NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH SEPTEMBER 2016

Erica Overshiner, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director at Aspire Behavioral Health Hospital Most likely you or someone you know has been impacted by suicide. I have heard many patients say they feel as though they have been burdening their families or loved ones for years with their difficulties, including mental illness. Often, that individual cannot see how their leaving this world by suicide would impact and devastate their loved ones. If a person tries or commits suicide they are often thinking death is the ONLY or BEST way out. Desperation flows from an individual who feels there are no choices left. When talking with individuals about their suicidal thoughts or attempts, I often ask them, “Do you really want to die, or find relief from what you are struggling with”. Nine times out of ten, he or she wants relief. Relief from mental illness, financial stressors, familial/relationship conflict and the list goes on and on. So how does one know if a loved one is contemplating suicide? Fortunately, there are signs and behaviors that can set off red flags to be aware of. Generally speaking, one should become concerned when they see a loved one’s behaviors changing dramatically. This could be the result of something traumatic happening, or an exacerbation of a mental illness. Some signs include, but are not limited to: giving all their belongings away, isolating oneself, talking about being a burden, increased use of alcohol or drugs, increased talk of death, and mood changes. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, talk to your doctor, a therapist, a trusted family member or friend,...

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Erica Overshiner, MSW, LCSW, Clinical Director at Aspire Behavioral Health Hospital It was a hot, clear afternoon. I was driving back from Houston when I saw traffic slowing to a halt. Much to my terror I had just arrived onto the scene of a horrific accident. There were not even first responders on the scene yet. I got out of my vehicle to try to help, but sadly there was no help to be offered. Every time I tried to fall asleep scenes from the accident overwhelmed my mind. I started having flashbacks during the day, panic attacks, becoming hypervigilant and agitated. As a therapist I understood what was happening to me and needed to seek out a therapist who could help me process this trauma. I looked for someone who had been trained in EMDR. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing  It is a type of psychotherapy that is relatively new. It incorporates bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tactile pulsars etc) to help the brain process the trauma. Since trauma can get “stuck” in non-verbal parts of the brain, the brain needs a nonverbal method to process it. I had been trained in EMDR a number of years ago, and now needed to utilize it myself. I had one 2 hour session with a therapist and my flashbacks and panic attacks dissipated, my sleep returned to normal, and my hypervigilance and agitation disappeared.  While this treatment may not work for everyone, it helped me tremendously. With EMDR the patient doesn’t have to talk at length about the trauma, which makes this method so appealing for the client....

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

  Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when someone who has been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, be it weeks, months, or years, suddenly stops or significantly reduces their intake.  This condition is potentially life-threatening and does require treatment. What causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome?  Alcohol changes the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, namely GABA and glutamate.  Alcohol initially increases GABA (a neurotransmitter involved in feeling calm and relaxed), but, with continued consumption, it suppresses GABA production, which is what causes people to develop a tolerance to alcohol and to have to drink more to become drunk.  Alcohol also suppresses glutamate (which is one of the neurotransmitters associated with excitability) activity, so the glutamate system responds by kicking up production to try to maintain equilibrium.  So, when there is no longer alcohol present to suppress these chemicals, the levels of those chemicals rebound and result in brain hyperexcitability, which causes the symptoms of withdrawal. What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome?  Irritability Agitation Anxiety Tremors Seizures Delirium Tremens (DTs) These symptoms can begin to occur as quickly as two hours after the last drink is taken, though it depends on how long and how heavily the person has been drinking.  Usually, the more minor symptoms occur about 6-12 hours after drinking, while the more severe symptoms take 24-48 hours to begin, but this is not always the case.  To be safe, it is wise to seek medical attention at the first signs of withdrawal. Aspire Hospital’s Behavioral Health Department can treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome with efficiency and care.  Our facility is licen sed by the state,...

How Your Brain Really is on Drugs

If you are of a certain age, you may remember a public service campaign that depicted a raw egg with the caption “This is your brain” followed by an egg frying in a pan with the caption “This is your brain on drugs.” While this was a rather powerful image, it did not come close to illustrating the complexity of how psychoactive drugs and the process of addiction actually works. A psychoactive substance is any substance that has an effect on how your brain functions.  There are many types and levels of strength, but fall into one of these categories: stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids. Stimulants– The most common are caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines.  They are called stimulants because they “stimulate” the body by speeding up certain functions.  They increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rates, and the rate at which certain neurons fire and how much certain neurochemicals are released. Depressants– The most common of these is alcohol, but others include benzodiazepines (like Xanax) and barbiturates (like phenobarbital).  Contrary to what many think, these drugs are not called depressants because they make you feel depressed.  They are called this because they “depress” (slow down) the functioning of the central nervous system. Hallucinogens– These types of drugs (examples would be marijuana or LSD) cause a person to have an altered sense of reality and to sometimes see or hear things that are not there.  They act primarily on the neurochemicals serotonin and glutamate. Opioids– These, as you may have guessed, are those drugs that are either opiates (derived from the poppy plant) or other chemicals that have the...