Categories
Self-Compassion

National Suicide Prevention Week

By Meghaa Ravichandran

As fall officially begins, it rings in the new school year for many students across America as they start going back to classes and their campuses. With more schools prioritizing mental health as students handle heavy course loads and hours of homework, it is important to spread awareness about events such as National Suicide Prevention Week (NSPW) this month. Taking place between September 4, 2022 to September 10, 2022, NSPW aims to educate the people on suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide. 

Before we can begin helping others, let’s educate ourselves on why suicide prevention is so important and the details behind suicidal thoughts. For example, did you know:

  • According to 2020 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 2020)
    • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S.
    • More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide
    • More than 1 million suicide attempts are done
    • The rate of suicide was shown to be highest in middle-aged white men
    • 54% of Americans have been affected in suicide in some way
  • Most people consider suicide 5 – 15 minutes before undertaking an attempt (CNN Health 2022)
  • The common misconception of “suicidal people are selfish and don’t consider the impact of their actions on loved ones” is extremely stigmatizing and harmful
  • There is no accurate prediction or specific risk factor for those attempting suicide
  • Many considering an attempt believe they are in a painful, irreparable life situation in which suicide is the only option
By Anthony Tran on Unsplash.com

This alarming knowledge has led to the creation of National Suicide Prevention Month and Week, both taking place in September, with the goals of providing tools and support for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. As active participants within our own communities, we can provide a shoulder to lean on or an empathetic ear for those we think are struggling with their mental health. There are many phsyiological/behavioral factors to watch for in the time leading up to a suicide attempt, but here are a few:

  • Exhibiting unusual behaviors with guns, pills, or other lethal items
  • Giving away cherished belongings
  • Concerning comments referencing death
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Hopelessness
  • Family or personal history of suicide
  • Showing rage or a desire to enact revenge

Knowing warning signs prior to an attempt is helpful, but also supporting loved ones during hard times can make a tremendous impact on their outlook of life by showing them they are not alone and have those that care about them. As an activist or just a good friend, here are some ways that you can get involved on a community level or personal level:

  • Find a community walk near you on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.
  • Share graphics on social media to inform others about NSPW in English and Spanish
  • Tell a trusted adult if anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts
  • If needed, connect a friend with The 988 Lifeline, a 24/7 mental health crisis hotline for calling or texting
  • Learn how to properly and accurately spread information with the researched Framework for Successful Messaging

With these skills in your ever-evolving toolkit, always remember to listen and advocate with an open-mind!

Citations:

Suicide Prevention Month: Ideas for Action 

National Suicide Prevention Week 

Suicide statistics | AFSP 

National Suicide Prevention Week: How to help those at risk | CNN 

Categories
Body Dysmorphia

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

By Meghaa Ravichandran

February’s most celebrated holiday, Valentine’s Day, is (now) a heartfelt honoring of love as couples exchange gifts mainly centered around chocolates and flowers. Just one week after Valentine’s Day, however, is a week dedicated to National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA), taking place from February 21 – February 27, 2022. The official campaign sloga, See the Change, Be the Change, signifies the era of activism and awareness that is changing the public’s perception on eating disorders as well as accessibility to helpful resources for those with eating disorders. 

Basic Information:

Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that affect a person’s internal relationship with food and body image, often leading to serious effects such as unhealthy weight loss/gain and intrusive thoughts. These disorders can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, but researchers have found that eating disorders more commonly impact teenagers and young adults. On average, almost 3 years pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. 

Types of Disorders:

There are a multitude of eating disorder classifications, but here are three common types: 

Anorexia Nervosa (AN): Characterized by unhealthy weight loss and distorted body image, people with anorexia restrict their intake of food, often not noticeable at first glance as one does not need to be underweight to be struggling. Both thinner and plus-sized individuals can be diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, which is classified with two subtypes: restrictive and binge-purge. AN can be fatal as suicide is the second leading cause of death for people diagnosed with AN. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Restriction of energy intake
    • Intense fear of gaining weight even though underweight
    • Disturbance in the way one’s body weight/shape is perceived 
  • Symptoms: Dramatic weight loss, developing food rituals, denying feeling hungry, limited social spontaneity, concerned about eating in public, sleep problems, dry skin, muscle weakness, etc…

Bulimia Nervosa (BN): Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by a cycle of binging followed by compensatory behaviors such as forced vomiting and fasting. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder can be any weight. Recurrent binge-and-purge cycles affect the entire digestive system, leading to chemical imbalances in the body that affect other organ functions, which can cause fatal consequences such as cardiac arrest. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria: 
    • Recurrent episodes of binge-eating
    • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain
    • Episodes and behavior occur at least once a week for three months
    • Self-evaluation influenced by body shape/weight
  • Symptoms: skips meals or takes small portions of food at regular meals, disappears after eating often, drinks excessive amounts of water, teeth are discolored, self-injury, calluses on back of hands from self-induced vomiting, unusual swelling in cheeks, etc…

Binge Eating Disorder (BED): One of the most common eating disorders in the U.S. and one of the newest eating disorders formally recognized in the DSM-5, BED is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food, a feeling of loss of control, and not regular use of unhealthy compensatory measures. Unlike BN, BED is not followed by compensatory measures so individuals with this disorder are often overweight. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Recurrent episodes of binge eating
    • Marked distress regarding binge eating is present
    • Occurs at least once a week for 3 months
    • Not associated with recurrent use of compensatory behaviors
  • Symptoms: frequent diets, having secret recurring episodes of binge eating, disruption in normal eating behaviors, feelings of disgust/depression/guilt after overeating, eating alone out of embarrassment, stomach cramps, difficulties concentrating, etc… 

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): Another new diagnosis recognized by the DSM-5, AFRID is similar to anorexia as individuals who experience both limit their intake of food. However, those diagnosed with AFRID do not feel distress regarding their body’s appearance (body dysmorphia). AFRID can stall the growth and weight development of children and results in psychological problems as well. Children with a co-occurring anxiety disorder, habits of picky eating, and diagnosis of autism/ADHD are more likely to develop AFRID. 

  • Diagnostic Criteria:
    • Eating/feed disturbance result in one of four effects
    • Does not occur exclusively during course of anorexia/bulimia
    • Not attributable to concurrent medical condition
    • Not better explained by lack of available food/ cultural practice
  • Symptoms: dramatic weight loss, only eat certain textures of food, fears of choking/vomiting, consistent/vague gastrointestinal issues around mealtime, limited range of preferred food becoming narrower, menstrual irregularities, muscle weakness, impaired immune functioning etc… 

Other eating disorders include Pica, Rumination Disorder, Laxative Abuse, Orthorexia, and more. 

Resources: 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, contact the Eating Disorders Helpline at 1(888)-375-7767 for treatment referrals and support/encouragement. Eating Disorder Hope has also compiled a list of websites available for those struggling with certain eating disorders both based in and out of the U.S. 

If you would like to raise awareness and join the fight against eating disorders, you can take action on the official NEDA website where you can share your story, register for a spring 2022 NEDA walk, represent NEDA on your college campus, volunteer as a landmark photograph, and plan a NEDAwareness Week Event.  


Works Cited: 

“Eating Disorders.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders. 

“Information by Eating Disorder.” National Eating Disorders Association, 21 Feb. 2018, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/information-eating-disorder. 

“Nedawareness Week.” National Eating Disorders Association, 19 Feb. 2022, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-involved/nedawareness.