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Suicide Awareness

November 11, 2019 at 6:57 pm · · Comments Off on Suicide Awareness

Suicide Awareness

By Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

World Mental Health Day 2019 focused on suicide prevention. According to WHO, one person loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds. This means approximately 800,000 people take their own lives annually. Suicide is not “an American issue,” nor any one country’s issue, nor any one community’s issue. Suicide impacts individuals across the lifespan — from youth to the elderly — as well as across the world. Notably, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 29-year-olds and 79% of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries. (APA, 2019).

Psychologists use evidence-based interventions in attempts to reduce loss of life by suicide. Interventions shown to be highly effective, address suicidal thoughts and behaviors, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), safety plan interventions and crisis response planning.

Single risk factors do not predict suicide well. It is difficult to predict which people displaying risk factors ultimately will commit suicide. However, it is important to be aware of possible warning signs and to talk to kids or adults when they need help. As a friend or parent, you can help by talking and reaching out. It is a myth that if you mention suicide, you might plant the idea. By honestly and openly expressing your concerns, you can send an important message that you care and understand.

Recommend seeking professional help if you learn someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Seeing a psychologist can help. Therapy has helped many people that suffer from depression and other emotional difficulties. There is empirical evidence that most people who have a few sessions of therapy are better off than untreated individuals with emotional difficulties.

Death by suicide is always a tragic event. Death by suicide can trigger a host of complicated and confusing emotions. Please read APAs Suicide Coping Tips to help when coping from the loss of a loved one, or when helping a child or adult navigate such a loss.


Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

October 18, 2017 at 4:32 pm · · Comments Off on Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part II

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C. Psych.

As we go about our daily routines we are reminded that life can be fleeting and changing in the blink of an eye.  We hear of terror attacks that reach us on the streets, malls and concert halls.  In December 2016, A truck crashed into a crowd at a Christmas market in Berlin killing at least 12 and wounding 48+ individuals.  Then there was the knife attack at the Louvre in Paris early 2017.  In London, an attacker mowed down pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge.  The year before a similar carnage took place in Nice, France when a lorry deliberately drove into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day. There was the Manchester bombing that killed 22 people and 59 were injured after an explosion detonated among teenage fans leaving an Ariana Grande Concert.  There was a terror attack on the Champs Elysee that saw lost of life.  In Stockholm, four people were killed and 15 injured when a man drove a truck down a busy shopping street.  Couple of months later, terror struck the London Bridge when a van hit people while strolling on the sidewalk.  Similarly, a Barcelona attack occurred when a white van mounted the pavement and killed 13 pedestrians while injuring 100s.

We get news coverage of lone attackers that terrorize children at Mattoon High School, Washington State High School and learn of the shooting of Christina Grimmie while she signed autographs for fans.  2017 began with a gunman opening fire at Fort Lauderdale’s International airport that killed 5 people while wounding 8.  The latest visceral exposure to terror is the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 59 people dead and over 500 injured.  But its not just these internationally sensationalized assaults that cause us distress.  There is the local news of bike accidents and fatalities on our roads that seep into our conscious minds.  Being a member of a small community makes us less immune to second-hand trauma.  There is a great probability of knowing directly or indirectly someone that has been harmed.

The minute by minute, second by second coverage of natural and manmade disasters can challenge our sense of safety.  We are bombarded by attacks on human life and liberty.  Possessions, life and limbs have been lost.  We see the effects of stress when we witness airline travellers being ejected off planes due to heightened emotional turmoil.  At the dinner table, we witness numerous stories of anguish, despair, fear and survival from our TV and electronic devices.  I, myself struggled to hold back tears while listening to the latest attack at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.  Perhaps it was because I had travelled to Las Vegas last October 2016.  Thinking “that could have been me, my family…”.  The constant exposure to traumatic events can trigger an acute stress reaction in anyone.

If after witnessing a catastrophe and you experience distressing memories, negative mood, avoidance, numbing, disorientation, sleep disturbance and irritability for three days to a month duration, you may be experiencing an Acute Stress Disorder.  Sometimes a guilt reaction may accompany these symptoms.  An individual may feel responsible for not preventing the harm.  Panic attacks can follow during this time. You may feel more on edge as you perceive constant threats in the environment due to intrusive memories or bad dreams and media exposure.  Therapeutic interventions can combat symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder.  Psychotropic medications can be added to reduce unmanageable anxiety symptoms.  Additionally, strategies such as mindfulness and relaxation can help reduce symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder.  Some people use alcohol to cope with the aftermath of a stressful event.  Although alcohol can give short-term relief of ‘calming nerves,’ it can also be problematic.  As a result, it can increase low mood, worsen anxiety and lead to chronic drinking.  For this reason, drinking alcohol to cope is not recommended.

If you notice any of the symptoms above impacting on your sense of safety, ability to trust, overall wellbeing, relationships and work, seek professional assistance.  An Acute Stress Disorder can occur after an unexpected life crisis.  If your symptoms last for longer than one month, an assessment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be warranted.  If you feel you need help coping with second hand trauma, call 296-7288 or email to make an appointment.


Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

October 18, 2017 at 4:25 pm · · Comments Off on Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

Traumatized by Media Exposure – Part I

Dr. K. P. Lanthier, C.Psych.

Recently the world has been inundated with tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy.  Climate and weather disasters have hit nearly every part of the world.  For instance, there have been monsoons and flooding in South Asia, landslides in Africa, with 117 deaths in Zimbawee, severe floods have taken the lives of 144 deaths in China and millions displaced, 150 deaths in Peru from flooding, 156 deaths in Afghanistan from avalanches, in the Congo 174 deaths due to landslides and 213 deaths in Sri Lanka from excessive rainfall.  In Mexico there was a 7.1 magnitude earthquake causing 225+ deaths in its wake. A total of 300+ dead in Columbia due to heavy rainfall and massive landslides.  600+ human loss in Sierra Leone from flooding and mudslides.  The death toll in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal) experienced 1,200 perished due to flooding and landslides.  We’ve witnessed how hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Jose, and Katia have left its citizens without water, food, and shelter.  The tragedy in a Rehabilitation Center in Florida after hurricane Irma made breaking news. Most recently, there have been daily coverage of the California Wildfires.  It’s difficult to remain untouched by these natural disasters that have plummeted our planet. We witness the devastations in real time on our television sets.  We get to know the people who are suffering as if they were our neighbor.  How do we recover from hearing about the 12 elderly victims that died due to failed electricity after Hurricane Irma?

We have witnessed in the media the outpouring of help and aid to those that have lost everything.  These kinds of tragedies tend to bring out the best in humankind.  Strangers lend a hand without thinking of the cost or risk.  Daily news coverage of natural disasters can begin to drain our physical well-being.  We may begin to experience compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma or an acute stress reaction.

An acute stress reaction is a condition that can develop after exposure to a stressful event.  The symptoms usually subside within hours or days after the event.  Along with natural disasters, serious accidents, violent assaults, rape, childhood sexualized assault and terrorist incidents can all trigger an acute stress reaction. The immediate and enduring impacts of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria have taken over media channels over the past months.  Most recently, we learn the death toll rises to 40 as the California Wildfires rage on.

As we face the devastation left by natural disasters we can begin to feel grief stricken, numb and disconnected.  We may feel we have little control over our lives.  We may begin to have poor sleep, experience nightmares, difficulty concentrating, altered eating habits or even engage in risky behavior.  If you notice experiencing these symptoms it’s time to make a change.  Perhaps, reduce your amount of exposure to the media.  Take a “stay-cation” by visiting friends, do something fun, read a good book, watch comedy, get physically active.  Sometimes it will take more to get you back on track.  Do not hesitate, to seek professional help that can offer a safe space to share your doubts, fears and worries.  You will be able to express your thoughts freely without judgement.  If you need help processing your thoughts and resolving vicarious trauma, call today at 296-7288.  Click here to read Part II, that covers the media coverage of terrorist attacks in 2016/2017 and Acute Stress Disorder.