focus on instead. CNBC. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/02/25/how-to-stop-doomscrolling-when-tragedy-strikeswhat-you-could-focus-on-instead.html 

Torres, C. (n.d.). Psychologist offers mental health advice for kids, adults amid Ukraine-russia war. https://www.wbay.com. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.wbay.com/2022/03/21/psychologist-offers-mental-health-advice-kids-adults-amid-ukraine-russia-war/ 

By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialist)

What is considered sexual assault?

According to the US Department of Justice, sexual assault is defined as means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center mentions that the are several forms of sexual violence, which include:

  • Rape
  • Child sexual assault and incest
  • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
  • Masturbating in public
  • Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission
  • Nonconsensual image sharing

Who is impacted by sexual assault?

Victims of sexual violence include people of all ages, races, genders, and religions — with and without disabilities.

  • Nearly one in five women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives.
  • In the United States, 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape.
  • An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 21.2% of non-Hispanic black women, 20.5% of non-Hispanic white women, and 13.6% of Hispanic women were raped during their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2022).

The Facts:

  • Victims often know the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • People who sexually abuse usually target someone they know.           
    • Nearly 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew
    • 1 out of 5 were committed by a family member (RAINN, 2022). 

How to seek help:

National Sexual Assault Hotline:

1-800-656-4673

What can be done?

  • Raising awareness
  • Supporting survivors 
  • Getting involved to help change laws and policies regarding crimes of sexual violence and how survivors are treated

Resources:

https://www.nsvrc.org

https://www.rainn.org

https://www.nsvrc.org/about-sexual-assault

By: Megan Eckles (Therapist/Training Specialsit)

What are the facts?

  • 1 in 7 children experienced abuse of neglect within the last year (CDC, 2022). 
  • In 2020 Georgia ranked 38th in the nation for child well-being (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Types of Abuse

  • Physical Abuse: injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker other than by accidental means​
  • Neglect: parent or caretaker allows a child to experience avoidable suffering or fails to provide basic essentials for physical, social, and emotional development​
  • Emotional Abuse: parent or caretaker creates a negative emotional atmosphere for the child ​
  • Sexual Abuse: any adult or older or more powerful child employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in any form of sexual intercourse​
  • Endangering a Child: a person intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence, and/or a person knows that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence (Georgia Division of Family and Children Services).

Warning Signs of Abuse

Mayo Clinic notes multiple signs and symptoms of abuse.

  • Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
  • Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
  • An apparent lack of supervision
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn’t want to go home
  • Attempts at running away
  • Rebellious or defiant behavior
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

What can I do?

As a mandated reporter, you are required to make a DFCS report. According to GA law, failure to report abuse can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

How to Report:

Child abuse and/or neglect reports are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A report can be submitted on online via the portal or by paper and faxed in.

1.855.GACHILD (+1 855-422-4453)

Resources:

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services: https://dfcs.georgia.gov

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/child-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20370864

http://www.pcageorgiahelpline.org

Self-harm: this is when one hurts themselves as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings.

Some individuals self-harm as a way to:

-express their feelings when it is hard to put into words

-change emotional pain into physical pain

-reduce overwhelming feelings

-punish themselves for their feelings and experiences

-express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life

Ways individuals self-harm: 

-cutting yourself

-over-eating or under-eating

-biting yourself

-hitting yourself or walls

-pulling your hair

-picking or scratching at your skin

How to overcome self-harm:

  • Learn to recognize triggers: triggers are people, places, situations, sensations, or events that cause specific thoughts or feelings. 
  • Become aware of the urge to self-harm: being able to recognize urges helps an individual take steps towards reducing or stopping self-harm. 

Urges can include:

-strong emotions like sadness or anger

-racing heart or feelings of heaviness

-disconnection from yourself or a loss of sensation

-unhealthy decisions, like working too hard to avoid feelings 

-repetitive thoughts about harming yourself

  • Identify distractions: identify distractions that can help distract the urge to self-harm. 
  • Keep a diary: a diary can help keep track and understand self-harming behaviors. This is useful to keep track of what occurred before, during, and after self-harming. After a period of time, the diary can help spot patterns of self-harming behaviors (Melinda, 2022). 
  • Use coping techniques: to help overcome self-harm, an alternate coping skill needs to take its place. 
  • If self-harm is to express pain and intense emotion: paint, draw, journal, write a poem, listen to music
  • If self-harm is to calm or soothe: take a hot bath, pet an animal, use a warm blanket, massage your neck, hands, and feet, listen to calming music
  • If self-harm is to disconnect or numb pain: call a friend, take a cold shower, hold ice in hand, chew something with a strong taste
  • If self-harm is to release tension or vent anger: exercise, punch a cushion, squeeze a stress ball, rip something up, make noises with instrument, bang pots and pans
  • Seek professional help: trained professionals can help direct towards overcoming cutting or other self-harming habits. 

Client Support Specialist: a CSS can help identify triggers and develop coping skills.

Therapy: a therapist can help explore past or current trauma that may be triggering self-harming behaviors and can assist in helping develop coping skills (Self-harm, 2020). 

Resources

Melinda. (2022, February 7). Cutting and self-harm. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

Self-harm 2020 – mind. (n.d.). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/5783/self-harm-2020.pdf

In the United States, 26% of women and 15% of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime first experienced these forms of violence by a partner before the age of 18-year-old. 

Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is when an intimate partner behaves in physical, sexual, psychological violence or stalking behaviors. 

1 in every 11 females and 1 in every 14 male High School students report having experienced physical dating violence.

1 in every 8 females and 1 in every 26 male High School students report having experienced sexual dating violence. 

  • Physical Violence: hitting, kicking, pushing
  • Sexual Violence: forcing a partner to take part in a sexual act 
  • Psychological Violence: Name-calling, insulting, threatening 
  • Stalking: repeatedly unwanted or threatening phone calls and messages and/or showing up unwanted. 

Teens who are or have been victims of teen dating violence are more likely to:

  • Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Engage in unhealthy behaviors (Tabacco, alcohol, drugs)
  • Exhibit antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying, or hitting
  • Think about or commit suicide (CDC, 2021)

How to prevent teen dating violence:

  • Look for warning signs: if someone you know starts having multiple injuries, a decrease in motivation, drop in grades, or loss interest in activities could be a result of dating violence.
  • Act on warning signs: if you notice warning signs, act on them. Speak to the individual about getting help through talking to an adult or seeking counsel. As well as using resources such as dating violence hotlines. 
  • Be supportive: it is important for the individual to feel loved and supported, especially when they have been in an abusive relationship.
  • Educate: it is important for teens to be educated and understand what teen dating violence is and the impacts it can have on well-being. It is also important for teens to be educated on the resources available if they experience dating violence. 

Teen violence does not just occur face to face. Teens can experience dating violence through internet services as well (Taylor et al., 2016)

If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence please get help right away. 

Love is Respect National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 

Call: 1-866-331-9474  or  TTY 1-866-331-8453

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, March 5). Preventing teen dating violence |violence prevention|injury Center|CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/teendatingviolence/fastfact.html

Male survivor guide to help men find support and overcome the trauma caused by abuse or assault

https://www.innerbody.com/resource-guide-for-male-survivors-of-abuse-sexual-assault-and-trauma

Dating violence prevention. Dating Violence Prevention | Youth.gov. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence

Taylor, Maralyn, Kimani, Hannah, & Antoilyn. (2016, February 5). 5 ways to prevent teen dating violence. URGE. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://urge.org/5-ways to-prevent-teen-dating-violence/

Over 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, with more than 800,000 enslaved each year (Human Trafficking, 2021). In the United States, there have been 11,193 reported cases in 2021. Since 2007, there have been a total of 5,557 reported cases in the state of Georgia. That is around 396 human trafficking victims per year in Georgia alone (Georgia, 2021).  

Human Trafficking: is defined as the recruitment and movement of people using deception and coercion for exploitation.  

Over half of human trafficked survivors receive mental health services. The most common mental health problems associated with trafficking can be: 

-Depression 

-Anxiety 

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

-Self-harm 

-Suicide attempt 

These mental disorders are influenced by pre-trafficking abuse, the duration of exploitation, violence, restriction from movement, a significant number of unmet needs, and no social support.  

As a mental health provider, these are the things to look for in potential trafficking victims: 

  • The client discloses trafficking to a mental health provider 
  • The client has signs of physical and psychological trauma  
  • The client is unable to speak the local language 
  • The client is unable to provide essential identity documents (license, passport, birth certificate) 

Mental health care workers who work with trafficked victims should: 

  • These clients should be routinely asked about current or past experiences of abuse.  
  • Risk Assessment  
  • Safety Plan that includes the risk of re-trafficking 
  • Should explore past emotions such as fearfulness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, anger, easily startled, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.  
  • The treatment for clients who have survived human trafficking should be in line with those clients who have experienced trauma. Evidence-based interventions for PTSD or trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy can help treat survivors of human trafficking. Along with assistance in social, financial, and legal support, help with regulating emotions and coping with dissociation (Altun et al., 2017).

References 

Altun, S., Abas, M., Zimmerman, C., Howard, L. M., & Oram, S. (2017, February 1). Mental health and human trafficking: Responding to survivors’ needs. BJPsych international. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618827/

Georgia. National Human Trafficking Hotline. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/state/georgia

Human trafficking. Human Rights First. (n.d.). Retrieved December 16, 2021, from https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/topics/human-trafficking