About 100 community members turned out last Friday evening at the Tahoma High School Performing Arts Center to learn more about how to recognize and assist people who are experiencing mental health issues.
After introductions by Maple Valley Deputy Mayor Dana Parnello and Tahoma School District Superintendent Tony Giurado, the audience heard a presentation from Dr. Stephen Anderson, an emergency medicine physician for MultiCare Auburn Medical Center and Chair of the Board of Directors of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Anderson helped develop a training program called R.E.A.D.Y., an acronym for Real Emergency Aid Depends on You. The program was created in cooperation with the City of Auburn and is designed to be the “CPR of mental health,” Anderson said.
The presentation, which also included information from police and fire district representatives, is the result of efforts by the City of Maple Valley and Tahoma School District to provide more resources and raise awareness about mental health issues, including suicide, in the community. In addition to last Friday’s presentation, Tahoma is co-sponsoring a suicide awareness meeting at Enumclaw High School from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, featuring guest speaker Deborah Binion of the Jordan Binion Project. The free meeting is open to all.
Anderson’s presentation included data on mental health disorders in the United States, which affect more than half of all adults at some time in their lives. For teens, one in five have or will have a serious mental illness and suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24.
He identified six traits that could indicate a mental health challenge for teens if they:
- Stop showing interest
- Allow grades to slip
- Avoid discussing future events
- Withdraw from friends
- Avoid eating meals, especially socially
- May be overeating or not eating at all
Major warning signs of mental health issues include:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Loss of self-control
- Severe mood swings
- Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
- Drastic changes in behavior, personality, or sleeping habits
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
- Not eating
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating
- Intense worries or fears
- Trying to harm or kill oneself
To help people who exhibit apparent mental health issues, especially those who appear ready to harm themselves, Anderson said help is available from a variety of sources. If the situation is dire and a person is indicating plans to hurt himself or others, Anderson said is critical to first ensure that the person trying to help remains safe and then to summon professional help while standing by to support the person in need. After that, he offered advice on how the R.E.A.D.Y. program works to empower people to respond to individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis.
To view a video presentation about the R.E.A.D.Y. program, visit the City of Auburn web page or click here.
The following organizations can provide advice and counseling for people in distress:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- King County Crisis Connections: 1-866-427-4747 (24-hour); 2-1-1 or 1-800-621-4636; Teen Link, 206-461-4922 or 866-833-6546 (6-10 p.m.)
- Crisis Text Line: Text “START” to 741741
- Nexus Youth and Families: 425-358-9451
- Kent Youth and Family Services: 253-859-0300