Mental Health Awareness Month: The Path to Continuing Strength and Resiliency

By: Destiny Redmond, M.S., APC, NCC, CTP

It’s officially May, and we have once again made it to Mental Health Awareness Month. For the past year, many of us have experienced distressing times that plagued us while in the pandemic. We have lost loved ones, friends, jobs, and missed out on many occasions that we would often spend together worldwide. For lack of better words, this pandemic has given us a “new normal,” which often results in complete isolation and gives rise to loneliness. Even throughout our history’s previous pandemics, we have endured massive loss and change. However, as with each pandemic, we also have demonstrated how resilient we are despite the impacts. In the twenty-first century, we have utilized innovative devices such as the world wide web to work, learn, heal and generate ideas and ways to connect with others safely.

We have also used it to laugh and challenge each other to enjoy life regardless of our current crisis. Although the current pandemic is only a tiny part of our lives that can affect our mental well-being, it is vital to be aware of our current mental state and know how to improve our mental health. While previous pre-pandemic tactics may have worked, the pandemic has generated new problems, such as lack of access to care. Fortunately, mental health professionals have also shifted to technology, providing internet-based services to expand their access and meet the needs of the people.

Nevertheless, it is still essential for us to speak up and reach out to available resources to get our care. We may never know who is available to help or what new services we have to access if we don’t try or ask. Help can be as simple as calling a local or national hotline or speaking with your local healthcare professionals. This is why Mental Health Awareness Month is so important. Mental health awareness helps educate, empower, and most importantly, highlight available resources, giving us a gentle reminder that we are in this fight together no matter the circumstance.

What Ridgeview is Doing to Help Seniors in Isolation

By: Shelly-Anne Johnson LCSW

As the population of the aging increases in America, we are seeing a deficit in trained caregivers and a lack of suitable facilities for seniors to be housed in. As a result, many seniors are living in isolation with no contact from family members, and are hardly leaving their homes or visiting loved ones themselves. With children growing up and moving out of the home, and the inevitable loss of family members and friends with age, seniors are at a higher risk of isolation than the general population. In fact, according to Aging In Place, one-quarter of seniors (aged 65+) report feeling socially isolated and lonely. Social isolation carries very real cognitive and physical repercussions for seniors. Seniors in isolation are at an increased risk of premature death, heart disease and stroke to name a few. The pandemic gave rise to these issues and others due to higher levels of forced isolation which caused isolation rates among seniors to skyrocket from 27% in 2018 to 56% at the peak of the Pandemic in 2020.

How is this affecting their mental health? Aging In Place reports an increase in cognitive/mental health issues like depression, impaired executive function and an accelerated cognitive decline for seniors who are in isolation. These physical and cognitive declines can serve as a warning to caregivers and others to take a moment to consider the seniors in their lives, and what they can do to support them. As Dementia becomes more prevalent with age, isolation serves as a vehicle to speed up that process. You can help! When physically being there with a loved one is not possible, utilizing video platforms such as zoom allows family members the opportunity to still have access to a senior loved one, making them feel less alone. Finding senior support groups and activities in their area can also be a way to get your loved one more engaged. There are many components to senior social isolation, and there might not be an apparent solution for you and your family. Sometimes the family may need professional support to show them options for help that they might not have known were available.

If you have noticed declines in a loved one’s cognition and their ability to care for themselves, it might be time to ask for help. At Ridgeview Institute Smyrna, we have specialized programs designed for seniors with cognitive decline. We saw the great need in the community and created a space where loved ones can bring their family members, and know that they will be getting the support they need through accurate diagnosis and treatment. All while making sure that they are surrounded by a caring, supportive community of trained staff and their peers.

Read more about senior isolation here:

5 Self-Care Tips to Reduce Stress

July is Stress Awareness Month. We are collectively stressed out and spent from the daily stressors we are faced with, at home and abroad. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the events that have happened over the past two plus years, and all the events still happening today. We are suffering. Stress is at a record high and there is no clear path toward normalcy. Now more than ever, we are susceptible to mental health issues. Self-care will have to be a priority in our lives if we are to gain some sense of mental stability. Here are a few tips to help with getting grounded and feeling calm within yourself in those moments of heightened stress:

  1. Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep has been linked to multiple adverse health consequences including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Studies show that sleep disturbances can worsen the symptoms of many mental conditions including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety.
  2. Take a walk in nature: There is something healing about being in nature. Literature states that spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
  3. Journal or read a good book: Writing down the way you are feeling in moments of overwhelm can be extremely therapeutic. Getting lost in a book might be exactly what you need to escape the stressors of the day.
  4. Listen to music: Music has been proven to elevate your mood and motivation and reduce stress
  5. Pamper yourself, your worth it! Taking time for yourself is paramount to self-care. In fact, choosing self-care activities can actually trigger the production of the body’s “feel-good” hormones- serotonin and oxytocin. These same hormones have been connected to better overall moods and sleep. These hormones are also naturally-occurring pain-relief.

Remember, your self-care comes first! If things start to get too overwhelming and self-care does not seem like it is enough anymore, call us. Ridgeview is here to offer support for you 24/7.

Effective Tools For Best Outcomes

Professional Spotlight: Eddie Reece MS, LPC.

Meet Eddie Reece, he is a psychotherapist and educator with a private practice in Alpharetta, GA. We are grateful to have Mr. Reece as a resource for our staff and community partners. Eddie will be presenting a live webinar “Anger & Rage: A Modern Perspective” April 22, 2022. Teaching why anger is not the problem, but rather, rage is. Eddie will show that anger is a healthy response often not expressed. Instead, rage is expressed as a destructive response to feeling helpless, hopeless and powerless. Eddie describes himself as a reluctant writer who avoids writing by playing golf and music whenever he can. If that doesn’t work, he watches TV. His work experience in many diverse occupations allows him to relate to a wide variety of people, whether helping a therapy client, business client or filling up a blank page. His practice focuses on helping people get along, so he named his business Getting Along, Inc.

Eddie earned a master’s degree in counseling from Georgia State University. His varied counseling career includes business consulting, professional development, working in a psychiatric hospital, the juvenile court system and drug and alcohol recovery treatment centers. He’s been in the helping profession since 1987 and in private practice since 1992, where he finally found a way of making a living he could stick with.

Eddie fulfilled a long time dream of being an adjunct professor of counseling at Argosy University, where he taught graduate students for several years. He is a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists and former member of The Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia, where he served as Public Relations Chair. He is a former committee member of the Southern Region of the American Academy of Psychotherapists.

He has a passion for sharing what he’s learning in life. He sees himself as always a student/teacher, whether it’s through writing, helping a client through a difficult time, or guiding an athlete to find more joy in their game. His passions include ending the stigma of seeing a therapist and helping therapists promote the idea that therapy is for everybody.

Eddie’s easy going, down to earth, humorous, approach to life’s most difficult questions and love for teaching and healing, might inspire you to open your heart and mind to a different way of seeing the world. He was born, reared and still lives in metro Atlanta, GA.

The Importance of Checking-In

by: Destiny Redmond, M.S., NCC, CTP

I am not sure how many of you have felt almost robotic throughout the week, ensuring you attend to your work duties, home life, kids, and completing homework you may have almost forgotten. But how many of us can say that we do daily check-ins with ourselves?

“Checking in” can be described as taking the time to ask yourself throughout your busy day, “how am I feeling?” You may notice your stomach growling because you forgot to eat, and then a lightbulb may go off, and you realize, “that’s why I’m more sluggish than usual today!’

Checking in with yourself is the ultimate and necessary self-care because it keeps us on track. It can also help us to maintain our mental health. If you’re seeing a mental health professional, you may have written down goals in therapy and warning signs of being in crisis. Some of those signs, such as fatigue, irritability, and lack of focus, can all be noticed if we sit still and check in with ourselves in between our busy days. So set a reminder, check-in, and implement the healthy coping skills you’ve acquired throughout therapy or discovered on your own to prevent the worst-case scenario and maintain your overall wellness.

Creating balance in your life while also maintaining your mental/physical health is not always easy, but to successfully thrive and be the best you, a productive you in whichever way that looks like, you must take care of yourself.

One cannot pour from an empty cup, so always pour into yourself first.

If you feel like you need support after checking in, Ridgeview is here to support you 24/7 with a no cost assessment. Don’t wait! Call or walk in to see how we can help today.

Finding My Dream Career After Hospitalization

Meet Dina Coughlan, a successful young professional working as an associate producer for a prominent news network. Many look at Dina’s present life and take for granted where she is today. Without knowing the journey, her story cannot be fully appreciated. Upon reading her inspirational article, we reached out to Dina so she can tell her story; and what a story it is. Dina’s mental health challenges began at a young age. As early as junior high school, she knew something was wrong. Dina didn’t understand why she was having the thoughts she was having but was scared to ask for help due to the stigmas that surround mental health. These thoughts continued, worsened and became a way of life for Dina. She started accepting that suicidal thoughts and self-harm was how she would have to live her life. After multiple hospitalizations and medication trial and error, Dina found herself in a hospital that changed the course of her life. She was surrounded by a caring and supportive staff who did not give up on her, or allow her to give up on herself. She recalled a therapist telling her, “Never let your diagnosis define you.” Those words would carry her through to recovery. According to Dina, the single biggest thing that helped was having a therapist that never allowed her to feel sorry for herself.

Once Dina started doing things she could be proud of, she gained momentum and motivation toward her goals. She stated that no matter what was happening in her life “the motivation was me knowing that I wanted to be successful.” She used the tools learned in the hospital along with medication to stabilize enough to go back to school. Dina went on to earn her degree and land an internship which would eventually lead to the career she has today. She now knows that she “must have a greater purpose.” Having survived multiple suicide attempts that “no one should have been able to survive” further motivated her to become a beacon of light for the family members and friends in her life who struggle with mental health concerns. While Dina still struggles at times, she is able to effectively manage her life. Dina attributes her ability to maintain her equilibrium to the care she received, and the tools she learned during her inpatient stay at the mental health facility. We are grateful to Dina for sharing her journey with us, and for being a light to the patients at Ridgeview who have heard her story. Because of people like Dina, they know recovery and success is possible after hospitalization. At Ridgeview, we love to hear stories of triumph and success in spite of mental health issues. Dina is living proof that with the proper support it is possible to live a full and prosperous life with a mental health diagnosis. If Dina can do it, so can you!

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health or addiction problem; Ridgeview is here to meet you where you are, and provide the caring and supportive environment needed to help you on your journey to mental wellness and recovery. Call us or come in 24/7 for a no cost assessment!

Click here to learn more about Dina:

Self-Harm Awareness Month: What Does It Mean to Self-Harm?

By: Dr. Tamara Thompson-Jackson, DNP, MSN, MPH, MA, MS, APRN

Self-harm is the act of purposely hurting oneself as an emotional coping mechanism. The condition is clinically known as NSSI (non-suicidal self-injury). A prevalent thought is that self-harm is rare and only occurs within a “special” population. What a fallacy! It is more common than people think. Examples of self-harm include burning themselves, banging or punching objects or themselves, embedding objects under their skin, drinking harmful substances or other actions that cause pain but are not life threatening. The number one method of self-harm is cutting. Common sites for self-harm are the hands, wrists, stomach and thighs. The stereotypical picture of the self-harmer is a young white female. However, research reveals that up to half of self-injures may be male. Male self-harmers are underreported and present differently than female self-harmers. Socioeconomic status does not increase the risk of self-harm, but sexuality identity does. Gay, bisexual males and bisexual females are more prone to self-harm. Individuals (especially children and teens) that are victimized by bullies are also at a higher risk. The average age of the first incident of self-harm is 13. Approximately 17% of all people will self-harm during their lifetime. Individuals who self-harm have higher incidence rates of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, which has a strong correlation to later suicide attempts.

Why do people self-harm? Why would anybody want to do that? Common reasons include feeling empty inside, loneliness, feeling dejected, misunderstood and being unable to verbally express those emotions. Self-harming allows the person to feel they can cope with life and be in control even if the episode is brief. More times than not, the individual will try to conceal the marks of self-harm. They typically do not show them off like a badge of honor. However, should you notice someone is self-harming, the best thing to do is offer support and suggest they seek help from a mental health professional, who will be equipped to deal with the issue. A few warning signs to look for include scars, fresh bruises, scratches or burns, and wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather. The bottom line is; do not ignore it. If you see something, say something. If not you, then who?

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The Effects of Identifying as Transgender On a Person’s Mental Health

We are all assigned a sex at birth, male or female. For some, the gender they identify with does not match their assigned birth sex. These individuals are considered transgender. Those individuals who identify as transgender face many personal, social and familial challenges that can include gender dysphoria, discrimination, and an overall sense of not belonging. They have a history of facing harassment/intimidation – some have been the victims of hate crimes, being ostracized by society and their families, prejudice and bullying. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Transgender children, adolescents and adults often face discrimination and other challenges in society… More than half of transgender students who are out (publicly open about their transgender status) in K-12 school experience verbal harassment. 1 in 4 experience a physical attack, and more than 1 in 10 are sexually assaulted. Among transgender adults, almost half report being verbally harassed in the past year. And 1 in 10 are physically attacked or sexually assaulted in a given year.”

These daily stressors take a toll on an individual’s mental health. As a result, transgender individuals are at an increased risk of mental health/substance abuse problems and suicide. The most precious commodity people have is sound mental health and that needs to be protected at all cost. Families and allies often feel helpless to the suffering of loved ones and do not know where to go for help or how to begin the process.

How can you help? The first step is letting your loved one know you are there for them and creating a safe space where they can speak openly. Once that space is created, the healing has already begun. The next step is finding a mental health professional they trust; this can be someone who is sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ+ population. Try and broach the topic of gender early on with the therapist to make sure it is a good fit. Therapy can help to reduce stress and teach valuable skills to manage life stressors in a healthy way.

If at any time, there is a concern for the safety of yourself or a loved one; Ridgeview institute is here to support. We have a dedicated team of professionals who are trained specifically to treat the LGBTQ+ population. We have years of experience working with individuals who struggle with gender dysphoria and other mental health/substance abuse issues that transgender teens and adults face. Contact us for a confidential assessment to see what we can do to help. We are here for you and your loved ones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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See also our upcoming Continuing Education webinar “Supportive Need and Boundaries for Trans Youth/Families” on Friday June 3rd, where we go further in depth on what you can do to support your loved ones.

Stress, Current Events, and the American People

A new report from the American Psychological Association reports a rise in the levels of stress documented by Americans over the last 2 years. The “Stress in America” poll published Thursday found a correlation between Stress and the rising inflation/the war in Ukraine, compounded with the fatigue from a two-year fight with Covid. Americans are tired.

The same study suggests that Americans can benefit from seeking mental health services during the pandemic. People of all ages have been affected. “Among parents of teenagers, 65 percent said they felt their children could have benefited from seeing a counselor or other mental health professional throughout the pandemic.” We have seen an increase in individuals reaching out for help during this pandemic at Ridgeview, including teenagers. With the expansion of our Ridgeview Monroe location, we are able to reach even more people in need. Program offerings are currently being revised at both our locations to meet the changing needs of the community amidst the rise in stress and its related mental health effects. Ridgeview has 2 locations to serve you and your loved ones. We are here 24/7 so you don’t to feel alone or isolated during these trying times.

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Suicide Prevention

Most of the clients we see at Ridgeview Institute are struggling with suicidal thoughts and previous suicide attempts. Recent data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that after rising from 2000 to 2018, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States declined after peaking in 2018. This is incredible news! We are making a difference, but more work needs to be done. The new findings also showed that suicide rates were three to four times higher for males compared with females from 2000 through 2020. And for females, firearm-related suicide recently replaced poisoning as the leading means of suicide.

To meet these challenges, our trained staff of mental health professionals at Ridgeview have the expertise and experience to help guide clients and their loved ones who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. A crisis can happen at any time, so we offer 24/7 support. We can provide a comprehensive mental health assessment and help to formulate a safety plan until you or your loved one are out of immediate danger. Our programs are uniquely designed to meet the needs of each person we serve. You are not alone. We have been here for over 40 years and will continue to be the constant in an ever changing landscape.

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