Help is Available for Those with the ‘Holiday Blues’ or Worse
On Thursday, a man was taken into custody by Anne Arundel County Police after he threatened to take his own life. This happened on Mayo Road in Edgewater around 10:30 a.m. For a time there was a flurry of police activity in the area. Luckily, this man was not successful in his effort because police intervened and helped him to get the necessary mental health care.
Unfortunately, the holiday season is a time of year that can be difficult for people suffering from depression. So much so, that the Department of Health sent out information about the so-called ‘Holiday Blues,’ and how the pressure to be festive and happy can leave people stressed and unhappy. Sometimes the people will turn to eating or drinking excessively, while others will attempt to “cope” in more severe ways.
Mental health services are available. In Anne Arundel County, the Crisis Warmline can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 410-768-5522. On the other end of the phone, a member of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency can help to put you or a loved one in touch with the appropriate services and programs through their Network of Care.
They offer specific providers and counseling services for adults, teens and veterans.
Special Needs of Service Members and Veterans
One of the ongoing issues that military leaders are trying to understand is the suicide “epidemic” in the US Army. As of the end of October 2012, 166 active duty service members have taken their own lives. 37 in July alone and another 20 in October.
The Army recognizes the problem, and in fact ordered a service-wide stand-down at the end of September that required soldiers to put aside duties and spend time discussing suicide prevention, including how to identify signs of trouble with comrades.
In Anne Arundel County, the Mental Health Agency has had a Veterans Services Agency since 1979, when it was set up to help Vietnam-era veterans. It has since been extended to all veterans. The facility is located in Annapolis. They provide:
- Individual, Group Marriage/Family, Sexual Trauma/Abuse Counseling
- Substance Abuse/Addiction Counseling Referral for Tx
- Referral/Job & VA Benefits Counseling
- Liaison for VA Medical Center & Other Community Agencies
- Referral for Homeless Veterans and Community Information
Veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan can receive free mental health and substance abuse treatment by contacting the Veterans Clinic at 410-222-0117.
Returning veterans can also have a difficult time re-integrating into society. And while this can often mean domestic problems, violence, flashbacks, difficulty sleeping and more, it can also lead to veterans attempting to take their own lives.
In March of this year, a Davidsonville Army veteran from the 82nd Airborne, 307 Forward Battalion hung himself with the belt from his pants secured on the branch of a tree on the Mayo American Legion property in Edgewater.
The Pentagon recognizes the problem, but there is not enough communication between the DoD and the people on the front lines of the community to connect the dots. A story from Partnership for a Drug Free America said that the military is routinely prescribing anti-depressants and sleeping aids to active duty personnel in the field.
“In the civilian world, when you have a problem, you go to the doctor, and you have therapy followed up by some medication. In Iraq, you see the doctor only once or twice, but you continue to get drugs constantly.” Iraq veteran Sgt. Sergeant Christopher LeJeune said.
Once the soldier leaves the war theater and returns to his or her community, there may be no follow-up care, treatment or other mental health counseling or therapy. This can lead to an escalation of PTSD symptoms or other attempts at coping, including substance or alcohol abuse.
If someone is having a mental health problem, say a suicide attempt, police work closely with the Mental Health Agency and local hospitals, including involuntary inpatient services at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore.
However, the Anne Arundel County Police Department doesn’t keep track of whether a person they have arrested is a service member, either active or retired. Police spokesman Justin Mulcahy said that the only time the military is notified is if the person is affiliated or based with either the Naval Academy in Annapolis or the Army Base at Fort Meade. In those cases, the midshipman and soldiers are turned over to authorities.
Dr. Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health said that it is quite possible that, “the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump combat deaths.”
What Can the Community Do to Help?
There are suicide warning signs for both civilians and service members. The signs can be as drastic as a suicide attempt or as innocuous as a person who becomes isolated from friends and family. Many veterans with PTSD focus on and relive traumatic events over and over. Here are warning signs to look for:
- Previous suicide attempt
- Behavior that has led to self-injury
- Talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that gets worse
- Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
- Losing interest in things that used to be important
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like “it would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
- Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
In addition, for veterans, look for these additional symptoms:
- Previous suicide attempt or behavior that has led to self-injury
- Significant relationship, financial, medical or work-related problems
- Current or pending disciplinary or legal action
- Substance misuse
- Problems with a major life transition (retirement, discharge, divorce, etc.)
- Loss of a fellow warrior/soldier
- Setbacks in military career or personal life
- Severe, prolonged stress that seems unmanageable
Here are some additional resources:
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Student Safety Hotline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 Text: “TalkWithUs” to 66746
Anne Arundel Community College offers a host of referral servicesat this link, including employment, mental health, drugs and alcohol counseling, Health Clinic and General Resources. It is a great grouping of local services and their availability.
For the military, follow these links:
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hiring Our Heroes
- Blue Star Families
- Well Spouse
- Military Family Resources
- Military Transition Resources
I’d like to thank Christin Blunk for her help in assembling military resources for local families.