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Outbreak of family tragedies

by Sandra Faye Douthit - Reporter
| January 19, 2012 2:45 PM

Health specialists discuss series of breakdowns

Lincoln County Mental-health professionals examine the relationship between repressed feelings, depression and suicide.

“Depression is like a fever,” Dr. Amy Paris, Psychologist for the Western Montana Mental Health Center in Libby (WMMHC), said. “If it goes untreated it can become very dangerous.”

Recent tragedies in Libby and Troy have ignited talk among local residents, seeking answers for persons feeling the need to take their own lives or the lives of others. Nevertheless, individuals are asked by mental-health professionals to view suicide as a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

Signs of depression may include: Fatigue and decreased energy; a lack of motivation; insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or somnia (excessive sleeping); feelings of worthlessness, guilt and/or hopelessness;  a loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable; irritability and /or restlessness; overeating or appetite loss and persistently sad, anxious or  “empty” feelings.

According to many mental-health professionals, there is a stigma attached to the idea of seeking help from a professional — a therapist, counselor, clinical social worker, psychiatrist or psychologist — and is considered weak or embarrassing. However, seeking help, support and/or advice from a professional may assist individuals to sort through the pain and confusion in their lives before the feelings or thoughts are no longer controllable.

“Anger is really pain and fear,” Paris said. “Sometimes unprocessed anger is directed at self — suicide.”

Licensed Clinical-Social Worker at WMMHC, Martha Finley, described the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness felt sometimes by individuals living in rural, isolated areas like northern Montana. According to Finley, suicide and depression in Lincoln County are not uncommon. However, communication is key to understanding feelings and thoughts — crucial in solving conflict.

Signs of suicidal tendencies: Irritability;  thoughts of suicide or constant thoughts about ways to commit suicide; feeling excessive guilt or shame; losing interest in most activities; experiencing a change in eating habits; abusing drugs or alcohol; appearing depressed or sad most of the time. (Untreated depression is the No. 1 cause for suicide.); Talking or writing about death or suicide; withdrawing from family and friends; feeling hopeless and/or feeling helpless; feeling strong anger or rage; feeling trapped — like there is no way out of a situation. During times of economic difficulty, individuals experience an inability to see hope in the future.

“Feeling trapped in circumstances that cannot be changed right now can cause anger,” Finley said. “Sometimes people don’t realize how angry they are, and the repressed anger begins having a numbing effect.”

“People in too much emotional pain from repressed rage, blame and untreated trauma (just a few examples) can experience what we call ‘soul death’,” Paris said. “Suicide and depression are complicated issues, and should not be taken lightly.”

Mental-health assistance is not just for individuals considering suicide, families are encouraged to seek help for friends and family members indicating signs of depression and/or suicide. Usually if there is a family member hurting, there are others in the family hurting as well, according to Paris.

For more information about depression, help for thoughts of suicide or for thoughts about hurting someone else are urged to call WMMHC at 293-8746. Individuals may seek help through their local hospital-emergency room if they cannot wait to be seen by appointment. To speak with a suicide counselor immediately call 1-800-SUICIDE, 273-TALK and for the hearing impaired 1-800-799-4889.