Suicide Prevention: Know the Signs and Where to Get Help

Author: David Fein, MD, Medical Director of  Behavioral Health Emergency Room Services

Suicide rates have been on the rise, now standing as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death in teens. Now more than ever, it’s critical to know the signs that might indicate a person is considering suicide, where to go for help, and how to provide appropriate support and interventions.

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Risk Factors

While there are known risk factors for suicide, such as being older, male, or single, there are additional risk factors to be mindful of as well. These include dramatic changes in behavior, such as getting one’s affairs in order, giving away possessions, increasing substance use, and expressing feelings of being trapped, a sense of hopelessness, or the belief that there is no purpose or meaning to life.

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Many suicides occur during moments of extreme anxiety and hopelessness about the future. In fact, interviews of people who attempted suicide reveal that, oftentimes, they experienced profound regret about their decision almost immediately.

We should strive to never let temporary feelings of hopelessness drive us or a loved one to a permanent act like suicide. If you feel you are trapped with no way out and think the only solution is death, know that many resources are available to help you through the crisis.

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Where to Find Help

Each parish has a community mental health center and a mobile crisis unit that are available 24/7 to provide support for people in a behavioral health crisis. Calling the crisis unit does not necessarily mean you will be brought to the E.R. They are there to provide support to you – sometimes over the phone, sometimes in person.

Metropolitan Human Services District serves Orleans, St Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes. Call (504) 568-3130 for their clinic, and (504) 826-2675 for their mobile crisis unit. Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority serves Jefferson Parish. Call (504) 838-5257 for their clinic and (504) 832-5123 for their mobile crisis unit.

If a friend or loved one is in crisis and unwilling to seek help, another option is an Order of Protective Custody, which is signed off by the parish’s coroner and gives the police legal authority to bring the person to the hospital for an evaluation. To  request for an Order of Protective Custody in Orleans Parish,  call (504) 658-9660; in Jefferson Parish, call (504) 365-9100; in St. Tammany Parish, call (985) 781-1150.  

There are also national services such as the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (1-800-950-6264) which also has a Crisis Text Line (just text NAMI to 741-741). As always, emergency rooms and 911 are available 24/7 in case of an emergency.

Dr. Fein is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Director of the LSU-Ochsner Psychiatry Residency Training Program, LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine.

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Season’s Grievings

Author: Sonia Malhotra, MD, MS, FAAP, and Director of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care at University Medical Center New Orleans

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The Holiday Season is one full of celebration, joy and gathering for so many.  But for many individuals, especially those living with a serious illness, the Holiday Season can seem like more of a burden than a joy. Coordinating appointments, making sure there are enough supplies to last through days when pharmacies and stores are closed, and contacting healthcare providers are only some of the challenges those living with a serious illness have to face.

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Additionally, the Holidays often bring about stressors, anxiety and grief over the inability to travel and the loss of other abilities, the diagnosis of a serious illness, and often the loss of loved ones.

Palliative Medicine is the interdisciplinary care of patients with serious illness such as cancer, blood disorders, heart disease, neurologic disease, liver and kidney disease and advanced lung disease to name a few.

It provides this level of care in 4 areas:

  1. Pain and Symptom Management, including managing symptoms that affect the quality of life
  2. Communication about Healthcare Decisions, Plans of Care and Coordination of Care
  3. Emotional & Spiritual Support for Patients and their Caretakers
  4. Hospice, End-of-Life Decision Making and Support, and Bereavement Services

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November marked the celebration of National Hospice & Palliative Medicine month. 

However, each month in the life of our patients LIVING with serious illness brings awareness of the challenges and struggles we need to celebrate. Serious illness and Palliative Medicine are NOT about end-of-life care. Rather, Palliative Medicine and its care of the seriously ill focuses on finding ways to ensure that our patients and their caretakers are LIVING with the best quality of life they possibly can.2017-NationalHospiceMonth_Logo

So how can patients and their families survive this Holiday season with a Serious Illness?

  1. Establish Priorities: Choose the Holiday traditions and activities that have the most meaning to you. Create and prioritize activities based on your state of mind and energy level.
  2. Depend on Loved Ones to Fill In: This can be especially tough for those who like to do things independently. However, it is important to be realistic about what you will have energy to do. Ask for assistance, take assistance when it is given and be clear about your own limits.
  3. Plan Ahead: This is especially important if you have dietary restrictions while undergoing treatments. Talk to your healthcare team about rescheduling treatments that may leave you feeling under-energized during important family gatherings or traditions.
  4. Be Selective with Your Time: Do things and be with the people who energize you, not those who deplete you. Don’t feel the pressure to fulfill obligations, do the things that matter the most
  5. Acknowledge and Share Your Feelings: It is okay to feel sad, anxious and even angry. Give yourself the permission to have these feelings and share them with trusted loved ones and healthcare professionals. Use support groups and online communities as often or as little as you need.

The Holidays can be a stressful time for those living with a serious illness and those caring for a loved one with a serious illness. Keep in mind that nurturing yourself and allowing others to nurture you will help in the celebration and reflection of these times.

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Breast Cancer: Survivorship Begins at Diagnosis

Support Group

Delia Young, RN
Nurse Navigator

UMC Cancer Center

Each year, 1 in 8 women in the United States will hear the devastating news that they have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer is frightening for anyone. For women faced with breast cancer, the diagnosis is wrapped in a tangle of emotions and questions:

How will I get through this? Will it impact my family? Will it affect my relationships? Will I survive?

Steps to Survivorship

Every woman’s breast cancer journey is unique, but this holds true for all:

Survivorship begins at diagnosis.

From the start, it’s important to consider not only the immediate actions and treatments available, but also a complete plan that encompasses the entire breast cancer journey.

In UMC’s Cancer Center, we work to assist our patients with plans of care to help them navigate through treatment, providing a start- and endpoint and a way to see themselves outside of treatment.

One of the vital steps in survivorship is identifying support systems, whether it’s family members or close friends. Cancer treatments are long and exhausting, and many people need help coping with the process. At the UMC Cancer Center, we advise most patients to join a support group. Research indicates that people who belong to a support group are better able to cope with the stress of their disease. These groups can help patents see how people in similar situations are managing their care and experiences. Support groups can also be empowering because patients can assist someone else along their journey.

>> SUPPORT GROUP – Team Survivors: Breast Edition

Breast cancer survivors and their families are invited to join us for UMC’s supportive care program, Team Survivors: Breast Edition, every first Thursday of the month. Every month, we provide the opportunity to learn, share and discuss the different topics that affect breast cancer survivors. Our next group meeting will be on Monday, September 7, from 12-1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center Conference Room.

To RSVP, contact me – Delia Young, at (504) 702-3725 or Delia.Young@LCMChealth.org.

Life Beyond Breast Cancer

It doesn’t stop there. Once treatment has been completed, it’s also important that patients learn what to expect next – whether it’s prolonged side effect management post-treatment or overcoming social barriers to get reacclimated with their normal life routines.

Managing emotional, spiritual and physical health is essential. This includes healthy lifestyle promotions through diet, exercise, and mind and body relaxation techniques.

Another essential element is to give patients guidance on who they should follow up with and ensure they are set up with primary care providers for normal health maintenance screenings and surveillance.

All of these things provide a layer of support that helps to make breast cancer a little less scary.

A diagnosis isn’t the end.

There is life beyond this diagnosis and many avenues that lead to survivorship from breast cancer or any cancer.

>> FREE SEMINAR: A UMC Town Hall on Breast Health and Cancer

Please join us on September 16 for a FREE Town Hall on Breast Health & Cancer, taking place from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the UMC Cancer Center. Come to this FREE event to discover the comprehensive services that UMC provides for breast health, meet experts in the field of breast health, learn about the latest diagnostic and treatment options, hear stories of survivorship and gain insights on the role that diet, exercise and nutrition play and much more!

Click here to register.