Tag Archives: social support

You're Not Alone

Vantage Point: Choosing Hope

The surrounding orchards could not have been more green and vibrant as they readied to grow fruit. The river ran brilliant blue, reflecting a sky filled with puffy, white clouds. The sun shone brightly, arousing hope as only a perfect NCW spring day can. But it took a tragic turn for the worse as I received the call. A dear family member, known for his gentle heart, had tragically committed suicide.      

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death that could be prevented in the United States across groups, including seniors. Locally, rates have steadily risen in Chelan and Douglas counties since 2012, and Okanogan County has one of the highest rates in the state.

Washington state has recently declared that suicide prevention is a statewide public safety issue and is requiring MDs, DOs, APCs, nurses, and rehab staff to complete 6 hours of suicide prevention training as part of their licensure. This will help them gain the tools and knowledge to recognize at-risk patients, communicate with them, and take the appropriate steps for follow-through.

Reaching out to Carolina Venn-Padilla, MSW, LASW, of the Catholic Family and Child Service’s Suicide Prevention Coalition of North Central Washington, I shared my lack of knowledge and understanding.

Carolina was truly sorry to hear of my loss. She said it’s important to promote hope, connection, social support, treatment, and recovery to help with suicide prevention.

The public seems to think that suicide is a response to stressful situations and that suicidal thoughts may lead to death. It is important to combat this view with positive messaging that shows actions people can take to prevent suicide and stories that show prevention works, that recovery is possible, and that programs, services, and help exist.

This does not mean we should minimize the very real stories of struggle. For my family, that beautiful spring day changed our lives and saddened us to depths we may never recover from. I’m not close to having the answers to what we could have done differently, but I have chosen not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I will honor our loved one by calling attention to suicide and encouraging other families struggling to choose hope.

Help is never far away:

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.        

Fun Ahead

Social Wellness Month

July is Social Wellness Month, which calls for you to nurture yourself and your relationships through social support.

People with a strong social network tend to live longer, and their heart and blood pressure respond to stress better.

Come Together

 

Strong social networks are associated with better heart and immune system function.

Your Health and Social Support

 

Be aware of commitments and following through to make sure you make commitments you can stand by.

Follow Through for Friends

 

Break the cycle of blame and criticism to own your role in your relationships.

Own Your Role

 

Focus on resolving conflict and fixing your personal flaws instead of trying to fix others.

Focus on Change for You

 

Show your appreciation through words and actions to build healthy relationships.

Sharing Your Appreciation

 

Grow your social network by volunteering or by joining a gym, club or group for a hobby.

Save

Knit with Heart

Vantage Point: Seniors Knit with Love to Help Others

Before I met with Aїda Bound—a social worker and fierce fighter for civil rights, social justice, the aged, and the underserved—I hoped to impress her with the yarn I was going to donate to the greater Wenatchee Area Hat Project. But as Aїda talked about collecting, sorting, storing, and delivering the hats and the difference the program makes to the (mostly) seniors who make the hats and the children in need who receive them, I was the one who was dazzled.

Health Alliance Medicare employees get the chance to help members every day by giving them great customer service and healthcare benefits. Having a local presence means we can also be involved in North Central Washington communities. Helping others is the principle behind the Hat Project, too. Seniors can join in, even if they are homebound with poor health. Yarn is donated, and hat makers get to choose the design, color, and pattern of each hat and can knit, crochet, or use a loom.

The hat makers know their time and talents are helping others, and it gives them a chance to be creative and social while having fun. One 98-year-old member said it gave her a reason to live. Aїda helped a woman who had dementia and couldn’t remember the pattern keep participating by having her tie knots for quilts made by another member. That way the woman could still benefit from the social support the program provides.

Aїda said, “Love is knitted into each hat and is what makes the difference to the children.” For some kids, choosing a handmade hat may be the first time they have ever been able to pick out something brand-new for themselves.

To donate to the Wenatchee Area Hat Project, please drop off yarn at Wenatchee and East Wenatchee Washington Trust Banks. (They welcome gas card donations, too.)

As someone who donated yarn, it was fun to choose the colors and imagine a senior making something so beautiful for a child in need. If you think a Hat Project could benefit your community, Aїda is willing to help. Call her at 509-888-1953, or email her at gutsgranny@nwi.net.