If you or anyone you know needs suicide prevention help, contact the Guidance Care Center today

Maureen Dunleavy, the Regional Vice President of the Guidance Care Center, an organization that has locations all over the Keys, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM this morning to talk about mental health.

Suicide prevention is a big part of the Guidance Care Center.

Dunleavy said, “Everybody has mental health and part of managing your mental health is using different tools to cope with things that are going on in your life and then of course, you get to the point where you’re starting to think about ending your life. That is really a crisis point.”

The Guidance Care Center has been in the community for 50 years.

Dunleavy said, “We’ve got 26 different programs, we have over 100 employees, and we do everything on the continuum of care for behavioral health services. So everything from prevention to our crisis stabilization unit in Marathon. We also have the only detox in in the Keys as well in marathon. So really the whole gamut. But as far as, dealing with crisis and doing crisis support, we do that at our sites every day. We do that out in the community. We’ve got a 24 hour mobile crisis response hotline, that 305-434-7660, number eight. That program is really to help individuals, prevent them from actually taking their own life and getting them into care before that happens.”

There are some warning signs.

Dunleavy said, “The number one warning sign for suicide, and actually for any sort of violence, the school shootings that have been happening, is withdrawing from others, and isolation. So when people notice a change in somebody where they seem to not really be reaching out or not doing things that they like, or just you haven’t seen them in a while, that that’s definitely a red flag. Then on the other side of that, connection is our greatest protective factor. So something as simple as reaching out to someone who you haven’t seen in a while, they haven’t seen you, how are you doing? Starting that conversation can be life saving.”

There have been an increase in suicides.

Dunleavy said, “Monroe County has had the highest rate of suicides per capita for the population for over a decade. So we’ve done a lot of analysis and trying to figure out why that is. Of course, things like the cost of living and the lack of housing, housing stability seems to be one of the number one risk factors, and then you throw on top of it, that we live in an environment where we’re prone to hurricanes. We know that natural disasters plays a role. So then it really increases. This year, we are on track with having our highest year of suicide so far in 2023. The only other year that is similar would be 2018, which is the year after Hurricane Irma. So we know that that year, following an event, or a natural disaster, or housing crisis can really like up the numbers. So people just really need to be aware that we’re at risk, we’re at risk living here, all of us, that me, that’s you, that’s everybody. We all have mental health. So none of us are exempt from dealing with stressors and having to manage and cope. There’s a lot of ways to do that and some of them don’t even cost any money.”

Substance abuse can exacerbate suicide.

Dunleavy said, “We do have one of the highest usages of alcohol in the state as well and paired with suicidal thoughts, equals death. People might say, oh, I’m going to have a drink, it’s going make my anxiety better, it’s going to make me to my depression better. But alcohol is a depressant. So it’s actually going to make you feel worse and if you’re already at the brink of crisis and starting to think about hurting yourself or ending your life and then you mix alcohol with that, that can be really deadly. The other factor we have in our community is access to firearms. So 95 percent of the successful suicides that we have in our community are due to people having funs. So suicidal thoughts, mixed with drinking, and now you’re impaired and making decisions and access to a gun is a recipe for death.”

Anyone who has suicidal thoughts should contact the Guidance Care Center.

Dunleavy said, “The mobile crisis response team hotline is for anybody who is dealing with a situation in crisis. It can be for themselves, can be for a loved one, to try to get them connected to services, because we don’t want to lose one more life in our community. With the drinking, I think the most important thing to remember is that if you’re struggling, and you’re seeing that you’re starting to have thoughts of suicide, it’s impacting your depression, or your anxiety, it’s impacting your work or your school or ability to function in the community, that’s a huge sign that we need help. That doesn’t mean you need help forever, or there’s something wrong with you. We all need a little help. There’s lots of kinds of help. Medication can be a help. Crisis stabilization can be a help. Therapy, case management, there’s lots of options. So people need to not be afraid to reach out even to just explore what their options are. I think the other really huge point is we’re already in a high cost of living community, and Guidance Care Center, we will help people whether you can pay for it or not. So nobody should be afraid to reach out for help. Especially just to research their options, to get information to make a decision about what can I do to help myself or help my loved one, and then make a choice?”

The holidays can also add stress.

Dunleavy said, “Some people may not have family here, some people may have families where it’s really painful, or there’s a lot of arguing going on. Some people may be going through grief, and others may be dealing with depression. So again, we’re all dealing with things that are in our lives that impacts our mental health. One really important factor is to remember that our greatest protective factor for suicide for our mental health is connection. So as I talked about before, if we see someone isolate reaching out to them, that helps them and it helps us. But there are lots of ways to connect during the holidays, besides just the traditional way of going to your family’s house, which may or may not be so pleasant. We’ve got a lot of events, volunteering, anything that you can do to connect, being outside is a huge way to help cope. Natural serotonin, the sunlight, walking, just going for a walk is a great coping strategy that actually releases serotonin in your brain helps change the way you’re feeling. So I think the other really important thing is to be able to recognize that sometimes we have to make ourselves do things we don’t want to do, because we know that they’re good for us. I certainly in my life, I’ve had those times where I dreaded having to put myself out into a situation because it would be better just to be alone. But that’s going to help you and volunteering and being of service, whether it’s reaching out to people you care about or volunteering in your community or going to church or attending 12 step meetings are all really strong ways to connect that are going to help you as much as they help the other individuals that are involved.”

For more information, click here:  http://www.guidancecarecenter.org/index.html