On the Net
For more information about its counseling services and other mental health resources, visit www.thelink.org.
In 1977, Iris Bolton lost her second son to suicide.
Despite having worked as a mental health professional for the previous six years and helping found The Link Counseling Center in Sandy Springs, she "didn't know what to do."
"When I came home that day and my husband, Jack, told me, I just couldn't believe the words," she said during a presentation at Christ the King Lutheran Church on Thursday.
She said her son, Mitch, was 20 years old when he chose to shoot himself. He had struggled in school and with relationships with women.
"That is blurred a time. I don't really remember much," Bolton told the crowd of about 200.
But she does remember her family, which also included three other sons, deciding to talk about what had happened.
"We decided we would survive it," she said.
More than 30 years later, Bolton shares her story often.
Now director emeritus of The Link, she spends much of her time as a public speaker, addressing topics such as depression, grief and suicide prevention.
She was invited to speak recently by the Stephen Ministry Network of Forsyth County, which includes six churches.
The ministries are lay people who receive training to provide support to those going through difficult times.
During her presentation, Bolton said high levels of stress have become common in society due to the "fast-paced lifestyles" most people lead.
"Our world is so busy now," she said. "We have our work, families, children, activities, and we're always talking on cell phones or watching TV or looking at things online.
"Most of us want to be perfect, so we put all this pressure on our selves. All that leads to a lot of stress."
Bolton said there are several ways to relieve stress, among them simply breathing.
"When we take time to take some deep breathes, it instantly makes things feel better," she said.
Bolton also advised talking to someone about stress.
"When we share what's stressing us out or causing us pain, that stress or pain is divided and easier to deal with," she said.
Bolton also suggested "simplifying our lives" by taking time for ourselves and enjoying hobbies that we're passionate about.
Another way to simplify and de-stress is to learn to say "no."
"I advise learning this simple phrase and using it: 'Thank you for asking, but I just can't do that right now,'" she said.
There are also warning signs that someone might be considering suicide.
Among them: Changes in behaviors, such as personality differences or declining grades in school; eating and sleeping problems; and talking about not being around in the future.
Bolton advised the audience to be aware at all times in order to know if a loved one begins exhibiting any abnormal behaviors.
"If you don't take any thing else away from tonight, remember that one word 'aware,'" she said.
If someone does show signs of contemplating suicide, Bolton told the audience to confront that person, directly asking them if they have thought about taking their life.
"Some people have this notion that if we speak the word suicide, we'll put that idea in their heads, but that's just not true," she said. "If someone is exhibiting signs, believe me, they've already thought about suicide."
For those who've already experienced a suicide or other major loss, Bolton provided some tips for healthy grieving.
Among them: Tell the story repeatedly; express the emotions; and make meaning of the horror by helping others who've gone through similar experiences.