October is the month when we celebrate and get informed on prevention. It is a month where schools teach about fire prevention, drug and alcohol prevention, and abuse prevention. You just have to turn on the television to see many public service commercials promoting some kind of prevention. Since all of these topics are getting attention in the media this month, I thought I might take a moment to talk to about violence prevention.
Preventing violence in our communities is critical to the wellness of our society. We are exposed to many kinds of violence. Exposure could include war, suicide, bullying, physical or sexual abuse, intimate partner/dating violence, gun violence, and crime or violence against animals. We hear about stories of violence every day on the news and on social media. It seems inevitable at times. Violence is preventable. Everyone in our community has a role to play in stopping violence and in recognizing how they may play a part.
So what can you do? There are some small steps you can take to assist in preventing violence. You can S.H.I.E.L.D yourself and others from violence:
S – Stop unnecessary exposure to cultural violence. Limit your conversations about community crime and talk positively about others. People who feel hopeful are less likely to think about or day dream about harming others. Limit video games and other desensitization to violence in your home. Do not dwell on images or thoughts that create fear.
H – Help in your community. Volunteer and make it a family priority to notice what needs others may have. Building empathy reduces violence.
I – Initiate conversations about conflict as normal. Everyone has conflict between what we want to do and what we have to do. No two people always solve conflicts in the same way. We are more likely to weigh out others perspectives if we take time to appreciate that others may solve a normal conflict differently. We gain experience by learning from others in what did or did not work for them in similar situations. Healthy adults have the ability to find and use resources. Sometimes resources are people from your family, work or experts. Talk about your worries to make them less burdensome.
E – Evaluate safety, health topics and the things that make you happy. We want our community to be smart about seeking out wellness of mind, body and spirit. Thinking about these topics and making them a normal part of your day will allow you to build resistance when bad things happen.
L – Learn about your stressors and put them into perspective. Is a bad grade, a break-up or not getting a promotion the end of the world? No – but sometimes it may feel like it. Adults have a lot of shifting to do to accommodate disappointments and the upset of not knowing what will happen next. Suicide risk factors increase as people experience high stress situations. Talking about these stressors will allow you a chance to remove yourself from the intense feelings these stressors may create. Multiple stressors may require assistance with chemicals that may be imbalanced. Find ways to reduce your stress like using exercise, meditation or spending time in activities you enjoy that are also good for your body.
D – Do go to your doctor if you show significant changes in eating, sleeping, attitude or activities. Just like when your car makes a funny sound, you probably take it in for maintenance. Your brain is an organ that can get ill just like lungs, heart or noses. Don’t ignore warning signs and seek professional help to avoid negative outcomes. Trust that if others notice and communicate that there is a risk – they are trying to help. Having to seek professional help for medical issues is not a reflection of living gone wrong but is a sign of strength and intelligence.
It is time to stop being scared and start being smart!
LMHP, CPC, MC