Dealing with Loss

For my series, I’ll be talking about my own personal stories, as well as any stories people are willing to share with us. I wanted to start off with a very touching, but very sad story. I have a friend who I’ve known since middle school. My friend had her sister die by suicide last year. It was a very rough time for my friend and her family, and they are all still trying to cope with it. She went through a very rough stage. There were days that her friends and family was worried about her own safety. One day, she took off all her pictures and information on her social media sites, and turned all her profile pictures to a black screen. She posted a very emotional poem about her sister and her emotions concerning her sister’s death.

She then disappeared. She wasn’t responding to any calls or text messages. She basically fell off the face of the earth. People were going to all of her usual hang outs and were setting up different areas to look for her. It was scary for everyone involved because no one knew for sure what was going on. She was gone for most of the day. Thankfully she eventually drove to her father’s house. She told him that she was not okay, and that she needed help. She has been going to therapy ever since. She has been doing things she enjoys more often now though. She is really into drawing and painting. She has even submitted some of her work into art galleries.

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At the beginning of the year, there are all the award shows. This year’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Film was Big Hero 6. If you haven’t seen Big Hero 6, you should! It is about a kid, Hiro, who meets Baymax. Baymax is an oversized robot that was made by Hiro’s older brother to help people. Hiro becomes friends with all his brother’s friends that he worked with at his school. It’s a very emotional movie; it will make you laugh and it’ll make you cry.

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The reason I mention this movie is because my friend dedicated this movie to her sister after it won the Best Animated Film Award. Spoiler Alert!!! My friend felt like she was able to relate to the character of Hiro because Hiro’s brother dies in the movie. She understood what Hiro was going through in the movie. She knew what it felt like to lose a sibling to something that was out of their control. She was able to connect to Hiro as a character in ways I cannot. I think she would have liked a Baymax in her life too; to have someone there to help her get through a day, a week, a month. Like Hiro, my friend is continuing living her life as best she could. She still thinks about her sister, but understands that she needs to keep living her life in the best way she can. It is important to understand that you can keep living in the best way you can…

Photo credits can be found here and here


Alyssa Arnpriester is an intern at Mental Health First Aid Colorado. To hear more from Alyssa, check out her previous post here or enter your email into the Follow box at the right to stay up to date with the Be a Lifeline blog.

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You rock. We know. Let’s talk.

Alright, it’s time for some real talk. Well actually, since it’s the middle of the week, maybe it’s time for a really cute picture of a koala first.

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Phew, okay, now it’s time for real talk. It’s hard to believe, but the Be a Lifeline blog is now in its fourth month of posting. We are so grateful to be able to share this important conversation space with you, our incredible readers and contributors. Through those four months, we’ve had remarkable guest bloggers, thoughtful staff posts, and engaging events, and we’re so lucky that you’re along for the ride.

Here’s where we’re at now – we need YOU. That’s right, we’re talking to you. No, not your coworker in the next cubicle or your neighbor down the street (although we’d love to talk to them too). You. Why, you might ask? Because we know you have something incredible to share about mental health. Maybe you’ve gleaned important knowledge from your professional life that others would benefit from learning too. Maybe you have lived experience with a mental illness or a mental health challenge and could help us understand that from your perspective. Maybe there’s something awesome going on in your community for mental health and wellness.

Whatever it might be, your voice is crucial to help move us forward in the continual pursuit of increasing education and understanding about mental health and decreasing the stigma and negative perceptions that hold all of us back.

So, here’s our charge: will you be a guest blogger? We can start small with just one post, and then you can decide if you want to keep writing. As long as it relates back to the overall purpose and goals of this conversation space, the sky is the limit on what you can talk about. You can even post anonymously if you’d rather not have your name floating out in cyberspace. If you’re not quite ready to share your story yet, we totally respect that. Just know that if and when you are, we’ll be right here, ready to listen (and read). If you are ready, head on over to the Share a Story tab to start creating your masterpiece now. We’re so excited to hear from you!

And finally, if you’re thinking, “Geez, I would really love to know more about ______________,” or “Wow, I would love to hear about someone else’s experience with ______________,” we want to know! We’ll do our best to find someone with that kind of expertise or experience to share with you. Send us your question or topic idea at the bottom of this page, and we’ll get back to you soon.

Okay, okay – one more koala just for good measure. Happy Wednesday!

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Listening to Hear

One question I love to ask fellow therapists is “How is change created?” Ultimately, it is this question that drives every encounter we have, not only in our profession, but in our personal lives as well. The individual’s answer to this question reveals their world view and personal beliefs about who we are and what we desire as humans. It gets the conversation to a deep level pretty quickly!

Many theories on change that we are taught in school boil down to focusing on either a person’s decision making and problem solving strategies, or changing their thought processes to change their behavior. Essentially, if we think positive thoughts, we act well. In response, acting well and getting positive results, increases our positive thoughts. Images of Peter Pan encouraging happy thoughts in order to fly come to mind.

It was in the trenches, once outside of academia, where I found greater clarity regarding change. I experienced that the greatest driver of motivation- and what we are all seeking- is to be heard, understood, and accepted. When those things are achieved, we tend to feel safer, less anxious, less depressed, and have an increase in positive social interactions. It goes a step beyond strategizing the change, and actually provides an experience in which the change and safety is felt in real time in the relationship.

For this reason, my favorite section of MHFA is non-judgmental listening. When presenting to a class, I talk about how this is foundational in approaching the individual and for encouraging engagement both in the moment and in future encounters the person may have with other professionals. I also share how incredibly difficult it is to do well.

In such encounters, we need to:

Monitor and set aside our own desires and goals

Be aware of what we communicate verbally and non-verbally

Be accepting of the individual’s experience of reality without judgment

Monitor and respond the individual’s verbal and non-verbal communications

Be aware of the other environmental factors within and around the crisis

All at the same time!

Without listening- and really hearing- we lose the most powerful tool in our belt. It is the hub from which all other interventions emerge, and the foundation upon which we build safe relationships. On the spectrum of interventions, listening is not just a small introduction into treatment, it is treatment.


Evan Page

Evan Page has specialized in providing therapy for families and teens struggling with trauma, attachment disorder, and mood regulation issues. Evan is currently a therapist with North Range Behavioral Health, serving as the School-Based Engagement Specialist.

The Be a Lifeline blog is so grateful to have Evan as one of our amazing guest bloggers. Be sure to check out his previous posts here and here. Want to learn more about how YOU can become a guest blogger like Evan? Head on over to the Share a Story page now!

Meet the Team, Part 5: Alyssa!

As you’re getting settled into a brand new week, we have some exciting news to share with you – we have a new staff member here at MHFACO! We could think of no better way to start off a Monday morning than to introduce you to Alyssa, our awesome new intern. In her blog posts, she’ll be sharing stories of mental health and substance use. She’s excited to share her own stories, but she also wants to involve you, the readers. She wants to post your stories too, as she know there are many untold stories that should be shared. So, take a few minutes out of your morning to get to know Alyssa!

Alyssa

Name: Alyssa Arnpriester

Role: Intern

Hometown: Arvada, Colorado

Favorite color: Black

What brought you to Mental Health First Aid Colorado? Reason 1: I think it is important to talk about mental health and illnesses. I would like to gain more knowledge on how to talk to both strangers and people who are close to me about mental health and illness. I want to be able to give people who are struggling with a mental health illness and drug abuse the resources they can use. Reason 2: I would like to help get the word out and that there are people and organizations that can help people who are struggling with mental illness. I do not like the stigma surrounding these topics. I think it is important to have conversations about them and to try to help people who may need it. Reason 3: I am majoring in criminal justice and psychology at UNC. I need an internship to complete my degree, and what better way to do it than here? I am not sure in what direction I want to go in at the moment. I am hoping I will find my direction here working at Mental Health First Aid Colorado.

What is your favorite part about working here? So far, everyone has been very nice and helpful. They are all willing to answer any questions I have and they are willing to help with any problems I may be having. It is great to have an opportunity to work with people who want to help people realize that it is okay to have depression, anxiety, bipolar, or any other mental health illness. I can’t wait to get started and be a part of the group.

Describe a time when you used MHFA or YMHFA strategies: I have many friends and family members that have mental health and substance abuse issues. There is no one story that is more important than the next. Describing just one instance is almost impossible because I can share so many experiences.

If you could assign a superpower to ALGEE the Koala, what would it be?  Ummm… I think it would be cool if it had the power to change into other animals, so it can turn into a person’s favorite animal when they are feeling low.

Behind the Scenes at MHFACO: News and Noteworthy Events

Hello LifeLiners, FirstAiders and anyone who accidentally ended up on our blog!

As a reminder, each month I will write about some big developments at Mental Health First Aid Colorado (MHFACO). Recently, we attended two major events. On May 19th, we had the annual Stepping Up for Our Communities Event to honor National Children’s Mental Health Day and National Mental Health Awareness Month. Then the following night, the team braved the weather at the Rockies game for Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council’s Night at the Rockies.

At the annual training event, we had over 90 individuals trained in-person in youth and adult MHFA and an additional 90 plus trained across the state at six different spoke events. A big thanks to Southeast Mental Health Group, Centennial Mental Health Center, AspenPointe, The Center for Mental Health and Jefferson Center for Mental Health for hosting spoke events across the state that day. The event also featured a fantastic keynote address from Curt Drennen, Outreach Program Manager, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, where he discussed stress and how the body and mind react to stressful situations.

During lunch, we all had the privilege to hear touching first hand stories from the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Youth Essay Contest first place (Sydney Lacy) and second place (Chris Maclean) winners, as well as Children’s Hospital Youth Action Board Member, Kelsey Briding. All three spoke eloquently about how mental illness had impacted their lives and through the telling of their stories, literally reduced stigma before our eyes. As a bonus, they will also be featured guest bloggers, along with the third place essay contest winner, Christopher Glenn Watterud.

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All in all, an amazing way to spend a Tuesday!

The next night, the team manned a booth at the Rockies game. Since we were playing the Philadelphia Phillies, we reached out to our partners at the Philadelphia Mental Health First Aid office to see if we could cross promote the event. We are proud to lead the efforts in Colorado, but it is important to remember that MHFA is a national movement and program. The team in Philly does some amazing work, and they came through and shared all kinds of informational giveaways and goodies. We even made a little wager on the outcome of the game.

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While it didn’t work out for us this time, we did get to meet a lot of fans and spread the word about our programs. As always, feel free to drop us a line at registration@mhfaco.org, check out the website at www.mhfaco.org, or leave a comment below.


Tony Barkey is the Statewide Program Coordinator for Mental Health First Aid Colorado. To hear more from Tony, enter your email in the “Follow” box at the right or check out his earlier post here.