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Opinion: Hingham – It’s Time to Face our Mental Health Crisis


April 4, 2024 Submitted by Julie Polmonari, founding member of Mom2Mom

We can’t sugarcoat it, Hingham: we have a problem. In recent years, clusters of pain, loss and mental health struggles have plagued our community. We’ve lost neighbors, friends and loved ones to suicide while countless others among us struggle with mental health in silence. While we know these tragedies are not unique to Hingham, we refuse to stand by and let this become our grim reality.

Why are so many Hingham parents struggling with mental health? Recent years haven’t been kind to us. We’ve been focused on supporting our children post-COVID. Economic circumstances exacerbate financial and career pressure. Working from home or working longer hours leads to social isolation. Busy family lives make connecting inside or outside the home logistically challenging. Many of us are squeezed between taking care of children and taking care of aging parents – not to mention the deep grief associated with losing aging parents. What’s more, many in our community are reeling from the loss of loved ones to suicide – bringing the acute pain of suicide loss to Hingham.

With that, Hingham must take bold action. It’s time to acknowledge our community is struggling and the impact of mental health on our collective wellbeing. That’s where the work of Mom2Mom (M2M) comes in. We began as a women’s support group for and by moms, encouraging candid conversation and honest discussion about mental health, removing stigma while inspiring community. We’re evolving and expanding our message beyond closed meetings focused at moms, to reach out to the entire Hingham community since we can plainly see – we need everyone’s help. We refuse to become desensitized to mental health crises in our community, to let them join a growing list of tragedies we may become “used to.” Hingham deserves better, and our children deserve better. So it’s time to model resilience together through action, not words.

M2M is asking residents to open and/or expand the conversation about mental wellbeing in all spaces, proving that together we are mentally stronger and healthier. Our specific asks:

TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH & SUICIDE. There is a misnomer that talking about mental health and/or suicide can lead to more problems, suicide attempts and deaths. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), asking someone directly if they’re thinking about suicide won’t “put the idea in their head” – most will be relieved someone starts a conversation. What’s more – if someone can get through the intense and short moment of active suicidal crisis, chances are they will not die by suicide. And people who survive a suicide attempt (85 to 95 percent) go on to engage in life.

GET SUPPORT FOR MENTAL HEALTH. The World Health Organization (WHO) states “there is no health without mental health.” We encourage everyone to approach mental health with the same degree of openness and attention they give to other major health concerns like heart health, cancer prevention or general wellness. 90% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mental health issue – often treatable by talk therapy and/or medicine. Professional help is available locally, with a list of resources below.

ENGAGE FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS IN SOCIAL INTERACTION. Research supports that social interaction brings significant benefits to mental health. Seeing, talking and spending time with others combats isolation and loneliness, provides a sense of belonging, lends emotional support, reduces stress by discussing problems openly, and boosts mood through shared experiences. We challenge community members to seek out in-person connection and dialogue with loved ones, friends and neighbors –  including those you think are “fine.”

ACKNOWLEDGE THE IMPACT OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), substance abuse often worsens the symptoms of existing mental health problems. While youth are incredibly vulnerable, adults and parents are not immune from the dangerous intersection between mental illness and alcohol/drug abuse. We encourage citizens to seek help for themselves and loved ones through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, with referrals to local resources available at  (800) 662.HELP (4357).

PRACTICE THE “THREE C’s OF SUICIDE PREVENTION. Dr. John Draper of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, one of the nation’s leading experts in suicide prevention, developed the concept of the Three C’s of Suicide Prevention:

Connection: Fostering strong, supportive relationships and a sense of belonging is crucial. This can be through family, friends, support groups, or community organizations.  Isolation is a major risk factor for suicide, and meaningful connections can provide support and a sense of purpose

Compassion: Approaching someone struggling with suicidal thoughts with non-judgmental empathy and understanding is vital. Listening actively, validating their feelings, and offering support lets them know they are not alone.

Care: Actively helping someone access mental health resources and professional support. This could include offering to accompany them to appointments, assisting with research on therapists or treatment centers, or helping them make phone calls to crisis hotlines.

Note: Dr. Draper & other researchers go on to say while the three C’s are a valuable framework for initial support, they are not a substitute for professional mental health intervention from qualified professionals.

There is immense power in community in the face of a crisis, as Hingham has demonstrated over its nearly 400 year history. We need to harness that power to build a Hingham where mental health is as important as physical health, and where seeking support for mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness.

With care, compassion, respect and – most of all – hope,
Mom2Mom
Instagram: @m2m_hingham
Email:  m2mhingham@gmail.com

——-

NATIONAL & LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES:
Life-threatening emergencies: 911
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial or text 988 in the US
Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
SAMHSA-funded National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK (8255)
Aspire Health Alliance Crisis Team (Quincy): 617.774.6036
Massachusetts Behavioral Health Help Line: 833.773.2445, online chat at masshelpline.com

NATIONAL & LOCAL RESOURCES FOR ONGOING THERAPY/PRESCRIBERS:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) South Shore: www.namisouthshore.org
Online Therapist Directory: www.psychologytoday.com
Care Solace, in partnership with Hingham Public Schools: 888.515.0595, www.caresolace.com/hinghamschools
Aspire Health Alliance Outpatient Services (Braintree, Marshfield, Plymouth, and Wareham): 617.847.1914
Town of Hingham Mental Health & Substance Abuse Crisis Contact: Aileen Walsh, 781.749.1212 #2222
Town of Hingham Social Worker: Justin Chance, 781.783.2617

Note: The Town of Hingham offers a Wellness Wednesday newsletter, published on the first Wednesday of every month. Visit www.hingham-ma.gov, click on Services and Resources, then Social Work Resources for access

Sources:
CDC Suicide Clusters https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/resources/suicide-clusters.html#anchor_12044
AFSP “Talk Away the Dark” research https://afsp.org/what-we-ve-learned-through-research/
National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/introduction
WHO https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/major-themes/health-and-well-being



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