Thursday, March 1, 2012

Murder in the headlines

In the last week, I was saddened to hear of the loss of life at Chardon High School in Ohio and of the murder of Jerry Perdomo right here in the midcoast region.  My condolences and thoughts go out to all who were affected by these tragedies.  I often use statistics and "trends" in my work, but in following these stories I am reminded that behind every one of those numbers there are families, friends, co-workers, classmates, and communities who have been deeply affected.

I am also reminded that witnessing these horrible events can rub open old wounds, even for those not directly impacted by the current happenings. If you or a loved one are having difficulty dealing with events—past or present—help is out there.  Nationally there is the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) which can be reached via phone 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746. The helpline is dedicated to providing disaster/trauma crisis counseling, operates 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week, and is free and confidential.  Maine has its own Crisis Hotline, at 1-888-568-1112 (Voice/TTY).  If you are concerned about yourself or about somebody else and are in Maine, call and you will be connected to your closest crisis center.

We must break through the stigma associated with getting help or needing treatment for mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders if we are to make much progress as a society.  Seeking help, and encouraging others to do so, is an important first step towards reducing the number of people who resort to lethal violence (including suicide). Many persons struggle with the fallout from past traumatic events, but never seek help.  Depression and trauma related disorders can be effectively treated, and people recover to lead fulfilling and productive lives.

You don't need to be an expert to connect a friend or family member to help.  You just have to listen and respond if you hear or witness things that make you concerned about a person's mental state.  Anyone can listen, show the other person that you care, and connect them to help via the crisis line or a local medical facility.  The hardest part is getting the courage up to ask the other person about how they are feeling (REALLY feeling) and resisting the urge to discount the seriousness or depth of what they are going through.

Five Town Communities That Care will continue to do all that we can locally to prevent violence and to decrease depression and anxiety, but effective prevention is a team effort.  If you are not already involved, I encourage you to get in touch with us to explore helping in ways that mesh with your life and your interests.  You can call us at 207-236-9800, email me at, or stop by our offices in Rockport.

I also encourage you to program the hotline numbers provided above into your personal cell phones, and to keep the numbers readily available at work.  Don't be afraid to reach out to those you believe are struggling, or to call yourself.  There are people at the other end of the help lines who really do care, just as there are people who care here in the community. 

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