Jacob Moore

@jacob-moore | contributor
Founder of NoStigmas.org / Creator of 5 Bridges to Wellness / Mental Heath Advocate / Wellness Design Guy
Jacob Moore

COVID-19: Tips for Connecting With Others While You're at Home

My inbox is filled with notices of new policies and cancellations due to COVID-19, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. Even if I have only a mild concern for my own health related to the coronavirus, the constant bombardment of information (and misinformation) is enough to induce a state of panic. For those of us who live with some level of disordered anxiety or hypochondriac-tendencies, this is a very heightened and challenging time. This state of constant hypervigilance means the adrenal stress response is working overtime and at risk of fatigue. Simultaneously, some of us are also breathing a sigh of relief with the social distancing and quarantine restrictions in most major U.S. cities — we’ve just received a de facto “free pass” to avoid any event, gathering or person we want with zero guilt. And we get to work from home? Bonus! As my traditionally busy springtime calendar looks more and more like the empty shelves of the toilet paper aisle at Costco, I’m cautioned against celebrating the canceled events too much. While I cherish my solitude, I also need human connection to thrive. We all do. That’s why I created NoStigmas , a place for people with mental health and suicide-related experiences to connect. Even if it isn’t always comfortable, spending time with people who “get it” is an important aspect of recovery on the mental health journey. In line with the CDC recommendations, we’ve enacted a work from home policy and all in-person events have been postponed until after restrictions have been lifted. Unfortunately, this means that many of us may not be receiving the much-needed peer support that helps us get through the day. That’s why it’s all the more important to remain diligent about the state of our mental health and that of our peers. Here are 10 ideas on ways to connect with one another and find support through this challenging time: Talk with family and friends on the phone or through video. Seeing and hearing those we care about can help mitigate the effects of isolation. Plan fun quarantine games and activities like you would for rainy/snowy days. This could include traditional board games and puzzles or more involved scavenger hunts and multi-part storytelling events. Not only does this help distract from anxiety, but can help disrupt negative thought patterns. Learn new ways to support yourself and others with NoStigmas Ally Training free online course. Connect with people who get it through our Ally Group on Facebook where it’s safe to share and find support. Explore teletherapy with services like BetterHelp.com from the comfort of your own home or car or bunker. Distance yourself from negative thought patterns through meditation. (NoStigmas members receive Headspace premium at no cost for a year.) Write out your feelings in a journal or letter that you may or may not choose to send. This is also a great opportunity to explore a gratitude practice. Fuel your body with lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These not only help boost the immune system, but help to improve our mood as well. Fill your mind with positive conversations, information and media. It’s been proven that negativity weakens the immune system. Get outside! Even if you’re not spending time with people, you can still connect with nature and get some fresh air. Those in urban areas will likely find the streets fairly empty, making the requisite six foot social distancing advice easy enough to achieve. While we’re creating physical distance between ourselves, we should take care to reach out to one another. Especially to those who are vulnerable or susceptible to depression or suicidal thoughts. As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of support, please reach out for support. Text: ALLY to 741741Call: 800-273-TALK Above all, let’s remain non-judgmental of other people’s reactions to the coronavirus and social distancing. We don’t always know about someone’s past experiences and how current events might be triggering for them. The U.S. and many European countries are made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and cultural differences. Some have fled war, persecution and economically unstable places where resources are scarce. For those who have previously experienced food instability or homelessness, stocking up on supplies may help to reduce anxiety for them. I’m not suggesting that this is an excuse to hoard more than one needs. But rather than assuming that people are just being selfish or uncaring, let’s exercise compassion and give people the benefit of the doubt. I believe the majority of people out there are extremely generous and would gladly help a neighbor in need. Let’s focus on the positive stories and good deeds that are also happening out there in order to promote a healthier mental health environment for all of us. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Jacob Moore

COVID-19: Tips for Connecting With Others While You're at Home

My inbox is filled with notices of new policies and cancellations due to COVID-19, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. Even if I have only a mild concern for my own health related to the coronavirus, the constant bombardment of information (and misinformation) is enough to induce a state of panic. For those of us who live with some level of disordered anxiety or hypochondriac-tendencies, this is a very heightened and challenging time. This state of constant hypervigilance means the adrenal stress response is working overtime and at risk of fatigue. Simultaneously, some of us are also breathing a sigh of relief with the social distancing and quarantine restrictions in most major U.S. cities — we’ve just received a de facto “free pass” to avoid any event, gathering or person we want with zero guilt. And we get to work from home? Bonus! As my traditionally busy springtime calendar looks more and more like the empty shelves of the toilet paper aisle at Costco, I’m cautioned against celebrating the canceled events too much. While I cherish my solitude, I also need human connection to thrive. We all do. That’s why I created NoStigmas , a place for people with mental health and suicide-related experiences to connect. Even if it isn’t always comfortable, spending time with people who “get it” is an important aspect of recovery on the mental health journey. In line with the CDC recommendations, we’ve enacted a work from home policy and all in-person events have been postponed until after restrictions have been lifted. Unfortunately, this means that many of us may not be receiving the much-needed peer support that helps us get through the day. That’s why it’s all the more important to remain diligent about the state of our mental health and that of our peers. Here are 10 ideas on ways to connect with one another and find support through this challenging time: Talk with family and friends on the phone or through video. Seeing and hearing those we care about can help mitigate the effects of isolation. Plan fun quarantine games and activities like you would for rainy/snowy days. This could include traditional board games and puzzles or more involved scavenger hunts and multi-part storytelling events. Not only does this help distract from anxiety, but can help disrupt negative thought patterns. Learn new ways to support yourself and others with NoStigmas Ally Training free online course. Connect with people who get it through our Ally Group on Facebook where it’s safe to share and find support. Explore teletherapy with services like BetterHelp.com from the comfort of your own home or car or bunker. Distance yourself from negative thought patterns through meditation. (NoStigmas members receive Headspace premium at no cost for a year.) Write out your feelings in a journal or letter that you may or may not choose to send. This is also a great opportunity to explore a gratitude practice. Fuel your body with lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These not only help boost the immune system, but help to improve our mood as well. Fill your mind with positive conversations, information and media. It’s been proven that negativity weakens the immune system. Get outside! Even if you’re not spending time with people, you can still connect with nature and get some fresh air. Those in urban areas will likely find the streets fairly empty, making the requisite six foot social distancing advice easy enough to achieve. While we’re creating physical distance between ourselves, we should take care to reach out to one another. Especially to those who are vulnerable or susceptible to depression or suicidal thoughts. As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of support, please reach out for support. Text: ALLY to 741741Call: 800-273-TALK Above all, let’s remain non-judgmental of other people’s reactions to the coronavirus and social distancing. We don’t always know about someone’s past experiences and how current events might be triggering for them. The U.S. and many European countries are made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and cultural differences. Some have fled war, persecution and economically unstable places where resources are scarce. For those who have previously experienced food instability or homelessness, stocking up on supplies may help to reduce anxiety for them. I’m not suggesting that this is an excuse to hoard more than one needs. But rather than assuming that people are just being selfish or uncaring, let’s exercise compassion and give people the benefit of the doubt. I believe the majority of people out there are extremely generous and would gladly help a neighbor in need. Let’s focus on the positive stories and good deeds that are also happening out there in order to promote a healthier mental health environment for all of us. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Jacob Moore

COVID-19: Tips for Connecting With Others While You're at Home

My inbox is filled with notices of new policies and cancellations due to COVID-19, the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system. Even if I have only a mild concern for my own health related to the coronavirus, the constant bombardment of information (and misinformation) is enough to induce a state of panic. For those of us who live with some level of disordered anxiety or hypochondriac-tendencies, this is a very heightened and challenging time. This state of constant hypervigilance means the adrenal stress response is working overtime and at risk of fatigue. Simultaneously, some of us are also breathing a sigh of relief with the social distancing and quarantine restrictions in most major U.S. cities — we’ve just received a de facto “free pass” to avoid any event, gathering or person we want with zero guilt. And we get to work from home? Bonus! As my traditionally busy springtime calendar looks more and more like the empty shelves of the toilet paper aisle at Costco, I’m cautioned against celebrating the canceled events too much. While I cherish my solitude, I also need human connection to thrive. We all do. That’s why I created NoStigmas , a place for people with mental health and suicide-related experiences to connect. Even if it isn’t always comfortable, spending time with people who “get it” is an important aspect of recovery on the mental health journey. In line with the CDC recommendations, we’ve enacted a work from home policy and all in-person events have been postponed until after restrictions have been lifted. Unfortunately, this means that many of us may not be receiving the much-needed peer support that helps us get through the day. That’s why it’s all the more important to remain diligent about the state of our mental health and that of our peers. Here are 10 ideas on ways to connect with one another and find support through this challenging time: Talk with family and friends on the phone or through video. Seeing and hearing those we care about can help mitigate the effects of isolation. Plan fun quarantine games and activities like you would for rainy/snowy days. This could include traditional board games and puzzles or more involved scavenger hunts and multi-part storytelling events. Not only does this help distract from anxiety, but can help disrupt negative thought patterns. Learn new ways to support yourself and others with NoStigmas Ally Training free online course. Connect with people who get it through our Ally Group on Facebook where it’s safe to share and find support. Explore teletherapy with services like BetterHelp.com from the comfort of your own home or car or bunker. Distance yourself from negative thought patterns through meditation. (NoStigmas members receive Headspace premium at no cost for a year.) Write out your feelings in a journal or letter that you may or may not choose to send. This is also a great opportunity to explore a gratitude practice. Fuel your body with lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These not only help boost the immune system, but help to improve our mood as well. Fill your mind with positive conversations, information and media. It’s been proven that negativity weakens the immune system. Get outside! Even if you’re not spending time with people, you can still connect with nature and get some fresh air. Those in urban areas will likely find the streets fairly empty, making the requisite six foot social distancing advice easy enough to achieve. While we’re creating physical distance between ourselves, we should take care to reach out to one another. Especially to those who are vulnerable or susceptible to depression or suicidal thoughts. As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of support, please reach out for support. Text: ALLY to 741741Call: 800-273-TALK Above all, let’s remain non-judgmental of other people’s reactions to the coronavirus and social distancing. We don’t always know about someone’s past experiences and how current events might be triggering for them. The U.S. and many European countries are made up of people with a variety of backgrounds and cultural differences. Some have fled war, persecution and economically unstable places where resources are scarce. For those who have previously experienced food instability or homelessness, stocking up on supplies may help to reduce anxiety for them. I’m not suggesting that this is an excuse to hoard more than one needs. But rather than assuming that people are just being selfish or uncaring, let’s exercise compassion and give people the benefit of the doubt. I believe the majority of people out there are extremely generous and would gladly help a neighbor in need. Let’s focus on the positive stories and good deeds that are also happening out there in order to promote a healthier mental health environment for all of us. Concerned about coronavirus? Stay safe using the tips from these articles: Which Face Masks Prevent Against Coronavirus? How Is the New Coronavirus Treated? How to Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer What You Should Know About Social Distancing During COVID-19 8 Soaps You Can Use to Help Prevent the Spread of Illness 10 Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Jacob Moore

How My Mom Saved My Life When I Was a Suicidal Teen

I came out of the womb at a full sprint. An hour or two of sleep at a time was the norm well into my first year. Mom, who was just 20 at the time, still laments the fact that I had to be in constant motion even when I was asleep. If she stopped her efforts to soothe me for even a minute, I’d wake up screaming. Poor thing. One time, she found me sitting cross-legged on top of the refrigerator like a monkey. I had pulled the kitchen drawers out like steps and climbed up there to find some sort of treasure. I was 18-months-old. True story. In school, I was the “troublemaker.” You know, the bad kid who’s chronically late, horsing around in class and regularly sent out to the hall or the principal’s office? That was me. I also had stomach issues and always felt sick despite being in good physical health. The doctors ran tests, hooked me up to electrodes, took blood, made me run on a treadmill, I believed I was some sort of human experiment. They told my mom it was just ADD. What I didn’t tell anyone was that I was living in a constant state of fear. I concluded that I was sick with an incurable disease; I was paranoid that I was being watched and I was certain that at any moment someone I loved would die. Wanting so desperately to feel “normal,” I donned a mask and became an expert at hiding my dysfunction from everyone. But what I didn’t know was that my negative thought patterns and behavioral issues were the direct result of the trauma I’d experienced — and I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. You see, my birth father died by suicide when I was just 6, leaving mom alone to raise and provide for three young children. Prior to my dad’s suicide, he had been in and out of jail, often drunk and beer was regularly purchased before groceries. We lived in perpetual survival mode. What I’ve since learned was that I was experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) – stressful or traumatic events in childhood that can create less-than-desirable behaviors and often rob a child of their capacity for resilience.  My ACE’s rewired my brain for a constant state of “fight or flight” that manifested in everything from gastrointestinal issues, fits of rage and hypersensitivity to low self-esteem and panic disorder. Something else I’ve learned is that ACE’s can even happen while still in the womb, so the fast track to mental illness was pretty much set before I was even born. At age 26 and living in poverty, my mom was ill-equipped to handle the grief my father’s death caused, let alone navigate a world of limited resources with three children. And yet, we survived. Life moved forward. Mom remarried my steadfast and hardworking stepdad and we developed our own kind of coping mechanisms, though oftentimes they were disordered and unproductive. As I grew, so did my educational, behavioral and social difficulties. I like to say that I “time-traveled” through this period of my life. I retained little and remember less. With high school came more than just the typical hormonal changes and teen angst — a lifetime of untreated mental illness caught up with me — over time I became depressed, despondent and I wanted to die. My mom recognized the warning signs she’d seen from my father. She took me to the doctor, and for the first time in my 16 years I was treated for my mental health conditions. What my mom did for me that day saved my life. The last 20 years or so have been a blur of treatment approaches, both doctor-approved and self-prescribed. I’ve spent years relearning elementary knowledge and social skills. Through therapy and a mindfulness practice, I’ve rewritten many of those negative scripts that my ACE’s taught me. It’s been a long and discursive road, but it’s led to a sustainable wellness plan. But what if instead of being labeled as a “troublemaker,” a teacher — or anyone — would have taken the initiative to discover why I was acting the way I did? What if my mom had been equipped with the information and resources to find the support we needed? What could have been avoided if my father would have had early treatment or abuse intervention as a child? For much of my life I never wanted to have children. I didn’t want to risk handing down the “mental illness gene” and putting my kids through what I went through — a lifetime of unravelling a tangled mess of dysfunctional neural pathways. These days, I’ve taken a different view. My 11-year-old niece was recently diagnosed with anxiety. She’s always been an empathic and sensitive child, but with her parents divorce came behavioral and physical changes: fear, agitation, stomach aches and intense emotions. Her anxiety grew into panic disorder. Being away from her mom for any length of time would trigger full blown panic attacks. Car rides would result in frequent bathroom stops and vomiting. She stopped seeing friends, engaging in her favorite activities and would refuse to leave the house. She lost her enjoyment of life. She said she wanted to die. Terrifying and eerily familiar. My niece, like me, was likely predisposed to having anxiety. But fortunately, she was also born into a family who is now equipped with a wealth of lived expertise. My sister proactively took my niece to a counselor. My mom teaches her grounding techniques like breathing exercises and meditation.  And, from afar, I connect with her on a peer support level sharing my habits for mental wellness. It takes a village, as they say. Through much conscious effort and nurturing from her supporters, my niece is now able to take car rides again, spends the night at grammy & poppy’s and is excited to go to school. Her anxiety isn’t cured and she still has panic attacks, but she’s come a long way. She’s making progress and learning techniques she can use on her own,  taking back what her ACE’s robbed her of for a little while and is beginning to enjoy life again. While I certainly wouldn’t wish mine or my niece’s experiences on anyone, I feel like I’ve been left well-prepared to navigate whatever mental health challenges my future children might face. And maybe my lived expertise will help foster an environment where they can grow up free of ACE’s. I’m certain I will be a far from perfect parent, but I can guarantee that I will never just write things off as “hormonal changes and teen angst.” Much to my kids dismay, I will poke and prod and dig until I find an answer. Like my mom and sister, I will unfailingly love, nurture and never give up until we discover a solution, because I know firsthand how life-saving this approach can be. My mom is convinced that my first born will also be a sprinting-monkey-child. I suppose that would only be fair given what she went through with me. Thanks, mom.  Because of you, I am here and I am ready. Early intervention and treatment can help prevent suicide. Learn the warning signs of a mental health crisis and take positive action. If you or someone you know needs support, don’t wait, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “ALLY” to 741-741 right away.      

What This Tweet Gets Wrong About Mental Health Medication

I try not to take Twitter too seriously. There’s a lot of muck to trudge through in order to get to something good, and therefore, I don’t pay too much mind and attention to most of the content I see on there. But sometimes, a tweet comes along that really grinds my gears. Cut to April 9, 3:55 p.m., when I’m sitting outside of my building waiting to meet a friend. As I’m scrolling down my timeline, I see a post from a Twitter user, in which he aims his camera at a box full of pill bottles, captioned: “You do not need them. You can do it. I did it and I want to help everyone do the same.” You do not need them . ???????? you can do it . I did it and I want to help everyone do the same. pic.twitter.com/iMymJRkuGp— Jon (@johnyelizar) April 7, 2019 I know, instantaneously, that it can only get worse from here. The video itself is short, 47 seconds. But a record-breaking amount of wrongdoing happens in such a short span of time. “All of these, I got in 2017,” the user narrates. “It was a long year, all of them. Some of them are still full. They all consist of Lithium, Olanzapine, Citalopram, Hydroxyzine, and Venlafaxine. All those, it’s for severe agitation, insomnia, anxiety, depression.” And my personal favorite part: “Lithium, whatever that’s for.” He then continues: “Man, you don’t need ‘em. I probably haven’t taken any of those in…I think I stopped in 2018. For a year I received all of those, and I stopped taking ‘em.” I know. Take it in. There’s a lot to unpack. First, off, let’s describe what these are for, because I question if the man really knows at this point. Lithium is a mood stabilizer, often used for bipolar disorder, to regulate mania, according to NAMI. Olanzapine, also known as Zyprexa, is an antipsychotic prescribed mainly for schizophrenia, but can also be prescribed for bipolar disorder It’s often used to suppress psychosis and mania. (NAMI) Citalopram, also known as Celexa, is an antidepressant, and I think it’s easy to infer what that’s for. (NAMI) Hydroxyzine, also known as Vistaril or Atarax, is a primarily an anti-allergy medication, but it’s also been approved for treating anxiety. (NAMI) Venlaxafine, also known as Effexor, is an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. (NAMI) Now that we know what these are for, I think it’s pretty clear that pill-shaming people who are on these medications, or medications similar to them, is a pretty terrible idea. Listen, I don’t know about his mental state. Perhaps he’s truly in a better place, and he doesn’t need the medications prescribed to him anymore. If that’s the case, that’s great! Based on the amount of pills he was on, it sounds like he was overprescribed, which can wreak havoc in its own right. I don’t blame him for being relieved that it’s over. Good for him, if he truly doesn’t need them anymore. The problem is, not everyone is him. I’m on two medications right now: an antidepressant and an antipsychotic, both for my schizoaffective disorder, a diagnosis that combines depression and schizophrenia. If I’m off the antidepressant for a week or two, I struggle to get out of bed, do my work and take care of myself in the most basic ways — eating, sleeping healthily. The last time I was off the antipsychotic, my delusions came back. For those unaware, delusions are a form of psychosis that take the form of false beliefs that are not true. Some people delude themselves into believing they’re the Dalai Lama. Others believe the government is chasing after them because they have the cure for cancer. It’s different for everybody. Personally, I think I’m being set up. All the time. My most bizarre has been believing someone tricked me into going on a road trip with my friends halfway across the country so I could be abducted outside of a California Walmart. It’s weird, it’s nonsensical, but it’s scary in a way I’ve never felt when I’m not psychotic. It feels so real, like you’re at the center of a JFK-assassination-tier conspiracy, and you have no way to break out of it. I was off of my antipsychotic for two days, and that’s where my brain ended up as a result. So, I take issue with the idea that no one “needs” medication, especially when it’s something as severe as an antipsychotic. Some people’s mental illnesses go away. Some people have strange little blips, and nothing more. It’s possible, and that’s great for them. But for me — and many others like me — it looks like this condition is going to last a lifetime. And if I need a few pills every day to make it to 60, 70 or 80, I’m going to take them. Bottom line, you don’t know what other people’s symptoms, diagnoses or needs are. It’s incredibly bold (and incredibly wrong) to assume that because you got off easy, the rest of us are going to as well. It’s short-sighted and condescending, and it’s a toxic message to spread across the internet. So for anyone promoting med-shaming, please log off. The mental health community will be better off for it.

Jacob Moore

The Best Advice I Can Give Someone Who's Trying to Stop Smoking

I smoked a pack a day for nearly 10 years. A pack a day – that’s 20 cigarettes, nearly one for every hour of the day. My addiction was so strong that I would sometimes have my first and last cigarette of the day while in bed. When I tell people who know me today, they can’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it either. I knew better, of course I did. I hated the fact that my folks smoked growing up and I was very vocal about it. I remember calling my dad out after church one day — never interrupt a man’s smoke after a long sermon. Lesson learned. Why did I have that first smoke as a teenager? Maybe it’s because that really cute girl liked guys who smoke? Maybe the depression made me self-destructive? At 26, I ended up in the hospital with dual bronchitis and a sinus infection. Even then, I still tried to smoke through the coughing fits. My body literally wouldn’t let me inhale. That’s the addictive power of nicotine that often defies all logic. I stopped smoking for a few months that time, but I never fully addressed the underlying habits and addiction. The next time I was faced with a stressful situation, I lit up again. I hated myself for it and regretted every single cigarette I ever smoked. What finally made the difference for me was, ironically, a very logical approach. I designed a foolproof strategy and recruited my support team. I had to meticulously plan and methodically modify nearly every part of my life: social circles, daily routine, eating habits and thought patterns. I notified every single person in my life that I was quitting and built a complex “replace and reward” system in an attempt to cover every inevitable situation. This was my biggest human experiment to-date. Here’s the plan I put together: Pick a meaningful quit date and put it on the calendar Setup “reward account” to deposit money saved Inform any potentially affected party (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) Find a support group (I found several online and in-person) Join an organized sports club (flag football, baby!) Request antidepressant to help with smoking cessation Try the patch and gum (ultimately gum worked better for me) Stock up on Australian Chewing Sticks (they’re the best!) Stock up on gum, hard candy, etc. Throw out all smoking paraphernalia (sorry, Joe Camel) Weed out unsupportive friends/acquaintances Get the car detailed so it gets a fresh start, too Have an “emergency list” of people to call just in case Make lots of plans that don’t involve trigger activities, i.e. drinking Publicly announce benchmark dates (one week, two weeks, one month, etc.) Build in mini-rewards for each benchmark (new shirt, dinner, movie, etc.) Measure fitness gains through endurance, lung capacity, etc. Plan amazing trip with money saved after 1 year (I went kayaking in Costa Rica!) The more in-depth the plan, the greater the chances I had for success. I tried to think of every trigger or moment of weakness that I might encounter along the way.  The process was costly (not just monetarily), time consuming and agonizing. I had several false starts and it was incredibly difficult – it is also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s been 10 years since I quit and I’ve never regretted a single day of not smoking. According to most accounts, I once again have a similar disease risk level as non-smokers. I’ve saved over $20,000 in the cost of cigarettes alone. That’s not to mention the untold amount I’ve saved on future healthcare expenses. If you’re struggling with smoking and want to quit, here’s the best piece of advice I can offer: Instead of continuing to identify yourself as a smoker, begin to view yourself as separate from your addiction. It may be part of most every aspect of your life now, but it does not have to define who you are. You can be a non-smoker again. I say again because you didn’t always smoke, right? The essence of who you are is not a smoker. Formulate a strategy, pick your allies, ask for help and reward yourself. I believe in you. Please don’t quit quitting! If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead image via contributor

Jacob Moore

A Note for My Friends and Family in Case I Become Suicidal

Dear family and friends, I have everything to live for. I do not want to die — not for a very long time, anyway. And when I do, I want to be an old silver fox looking back on a deeply satisfying life filled with love and laughter, as evidenced by the nostalgic stories I’ll tell ad nauseam detailing my numerous youthful adventures. I write this to you now, while I am still (relatively) young and of sound body and mind — because the sad reality is, I may not always be able to hold onto this healthy perspective. I say that based on my family history and personal experiences. Depression runs in my family. My father actually died by suicide as a result of it. Growing up, everyone told me I looked and acted a lot like him. So in high school, when I became severely depressed, I started thinking I was destined to die by suicide, too. Fortunately, my mom was an amazing advocate for me. She recognized the crisis warning signs and got me the help I needed. She saved my life when I had given up all hope. Despite her support, I still really struggled with depression for many years after that. But having an ally by my side allowed me to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It took a long time to find a sustainable wellness plan, but I did, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t had a major bout of depression for a long time. So, why am I writing this letter? You see, my father was 31 when he took his own life. Once I made it past that age, the fear of my own suicide ebbed, and I relaxed a bit. Recently, though, I read something that really shook me to the core: Most of the recent high-profile suicides (Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Dave Mirra, and my personal hero, Robin Williams) all happened when those wonderful, talented people were past their 30s. It made me realize that I may not be out of the woods yet. To be clear, my history does not at all mean I am destined for suicide. Still: I want to keep it that way. This wake-up call has given me a renewed sense of diligence toward my un-suicide. That’s why I’m putting together this action plan. Because it’s way easier to talk about this now, when I’m in good health and thinking straight, than in the situation that could occur if depression comes after me again. According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, here are some warning signs you may see from me someday: —Talking about wanting to die or to kill myself—Looking for a way to kill myself, like searching online or buying a gun—Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live—Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain—Talking about being a burden to others—Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs—Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly—Sleeping too little or too much—Withdrawing or isolating myself—Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge—Extreme mood swings If I am exhibiting any of these symptoms or have abandoned the desire for longevity, it is likely that my mental illness is making me suicidal, and I hereby give you my permission to take positive action on my behalf. They say that early treatment and intervention are the most effective ways to help prevent suicide. So I’d like to share some tactics from the National Institute of Mental Health that you might use to help if you find me in crisis: Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means  can make a difference. Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts. Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline‘s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor or mental health professional. Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person. We can even set up what I call an “If-Then Plan” to help navigate specific situations. For instance: If you don’t hear back from me after 24 hours, then you have my permission to call again. Because here’s the thing: Despite your best intentions, I will likely do my awful best to impede your efforts. What you have to remember is that these behaviors, should they occur, are contrary to my true nature, and I would really, truly appreciate your continued help despite how I may act in the moment. To that end: If I am resistant to seeking professional help, then you could show me this letter to remind me of my commitment to my wellness. It’s important to know that just because I need help does not mean I’m being selfish or weak. I work really hard to keep myself balanced through therapy, peer support, nutritional planning, physical fitness, mindfulness and several other modalities. But brain disorders have a terrible way of tricking our minds into thinking that suicide is the only solution for ending terrible pain. I promise that, no matter how unwell I may seem in the future, I am still the same Jake you know and love, though I may be harder to recognize. I apologize in advance for anything that future-Jake may say or do should I be in such a state. Please don’t give up on me. Listen, I know that this is a big ask. Suicide and mental illness are scary and really hard to talk about. Even more so, it can be confusing and frustrating to deal with someone in that state. So please understand: I’m not saying that it’s your responsibility to “save” me. As much as I believe that we all have an obligation to help one another, I also believe that each of us has a personal responsibility for ourselves. I’m not asking you to carry me — just walk beside me as I try to find my way out of the darkness. You may say or do just the right thing to help me see past my future-present circumstances. When in doubt, simply listen without judgment. It helps more than you’ll ever know. From future-happy-old-man me after a long life of un-suicide, thank you. With love, Jacob Moore(1980 – ????) p.s. Caretakers and allies need support too! Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. You are not alone. This article was originally published at Legacy.com. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 , the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via lolostock

Jacob Moore

Getting Help After the Suicide of a Parent

Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. My suicide loss story began in 1987 — in the living room of our shoebox mobile home in Michigan. I remember my grandparents were there with my mom and younger sister and brother. My father had recently moved out after yet another bout of drinking and fights with my mom. The story of his life and therefore the story of ours. But this time was different. Instead of drunkenly resurfacing on our doorstep at 3 a.m. or in a jail cell, my father was found dead in a dank motel room surrounded by a few meaningful possessions and a letter to us describing the immense emotional pain he was suffering. I was 6 years old when my father died by suicide. But his pain didn’t simply cease to exist that day. The ripple effects from his death continued outward, affecting everyone from the building manager who found him, to the first responders who took care of his body and, of course, his family. But still, the ripple effects continued out from there, didn’t they? Because that pain is still being felt today, not only within his family, but now by each person who has heard his story. Close to 800,000 people die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Each of those individuals also leaves behind irrevocable hurt in their wake. Needless to say, his suicide had a profound impact on my life. I was plagued by questions, anger and a deep sense of abandonment. Over time, these feelings festered and grew into uncontrolled anxiety and panic attacks. Of course, I didn’t know what was happening at the time. My anxiety made me think I had stomach cancer or heart disease or maybe some resurrected strain of the Bubonic Plague. To compound my anxiety, I was often told how much I looked like, was built like, acted like and was resourceful like my father. So, I took that to mean I’d also end up like my father: addicted, alone and dead by my own hand. I hated him for leaving us like that. I hated him for leaving me with his genetic curse. When I described my symptoms to the doctors, they became concerned. They ran tests. They took blood. They hooked me up to machines: ECG, EEG, MRI. And even had me run on a treadmill like some kinda lab rat. But they could find nothing wrong with me. I was young, fit and healthy. But I knew better. There had to be something seriously wrong with me. Why couldn’t they see it? Not wanting to appear like a freak, I learned how to act “normal.” I put on a mask and pretended to be like everyone else. This went on for years. The cycles of anxiety, trouble at school, paranoia, doctor visits and this eerie feeling of seeing my life happen from outside of my body. I simply wasn’t present for my own life. And to top it off, never once did someone ask, “What’s really going on with this kid? Is there a deeper reason why he’s acting out?” Ya know, being dubbed “The Bad Kid,” who is seen only for their poor choices, really has a negative impact on one’s development. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when someone always expects you do the wrong thing. I wonder what might change if kids like me were viewed as who they are rather than how they act. Eventually, this great rouse all came crashing down during my senior year of high school. While everyone else was looking forward to college, I was dreading a future of listless wandering. I couldn’t sleep at night, so I slept all day. I started missing school. I stopped bathing. I rarely left my room. And then I stopped eating. I had completely lost the will to live. Suicide by apathy. To be in so much pain that I just wanted to die was simultaneously the most frightening and the most relieving feeling in the world. And in this strange juxtaposed limbo I finally had a revelation: This is how my father must have felt when he took his own life. For the first time in my life, I could both understand and forgive him for what he did. He wasn’t a bad or a selfish person. He was a person who was in so much pain that he could see no other way out than death. I finally began to see him, not just my father who killed himself, but as the loving and resilient person he was. He was so much more than his addictions, his struggles and the way he died. He was my Daddy, Michael, and I’m sad didn’t have the chance to get to know him. Fortunately for me, my mom recognized some familiar symptoms and extended a lifeline to me. She brought me to the doctor and got me some initial help. This was the first time I was forced to share my experiences with anyone. As much as I resisted, I knew it was what I needed. I finally saw a sliver of light at the end of a very very long tunnel. It took me over a decade of doctors visits and exploring various wellness modalities to find a plan that works best for me — therapy, peer support and other holistic approaches. I still live with anxiety, panic and depression every day, but it no longer controls my life. Instead, I’ve taken ownership of my own mental health and that’s changed everything. For me, a big part of my journey was sharing my story and wellness approaches. As I did, my community began to grow and it soon became clear that there was a real need for this type of support. So, I gave the community a name: NoStigmas. A new word which represents the anti-definition of stigmas: Absence of shame or disgrace State of acceptance and equality A positive shift in thinking But more than that, NoStigmas became an identity and a way of life. A lot has changed in mental health over the past 30 years. Widespread conversation about mental illness and suicide is finally happening. In the media, on social platforms and inspiring events. Over 1.5 million people call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline every year. That means even more people are finding hope and gaining access to the help they need. Now, it’s time to translate talk into positive action. And that starts with each of us. No matter who you are, where you’re from, what you look like, whether you struggle with mental illness, thoughts of suicide or if you’re a survivor of suicide loss, please know that you matter. Know that you are not alone. Support is out there and you are worth helping. Please visit NoStigmas.org to join our Ally community. If you are considering suicide, please call 800-273-TALK or text “ALLY” to 741-741 for anonymous support 24/7/365. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 , the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Jacob Moore

Getting Help After the Suicide of a Parent

Today is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. My suicide loss story began in 1987 — in the living room of our shoebox mobile home in Michigan. I remember my grandparents were there with my mom and younger sister and brother. My father had recently moved out after yet another bout of drinking and fights with my mom. The story of his life and therefore the story of ours. But this time was different. Instead of drunkenly resurfacing on our doorstep at 3 a.m. or in a jail cell, my father was found dead in a dank motel room surrounded by a few meaningful possessions and a letter to us describing the immense emotional pain he was suffering. I was 6 years old when my father died by suicide. But his pain didn’t simply cease to exist that day. The ripple effects from his death continued outward, affecting everyone from the building manager who found him, to the first responders who took care of his body and, of course, his family. But still, the ripple effects continued out from there, didn’t they? Because that pain is still being felt today, not only within his family, but now by each person who has heard his story. Close to 800,000 people die by suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization. Each of those individuals also leaves behind irrevocable hurt in their wake. Needless to say, his suicide had a profound impact on my life. I was plagued by questions, anger and a deep sense of abandonment. Over time, these feelings festered and grew into uncontrolled anxiety and panic attacks. Of course, I didn’t know what was happening at the time. My anxiety made me think I had stomach cancer or heart disease or maybe some resurrected strain of the Bubonic Plague. To compound my anxiety, I was often told how much I looked like, was built like, acted like and was resourceful like my father. So, I took that to mean I’d also end up like my father: addicted, alone and dead by my own hand. I hated him for leaving us like that. I hated him for leaving me with his genetic curse. When I described my symptoms to the doctors, they became concerned. They ran tests. They took blood. They hooked me up to machines: ECG, EEG, MRI. And even had me run on a treadmill like some kinda lab rat. But they could find nothing wrong with me. I was young, fit and healthy. But I knew better. There had to be something seriously wrong with me. Why couldn’t they see it? Not wanting to appear like a freak, I learned how to act “normal.” I put on a mask and pretended to be like everyone else. This went on for years. The cycles of anxiety, trouble at school, paranoia, doctor visits and this eerie feeling of seeing my life happen from outside of my body. I simply wasn’t present for my own life. And to top it off, never once did someone ask, “What’s really going on with this kid? Is there a deeper reason why he’s acting out?” Ya know, being dubbed “The Bad Kid,” who is seen only for their poor choices, really has a negative impact on one’s development. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy when someone always expects you do the wrong thing. I wonder what might change if kids like me were viewed as who they are rather than how they act. Eventually, this great rouse all came crashing down during my senior year of high school. While everyone else was looking forward to college, I was dreading a future of listless wandering. I couldn’t sleep at night, so I slept all day. I started missing school. I stopped bathing. I rarely left my room. And then I stopped eating. I had completely lost the will to live. Suicide by apathy. To be in so much pain that I just wanted to die was simultaneously the most frightening and the most relieving feeling in the world. And in this strange juxtaposed limbo I finally had a revelation: This is how my father must have felt when he took his own life. For the first time in my life, I could both understand and forgive him for what he did. He wasn’t a bad or a selfish person. He was a person who was in so much pain that he could see no other way out than death. I finally began to see him, not just my father who killed himself, but as the loving and resilient person he was. He was so much more than his addictions, his struggles and the way he died. He was my Daddy, Michael, and I’m sad didn’t have the chance to get to know him. Fortunately for me, my mom recognized some familiar symptoms and extended a lifeline to me. She brought me to the doctor and got me some initial help. This was the first time I was forced to share my experiences with anyone. As much as I resisted, I knew it was what I needed. I finally saw a sliver of light at the end of a very very long tunnel. It took me over a decade of doctors visits and exploring various wellness modalities to find a plan that works best for me — therapy, peer support and other holistic approaches. I still live with anxiety, panic and depression every day, but it no longer controls my life. Instead, I’ve taken ownership of my own mental health and that’s changed everything. For me, a big part of my journey was sharing my story and wellness approaches. As I did, my community began to grow and it soon became clear that there was a real need for this type of support. So, I gave the community a name: NoStigmas. A new word which represents the anti-definition of stigmas: Absence of shame or disgrace State of acceptance and equality A positive shift in thinking But more than that, NoStigmas became an identity and a way of life. A lot has changed in mental health over the past 30 years. Widespread conversation about mental illness and suicide is finally happening. In the media, on social platforms and inspiring events. Over 1.5 million people call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline every year. That means even more people are finding hope and gaining access to the help they need. Now, it’s time to translate talk into positive action. And that starts with each of us. No matter who you are, where you’re from, what you look like, whether you struggle with mental illness, thoughts of suicide or if you’re a survivor of suicide loss, please know that you matter. Know that you are not alone. Support is out there and you are worth helping. Please visit NoStigmas.org to join our Ally community. If you are considering suicide, please call 800-273-TALK or text “ALLY” to 741-741 for anonymous support 24/7/365. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 , the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Jacob Moore

I Am No Robin Williams: A Tribute on the Anniversary of His Death

Like most of you, I never had the chance to meet Robin Williams. Yet so many of us feel like we knew him so well. I mean, I feel like I’ve lost my funny uncle Robin. By the time I was born, he was already in our living room most nights “calling Orson.” And even though Williams was known as a “character” actor, there was always something so raw about him. He brought himself to all of those imagined circumstances: the wit, charm, and yes, even the pain. Back in 1987, the same year “Good Morning, Vietnam” came out, I lost my father to suicide. I was 7. Much like Robin Williams, my father lived with addiction and depression. It’s not uncommon for them to go together. Sometimes people self-treat with substances because of mental health issues, and sometimes people become depressed after using substances. Chicken or egg, without proper treatment, suicide is often the end result. Naturally, I grew up too fast and kinda slow all at the same time. Maybe that’s why I was still watching Disney movies in 1992 at 12 years old. In any case, there was something about “Aladdin” that spoke to me. I watched it so many times, I can still quote nearly every word. It wasn’t the street rat with a golden heart who gets the princess that had me hooked (though, it did give me hope). It was Genie. The sad but lovable wish-granting friend with a 1,000 voices played by Robin Williams. I was fascinated that a man could create so much life with just his voice. I wanted to do what he did. I can say this without question: I became an actor because of Robin Williams. It was while watching “Aladdin” that I realized people could get paid speaking into a microphone. I would practice silly voices all day long (sorry, Mom). I am no Robin Williams, but eventually, people did start to pay me to speak into a microphone and even act in front of a camera. As fate would have it, I have had my own struggles with depression and anxiety. Most of my late-teens and early-20s were spent on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals trying to “fix” my brain. It was like “What Dreams May Come” and “Patch Adams” all mixed up in my head. Luckily, I had a great support system (thanks, Mom) and eventually found the right treatment tools. In 2007, I had an idea to start a community called NoStigmas where people with mental illness wouldn’t have to feel ashamed and could connect with peer supporters. Since then, the nonprofit movement has grown, and people all over the world are sharing their stories and finding no-cost support. Not surprising, a great number of the NoStigmas community are artists. When I saw the preview for “The Crazy Ones,” I was upset by the stigmatizing title. People throw the word “crazy” around too much without understanding the impact it has on those with mental illness. But maybe there is another way to look at it. As a badge of courage, like Williams did. That man was “crazy brilliant” and shared it without apology. As he said, “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Thank you for that, Robin Williams. Thank you for the many years of entertainment, inspiration, and friendship. Thank you for living your life in the public eye and sharing your story with the world. Nanu-Nanu! If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “HOME” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via Facebook – Good Will Hunting