Observed on Sept. 10 each year, World Suicide Prevention Day aims to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) organizes the observance.
The numbers on suicide are dire. Each year, about 47,000 people die by suicide in the United States alone, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the country. Globally, about 800,000 people die each year by suicide.
The risk factors for suicide are multiple, with mental illness, the inability to cope with stress and chronic illness, leading the pack. After a full year of living through a pandemic, no one was ready for the stress that COVID brought, and the constant pounding it takes on collective mental health. It is imperative that everyone learn coping mechanisms for the long, uncertain road ahead, and focus on getting a mental break whenever possible.
Dr. Bethany Cook, a Clinical Psychologist, Health Service Psychologist, Adjunct Professor, and a Board Certified Music Therapist, addresses mental health and well-being, and shares a few important tips:
While many don’t have oodles of money, free space or extra energy to get creative in how we can mentally feel better, below are a few “outta the box” ideas for how to get a mental break and feel refreshed even if it’s only for 5 or 10 minutes.
Try to do something which stimulates the senses in unusual or unique ways to create novel experiences, whether big or small. These experiences will be magnified because of several factors:
Many of us are stuck in a rut and our brains are craving a new experience to heighten our ability to sense things (both good and bad).
During times of survival our brains don’t have extra juice to find creative ways for self-care. Some ideas:
• Listen to a lush classical piece of music the entire way through with earphones on so there is nothing between you and the music. Classical is suggested because we often don’t have strong associations or memories with these pieces of music. Allow yourself to sit or lay in a comfortable spot, close your eyes, and allow the music to take you on a mental journey. Obviously, if listening to classical music sets you off, pick anything you enjoy. Just set aside time to listen. Suggested songs:
“Bolero” by Ravel. The song starts slow and is filled with repetitive melodic lines and rhythms slowly adding intensity and instrumentation until a huge climax at the end of the song. This is a great piece to allow your body to go from one state (calm at the beginning) to intense and energetic (towards the end).
“The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives. This song does not have a driving beat and uses polytonality which gives this song a floating feeling with moments of intense dissonance. This style of music is good to listen to when you may be feeling conflicted or anxious. The polytonality resolves itself and moves towards resolution which in turn allows the body to also sync and feel calm due to feelings of release.
“Jupiter the Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets by Gustav Holst. All the pieces from The Planets are great and the titles will indicate the mood they may inspire or match.
• Overwhelm taste buds with a simple, easy treat. Take a small, microwaveable bowl and add a few spoonfuls of peanut butter/almond butter/cashew butter, add 2-3 squares of dark chocolate throughout the bowl and lightly sprinkle some sea salt on top. Place the bowl in the microwave for 15-20 seconds just long enough to melt the chocolate. Slowly drag your spoon through peanut butter grabbing some chocolate on the way
• Run a nice hot bath and grab a bucket of ice cubes. Find sore spots and hold an ice cube there until it melts. Not only is this a shock to body and brain but it’s also going to help heal sore muscles. Play some calming music and burn some candles if needed.
Order a self-care kit for a loved one. They can immerse themselves in another culture by ordering an assortment of foods from other countries or if they’re more of a snacker get some snacks. This is about finding a way to make the ordinary “extra”.
Get in touch with a childhood hobby/activity or begin one. Youtube has made it easy to teach yourself skills. Piano? Guitar? Puzzles? Home decorating? Model airplanes? Paper airplanes are “cheaper” so lookup some online origami and reconnect to a childhood dream.