Tag Archives: life

Keep Your “Warm Line” Open

The song tells us “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” but that’s not always the case. While it may seem counter-intuitive during a “season of joy,” there can be moments when we are overwhelmed and even anxious. We may find ourselves feeling we’re not “measuring up.”

I’ve noticed a recent trend on Facebook whereby people are posting the suicide hotline phone numbers and encouraging others to do the same.  That’s not a bad thing but we can each be a “warm line” and perhaps prevent a crisis.  All it takes is some sensitivity to those around us and a willingness to intervene–even in subtle ways.

If you sense that someone is feeling the holiday blues, look at this infographic, especially tip #4, from the perspective of providing some relief–think of that person’s need as a call to your warm line. Make some time for that person to “love and support” him or her. You can take him or her ice skating (tip #3). Understand, of course, that it’s not specifically about ice skating, it’s about exercise and a change of scenery.

My theme for 2017 is going to be “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Inviting that harried friend to take some time out for a cup of coffee or cocoa may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference. Just yesterday I was at a gathering of colleagues for lunch. I was the last to leave and when I went to pay my check, I was informed that it had been paid. It was an act that has “stuck with me” not because of the dollars, but because of the simple kindness and sense of connection it provided.

One of the hazards of this season is that perceived demands of “getting things done” means we don’t always take the time to genuinely connect. I was at a school holiday concert last night where my self-appointed role is that of unofficial photographer. During a lull in the photos, I stood at the back of the room. Two little girls came over and one said, “Mr. Boomsma, will you come out in the hall and play with us?” I explained that I couldn’t but a big part of me wishes I had–if only for a few minutes. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure they weren’t suffering the holiday blues. They were simply bored.

Connecting is such an important part of self-care (see tip #1). Best of all, when we connect at least two people benefit. Keep your warm line open. The ring may be subtle–keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to answer. You’ll be glad you did.

BDN Series Mentions Mentoring…

back-to-school-183533_1280“Maine Focus” is currently running a series of excellent articles “Before Addition There’s a Child.” I’m both honored and humbled to report that my experience with Bus Drive Otis Phillips was included in the installment entitled “How one caring adult can change the life of a child.” (Scroll down to the epilog, “Your Stories.”) I continue to be amazed at the impact this story is having.

My ongoing hope is captured in my observation that “We mentor people in ways we don’t even mean to.” A corollary to that is mentoring doesn’t have to be hard. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced person helps guide someone who is less experienced.  I think something as simple as  a kind or encouraging word creates a connection that can be defined as a relationship, however brief. Let’s call it a ‘mentoring moment.”

The Maine Focus series is about “preventing one of the largest public health problems of our time.” There’s a growing body of evidence that human connection goes a long way towards combating addiction.

Mine isn’t the only story in which an adult did something that at first seems small, but turns out to have major impacts, perhaps because it is about human connection. Hearing those stories is encouraging and heartwarming. But creating our own stories can be even better. Just look for those mentoring moments.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day

Facebook2-ShareableOctober 10 is World Mental Health Day, and this year, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has announced the theme as, “Dignity in Mental Health – Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All.” The goal of this year’s theme is to bring mental health to the forefront of the global conversation so people feel more confident and comfortable speaking up, reaching out and getting the help they may need.

Compare the number of people trained to perform CPR with the number of people trained to provide mental health first aid. Poor mental health can be just as life threatening as poor heart health.

Read more about this year’s World Mental Health Day theme in The Huffington Post and find a Mental Health First Aid course near you by visiting  the NAMI website. If you need some help locating a course, just let me know! You can also sign up for one of my Suicide Awareness and Prevention Classes and visit my Resource Page.

My bias is that while suicide awareness and prevention are important topics, ultimately the fundamental issue is mental health–one reason I became a certified mental health first aid specialist for adults and youth. But research also shows that a “barely trained” person can deter suicide. You don’t have to be an expert. Students who’ve attended my two hour Suicide Awareness and Prevention Class report

  • 85% either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide.
  • 93% either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors.
  • 85% feel better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.

You can make a difference.

Suicide Hotline #

FAQ About the Suicide Prevention Workshops

questionsHere are some frequently asked questions about the suicide awareness and prevention workshop—with answers from Walter, the instructor. If you have a question or concern that’s not listed, send it by email!

Who should take this class?

Is there a minimum age to attend?

What does the class cover?

What is class based on?

Will the class be depressing?

What are some reasons people don’t take the class?

What are some reasons people do take the class?

What qualifies you to teach this class?

Who should take this class?

It’s tempting to answer “everyone!” Employees of public school systems are required by law (LD 609) to complete suicide prevention training. This course satisfies that requirement. However, most adults would benefit from attending. (See “What does the class cover?”) Past classes have included volunteers, health care professionals, ministers, and individuals from many different walks of life.

Is there a minimum age to attend?

Not formally, although the material is not geared to young children (under 12). Research shows that teens often reach out to peers in times of trouble, so middle and high school students are important potential participants. I’ve had more than a few conversations with parents of teenagers, suggesting they attend together.

What does the class cover?

Major topics include “myths and facts,” recognizing risk factors and warning signs, basic intervention strategy, resources available, post-attempt strategies, and questions/answers. An important focus is on the basic intervention strategy. Among people who have attended, 95% feel more confident in recognizing risk factors and warning signs; 85% feel better equipped to help someone who displays warning signs or seems suicidal.

What is class based on?

The course is “research based” and most content results from a collaborative effort through the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in DHHS; training offered through partnership with NAMI Maine, The Maine Medical Association, Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine and Maine Primary Care Association. It is not a “touchy-feely” course but is based on facts and empirical data.

Will the class be depressing?

On the contrary, while suicide is a public health crisis, the emphasis of the class is on what can be done and what is being done.

What are some reasons people don’t take the class?

There are probably as many reasons as there are people! We suspect some people do not attend because they do not feel they are qualified to help prevent suicide. Research proves that nearly anyone can provide a basic intervention using simple techniques that include being a good listener.

What are some reasons people do take the class?

Some initially attend because of the legal requirement, but all report the material and experience is helpful and no one has ever said they regret attending. I like the analogy of CPR. When we stop and consider the number of people who are CPR trained and the lives saved as a result, doesn’t it make sense to have a similar emphasis on mental health?

What qualifies you to teach this class?

I am Gatekeeper trained and have completed the required “Train the Trainer” Program conducted by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. While not required, I am also a NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) Certified Mental Health Specialist for Youth and Adults. I am an experienced educator and substitute elementary school teacher.