How to Help Our Heroes: Mental Health Resources for Veteran and Their Families

When we have a federal holiday, many of us focus on the opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend and our focus is on getting together with our loved ones or using our spare time to our advantage.  It’s easy to focus on the things we don’t get to do often and lose sight of the true meaning of Memorial Day.11377140_10152980829086775_5786723641010396236_n.jpgThis Memorial Day, we ask that you remember not only the fallen soldiers but also their families and the veterans among us today who suffer with the painful memories of war and their fallen brothers and sisters.

Statistics show an estimated 25% of people who served in the U.S. military have symptoms of at least one mental health condition, with more than 10% qualifying for a diagnosis of two or more mental illnesses frequently acquired while serving their country. Our military faces many challenges that we, as average citizens, cannot fathom such as; Extended separation from their loved ones, facing the harsh realities of combat, and head trauma as well as being obligated to press on in war under severe emotional stress.

According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research many veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from either major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.  Major depression is characterized by encompassing periods of low moods, loss of interest in activities that were once desirable, continuing fatigue, and other characteristics that minimize the victim’s quality of life, ability to work and even his or her ability to function in basic day to day activities.  Post-traumatic stress disorder develops as a result of exposure to traumatic events such as war and is identified by disturbing or altered thoughts and feelings, mental or physical distress triggered by trauma related cues, increased fight or flight responses, and recurring nightmares for extended periods of time.  Both illnesses are leading causes in substance abuse and suicide cases nationwide.

What can you do to help those who suffer as a result of war while honoring our fallen heroes this memorial day? 

  • Learn how to recognize mental illnesses in your loved one by knowing the signs and symptoms.  There are several resources available for your research such as The American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, or WebMD.com where major depression and PTSD are explained.
  • Know how to treat someone who is suffering. Offer unconditional love and support while avoiding trying to fix their problems on your own. Never advise a victim to “snap out of it” or “move on from the past” in these situations.  Be realistic in knowing that these things require patience and understanding and healing takes a very long time for some.  Definitely encourage professional help whenever possible, but do so gently without making a victim feel insulted, judged, or unwanted.  Always express understanding and encouragement as well as acknowledgement that their issues are as real as any other illnesses.
  • Promote and support treatment whenever possible.  Help them to understand that treatment isn’t modifying their personality but can greatly help relieve symptoms.  Offer help with locating a therapist or health care provider, preparing for their appointments, transportation when needed, and tracking symptoms.  Use mild reminders for both medication and motivation when you see they are not having success on their own.
  • Understand the crisis our nation is facing regarding military mental health. According to Dr. Joel Young numerous studies have documented the fact that our service members struggle to access mental health treatment. Dr. Young shares some of the disturbing challenges our military faces when in need of treatment such as professional consequences, inaccessible treatment and the lack of military mental health screenings in his informative article in Psychology Today.
  • Pursue all the resources available to help you help someone you love who is suffering mental illness as a result of time served. Mental Health America offers a comprehensive list of resources you can reach out to on their website (click here for a direct link).
  • Donate to charities that support the well being of our veterans. Here are a few great charities to send your donations to: Wounded Warrior Project, Cohen Veterans Network, America’s Military Charity, American Veteran’s Foundation, or check out this list of recommended charities from “The Street’s” charity watch for veterans.
  • If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone. In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

We at Close Range Safety Training Academy want to honor our fallen heroes this holiday and every day as well as all who have served in the U.S. Military.  We thank you for your service to our country.  We wish everyone a safe and joyous holiday weekend as you respect and remember our courageous veterans. Please follow our blog for more health and safety tips for you and your loved ones.

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April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, Please Don’t Look Away!👊🚫

Did you know that April is Child Abuse Prevention month? It’s a topic that many of us do not like to address because it’s very harsh reality to accept. But, unfortunately, it is a reality that affects an average of six million children annually. That’s a staggering number!

The brain develops in response to experiences with caregivers, family and the community quickly during the early developmental stages of infancy and childhood. Development is directly linked to the quality and quantity of those experiences. Repeated exposure to stressful or abusive events as well as neglect can affect the brain’s stress response and over time a child may react as if danger is always present in their environment regardless of actual circumstances.

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Awareness of the signs of child abuse is your first step in saving a child.

Here are some key signs to look for:

BEHAVIORAL SIGNS:

  • Failure to thrive socially or academically
  • Learning and/or Speech disorders
  • Delayed physical, emotional or intellectual development
  • Discomfort with physical contact or difficulty connecting with others
  • Lags in physical, emotional or intellectual development
  • Behavior extremes, such as appearing overly compliant and passive or very demanding and aggressive.
  • Increased fear or avoidance of a specific person and/or situation
  • Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Bedwetting
  • Anxiety and/or excessive worrying
  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncharacteristic obedience or perfectionism
  • Strong feelings of shame or guilt
  • Programmed statements or behaviors
  • Knowledge of or interest in sexual behaviors that are not age appropriate

PHYSICAL SIGNS:

  • Bruises, welts or swelling
  • Sprains or fractures
  • Burns
  • Lacerations or abrasions
  • Frequent physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty in walking or sitting
  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing
  • Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
  • Sexually transmitted infections or diseasesTheir-lifes-stop-child-abuse-28564802-599-775.jpg

Research has found that children exposed to any form of abuse, if left unaddressed or ignored, are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems throughout their life and into adulthood.

Depending on your role in the child’s life, you may or not be privy to prevention but turning a blind eye to the signs of child abuse is never the path to choose. Identifying the signs may be an uncomfortable position to be depending on your relationship with the child, but you can protect your position by being anonymous. There are many sources that can help you help a child, such as Child Help’s national hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or you can do an internet search for sources in your area.

We encourage you to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more.

✍️☑️ Your New Years Resolution Solution! 12 Tips to Beat the Stats in 2017…✍️☑️

A little more than half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but roughly 8% actually succeed in meeting their goals.

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Come the first of January, hoards of enthusiastic resolutioners account for the spiking sales of gym memberships, smoking cessation programs, diet programs and many other self-help programs. By the second week of February, some 80 percent of those resolutioners are facing remorse and disappointment in themselves for falling out of line. Why is it that such good intentions seem so elusive?

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“Change entails some degree of emotional friction, which in turn generates stress”, states clinical psychologist Joe Luciani. “Essentially, you build self-discipline by willfully enduring the transient discomfort of changing who and what you are”. Whether you’re feeling anxious, depressed, frustrated, fatigued, or simply bored, stress becomes the fuel of failure. “Like a muscle, you need to develop your self-discipline muscle, one challenge at a time. Starting today, instead of reflexively feeling a need to minimize or escape the friction involved in change, recognize instead the need to endure it.”

John C. Norcross, of the University of Scranton, agrees with the endurance theory stating “It’s not so much the resolution as it is how realistic the goal is. Someone says I’m going to lose 50 pounds and keep it off this year versus I think I’ll struggle to keep 10 off — that’s a little more realistic.”

Changing your behavior, whether it’s eating less, exercising more, quitting smoking, etc., is very difficult. Dr. David Wagner, a sleep expert at the University of Oregon, has identified a deeper cause of why we lack the self control to follow through. “When you’re tired you lack the self-control to eat healthy and the focus to be productive,” said Dr. Wagner. Keeping New Year’s resolutions requires self-control, energy, and focus and if you’re sleep-deprived you’re likely lacking in all of these departments. “With goals, we tend to want to want to rush straightforward,” Wagner said. “So slowing down to take a break and sleep seems wrong.” But there’s a lot to be said for a sleep-focused approach to goals. Research has repeatedly proven the ways in which exhaustion depletes our willpower and generates an unavoidable state of stress. A well-rested person will have a much easier time resisting that cookie than a sleepy one. And studies have also shown that people who don’t get enough sleep aren’t just more tired, but are also more distracted.

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With this valuable information in mind, here are 12 useful tips to help you create, maintain, and succeed with your New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. It’s about you! Make it something you actually want, not something you should want or what everyone tells you it should be.
  2. Make it count! Avoid a knee-jerk decision on a resolution in the moment.  Pick something that is meaningful to you.
  3. Think small.  Take a look at the habits that are holding you back in life. Find one that’s simple, like, “When I finish this meal, I’m going to wash my dish.” Make a contract with yourself that that dish must be washed. No ifs, &s or buts! Throughout the day, find simple challenges that you make happen. The better you are at achieving small changes, the easier it will be for you to keep going.
  4. Limit yourself with care.  Don’t pile several challenging resolutions on your plate and expect to achieve them all.  When you reach a list of resolutions, evaluate it to the top 3 and focus on those.  Should you achieve them within 6 months, you’ve learned what you’re capable of and you can have a seasonal evaluation of Summer resolutions too! “Once you understand that you have only a limited amount of willpower, it’s easy to understand why multiple resolutions aren’t likely to work,” says Ian Newby-Clark, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada.
  5. Build self-trust. Once you get used to making small things happen, begin to recognize and embrace the truth:What I say to myself is what I do.  In order to guarantee success, don’t challenge yourself with a pledge that you’re not sure you can handle.  According to psychologist Connie Stapleton, Ph.D. it’s to better to  give your willpower some wiggle. “Absolutes like ‘I’m giving up all sweets’ or ‘I’ll never use my credit card again’ set you up to try to get around your own overly strict rules,” says Stapleton. Instead, try drafting more limited restrictions like “I’ll have sweets only when I’m in a fancy restaurant.”
  6. Invent challenges. Invent various challenges throughout the day to strengthen your ability to believe and to do. Don’t allow yourself to procrastinate. This falls in line with Dr. Luciani’s idea that you face building self control as you would face building your muscles.  Just as you would do repetitions at the gym to develop a muscle, you must you get your challenges in each day.
  7. Get proper rest! Without a good night’s sleep, the next day is challenging enough on it’s own without the added challenge of self control when you’re feeling week.  When you’re tired you fall victim to stress easily, and when you fall victim to stress you crave those comforting habits like a cigarette or candy bar that had brought you so much satisfaction in previous times of stress.  (Click here for other ways to manage stress too!)
  8. Refill your fuel tank! Did you know that self restraint can reduce your blood glucose? Your brain relies on glucose for energy.  Natural sugars, such as a glass of orange juice or a bowl fresh fruit can help you replenish the glucose you are actually burning just by over-thinking your resolution.
  9. Cultivate optimism. Positivity may be blocked by habitual pessimism, but if you are determined to stop complaining (to yourself and others) you can prevail. Pessimism is an instinctive habit most of us have and should be considered when making your resolution as a by-product of your resolution.  For example; “I will quit smoking and I will not complain to others about how much I miss it when the mood strikes, instead I will focus on how much healthier I feel.”
  10. Keep spirits high. Sometimes it feels impossible to cultivate optimism.  At those times, try a different approach.  Do something that makes you happy like watching your favorite movie, listening to your favorite song or doing something creative. Maybe this is a good time to catch up with an old friend and have a few laughs.
  11. Develop critical awareness. With critical awareness, you shed light on your destructive, reflexive habits and thinking and on any self-sabotaging mental roller coaster rides. When it comes to self-sabotage, destructive impulses is your number one enemy. (Click here to learn more about critical awareness and how to develop it!)
  12. Account and reward. Don’t focus on the goals as much as the achievements.  For instance, by quitting smoking you can save an average of $35 per week or cutting back on meals may save you an average of $80 per week.  This adds up.  If you keep a running tally of your your savings you can promise yourself a reward like a $200 spa day each month or a new wardrobe each quarter or even a nice vacation at the end of the year. Draw on the strength of images by putting a photo of those new clothes or that dream vacation on the fridge or PC desktop, or a picture of a Caribbean beach in your wallet near your credit cards to remind yourself of the vacation that you’re saving for.

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Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up! Everyone has ups and downs. Resolve to recover from your mistakes, get back on track and make 2017 your year!

❄😔Holiday Blues got You Down? Try These Prevention & Survival Tips for a Happier & Healthier Winter Season😔❄

Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for some people they are anything but jolly. Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.

Holiday blues are a pretty common problem despite the fact that as a society, we see the holidays as a joyous time,” says Rakesh Jain, MD, director of psychiatric drug research at the R/D Clinical Research Center in Lake Jackson, Texas. “Many people feel depressed, which can be due to the increased stress that comes with the need to shop and the decreased time to exercise which gets put on the back burner during the holidays.”

As we enter what many people consider the happiest time of year, thousands of people will be suffering silently. Some with an ongoing battle with depression and others who suffer from seasonal depression, also known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). So if the family gatherings, the endless parties, and the shopping get you down, you’re not alone.

Despondency during the holidays can be tough, especially when feeling disconnected from the holiday spirited world. “I think a lot of people would say that the holidays are the worst time of the year,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many people have, or come from broken homes, and the added emphasis of “family” during the holidays can be a real trigger for them. Those suffering from depression need to be especially careful when coping with holiday stress,  and those of us who are not facing this battle should learn how to recognize and ease the suffering for our loved ones who are.

While people with clinical depression should seek professional help, those with a touch of the holiday blues can try these strategies recommended by experts to assure a merry holiday and a happy new year:

  • Avoid setting up unrealistic expectations for yourself such as taking on hosting responsibilities for events or trying to be the peace keeper in family conflicts. Remember no one is perfect and you can’t perfect things in an imperfect world. So, it’s ok to say no rather than putting unreasonable demands on yourself. Sometimes, tasks that seem reasonable to others are not for you, and you are not in a competition to keep up with those who can.
  • Plan ahead by creating prevention routines for yourself and doing your best to follow your schedule. Set up a calendar of to do lists for positive actions for yourself. For example, schedule a time to read a favorite author, create art, write in a journal, take a nap, go on a long walk in a new area, etc.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others. Maybe now is not the time to scroll through social media seeing everyone’s perfect holiday pictures. Understand that everyone puts on their best face for these circumstances and trying to compare yourself to their world is unrealistic for anyone.
  • Remember it’s ok to grieve. If you’ve suffered a loss and this season is a painful reminder of that, don’t be ashamed to grieve that loss. Feelings are a sign that you’re human and reflect where you are in your healing process.
  • Don’t rob yourself of proper rest! Sleep and rest are important to everyone. Studies have proven that sleep deprivation is directly connected to depression. Do not cut back on your sleep in order to get more done during this busy season. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Keep sunshine in your life. Many times seasonal depression is not linked to holiday activity as much as it is simply a darker time of year. Humans rely on sunshine and vitamin D (provided by sunshine) to live a healthy life both physically and emotionally. You can prevent this by simply enjoying 30 minutes of sunshine outdoors each day. Take a walk before work or during your lunch break, or go to a park and sit in the sun’s rays.
  • Avoid binging on food and alcohol. What feels good at the moment will have you facing regrets later on. Know your limits and stick to them at all times. In the moment binging may seem like a solution, but in actuality it creates more problems.

Most importantly, concentrate on what really matters and don’t let the static around you mix your signals! Remember, it’s ok to say no rather than over extending yourself financially, physically or emotionally. While the holiday season is a time for giving, never forget that every day is a time to take care of yourself first.


If your feelings of sadness during the holidays are accompanied by suicidal thoughts, do one of the following immediately: 1. Call 911  2. Go immediately to a hospital emergency room. 3. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).


Could I be Suffering from Depression?

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Depression is an invisible illness that goes unrecognized because many people don’t understand the causes, effects, or symptoms. Sometimes it goes unrecognized by those who suffer the illness, and often times it goes unrecognized by others because they simply cannot relate.

Depression is a treatable medical illness involving an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. It’s not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness. Just like you can’t “wish away” diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical illness, you can’t make depression go away by trying to “snap out of it.”

It’s an exasperating disease to live with because being depressed, frustrated, sleepless or numb for long periods of time is exhausting – especially when you can’t prove to anyone that you’re really sick. Many times depression is caused by hormonal imbalances, grief (death of a loved one or divorce), or situational factors (loss of a job or a move to a new city) beyond our control. No one should be ashamed of having this disease. Remember, like any other disease, treatment helps.

Here are some symptoms to help identify depression in yourself or in a loved one:

  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Struggling with concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Overwhelming and uncontrollable negative thoughts
  • Loss of appetite or significant increase in appetite
  • Escalating irritability, aggression, or anger
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Developing an increase in alcohol consumption or reckless (acting out) behavior
  • Thoughts that your life is not worth living or thoughts of death or suicide
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Unexplained aches and pains

If you are experiencing these symptoms you should seek professional help immediately. If you observe these symptoms in a loved one, gently encourage them to consider professional help.

If you are suffering this invisible illness, you need to know you’re not alone. Millions of people do understand your situation. It is a clinical illness that can be helped. What you are feeling may be connected to other health issues, seasons, previous life incidents and many other factors. In fact, just because you may have the symptoms of depression it does not always mean you have the illness. It is important that you seek medical attention if you think you may be suffering from depression and get a professional assessment.

For a listing of depression support groups, please visit the DBSA online


For Family and Friends

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Keep in mind that a mood disorder such as Depression is a physical, treatable illness that effects a person’s brain. It is a real illness, as real as diabetes or asthma. It is not a character flaw or personal weakness, and it is not caused by anything you or your loved one did.

A “tough love” approach is widely considered  unhelpful in terms of aiding someone with depression. Here are some simple ways to reach out to someone battling depression this holiday season:

  • Please Do educate yourself about your loved one’s illness, its symptoms and its treatments. Read brochures and books from DBSA and other dependable sources.
  • Please Don’t ask the person to “snap out of it.” Your friend or family member can’t snap out of this illness any more than he or she could overcome diabetes, asthma, cancer or high blood pressure without treatment.
  • Please Do give unconditional love and support. Offer reassurance and hope for the future.
  • Please Don’t try to fix your loved one’s problems on your own. Encourage him or her to get professional help.
  • Please Do have realistic expectations of your loved one. He or she can recover, but it won’t happen overnight. Be patient and keep a positive, hopeful attitude.
  • Please Do take care of yourself so you are able to be there for your loved one. Find support for yourself with understanding friends or relatives, in therapy of your own, at a DBSA support group, or other support group. It is important to take care of yourself, and it is normal for you to have symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression when someone you care about is ill. It’s important for you to build your own support system of people who will listen to you and be concerned about your well-being, including friends, relatives, and possibly a doctor or therapist. You might think your problems are minor in comparison to what your loved one is coping with, but that doesn’t mean you are any less deserving of help and comfort. Take time out for yourself, and make time to do things that relax you and things you enjoy. You will be best able to support the person you care about when you are healthy, rested and relaxed.
  • Please Do express your understanding and concern by acknowledging their struggles as a whole. Make helpful recommendations such as getting treatment. Arm yourself with helpful information about treatment and ways they can achieve it. Offer help if needed such as transportation and your willingness to join them if they don’t want to go alone.

What can I do to make sure my loved one gets good treatment?

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Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. Explain that treatment is not personality-altering and can greatly help to relieve symptoms.

Help him or her prepare for health care provider appointments by putting together a list of questions. Offer to go along to health care appointments.

With permission, talk to your loved one’s health care provider(s) about what you can do to help.

Encourage or help your loved one to get a second opinion from another health care provider if needed.

Help him or her keep records of symptoms, treatment, progress and setbacks in a journal or Personal Calendar.

Help him or her stick with the prescribed treatment plan. Ask if you can help by giving medication reminders.

Depression may cause someone to have feelings of unbearable sadness, guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness. The person does not want to feel this way, but can’t control it. Make sure the person’s doctor knows what is happening, and ask if you can help with everyday tasks such as housekeeping, running errands, or watching children.

Help your loved one try to stick to some sort of daily routine, even if he or she would rather stay in bed.

Spend quiet time together at home if he or she does not feel like talking or going out.

Keep reminding your loved one that you are there to offer support. It can be helpful to say things like: “I’m here for you”, “I care”, “I may not understand your pain, but I can offer my support”, “You are a worthwhile person and you mean a lot to me”, “Your brain is lying to you right now, and that is part of the illness”, “Don’t give up. You can get through this.”


What to do in Crisis Situation

If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.

In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK