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Understanding mental health is key to suicide prevention | Health, Medicine and Fitness

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Mary LodenGlobe Gazette

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about a stigmatized and often taboo subject.

The goal of the National Alliance on Mental Illness is to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and seek help.

For those who have experienced the suicide of a loved one, other groups exist to help family members and friends cope.

“Mom and I turned to the Touched By Suicide support group. It’s a great resource for the community,” said Julie Fritz, an elementary school nurse who lost a sibling to suicide in 2011.

“One of the ways that helps me cope is to talk about it. To share your story with others. It’s therapeutic for me,” Julie said.

She said people often felt bad asking about her brother’s death, but she didn’t want to. “You asked a question and I answered honestly. He chose to kill himself because he was mentally ill.”

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Jim Fritz committed suicide on August 23, 2011, at the age of 42. Julie said her brother had struggled with depression for a long time and was like a yo-yo with his moods going up and down. He was divorced, had an 8-year-old daughter, and had a rocky relationship with a girlfriend at the time.

“He saw a therapist. He was taking antidepressants when he took them. When things were going well, he wouldn’t take them and when things were going badly, he would start taking them again. So it wasn’t really a therapeutic aid,” Julie said.

“Depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain. A pill is not going to fix someone. A pill is just there to balance you out and stabilize things,” Julie explained. It’s something she learned after the fact.

She said she came from a farming family and it wasn’t always easy for Jim there. His father and younger brother simply did not understand his problems. “Jim worked with my dad and they bumped into each other a lot. I think it bothered my brother a lot,” Julie said.

“We had a good relationship. Growing up as siblings, we argued a lot. I don’t think you really appreciate your siblings until you get older,” Julie said. A moment is finally came where she said she was always there no matter what.

“He would have good days and bad days. I was always there for him, no matter the time of day. He knew he could call me,” she said. “But the day it happened, he didn’t call.”

She said she finally called him and when he answered she knew something was wrong. Jim used alcohol as a coping mechanism. “But alcohol is a depressant, so it’s not really going to make it any better. We know that.”

She said that after repeated questions about his whereabouts, he finally told her, “When you find me, you’ll understand.” As she ran towards Plymouth, she said she tried to keep him on the phone and talking. She lost contact with him about two miles from her house. “I just didn’t get there in time,” Julie said. “I just didn’t expect to find him dead.”

Jim had committed suicide. She said he had previously attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. This time he called her, telling her what he had done and she was able to reach him in time.

“At the hospital they gave him charcoal to deactivate that (the pills), kept him overnight and sent him home the next day,” Julie said. “I think the mental health system – it’s kind of a broken system. If we have a broken arm or we have high blood sugar from diabetes, we’ll go to a doctor and we’ll fix it. Our health mental health is just as important as fixing a broken bone.

“I don’t think people realize that. They don’t understand that the mental health needs are really great,” Julie said. But no matter how great the need, she said she doesn’t think the system has improved much in the past 11 years.

“I don’t think we have enough mental health professionals here,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because of our location or if there aren’t enough suppliers who want to get into it.”

Julie said she had a unit on mental health when she was in nursing school and never had much interest in it. “Because all of this happened, I have a better understanding of it”

As a school nurse, she has unique ideas. “I see a lot of things that kids have to deal with that I haven’t had to deal with. Times have changed a lot,” Julie said. “People don’t have the ability to adapt. So they will turn to drugs or alcohol. It’s their way of coping, because you can forget about it. But it won’t go away. »

“Often people don’t want to get help because they’re labelled. They think mental illness is a bad thing,” she said. “But it’s no different than if you have heart disease, diabetes or a broken arm. You just can’t see it like you can see a broken arm.

Julie said she saw a counselor for a while to help her through the trauma of reuniting with her brother. I have to keep telling myself he was sick – not sick like you have a cold – but depressed and hurt and sad,” she said. “So I had to tell myself that was the choice he made and I struggled with that for the last 11 years.”

“I will never feel 100% well. I don’t think a suicide is something you’ll ever recover from,” Julie said. “He left a note, but there were so many unanswered questions. More important is why, and we will never know. I hope he is at peace and no longer in pain.”

Julie said she carried constant reminders of the brother she had lost. She wears a birthstone necklace engraved with angel wings as well as a half-colon tattoo that represents sanity. In literature, a semicolon symbolizes a continuation, not an end. This is why it is used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, drug addiction and other mental health issues.

A quote from Project Semi Colon sums it up best. “You are the author and your life is the sentence. Choose to continue.”

Mary Loden covers city and county government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her by emailing [email protected]