Mental Health Awareness Month of May…Help Stamp Out Stigma

Mental Health Awareness…Stop Stigma! from NAMI…

“During the month of May, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address all year round, but highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of all Americans whose lives are affected by mental health conditions.

1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family and can do something to help others.”

Stigma hurts a person’s dignity, and for me, life long implications of emotional pain and denial. Allow me to share my first shock of stigma at age 19 in September 1965 following an honorable discharge from the US Navy.

My first shocking experience with mental health stigma as an adult happened shortly after honorably separating from the US Navy in September 1965.  It was in that moment that my world as a young adult with a bright future was seriously threatened. Following a very productive and exciting interview process with a Fortun in Los Angeles, I fully expected an offer for employment as an apprentice teleprinter technician with the phone company.

I felt grateful for the excellent training and experience received in the Navy. But all the excitement and hope for a career in telecommunications could have come to a shocking halt when the HR recruiter told me…”even though my qualifications exceeded minimum requirements I could not be hired.”  I asked why, while trying to hide the tears.

I thought with complete shock and dispair, “how could this be?”  It was at that moment, the HR recruiter revealed to me that hospitalization for severe depression and anxiety while serving in the US Navy was considered a risk. I was in complete disbelief because the Navy didn’t say this to me, or decided not to for some reason. I never had access to my medical records until 2014. I had no memory of the event(s) leading up to an early separation from the Navy, the hospitalization or mental health diagnosis. It was a sad ending to a promising Naval career, my dream as a child, teen, and young man. I wanted to follow my father’s foot steps to be sure.

It was then, in that scary moment in September 1965, I decided to never ever speak of my mental health problems…my secret, forever put away in a box and out of reach.  This was stigma then, it is still stigma in the 21st Century.  (Note: I was fortunate to receive a job offer from another respectable telecom company.)

We can all do so much more to stamp out stigma. Please help make a difference by taking quality time to talk openly and honestly with friends and family about mental health. Awareness is the first step in healing invisible wounds.

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger click here for my author page…

Re-elect Lincoln County Oregon Commissioner Claire Hall! Experience, passion, commitment…

Lincoln County Oregon Commissioner Claire Hall

https://www.voteclairehall.com/p/donate-to-claires-relection-campaign.html?m=1

I can say with a high level of confidence from my own professional experience working with Commissioner Hall for many years in our County and region that she works harder than anyone I’ve ever known. She knows how to make things happen and empowers others, like me, to execute.

We desperately need her wisdom, compassion, executive leadership and full time commitment, especially now during the COVID19 pandemic.

We wouldn’t be where we are in Lincoln County if Commissioner Hall had not pulled out all the stops during her tenure to bring community partners and stakeholders together in strengthening community based organizations to serve the most vulnerable population.

As a result of Commissioner Hall’s steadfast leadership, we are much better prepared to lead as a County. We increased capacity in recent years to provide community based mental health and peer support services to the most vulnerable citizens. In this way we are able to provide a comprehensive continuum of care to the most vulnerable population, the highest users health care services.

We accomplished this in partnership with Samaritan Health Services, Lincoln County Health and Human Services, Sheriff Curtis Landers, Community Justice, Courts and other critical community partners.

Most importantly and critically, we need to be mindful as citizens of the value of experience during a time of national public health and economic crises. From my own direct experience, Commissioner Hall knows how to navigate the complex landscape of County and State government, and execute effectively. We need Claire at the helm!

Re-elect Commissioner Claire Elizabeth Hall! Experience, passion and commitment!

Steve Sparks
Sparks Associates

Steve Sparks, Community Building/Business Transformation….”Bulding Healthy Communities w/Love”

Mental Health First Aid for Seniors and Loved Ones…

Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults  from NYC Health…City of New York

Go to…Mental Health First Aid 8 hour training…  The Mental Health First Aid USA for Older Adults curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adults ages 65 and over.

I didn’t know until being certified as a Mental Health First Aid Adult Trainer in 2016 that mental health and depression in older adults is often ignored or dismissed. I also didn’t know that among the elderly population, aging white males commit suicide in America at a 98% higher rate than all others.  I was actually shocked at first but now understand (Colorado State University report). “In the United States, older men of European descent (so-called white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group. For example, their suicide rates are significantly higher than those of older men of African, Latino or Indigenous descent, as well as relative to older women across ethnicities.”

Depression is the culprit, especially for those who have difficulty being as opposed to doing.  I consider myself in the category of an older white male who loves living in the moment or being, but also thrives in doing the things I care about.  

When my own retirement became a reality, it was very tough to find the the new chapter of doing something that provided me with the same ego fulfilling experience as did my long corporate and business career.  I found after experimenting with volunteer work in the community and public service that making a difference for others gave me the balance needed to thrive and preserve a healthy mind and body.  

We older Americans, by choice, can map out our lives by being ourselves in the context of all we care about, including pursuing professional and vocational outlets for continued growth and personal rewards.  

We can also take in the romance and adventure offered in life by fulfilling your bucket list of the amazing places to visit and explore around the globe or at home.  There are so many things to do as we age, assuming our good health is maintained.

For me, getting older is a privilege…many never see the morning sun of old age.  We owe to ourselves and others to show the way with our wisdom until the very last day of our lives…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates…

What Have Them Boomers Learned is Anyones’ Guess…

Steve Sparks, Author, Busness Transformation Consultant, Mental Health Advocate

“It’s a failure of morality that drives greed, loss of empathy and compassion.” Steve Sparks..Apr1, 2020

As this thought occurred to me, I started thinking about my own life experience… While at the same time watching the Coronavirus pandemic unfold like a horror movie I once watched in a drive-in outdoor theater long ago. I remember…while it was entertaining, sitting closer to the girlfriend in my dreams, I didn’t give it a second thought just like all the scifi and horror movies back then. We worried about the A Bomb back then.

But this virus thing we can’t see is the real deal global crisis nobody thought much about as citizens. Even for an ol’ surf duude and vet like me, this is stunning and demands the very best of the best at the helm. I trust that we will get through this together as one people.

I’m mostly reminded of what I’ve learned along the way about morality and greed and the war between balancing the two to save our souls. I see it now in fighting this COVID19 pandemic behind the ‘8 ball’ as it were.

Success and super greed kicked in big time for me and most of my friends and colleagues during a high flying era of rock n roll and freedom of spirit during the crazy 70s. You know, long time ago. Although feeling like a ’60 IQ greed head’ didn’t feel right back then, I jumped in with both feet without good shoes and mostly naked morality.

My, my, my boomer brothers and sisters, have we lost our souls?

And I was not alone by a long shot. We came out of a depressed post WWII Korean War period. We were going to build a better place.

But then the ‘rich and famous’ dream of the early technology boom and heart pounding greed distracted many of us, certainly not all for Gods sake!

As we boomers have gotten older we hope to evolve and stay open to change. After all we invented everything IT. We love change, maybe…

I’m probably not the only 70 something that finds peace of mind, not in the old 1965 Chevy, surfboards, wild stuff and dreams of being rich and famous, but in dear friends and loved ones along with the loving communities where we live as one family.

We can’t wait to be able to hug our friends and neighbors again! See you all soon! Hugs from a distance…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Depoe Bay, Oregon www.survivethriveptsd.org

Mental Health First Aid USA for Aging Citizens…Especially During a National Crisis…

Mental Health First Aid for Older Adults  from NYC Health…City of New York…

“Mental illness and aging can often be a double stigma. According to the National Council on Aging, the number of Americans 85 and older will triple by the year 2050. Older adults and care partners are less likely to identify a problem as a symptom of a mental health disorder. Furthermore, older adults have high rates of late onset mental health disorders (anxiety/depression) and low rates of identification and treatment. This curriculum module will help existing Adult MHFA Instructors in good standing reach this population with updated prevalence data, a new film, and scenarios.”

Go to…Mental Health First Aid 8 hour training…  The Mental Health First Aid USA for Older Adults curriculum is primarily focused on information participants can use to help adults ages 65 and over.

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I didn’t know until being certified as a Mental Health First Aid Adult Trainer in 2016 that mental health and depression in older adults is often ignored or dismissed. I also didn’t know that among the elderly population, aging white males commit suicide in America at a 98% higher rate than all others.  I was actually shocked at first but now understand why (Colorado State University report). “In the United States, older men of European descent (so-called white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group. For example, their suicide rates are significantly higher than those of older men of African, Latino or Indigenous descent, as well as relative to older women across ethnicities.”

Depression is the culprit, especially for those who have difficulty being as opposed to doing.  I consider myself in the category of an older white male who loves living in the moment or being, but also thrives in doing the things I care about.  When my own retirement became a reality, it was very tough to find the the new chapter of doing something that provided me with the same ego fulfilling experience as did my long corporate and business career.  I found after experimenting with volunteer work in the community and public service that making a difference for others gave me the balance needed to thrive and preserve a healthy mind and body.  We older Americans, by choice, can map out our lives by being ourselves in the context of all we care about, including pursuing professional and vocational outlets for continued growth and personal rewards.  We can also take in the romance and adventure offered in life by fulfilling your bucket list of the amazing places to visit and explore around the globe or at home.  There are so many things to do as we age, assuming our good health is maintained.

In terms of mental health awareness, there is a higher probability of achieving and maintaining a healthy frame of mind by staying actively engaged, especially in social groups in the community.  Humans are herding beings and starve for social interaction and attention. Humans are not designed to be alone.  We are also challenged in today’s world when families become separated by great distances and live their own busy lives.  Older adults can become lonely and depressed over time.  A healthy body can take a big hit over time if one’s mind becomes depressed.  Being alone and less than engaged or active with others can cause a person to stop eating in healthy ways and exercising to stay in good shape.  Health issues can take shape gradually by not being active.

Sometimes though it feels like there is no place for us older Americans, so giving up is a risk. There will be starts and stops along this journey of aging, even some failures that are painful or hurtful.  But never give up…keep pushing and trying with your heart and mind.  Yes, take a break when needed, then try something new.  Get engaged with a reset attitude with new goals and opportunities.  Never say, “I’m done, it’s over.”  It is not in our nature to give up on anybody or anything, so keep on keeping on.  We live so much longer now in the 21st Century.  We boomers in our 70’s are needed in our community with our exceptional leadership qualities, wisdom, and new energy.  My grandson told me several years ago that older adults are needed to  mentor the younger generation succeeding us.  We are needed, so don’t run away.  Get busy and make stuff happen.  And don’t forget to create a balance so that the needed nap in the afternoon comes easily.  Go on the adventure to Alaska or Australia.  Take in the cultural events in your community.  Spend quality time with your family and friends and experience all the joys that life has to offer.  Remember, getting older is a privilege…many never see the morning sun of old age.  We owe to ourselves and others to show the way with our wisdom until the very last day of our lives…

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocates…

“I’m Fine!” What does that mean?

Have you ever wondered the real meaning of “I’m fine!”? Pause, pause…

“I’m fine” is the consequence of stigma. Most who suffer from even average emotional challenges are all too often shunned in society. So much so that going untreated and not shared with others will often grow worse.

Other unhealthy ways like alcohol and drugs will be the outlet. And why we as intelligent humans allow this to happen?

We are not open to what is considered a scary and uncomfortable conversation for most. In fact a trigger for others who need to talk in a safe place.

Once untreated serious depressive symptoms appear, suicide becomes a much higher risk, especially for white males in 70s. Find out why?

Please think about the unintended consequences. Ask yourself if your friend, loved one or colleague needs help. Just listen and build trust, no hurry. Take a Mental Health FirstAid USA class. You can make a difference and save lives…

Judy and Steve Sparks, SparksAssociates, “Building Healthy Communities w/Love.”

Mental Health FirstAid USA…Local Communities and Technology Lead…

ALGEE the Koala Bear…Mental Health FirstAid USA Mascot

Mental Health First Aid USA training in your local community…

For more than 60 years, May has been nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental wellness is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance and ensures the readiness of our service members. Military Health System (MHS) focuses on the mental wellness of service members, their families, retirees, and DoD civilians. We will highlight the tools and resources available for the prevention and treatment of the DoD community’s overall mental wellness.”

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I’m pleased to share that Mental Health First Aid training has become a standard in Lincoln County Oregon and all over America!  A gift to a caring and healing community culture. As City Councilor in 2015, I was happy to take the lead to bring Mental Health 1st Aid training to our City of Depoe Bay, Oregon with the help of Lincoln County Health & Human Services.  This what has happened since then…the early days… We have come along way as a Trauma Informed Oregon community! Technology makes it possible to deliver programs instantly without waiting for a trainer…a kickstart if you will. Take a listen…

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Mental Health First Aid

is an in-person training that teaches you how to help people developing a mental illness or in a crisis.

Mental Health First Aid teaches you:

  •  Signs of addictions and mental illnesses
  •  5-step action plan to assess a situation and help 
  •  Impact of mental and substance use disorders
  •  Local resources and where to turn for help

The State of Oregon is making mental health a top priority going forward with a campaign  slogan, “Can’t We Do More?”  It is the responsibility of local and county government, private, and public leadership to take advantage of this training. I have written previously in this blog about the need to do more in rural communities for mental health awareness... click on highlighted text for more…

You can make a difference in your own community all year by taking a look at the Mental Health First Aid program for your own needs as a business, school or public service organization.  Please review the references and resources available and take action.  Mental Health 1st Aid is just as critical as getting training for first-aid best practices in general.  Lives are saved through a higher level of awareness of all health and wellness challenges in local communities everywhere.

When I was traineded and certified as a Mental Health First Aid Adult Trainer in the fall of 2016, the increased awarenes changed my life forever. I could not only understand my own behavioral health better, I developed a much higher sensitivity, compassion and empathy for those who suffer among us with mental health challenges. As co-workers, peers, and managers, a little kindness and understanding, a calming influence from a culture of caring in the work place will save lives. In my view, ‘suicide prevention’ is the highest priority in Mental Health FirstAid USA. You can make a difference!

Steve and Judy Sparks, Children and Family Advocates. Click
here for my author page…

The Wrath of Stigma!

My Journey of Healing, Part2

“The Wrath of Stigma!” is the first chapter of my book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2..

Following is an excerpt… This book was written especially for parents, teachers, and caregivers.

“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  “After all the research and writing on the subject of PTS/PTSD, including my blog archives with close to 1000 postings offering tons of information about my own experience, references and resources with the goal to help others, the human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury and living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks.  But it would be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

My latest book is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII.

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocacy

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1.  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

Building Healthy Communities w/Love…


Dear Friends and Colleagues, and the broader community of healers and beautiful souls I love as we all heal together as a community…

After ten (10) years of researching, writing, collaborating, partnering, crying, laughing, and sometimes yelling, but never the less healing as a community w/love…my body of work is now far more accessible and open for conversation and research.

Please join me as a Sparks/Associate and subscribe to my blog and powerful WordPress platform. I really need your friendship, love and support. Please help me share over 1000 articles and posts that follow my own journey of healing since 2011.

As a social services enterprise, this has been a labor of love, completely funded by my family. I really don’t get into asking for donations, but you certainly can in small amounts. Because of the significant awareness value, I highly encourage buying my books, especially my groundbreaking first memoir, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story, pubished in 2011. Free access to my complete body of work is right here…

Every last one of you have been part of my story, all of you! My new memoir, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley” is in the works and coming alive here… I will thank each of you personally over time as my work continues for the benefit of the most vulnerable among us…especially those who are risk of completing suicide and seek hope to have a reason to live another day… Thank you from deep in my soul…

I love hugs, and get them every chance I get!

Corvallis Advocate Book Review, Reconcilitation, A Son’s Story…by Steve Sparks

Return with me to my very first press book review in the Corvallis Advocate in the Spring of 2012… I didn’t know what to think, but it all worked out just fine…

Please order my book to help me fund my next memoir, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley” I couldn’t have written my 1st book without you!

Steve

Click here for my author page…

http://www.corvallisadvocate.com/2012/reconciliation-a-sons-story/  Quote from this website and article…

“The book is about the lingering ramifications of his father’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—what the author deems “collateral damage.” The trauma of war was passed down to the second generation—to a son so angry with his father that he didn’t attend his funeral—and even a third generation, as for many years the author passed his own anger and anxiety on to his children. The book is an attempt at catharsis, at coming to terms with that legacy. In this regard, the book succeeds.”

Revisiting the painful past of my own childhood, researching a new awareness of the generational damage of moral injury, and eventually publishing my book, was a highly emotional experience of coming to terms with long standing anger.  I had no idea that my family’s story and this blog would help countless others to seek a path of healing through awareness of one family’s 70 year struggle with the effects of PTSD.  It is now very clear to me that returning to my childhood and confronting the life-long pain of living in a dysfunctional home, was the key to removing the anger in my heart that persisted for most of my life until age 64.  Book reviews such as written in the above link, and others found on my author page, proves the value of awareness as the first step toward healing.

I am so convinced of the value of awareness in healing that my blog is updated almost daily with postings that are relevant to self discovery and effects of moral injury and PTSD.  The magnitude and severity of the invisible pain caused from exposure to severe trauma in war as a combat veteran, a 1st responder, and even a private citizen subject to a terrible traumatic event is overwhelming.  What is far worse in this circumstance is what happens to children who live with a parent or loved one who suffers from the symptoms of PTSD.  As written in my book, the symptoms of PTSD “stick around like bad genes’ if the cycle of pain is not broken.  The cycle can only be broken if families and society as a whole become highly aware, sensitive, and vigilant.  My family did not have the opportunity to know of our own troublesome and toxic family culture’s lasting effects until many years after the experience when the damage was virtually irreparable for all of us.   

Although it has been challenging for my family, it is never too late to begin the journey of healing.  Buy my book for yourself or a loved one as a gift.  Other similar books about moral injury and PTSD along with references and resources are listed and can be purchased on my blog.  Healing is a work in progress.  No time is wasted in getting started right now…  Click on my book cover on this website and download to your desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone and order a hard copy.

Steve Sparks

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate click here for my author page…