Mental Health Symposium: Signs of suicide and importance of self-care

Published 4:30 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Editor’s note: Mental Health Awareness Month was in May, and Ephraim McDowell Health sponsored a symposium on the topic. This is the last of three articles on what was discussed at the symposium.

Ephraim McDowell Health and the Rotary Club of Danville partnered to host a Mental Health Symposium on May 29 at the Boyle County Library to encourage discussion about mental health in the community. At the symposium, the clinical director and CEO of Nurture Nest Counseling, Rebecca Patterson, gave a presentation on the signs and symptoms of suicide along with the importance of self-care.

She presented the statistics on mental health in Kentucky. One in five adults experience mental illness each year, which is on par with national statistics. Five percent of adults experience severe mental illness such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

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Approximately 17 percent of adolescent Kentuckians will experience a major depressive episode each year, compared to 15 percent nationally. Fifteen percent of Kentucky children between the ages of two and 12 have at least one behavioral, developmental, or emotional condition, such as attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder or anxiety, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health.

“My hope today is that we can use the symposium to be more aware. Prevention starts with mental health awareness,” Patterson said. “You never know if it is going to be you. It could be you personally or someone in your life. You will have the tools necessary to support them.”

Patterson explained that mental health issues can manifest in various ways, presenting a range of symptoms that impact an individual’s emotional, psychological, and behavioral functioning. Common symptoms include persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or irritability, which can interfere with daily life and relationships. Additionally, individuals may experience changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or concentration and have difficulties with mood regulation, motivation, and decision-making.

Other symptoms may include suicidal thoughts, self-harm behaviors, or substance abuse. In some cases, mental health issues may also be characterized by disorganized thinking, disorientation, or hallucinations. Depression and anxiety can sometimes cause anger in children as they don’t have a complete understanding of the emotions they are feeling.

Patterson went on to say that many times, mental disorders are incorrectly diagnosed as ADHD.

“Mental illness can become a tangled web,” Patterson said. “A lot of symptoms you see can be numerous different problems. A professional can help you untangle the web and figure out what it is. That helps you know what course of treatment to take.”

Kentucky has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. More than 800 Kentuckians die by suicide every year.

“It is one of the leading causes of death for Kentuckians,” Patterson said. “That is starting from age 10 to 34. It is shocking.”

Two key risk factors for suicide are mental health disorders, substance abuse, trauma, or significant life changes. Most suicides in the state are men, with white males between the ages of 45 and 64 being the highest.

Patterson explained that a strong sense of community is vital for helping prevent suicide.

“Having a safe environment for people to talk, or finding that community if you struggle with these things,” Patterson said. “Being that person for somebody, letting someone know you are a safe person that they can be their authentic self with. You must have a village of people on your side.”

In extreme cases, emergency intervention may be needed.

“If you believe someone is at immediate risk, you need to stay with them and remove anything that could be used for immediate harm,” Patterson said. “You need emergency services if the situation is critical. They are going to give that person the resources they need to be safe.”