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Mental Health Awareness Week highlights resources for people with mental struggles

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State of Mind (WWMT)

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is a time to spread the word about all things mental health, which falls in line with the mission Newschannel 3 had carried out with a series of stories called “State of Mind.”

State of Mind focuses on a wide range of mental health issues impacting families in West Michigan.

Through that coverage, Newschannel 3 has discovered and complied numerous resources available to those in need of help.

Here, we'll break down those resources as they correspond to the stories Newschannel 3's I-Team has covered so far.

FARMERS

Farmers said October can be the most difficult time. A disappointing harvest or more debt combined with depression can leave farmers considering suicide.

Studies show that suicide is more common among farmers than any other job group and twice the rate of military veterans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the suicide rate among workers ages 16-64 has jumped 34% from 12.9 suicides per 100,000 workers in 2000 to 17.3 per 100,000 workers in 2016.

Suicides among farmers are 1.5 times higher than the national average.

"This should be a happy time of year, we should be excited," Brigette Leach said.Leach, who helps the family run Avalon Farms in Climax, has seen the struggle first-hand.

The MSU Extension Farm Stress Management Program launched in 2018. It has reached more than 1,000 farmers, and those who care about them, around Michigan and beyond.

In Kalamazoo Gryphon Place offers several suicide prevention services and programs.

The local crisis line for someone contemplating suicide is 269-381-HELP (4357) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Both lines are open 24/7.

SUICIDE HOTLINE

More than 2 million people called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline last year according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Commonly known as the suicide hotline, it was started more than a decade ago and the number, 1-800-273-8255, has remained unchanged since.

Now, similar to three digit codes used for emergencies or local resources, a proposal from the FCC would make 988 the number for the lifeline.

MENTAL HEALTH FIRST AID

Study after study shows suicide rates continue to get worse. Knowing the signs of suicide could mean the difference between life and death.

Kristen Smith is a clinical specialist for Gryphon Place in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

She teaches safeTALK, a three-hour suicide alertness training that prepares anyone age 15 or older, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper.

"You don't have to be a clinician. You can be a community member with a concern," Smith said.

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide can get help from the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Locally, Gryphon Place offers a 24-hour HELP line at 269-381-HELP (4357) for anyone who may feel desperate, overwhelmed, emotional or hopeless.

COLLEGE STUDENTS

Experts call mental health on college campuses an epidemic.

Over the past several years, colleges and universities have been working to increase student access to mental health services, but with more students than ever seeking help, they say it’s not enough.

Kalamazoo College is putting a focus on student mental health.

The college has a system in place for faculty to alert administration members if they think they see a change in a student’s mental health.

The system is called “early alert."

If a faculty member submits a message about a student, a member of the early alert committee will reach out to the student to see if they could use a hand and show them the available resources.

K-12 STUDENTS

Stress has increased significantly among students over the past few years, with studies showing students as young as third grade reporting stress.

Experts said some stress and anxiety is to be expected, but the levels seen today are alarming.

Brian Johnson, a child and family therapist in Kalamazoo, said over the past several years he has seen a change in mental health among students.

“Now, I’m seeing a lot of anxiety, panic attacks, anxiety, so that’s a big change,” Johnson said.

TEACHERS

The people responsible for teaching our children say stress in their profession is on the rise.

According to a Gallup survey, teaching is tied with nursing as the most stressful profession in the United States with educators saying their stress levels are continuing to go up and experts saying that stress can take a major toll on their mental health.

According to a survey from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), educators and school staff find their work “always” or “often” stressful 61% of the time, which is more than double the general population.

A 2015 survey by AFT found 34% of teachers described their mental health as “not good." Two years later that number had jumped to 58%.

A study from the University of Utah found more than 60% of former teachers said emotional exhaustion and stress played a major role in their decision to leave the field.

EMERGENCY RESPONDERS

Members of the law enforcement community and emergency services industry say suicide among its members is more prevalent than the general public might know.

As of Sept, 15 this year, 146 American peace officers have died by suicide in 2019, according to Massachusetts based nonprofit BLUE H.E.L.P.

That number included 22 retired officers.

In 2018, the organization reports, 167 officers died by suicide.

A 2017 study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation showed 103 firefighters died by suicide that year. That's compared to 93 who died in the line of duty during the same time frame.

The Journal of Emergency Medical Services conducted a survey in 2015 of emergency medical services (EMS) industry men and woman.

The survey responses came from 4,022 emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Among them, 1,383 reported they had contemplated suicide; and 225 said they had attempted to take their life through suicide.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) said for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, calling 911 or talking with police may be necessary.

NAMI has a website dedicated to mental health resources for law enforcement members and their families.

Anyone experiencing a crisis is encouraged to use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has its own website dedicated to law enforcement.

BLUE H.E.L.P. also has a website with resources specifically for law enforcement.

FAMILY SUPPORT

The mental health care system is complicated for patients, with paths to care sometimes unclear, but the system for those who act as support can be just as complicated.

As cuts have depleted public mental health funding across the state and nation, the funding there is goes to help those with severe mental illnesses, leaving people supporting their loved ones in the dark.

Support groups for those supporting those with mental illness are few and far between.

Those groups that do exist are often run by non-profits and provide a place to vent or share experiences rather than concrete advice from experts.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) hosts support groups for families, with 22 chapters across the Michigan’s 83 counties.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Integrated Services of Kalamazoo serves adults with mental illness, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, people with substance use disorders, and teens or children with serious emotional disturbances.

The health department has several facilities that serve different purposes in the county.

Its website also lists resources for anyone who needs services for mental health struggles.

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide can get help from the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Locally, Gryphon Place offers a 24-hour HELP line at 269-381-HELP (4357) for anyone who may feel desperate, overwhelmed, emotional or hopeless.

Editor's note: The Newschannel 3 I-Team is passionate about making a positive difference and we hope you can help. Tell us about the challenges you or a loved one have encountered when trying to get mental health help. Please email tips and story ideas to iteam@wwmt.com. Then, join us Mondays and Thursdays at 11 p.m., and regularly online at WWMT.com, as the I-Team works toward solutions to the challenges our community faces.