Open to Talk: Suicide Attempt Survivor Shares His Story;  new resources become available

Open to Talk: Suicide Attempt Survivor Shares His Story; new resources become available

Inpatient psychiatric beds in New Hampshire have long been in short supply, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, forcing people to seek treatment for their mental health issues in emergency rooms until a bed is available.

Last week, 18 adults and 21 children were waiting in emergency rooms that were not equipped to provide mental health treatment, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ tracking tool. Three other adults are waiting in correctional facilities.

However, an innovative mental health care program that was introduced as part of the state’s mental health plan in 2019 is providing respite from the ER crisis.

The Step Up Step Down program offers a compromise for those who need more help than the community can provide but do not need hospital care. It is a voluntary, non-clinical approach to mental health care.

There is “no one size fits all” when it comes to mental health care, said Samantha Captain, co-director of the Step Up Step Down program at On the Road to Wellness, a grassroots mental health organization in Manchester. . Individuals can adapt the peer support program to suit their needs.

The Captain had his own sanity battles to fight growing up. She was raised in a home where violence was common. She had a loving mother and a sister whom she calls her “greatest ally”. His father, on the other hand, was a terror.

At age 11, when she and her family moved to New Hampshire from Westchester County, upstate New York, she imagined things would be different. But the abuse only got worse.

Growing up in the 1990s, Captain found it particularly difficult to talk about his struggles with mental illness, because back then it wasn’t talked about openly like it is now. Mental health was something you kept to yourself and suffered from no matter what. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.

As a teenager, she was reluctant to seek help for two reasons: she was afraid of being taken from her mother and placed in foster care, and she was aware of the stigma associated with mental illness.

“My friends haven’t really been through the same things as me,” said the captain. “They didn’t know how to talk about it or even acknowledge it.”

She believed the cycle of physical abuse would end after she moved out at 17. Incidents with her father became less frequent while she was in college, but she never escaped the unhappiness and depression she felt.

At 19, Captain found the courage to face his father. When she visited him to ask for an apology, things did not go well for her.

“He attacked me physically,” explained the captain. “He threw me against a wall and choked me.”

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The Captain’s repeated suicide attempts over the years have resulted in multiple hospitalizations. In one incident, she said police threatened to take her against her will if she did not voluntarily check into a mental health facility. His last hospitalization dates back to 2015.

His visits to the hospital reaffirmed the feeling that nothing would ever change.

“It was hard to know that things ever had a chance to change,” she said. “But they’ve changed and I think it’s about surviving long enough, enduring enough and finding your way through it.”

Looking back, she wished she had access to a program like the Step Up Step Down program when things were at their worst. She said that instead of being hospitalized, a similar program could have helped her heal faster and given her better support.

The captain repeatedly tried to get his father to recognize what he had done. As he lay dying, she said, he acknowledged responsibility for their toxic relationship, but not explicitly for the abuse.

The recognition of her father did not relieve her. After all she had been through, it wasn’t enough.

“For me, the damage at that point was mostly irreparable,” the captain said. “It didn’t come soon enough.”

After spending three decades figuring out how to manage her mental health, in addition to breathing exercises and grounding techniques, her work has been most helpful.

“Being there to support other people in times of struggle has been incredibly healing for me,” the captain said. “It gave me a way to make sense of the pain of my past.”

As the director of the Step Up Step Down Peer Support Program, she had the opportunity to heal alongside participants.

William Wood, 68, who joined the program to fight his depression, worked closely with the captain.

“Sam was an anchor for me,” Wood said. “She helps you open up to your feelings.”

Wood likened the program to an island where he could take stock of himself and get the support he needed, away from the chaos of his usual life.

State investment

New Hampshire as a state has long struggled to provide access to mental health care for all who need it. New Hampshire Hospital in Concord is the only psychiatric facility in the state, resulting in a bed shortage.

Outpatient counseling services are often booked months in advance or not accepting new clients at all.

However, the State has made investments which are beginning to bear fruit, in particular the purchase for $13 million of the Hampstead hospital, which has 16 hospital beds for children and adolescents.

Additionally, the state is preparing to build a secure facility for 24 mentally ill patients that could operate alongside New Hampshire Hospital in Concord by 2024.

The $30 million hospital was approved by the Legislature in 2020 to house criminal justice system patients who had been found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity. These patients are currently being held in the prison’s secure psychiatric unit, which is not accredited for mental health services.

The State Suicide Prevention Council has set two distinct goals for the near future. The first: Help others realize that suicide in New Hampshire is a generally preventable public health issue. The second is to reduce the stigma associated with obtaining mental health, addictions and suicide prevention services.

Besides the one Captain runs in Manchester, the state has three other Step Up Step Down programs in Northwood, Keene and Nashua.

Captain now lives in Weare, where she works in the mental health sector and has a supportive husband. She feels like her life has come full circle.

She is grateful for the chance to transform her life and hopes people will not only see her journey and her resilience, but also her willingness to speak openly about her mental health issues.

“I’ve come a long way and I think it’s really important that the stigma, the shame and the silence stop,” the captain said.

If you need help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free, confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Veterans: Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, chat or text 838255 to receive confidential assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for the deaf and hard of hearing is available.

Crisis text line: Free 24/7 assistance for people in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text a trained crisis counselor.

Lifeline trans: Call 1-877-565-8860 for a helpline made up of transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to help with any support needs community members may have.

Disaster Hotline: Call 1-800-985-5990 for a nationwide 24/7 helpline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling to people who are experiencing emotional distress related to a natural or home-made disaster. human.

The Trevor Project: A national, confidential and toll-free 24-hour hotline for LGBTQ youth. If you are a youth in crisis, feeling suicidal, or need a safe, non-judgmental place to talk, call 1-866-488-7386 to connect with a trained counselor.

The National LGBT Help Center: Dial 1-888-843-4564. Open to callers of all ages. Provides peer advice, information and local resources.

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