I'm Listening: Asking for help is not a weakness

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This interview is part of Entercom's "I’m Listening" Campaign for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention. If you are in a crisis or have a family member or friend who needs help, you are not alone: Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 for immediate help.

Would you know how to counsel a friend who is going through a mental health crisis? Are you feeling the stress of the pandemic, working from home, and parenting in the middle of all of it? Is the current political climate adding to the stress in your life? Those are some of the topics we addressed in our I’m Listening Q+A with Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Dr. Moutier, considered one of the nation’s leading experts in the field of suicide prevention, has testified before Congress, presented to the White House and the National Academy of Science.

We began our conversation with her on the topic of how to handle a friend, or relative we think may be in need. “You have to have a pretty sensitive radar,” she told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. When you hear people behaving in ways or talking as if they are not themselves, or feel they don’t matter, Dr. Moutier recommends you reach out for a private chat to show them that there is help. “I strongly encourage everyone to trust your gut instincts, assume you are the only one who is noticing” the person in trauma. She says, “That curiosity you can show is a way of caring and truly listening."

1010 WINS News Anchor Larry Mullins spoke of a feeling within communities of color that “asking for help is a sign of weakness." Dr. Moutier says it is important to break that culture and signal that getting help is actually a sign of strength. Her advice is to “normalize the inclination to get help." In addition, when someone needs help, Dr. Moutier recommends acting on that instinct. “Becoming that person who says 'no matter what you are going through I’m there for you' that’s part of how we prevent suicide and how we can help.”

ALT9 2.3’s Christine Malovetz raised the question about parenting in the current health crisis. Dr. Moutier said it was important for parents to make their own mental health a priority to care for themselves and to set a tone for the family “it’s human to struggle … it’s a good strong thing to say you need help."

“You don’t have to be perfect,” says Moutier. She recommends leaning on your spouse, friends, and even therapists. Do not go it alone.

The pandemic has also been complicated by the slow burn of political tumult in our country. Hate and division seems to be a daily topic in our households. It certainly is on the news. Dr. Moutier has some advice for the public discourse that seems to be “draining us of our resilience reservoir." She told us, “We have to choose what we let into our lives more carefully and more intentionally."

She suggests controlling our media and especially social media more. “Whether it’s about racial injustice or the presidential election” … “the way that we communicate can affect our mental health. We need to practice healthy boundaries." She recommends taking a pause before engaging in debate and asking will the exchange of ideas contribute in a positive way?

Dr. Moutier also wanted to address the stress and anxiety that first responders and others in difficult professions may been feeling these days. “You need to find ways to stay in the healthiest place possible," said, recommening reaching out for help in friends, spouses or others.

One last bit of advice in our I’m Listening Q+A with Dr. Moutier, she recommends we find individual ways to slow down and deal with stress and anxiety, things like exercise, meditation, even journaling. “Try something,” she told us. Remind yourself to slow down and “just come into the moment."

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