Suicidal Ideation: A First-Person Account

I’m going to try my best to talk about my suicidal ideation and depression. Honestly, I still don’t completely understand how to explain.

Let me start by telling you what I call my depressive and suicidal moods/episodes: “Moments.”

I started calling them moments because it helps me remember that the way I’m feeling will pass soon. Even though I can’t understand myself during those moments, I can get through and overcome them. The word helps me build resiliency within myself. 

These moments feel like heavy storm clouds surrounding my head. I’m sad, mad, lazy, unmotivated, and tired. Some days it’s one or the other; some days I’m all of those things at once.

Then this thing called negative self-talk comes into play. Negative self-talk is very dangerous, it really can diminish a person and cause harm. If I am not able to speak positivity into my thoughts, I become stuck into a cycle of negative, intrusive, and harmful thoughts. During these stuck moments I feel blank, but my mind is going 1,000 mph.

When I’m deep into my moments, it’s hard for me to feel my worth.

These don’t always happen in this order or simultaneously, some of these things exist on their own in my mind. I start to just feel a sensation of numbness and loneliness. I began to abuse alcohol and marijuana. I have also used percs (Percocets ) and xans(Xanax) to numb and forget.

In the past, suicidal thoughts consumed me almost every day. I would have waves of sadness and randomly cry with little to no reason. I would cut myself and my hair (if you know me you know I love my hair) to sort of hurt myself but also to feel. My cutting was to focus my pain on something other than my depression and to also punish myself for not being “normal” in a sense.

And if you’re wondering: Yes, I’ve attempted suicide twice.

When speaking to my family about my attempts I felt guilty and ashamed. They didn’t really act like they cared or had much concern, more like they expected that from me. That honestly made me feel hurt and awkward. Until I started to learn that it wasn’t that they didn’t care but that they didn’t understand my mental health.

I’m glad to say I manage my moments way better nowadays. But it doesn’t mean I’m cured; I just understand and am able to identify my depression better. Suicidal ideation is very scary – to be consumed by thoughts of suicide.

About the Author: Deborah “DeeDee” Irby is a Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist with the Evidence-based Practice and Innovation Center and Philadelphia Alliance for Child Trauma Services. She is part of the City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) Division of Community Behavioral Health.


Originally posted at Healthy Minds Philly

Addiction Recovery: there IS a way

“Twelve and a half years ago I was in active addiction . . . and eventually I ended up in a hospital for mental health. I am now 7 1/2 years clean and sober. For anyone who wakes up thinking ‘oh god not again,’ I promise you there’s a way,” tweets Stranger Things actor Jamie Campbell Bower.

His story of addiction recovery and mental health is one that resonates far and wide. Addiction affects about 22 million Americans. What most people don’t realize is the chances for healing are excellent.

It is not always easy, or fast, but it is most certainly possible

Mental health and addiction recovery

Mental illnesses and addiction tend to go hand in hand. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that substance abuse disorders and mental health issues share common risk factors such as genetics and early exposure to stress or trauma. In particular, those who live through trauma often feel fear, helplessness and horror and seek addictive substances to deal with emotional pain.

Just as mental illness can contribute to addiction, chronic use of drugs or alcohol can cause changes in the brain leading to depression, anxiety, paranoia and other problems.

Before, during and after addiction recovery it is normal to feel anxiety, depression and fear. What’s important to know is that support is available and there are proven methods to manage feelings and issues.

Here are four actions that can help:

  • Set up a daily routine – Having structure and activities increases self-esteem and confidence and reduces anxiety.
  • Volunteer – Focusing on others’ needs delivers unanticipated benefits of self-satisfaction and energy, lowering depression and fear.
  • Make music a part of daily life – The power of music for healing is well documented. It can help you connect to your feelings and learn more about yourself. Upbeat songs can release feel-good energy and classical or spa-like music can improve focus and create a sense of calm. 
  • Do something new and prioritize fun – Participating in healthy activities can help prevent relapse. Fill the time spent using drugs or alcohol with activities you used to enjoy or try new hobbies you’ve always thought about. In doing so, you might tap a new source of creativity and wonder, gain satisfaction and self-esteem and build a network of healthy friends.

September is Recovery Month—a time to “celebrate the gains made by those in recovery from substance use and mental health, just as we celebrate improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions,” writes Faces and Voices of Recovery.

While the media focuses on overdose statistics, this reporting obscures one key fact: three out of four people eventually recover from their addiction. It’s just a matter of time.

“Remember, we are all works in progress.”

– Jamie Campbell Bower


Originally posted on Healthy Minds Philly

How to Navigate Empty Nest Syndrome

Independence Blue Cross Vice President of Operations Nicole Gold has done a remarkable job of raising her son, Hayden. He was a valedictorian at his high school graduation and will be a freshman at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in the fall. She has every reason to be confident that he’ll be fine as he makes the transition to living on his own.

So why does she have feelings of sadness and anxiety?

Empty nest syndrome refers to the distress and other complicated emotions that many parents experience when their children leave home. The feelings can range from loss and sadness to anxiety, grief, and fear.

“When you’re used to seeing your kid every day and checking in on him, you feel like you know what’s going on with him,” Nicole says, noting that she’ll need to learn how to give Hayden his space. The other concern is how she will use the time she spent raising her son now that she has more time on her hands.

“There’s a theory of depression that has to do with the loss of a role,” says clinical psychologist Tamar E. Chansky, PhD. “For those parents who are truly sad and feel depressive symptoms, it’s often because the role they saw themselves in is changing and they don’t yet have a plan for what their new role is going to be. It’s a loss of identity as well.”

Planning a Life Transition

In this circumstance, it can be helpful to frame the empty nest as a life transition. It’s healthy to feel the loss of that chapter of life, but then pivot to making plans for structuring your time and to building something for yourself, Dr. Chansky says.

Nicole says she’s going to take the opportunity to spend time at the gym and focus on her health, and maybe remodel some rooms in the house. While she was always a working mother, the family spent a lot more time together during the pandemic, so Hayden’s absence will be particularly felt.

Of course, not all parents are distressed when the kids fly the coop. At least one study, from the Journal of Developmental Psychology, concludes that empty nest syndrome is overblown and that the middle school years are more stressful for parents than sending the kids off to college or their own place to live.  So, if you feel relieved, or excited by a new sense of freedom and possibilities, that’s okay too.

A Wide Range of Experiences

“Everyone’s experience is valid. Every place on the continuum makes sense,” Dr. Chansky says, so there’s no need to feel guilty if you’re not feeling sad. “I urge gentleness with yourself with whatever you’re feeling,” says Dr. Chansky. “Everyone has a different journey.”  And, if you find that after a while you’re still having trouble making the transition, it’s a good idea to talk to a counselor or a friend.

For parents having trouble letting go, remember that this is the young adult’s time to grow into their new role. If you’re not hearing from them as often as you’d like, it’s probably because they’re doing well.

“Unless there is cause for concern, follow their lead about how often they want to talk,” Dr. Chansky suggests.

For more information about depression, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.


Originally Posted on: IBX Insights

Improving Transgender Mental Health Through Education, Awareness, and Support

The Golden Globe-winning television series Pose depicts the diversity, strength, and exuberance of the transgender (trans) community. Its popularity has helped viewers understand the real-life challenges of its characters and cast.

While Pose and other media are raising the profile of trans actors, too many trans people continue to face struggles that can impact both their mental and physical health. As we recognize the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, we must work to dismantle the barriers to health that many trans people still face.

According to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, 27.9 percent of Americans surveyed between December 29, 2021 and January 10, 2022 reported symptoms of anxiety disorder. However, among people identifying as transgender, the figure was nearly double — 50.4 percent. And according to the 2015 United States Transgender Survey (USTS), Black transgender individuals are eight times more likely to report psychological distress than the general population. Additionally, more than 30 percent of Black transgender individuals report negative experiences when seeking health care.

A History of Discrimination

Transgender individuals can be challenged to find meaningful employment because of discrimination on several levels, says Lisa Phillips, LCSW, (pronouns they/them). Philips is the lead therapist at Morris Home, a residential drug and alcohol facility in Southwest Philadelphia for transgender people facing chronic homelessness. For example, they may lack appropriate documentation (a legal name change can be expensive), which can create barriers to finding both employment and safe housing, Phillips says.

These difficulties, combined with stigmatization and higher-than-average rates of violence toward transgender individuals, cause financial and social hardship and lead to higher rates of homelessness and substance abuse.

A Health Care Challenge

It was only in 2019 that the World Health Organization removed “transsexualism” as a designated mental disorder and coined the term “gender incongruence” as a classification in the category of sexual health problems. Another challenge that trans people face is access to gender-affirming mental health providers, Phillips says.

Clinicians unfamiliar with working with transgender people can perpetuate harm by misgendering them or making assumptions about a person’s lived experience. Some transgender individuals have been rejected by their families and feel isolated; some cisgender clinicians may not be checking for such issues or assessing appropriately.

Clinicians who are unfamiliar with the transgender experience may overemphasize gender identity when the real medical issue is something else, like depression or an eating disorder. Phillips notes, “A lot of times, when a transgender person is going to see a medical provider, the burden falls on the client to educate the clinician about their experience. That can create mental stress and detract from the quality of care.”

And making a gender-affirming transition can be a lengthy and expensive process. “For trans people that medically transition, there is a great deal of gatekeeping and limited resources, especially for trans communities in more rural or conservative areas,” they say.

A Diverse and Vibrant Community

On the International Transgender Day of Visibility, Phillips encourages people to educate themselves by reading about and listening to the trans community on social media and other sources.

“We have a lot to learn from trans people,” they add. “Trans communities have found creative and brilliant ways to survive, thrive, and create spaces of safety and joy in a culture that has actively sought to exclude trans experiences.”

If You Need Help

The Trans Lifeline provides peer support at 1-877-565-8860. For more information about depression, self-care strategies, and where to find help, visit ibx.com/knowyourmind.

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.