Category: Mental Health



What is Bullying?

Bullying can take many forms. It can be:

physical – hitting, shoving, damaging or stealing property

verbal – name calling, mocking, or making sexist, racist or homophobic comments

social – excluding others from a group or spreading gossip or rumors about them

written – writing notes or signs that are hurtful or insulting

electronic (commonly known as cyber-bullying) – spreading rumors and hurtful comments through the use of e-mail, cell phones (e.g., text messaging) and on social media sites.

 How can I tell if my child or teenager is being bullied?

 Even if she doesn’t talk about it, you can watch for signs that your child is being bullied. Here are some signs to watch for:

Children who are being bullied may not want to go to school or may cry or feel sick on school days.

They may not want to take part in activities or social events with other students.

They may act differently than they normally do.

They might suddenly begin to lose money or personal items, or come home with torn clothes or broken possessions, and offer explanations that don’t make sense.

Teens who are bullied and/or harassed may also start talking about dropping out of school and begin skipping activities that involve other students.

 My child is being bullied. What should I do?

Listen to your child and assure him that he has a right to be safe.

Be clear on the facts. Make notes about what happened and when it happened.

Help your child see that there is a difference between “ratting”, “tattling” or “telling” and reporting. It takes courage to report. Reporting is done not to cause trouble for another student, but to protect all students.

Make an appointment to talk to your child/teenager’s teacher, another teacher that your child/teenager trusts or the principal or vice-principal of the school.

Difficult as it may be, try to remain calm so that you can support your child and plan a course of action with him or her.

Stay on course. Keep an eye on your child’s behavior. If your meetings with school staff haven’t made the  bullying stop, go back and talk to the principal. Follow up on the steps that were agreed to at the meeting.

Speak to the instructor or coach if the bullying is taking place during after-school activities or sports events.

Contact police if the bullying involves criminal behavior, such as sexual assault or use of a weapon, or if the threat to your child’s safety is in the community rather than the school.

 How can I help my child deal with bullying?

By working with the school to help your child or teen handle the bullying problem, you are leading by example and giving a clear message that bullying is wrong.  Regardless of age, you can help by encouraging your child to talk to you about bullying and by giving the following advice:

Stay calm and walk away from the situation.

Tell an adult whom you trust – a teacher, the principal, the school bus driver or the lunchroom supervisor – about what happened or report it anonymously.

Talk about it with your brothers or sisters, or with friends, so that you don’t feel you’re alone.


 For further resources go to



Power and Control Wheel

Relationship violence is a combination of a number of different tactics of abuse that are used to maintain power and control — which are the words in the very center of the wheel. The center is surrounded by different sets of behaviors that an abusive partner uses in order to maintain this power and control.

These sets of behaviors are:

Coercion and threats


Emotional abuse


Minimizing, denying and blaming

Using children

Economic abuse

Male privilege

A lot of these behaviors can feel subtle and normal — often unrecognizable until you look at the wheel in this way. Many of these can be happening at any one time, all as a way to enforce power within the relationship.

Think of the wheel as a diagram of the tactics your abusive partner uses to keep you in the relationship. While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.

To learn more about the Power and Control Wheel, visit the Home of the Duluth Model online.

To connect with local Domestic Violence Services, contact The Solutions Center (923-1743), and Agnesian Domestic Violence Services (926-4207).




Suicide Prevention

Helping Someone who is Suicidal

A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

Need Help Now?

If you or someone else is:

Harming themselves or someone else

Communicating they may harm themselves or someone else

Saying or doing something that leads you to believe they are “not in touch with reality”

Under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and you are concerned about their safety

Call 911 – Your local law enforcement will come and provide assistance


If you or someone else is:

Feeling (not acting out) rage or uncontrolled anger

Having dramatic mood changes

Acting reckless/engaging in risky behaviors

Withdrawing from people or activities

Feeling trapped/hopeless

Dealing with a recent loss or failure

Having a decline in grades/work

Experiencing sleep changes

Increasing drug or alcohol use

Seeing no reason to live

Feeling extremely anxious

Call the Fond du Lac County Crisis Line – available at all times – 929-3535


Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to committing suicide, but they just can’t see one.


Common misconceptions about suicide

FALSE: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true—bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Source: SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Warning signs of suicide

Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a doctor or psychologist involved.

Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, and seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.

Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help.

A more subtle but equally dangerous warning sign of suicide is hopelessness. Studies have found that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who feel hopeless may talk about “unbearable” feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.

Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as going from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show big changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Suicide Warning Signs

Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I   wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and   “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that   could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or   stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped   (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or   change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred.   Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making   arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends.   Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social   isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex.   Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely   depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.



Suicide prevention tip #1: Speak up if you’re worried

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help—the sooner the better.

Talking to a person about suicide

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

Ways to start a conversation about suicide:

  • I have      been feeling concerned about you lately.
  • Recently,      I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
  • I wanted      to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.

Questions you can ask:

  • When did      you begin feeling like this?
  • Did      something happen that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I      best support you right now?
  • Have you      thought about getting help?

What you can say that helps:

  • You are      not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • You may      not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  • I may not      be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want      to help.
  • When you      want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day,      hour, minute—whatever you can manage.

When talking to a suicidal person


  • Be      yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The      right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and      manner will show it.
  • Listen.      Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how      negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive      sign.
  • Be      sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or      family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
  • Offer      hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal      feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is      important to you.
  • If the      person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the      question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas      in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them      seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.

But don’t:

  • Argue with      the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to      live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look      on the bright side.”
  • Act      shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
  • Promise      confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you      may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the      suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you      may have to break your word.
  • Offer ways      to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to      justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is,      but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
  • Blame      yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s      happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

Adapted from:

Suicide prevention tip #2: Respond quickly in a crisis

If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.

Level of Suicide Risk

Low– Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she   won’t commit suicide.
Moderate– Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t very   lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
High– Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal.   Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly   lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

  • Do you      have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
  • Do you      have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
  • Do you      know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
  • Do you      intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.

Suicide prevention tip #3: Offer help and support

If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can’t get better for a suicidal person. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.

It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

Helping a suicidal person:

  • Get professional help. Do everything in your power to      get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for      advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health      professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s      appointment.
  • Follow-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes      medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be      aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the      person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to      find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.
  • Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often      don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at      offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague.      Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop      by, call again, invite the person out.
  • Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a      healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature      for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as      it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional      well-being.
  • Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of      steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should      identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an      anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include      contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends      and family members who will help in an emergency.
  • Remove potential means of suicide, such as      pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an      overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person      needs them.
  • Continue your support over the long haul. Even      after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the      person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to      ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.

Risk factors for suicide

Antidepressants and suicide

For some, depression medication causes an increase—rather than a decrease—in depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Because of this risk, the FDA advises that anyone on antidepressants should be watched for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring is especially important if this is the person’s first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. The risk of suicide is the greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 90 percent of all people who commit suicide suffer from one or more mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or alcoholism. Depression in particular plays a large role in suicide. The difficulty suicidal people have imagining a solution to their suffering is due in part to the distorted thinking caused by depression.

Common suicide risk factors include:

  • Mental      illness
  • Alcoholism      or drug abuse
  • Previous      suicide attempts
  • Family history      of suicide
  • Terminal      illness or chronic pain
  • Recent      loss or stressful life event
  • Social      isolation and loneliness
  • History of      trauma or abuse

Antidepressants and suicide

For some, depression medication causes an increase—rather than a decrease—in depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Because of this risk, the FDA advises that anyone on antidepressants should be watched for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring is especially important if this is the person’s first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. The risk of suicide is the greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.

Suicide in teens and older adults

In addition to the general risk factors for suicide, both teenagers and older adults are at a higher risk of suicide.

Suicide in Teens

Teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. The teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful. Teenagers face pressures to succeed and fit in. They may struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.

Other risk factors for teenage suicide include:

  • Childhood abuse
  • Recent traumatic event
  • Lack of a support network
  • Availability of a gun
  • Hostile social or school environment
  • Exposure to other teen suicides

Suicide warning signs in teens

Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:

  • Change in      eating and sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal      from friends, family, and regular activities
  • Violent or      rebellious behavior, running away
  • Drug and      alcohol use
  • Unusual      neglect of personal appearance
  • Persistent      boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of      schoolwork
  • Frequent      complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as      stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Not      tolerating praise or rewards

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Suicide in the Elderly

The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among persons aged 65 years and older. One contributing factor is depression in the elderly that is undiagnosed and untreated.

Other risk factors for suicide in the elderly include:

  • Recent death of a loved one
  • Physical illness, disability, or pain
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Major life changes, such as retirement
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of sense of purpose

Suicide warning signs in older adults

Additional warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:

  • Reading      material about death and suicide
  • Disruption      of sleep patterns
  • Increased      alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to      take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling      medications
  • Sudden      interest in firearms
  • Social      withdrawal or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to      complete or revise a will

Source: University of Florida


For further information about behavioral health resources and information, go to


What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. Research has linked schizophrenia to changes in brain chemistry and structure. Like diabetes, schizophrenia is a complex, long-term medical illness that affects everybody differently. The course of the illness is unique for each person.

How is schizophrenia diagnosed?

There is no single laboratory or brain imaging test for schizophrenia. Treatment professionals must rule out multiple factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.

Individuals with schizophrenia have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently. However, delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.


Positive symptoms are also known as “psychotic” symptoms because the person has lost touch with reality in certain ways.

• Delusions or the belief in things not real or true.

• Hallucinations are hearing or seeing things that are not real.

• Disorganized speech expressed as an inability to generate a logical sequence of ideas.


Negative symptoms refer to a reduction of a capacity, such as motivation.

• Emotional flatness or lack of expressiveness.

• Inability to start and follow through with activities.

• Lack of pleasure or interest in life.


Cognitive symptoms pertain to thinking processes.

• Trouble with prioritizing tasks, memory and organizing thoughts.

• Anosognosia or “lack of insight” being unaware of having an illness.

What causes schizophrenia?

Research strongly suggests that schizophrenia involves problems with brain chemistry and structure and is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as are many other medical illnesses.

One percent of the world’s population or one in every 100 people will develop the disorder in their lifetime. The most common onset is in the teens and 20s. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed before 12 years of age or after the age of 40.

What treatments are available?

The treatment of schizophrenia requires an all-encompassing approach that includes medication, therapy and psychosocial rehabilitation. Medication is an important aspect of symptom management. Antipsychotic medication often helps to relieve the hallucinations, delusions and, to a lesser extent, the thinking problems people can experience.

Therapy has been shown to be an effective part of a treatment plan. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which engages the person living with schizophrenia in developing proactive coping strategies for persistent symptoms, is particularly effective. Cognitive enhancement therapy works with improving cognition.

Psychosocial rehabilitation helps with the achievement of life goals often involving relationships, work and living. Most often delivered through community mental health services, it employs strategies that help people successfully live in independent housing, pursue education, find jobs and improve social interaction.

Will people with schizophrenia get better?

Long-term research demonstrates that, over time, individuals living with schizophrenia often do better in terms of coping with their symptoms, maximizing their functioning while minimizing their relapses. Recovery is possible for most people, though it is important to remember that some people have more trouble managing their symptoms.

Families who are educated about schizophrenia can offer strong support to their loved one and help reduce the likelihood of relapse. Caring for a loved one with schizophrenia can be challenging and families benefit from education and supportive programs. NAMI’s Family-to-Family education program is taught by families who have first-hand experience and provides education and support.


Information provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  For further information and resources go to, or

Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse

Alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction constitute major health and safety concerns in the United States, with costs running into the billions of dollars annually for health care, related injuries and loss of life, property destruction, loss of productivity and more. Treatment is proven to be effective, but few who need it have access to and receive care. Families can be devastated and children are at increased risk for their own addiction and mental health problems.  Addiction knows no societal boundary.  It affects every ethnic group, both genders, and individuals in every tax bracket. 

What is an alcohol problem?

Researchers use the term “alcohol problems” to refer to any type of condition caused by drinking which harms the drinker directly, jeopardizes the drinker’s well-being, or places others at risk. Depending on the circumstances, alcohol problems can result from even moderate drinking, for example when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medicines. Alcohol problems exist on a continuum of severity ranging from occasional binge drinking to alcohol abuse or dependence (alcoholism). The most common alcohol problems include:  Binge drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence.

 Alcohol addiction symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Feeling that you have to use alcohol regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day.
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using alcohol.
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of alcohol.
  • Spending money on alcohol and/or drinking, even though you can’t afford it.
  • Feeling that you need alcohol to deal with your problems.
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of alcohol.

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. When you’re addicted, you may not be able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. You may want to quit, but most people find they can’t do it on their own.

For many people, what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment and the law.

Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include:

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug, even though you can’t afford it
  • Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
  • Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug


 For further information and resources, go to



What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

                Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known and referred to as PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by either experiencing or witnessing an event that was traumatic, terrifying, life threatening, or threatened serious harm to oneself or a loved one. For example, many veterans report experiencing PTSD symptoms following exposure to combat as did many of the survivors and service individuals involved in the 9/11 attacks. Non-military individuals can experience PTSD as well and the condition can be caused by the witnessing or being involved in a car accident, witnessing or experiencing extreme violence, childhood neglect and physical abuse, sexual assault, experiencing a natural disaster, mugging or robbery, and so on. 

                Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while, but they don’t develop PTSD – with time and good self-care, they usually get better.  If symptoms persist, however, and the begin to get worse, last for months, or begin to interfere with everyday living, PTSD may exist.

 What are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

                In many instances PTSD symptoms will start within three months of the traumatic event; however sometimes the symptoms don’t appears until years after the event.  Symptoms often cause significant problems in social or work situations and in relationships. The most common symptoms of PTSD reported include:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event or reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event.
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.
  • Negative changes in thinking and/or mood that can include negative feelings about yourself or other people, feeling emotionally numb, and/or difficulty maintaining close relationships.
  • Changes in emotional reactions that might include irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior, overwhelming guilt or shame, and self-destructive behavior like drinking too much or driving too fast.

The intensity of symptoms can vary over time.  Some people report experiencing more symptoms when stressed in general while other report only experiencing symptoms when they run into reminders of what they went through.

 Other Concerns With PTSD

                PTSD can disrupt your whole life: your job, your relationships, your health, and your enjoyment of everyday activities.  Having PTSD can also increase your risk of other mental health problems, such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Issues with drugs or alcohol use
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

 When to Reach Out For Help

                If you have disturbing thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event for more than a month, if they’re severe, or if you feel you’re having trouble getting your life back under control, talk to your health care professional. Get treatment as soon as possible to help prevent PTSD symptoms from getting worse.


For further information and behavioral health resources, go to 


Physical Side of Anxiety


The physical symptoms of anxiety can be alarming and frightening.  At times they can come on very suddenly without any apparent trigger, causing us to fear the worst.  People experiencing an anxiety or panic attack may rush to the emergency room, convinced that they are sick, having a heart attack, or even dying.

This aspect of anxiety is a result of the mind engaging in a process called somatization, where emotions are transformed into physical symptoms.     

 Common Symptoms

The following are several of the normal, yet troubling, physical expressions of anxiety:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Heart palpitations (or ‘racing heart’)

These first two symptoms can often be mistaken for a heart attack but are actually due to increased cortisol and adrenaline levels.

  • Shortness of breath (usually due to hyperventilation)
  • Choking or tightness in throat

While a common stress reaction, this sensation can be misinterpreted as something serious, such as anaphylactic shock.

  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in legs and arms

‘Going weak in the knees’ is another common stress response.  Limbs can feel rubbery, shaky or even too stiff to move.

  • Excessive sweating or hot flashes
  • Nausea and other stomach distress

These anxiety symptoms can range from queasiness to sharp pain and have been mistaken for ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food poisoning, and other illnesses.

  • Pain

Jaw pain, back pain, and other types of stiffness, soreness, and spasms can be a result of tense muscles due to stress hormones.

  • Difficulty thinking and concentrating

Sometimes called ‘brain fog’ this symptom is a sign that the mind is overwhelmed and needs to relax.

  • Seeing spots, flashing lights or tunnel vision
  • Ringing in the ears

Adrenaline’s ‘fight or flight’ response can trigger a hypersensitivity to sensory cues, resulting in visual and auditory symptoms of anxiety.

What Can I Do?

Each individual experiences his or her own unique version of anxiety, so finding the most effective treatment depends on each person’s specific set of symptoms and underlying causes.  While psychotherapy and prescription medication are common and effective types of treatment for many anxiety disorders, there are also strategies people can incorporate on their own to manage anxiety.

  • Educate yourself

Learn about the signs and symptoms of anxiety in order to accurately identify it.  Be aware of the way that worrying thoughts can increase these symptoms in order to better manage your own stress response.

  • Know your personal triggers and stressors

Not every stressful situation can be avoided, but by preparing in advance how you will handle such a situation, you will feel a greater sense of control and limit the negative effects of anxiety.

  • Exercise and stay healthy

Studies show that regular exercise can help relieve stress and reduce many anxiety symptoms.  A healthy diet and getting enough sleep are also important factors in successfully managing stress. 

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

While people may turn to these substances with the short-term goal of decreasing anxiety symptoms, they produce long-term problems by interfering with sleep, interacting with mediations and disrupting emotional balance.  Stimulants such as coffee, cigarettes and energy drinks only worsen the symptoms of anxiety.

  • Surround yourself with support

Talk about your experiences with others such as friends, family, or professionals.  Support groups, whether in person or online, can be another helpful support.

Knowledge is Power

Anxiety is a normal response of the mind and body to a perceived or potential danger.  Knowing your own individual response to anxiety can help your mind learn how to calm your body, preventing  anxiety from escalating and possibly even eliminating unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

However, sometimes physical symptoms are serious and may require medical attention.  If you are not sure whether your symptoms are due to anxiety and panic or to an underlying medical condition, it is best to talk to your doctor or other medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis.


For further information on anxiety disorders and other behavioral health concerns, resources and wellness, go to



April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men have been raped in their lifetime.  Approximately 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate a perpetrator in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.

Many Victims Do Not Disclose Sexual Violence

Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence. Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted penetration of a victim or attempts to make a victim penetrate a perpetrator against the victim’s will or against a victim who is unable to consent.   If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, contact ASTOP at 800-418-0270

Sexual violence also includes:

  • Unwanted sexual contact, and
  • Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences (such as verbal sexual harassment)

Sexual violence can be committed by anyone:

  • A current or former intimate partner
  • A family member
  • A person in position of power or trust
  • A friend or acquaintance
  • A stranger, or someone known only by sight

Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems. For example, victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence:

  • Contact ASTOP at 800-418-0270
  • Contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.


For more information on this topic and other behavioral health subjects and resources, go to


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a condition that affects your moods, which can swing from one extreme to another.

If you have bipolar disorder, you will have periods or episodes of:

  • depression – where you feel very low and lethargic
  • mania – where you feel very high and overactive (less severe mania is known as hypomania)

Symptoms of bipolar disorder depend on which mood you are experiencing. Unlike simple mood swings, each extreme episode of bipolar disorder can last for several weeks (or even longer), and some people may not experience a “normal” mood very often.


The depression phase of bipolar disorder is often diagnosed first. You may initially be diagnosed with clinical depression before having a future manic episode (sometimes years later), after which you may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

During an episode of depression, you may have overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, which can potentially lead to thoughts of suicide.


During a manic phase of bipolar disorder, you may feel very happy and have lots of ambitious plans and ideas. You may spend large amounts of money on things you cannot afford and would not normally want.

Not feeling like eating or sleeping, talking quickly and becoming annoyed easily are also common characteristics of this phase.

You may feel very creative and view the manic phase of bipolar as a positive experience. However, you may also experience symptoms of psychosis (where you see or hear things that are not there or become convinced of things that are not true).

Living with bipolar disorder

The high and low phases of bipolar disorder are often so extreme that they interfere with everyday life.

However, there are several options for treating bipolar disorder that can make a difference. They aim to control the effects of an episode and help someone with bipolar disorder live life as normally as possible.

The following treatment options are available:

  • medication to prevent episodes of mania, hypomania (less severe mania) and depression – these are known as mood stabilizers and are taken every day on a long-term basis
  • medication to treat the main symptoms of depression and mania when they occur
  • learning to recognize the triggers and signs of an episode of depression or mania
  • psychological treatment – such as talking therapy, which can help you deal with depression, and provides advice about how to improve your relationships
  • lifestyle advice – such as doing regular exercise, planning activities you enjoy that give you a sense of achievement, as well as advice on improving your diet and getting more sleep

It’s thought using a combination of different treatment methods is the best way to control bipolar disorder.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The exact causes of bipolar disorder are unknown, although it’s believed that several things can trigger an episode. Extreme stress, overwhelming problems and life-changing events are thought to contribute, as well as genetic and chemical factors.

Who is affected?

Bipolar disorder is fairly common and one in every 100 adults will be diagnosed with the condition at some point in their life.

Bipolar disorder can occur at any age, although it often develops between the ages of 18 and 24. Men and women from all backgrounds are equally likely to develop bipolar disorder.

The pattern of mood swings in bipolar disorder varies widely between people. For example, some people will only have a couple of bipolar episodes in their lifetime and will be stable in between, while others will have many episodes.


For more information on this topic and other behavioral health subjects and resources, go to


The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Study


The ACE Study is one of the largest scientific research studies of its kind, with over 17,000 mostly middle income Americans participating.  The focus was to analyze the relationship between childhood trauma and the risk for physical and mental illness in adulthood.

Over the course of a decade, the results demonstrated a strong, graded relationship between the level of traumatic stress in childhood and poor physical, mental and behavioral outcomes later in life.

The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente.

What is an Adverse Childhood Experience / ACE?

Growing up experiencing any of the following conditions in the household prior to 18:

1.         Recurrent physical abuse

2.         Recurrent emotional abuse

3.         Contact sexual abuse

4.         An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household

5.         An incarcerated household member

6.         Family member who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal

7.         Mother is treated violently

8.         One or no parents

9.         Physical neglect

10.       Emotional neglect

 The ACE Score

The ACE Study used a simple scoring method to determine the extent of each study participant’s exposure to childhood trauma.  Exposure to one category (not incident) of ACE, qualifies as one point.

When the points are added up, the ACE Score is determined.

An ACE Score of 0 (zero) would mean that the person reported no exposure to any of the categories of trauma listed as ACEs above.

An ACE Score of 10 would mean that the person reported exposure to all of the categories of trauma listed above.

To calculate your ACE score

Go to:

How does fear impact childhood?

The key concept underlying the ACE Study is that stressful or traumatic childhood experiences can result in social, emotional, and cognitive impairments.  Examples: Increased risk of unhealthy behaviors, risk of violence or re-victimization, disease, disability and “early death.”

Breakthroughs in neurobiology demonstrate that fear-based childhoods disrupt neurodevelopment, and can actually alter normal brain structure and function.  Fear during infancy and early childhood has a cumulative impact on childhood development.  

 What increased health risks are associated with an ACE?

The young brain is especially vulnerable to stress. When prolonged stress occurs during infancy and childhood, the stress hormone cortisol is released throughout the young brain and body.  These stress hormones compromise normal brain development and the immature immune and nervous systems.  The ACE Study demonstrates that early stress is a strong factor for developing the following national health problems.

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Weight gain(especially abdominal fat)
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduced Growth Hormone Levels
  • Compromised immune function
  • Bone loss

A decade of rigorous research demonstrates that sustained stress in childhood results in overproduction of cortisol, with profound, lifelong impacts on the brain and body.

Where can I find more information on the ACE Study?


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