From Despair to Hope: Changing the Consequences of Despair

As Mental Health Month winds down, it's clear that efforts to educate each other about the effects of mental illness must continue each and every day. Not just each May, but every day.

I recently read a blog post from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, that exemplifies the reasons why this is so important. The post highlighted a study that noted an uptick in deaths among people in certain groups - what they called "deaths of despair". These are deaths due to drug and alcohol overdoses, liver disease associated with chronic alcohol use, and suicide. We need to work with everyone, including community leaders and groups, to do this.

Read the blog post and think about ways you can help. There are lots of support groups and organizations that may need people to jump in and offer talents and skills. Dive in and help your neighbor, co-worker, even a loved one to recover and build lives anew!

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Six Things to Do with Your Teen When Watching '13 Reasons Why'

It’s no secret that the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has generated a lot of buzz – not just among its teenage audience, but among school leaders and parents, too.

The series focuses on a young woman, Hannah, who decides to end her life by suicide. She reveals the reasons for her decision in a series of tapes sent to the people she claims played a role in that decision. It’s not a series for the faint of heart, either, as some scenes are pretty graphic.

To be sure, some of what’s causing the stir – at least some of it, anyway – is the very graphic depictions it contains. But it’s also other content. In addition to suicide, the series wrestles with a lot of other subjects: bullying, substance abuse, harassment, and more. The series, say some of its critics, also doesn’t provide a sense of hope. The students and adults are depicted as offering no solutions or little compassion for Hannah.

As parents, it’s not always easy to broach topics like this with our kids. But kids are dealing with some very big and very real problems, and if we shut this out, we could run the risk of marginalizing something they are feeling and need to discuss – maybe with us, maybe with a peer, but they need to get it out.

So what to do? It’s surely not simple, that’s true. Still, you can be a great resource for your kids in several ways: 

  1. Take time to talk. You’ve been able to talk with your kids about lots of things since they were in diapers – school, friends, sports and more. Sure, they’re older and a little more worldly now, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have questions. Encourage them to ask, and tell them you always have time for them. And don’t be afraid of not knowing the answer. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll get it.
  2. Watch their emotions. This is not a “feel good” series, really. There are teens who are pretty resilient and will have some good conversations about what they watch. But if a teenager identifies with Hannah, or feels isolated in school or other situations, that should be a signal for you to step in. Learn the warning signs.
  3. Consider what kids may need. Maybe viewing the show opens a discussion about self-defense when dealing with a bully in school. It shouldn’t be used as a first resort, but knowing how to defend yourself – both physically and verbally – isn’t a bad thing. There are classes for both. Take them, if you want.
  4. Learn about coping skills.L Whether it’s finding ways to manage stress or going to the gym to work out – even getting more sleep or adopting a pet – coping skills can be a big benefit. It can sometimes be hard to make time for that, but it’s time well spent.
  5. Talk about prevention. Silence isn’t an option when someone is hurting. The show doesn’t do a great job of giving suicide prevention help – until the end. There are several resources out there that can help and may offer insight as you move through each episode. Suicide hotlines, crisis hotlines, even crisis text lines are available. Ours is 1-877-695-HELP, or text “4hope” to 741741. There’s also the national suicide prevention line, which is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  6. Know there is help available. As you have probably heard before, your child didn’t come with an instruction manual. And protecting them from life’s hurts just isn’t realistic. When kids don’t respond to attempts to talk or seem to shut people out, particularly if it’s been going on for some time, reach out to professionals for some help: Beech Acres Parenting Center, Solutions and Talbert House may all be resources.

Our kids are our future. They can be pretty darned resilient and may get through most of what life throws at them. But they may need a little help along the way.

If your teen wants to watch the series, that may be just fine. Just be there with them to talk. It does matter.

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"A Sense of Purpose": A Talk with a Peer Supporter

Posted on: April 28, 2017
Tags: Mental illness, Recovery, Peer support, Emotional wellbeing, Coping

by Compeer staff

If I were to ask you about your favorite friend, does someone instantly come to mind? Is there someone that you know you can call to talk to when you are down? Someone that will listen to you? Someone that supports you?

Unfortunately, for many people with mental illness, the answer is no. Many of the symptoms associated with mental illness can cause isolation, distrust and a disconnect to others and to the community. Yet, we know that having a strong support system is crucial to living a healthy life. 

Compeer was developed to provide that necessary support in order to help people with mental illness live happier, healthier, more  productive lives. Through volunteer friendship and group activities, participants are reintegrated into the community, have increased stabilization and improved social support, and develop strong friendships.

One of the friendly faces that will greet you as you join Compeer is Linnette Graesser. Linnette has been involved with Compeer for almost three years as a Peer Recovery Supporter with Compeer. Get to know Linnette better through the interview that follows:


Describe your position within Compeer.

LG: As a Peer Recovery Supporter, I help plan and co-host several events each month where participants and their matches can get together with others and have fun while developing a support system. I help with behind the scenes office work, as well as spending some one on one visits with participants in their home or out in the community.

What do you like about Compeer?

LG: I like that Compeer gets people who might otherwise be isolated out and about enjoying events in public spaces with peers and volunteers. We always laugh and have fun just being there for each other.

Since you began with Compeer, how have you seen Compeer help people?

LG:   I have seen quiet, withdrawn people develop into talkative and engaged individuals. Some of our clients have even obtained jobs or have begun volunteering for other organizations.

How has Compeer helped you personally? 

LG: Compeer allows me, as a person who also has mental health issues, to have employment that fits my capabilities without causing me undue hardship. Most of all though, it gives me a sense of purpose. My own support system has grown with the program as well.

What has been your favorite Compeer experience?

LG: My favorite Compeer experience happened recently when I was able to help a client in a personalized and meaningful way. We were able to really bond and my support led her to an improvement in her circumstances.

Can you explain a little about being a Peer Recovery Supporter? 

LG: Being a Peer Recovery Supporter is a unique experience in that my circumstances allow me to better relate to participants.  It is helping where the helper is often supported in return just by forming friendships. I think all Peer Recovery Supporters must have the ability to relate better to clients than other helpers who don't have a lived experience, but because Compeer offers enrichment through friendship and enjoyable activities, being a Compeer Peer Recovery Supporter is all the better.

Compeer is a program of Mental Health America and is funded by MHRS and United Way of Clinton County.  If you would like more information about Compeer, please contact Linnette at or Michelle Rolf at

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