Peter Eddington talks with Andi Chapman, registered nurse and regional clinical educator specializing in educational and consulting services for general community and healthcare staff. In Part 1, they discuss the consequences anxiety, depression, and despair have on us.
Peter Eddington: Greetings, everyone. My name is Peter Eddington. I'm the producer for Beyond Today Television. And for Beyond Today Interviews today, we'd like to welcome Andi Chapman. Hi Andi.
Andi Chapman: Hi. Thank you, Peter.
Peter: Ms. Chapman is a registered nurse and regional clinical educator for Heart to Heart Hospice. She's also owner and consultant for SelectMed Seminars, specializing in educational and consulting services for general community and healthcare staff. One of her favorite quotes from a movie she actually just saw the other night was "Life does not happen to us, it happens for us. This is how we improve and grow." She said it was one of her favorite quotes now. In our previous Beyond Today Interview, Andi talked about hospice and end-of-life care, end-of-life planning. And today, we're going to discuss "Anxiety, Depression, and Despair Have Consequences."
Andi: They do indeed.
Peter: So, welcome, Andi. Good to have you here with us.
Andi: Thank you.
Peter: Let's get right into the topic here today.
Andi: Sounds good.
Peter: Many people are anxious about the future about things they cannot even really know. They fret over events that haven't happened yet, or may never happen to them. How do we maintain a proper perspective on the future and on things that we cannot even know will happen to us?
Andi: Okay. Well, I think one of the things is we have a tendency to overreact sometimes to events that are occurring. And when we do that, we place more emphasis on some of the other things that could potentially happen. So we cause ourselves more grief and anxiety and stress going through all of that. One of the big things that I think is important is that we stop, just breathe for a second, and think things through. And, you know, ask ourselves questions. Am I overreacting? Is this something that is going to potentially be a life-changing event, or is it just a temporary thing? But what we have to really concern ourselves with is not only what we are thinking in our heads, but how we are influencing other individuals around us taking their cues from us. So, we do have a tendency to overreact and it's time that we, I think, just stop and start pondering what is really important here right here, right now.
Peter: They're gonna take stock and just see how real or important this really is.
Peter: Yeah. Is there a link between anxiety and depression? And can despair lead to even clinical depression?
Andi: Yeah. When we think about anxiety, that's just your anxiousness. Something is...maybe you're fretting that it might happen. So, you've got somebody that you're worried about and you don't know where they are and you're very anxious about that. Depression comes in though when this is a real thing and there's nothing being done about it. When we have that kind of a situation go on, it does lead into a depression, that things don't look like they're ever going to change. You're never gonna be free of whatever it is that is challenging you. And so we can get into that depressed stage. And that is actually what can lead into a burnout or even a suicidal stage.
Peter: One thing I wanted to talk with you about today was our kids and our grandkids. You know, we see more and more children becoming anxious, becoming depressed, being put on medicine, being sent home from school because they're upset or they're anxious, their parents aren't there, whatever it might be. And doctors will often prescribe medication to our kids more than ever. So, how do we teach our children to cope with anxiety, to cope with society?
Andi: I think it goes back to us first. Children are gonna pick up on what is happening in our lives, how we're responding to things. They are far more intuitive than we give them credit for sometimes. And so, they can actually pick up on our anxiousness and our fear, and it's going to in turn cause some behavioral issues with them. One of the things that we're seeing a lot with children are separation anxiety. Somehow they just don't wanna leave their parents. They're afraid of what will happen. It goes back to crying, bedwetting, stomach aches, all of these various things. This is how these children are showing that they're having some anxiety. So what can we do about it? Well, first thing is the parents have to get some control and realize that they may be feeding the monster that they don't want to have fed, and start calming themselves. When we start calming ourselves, it's easier to help our children learn to cope.
Peter: Right. The reassurance for the kids.
Andi: Right. Absolutely. And as far as medications go, in the medical field, that's what we're taught. That's the first thing you go to. And so, many times it is a matter of the heart and the brain working on these things together so that you don't have to medicate a child. That just covers up the problem. It doesn't fix it and it can actually make things worse in the long run.
Peter: Are there differences between men and women when it comes to anxiety, depression?
Peter: There are?
Andi: Oh, yeah.
Peter: Oh. We're not all the same?
Andi: No, we're not all the same, big surprise. Men have different anxieties than women do. And, you know, men are concerned about taking care of their family. They're the hunter-gatherers if you will. And so, they have a lot of pressure on them right now. They also have concerns about not only keeping that job but keeping their family happy and intact. And so it's a lot of pressure on men. Testosterone actually helps men. They don't deal with anxiety as strongly as women do. Women are very emotional and we have the hormones that go along with that. So, women are actually twice as likely to deal with anxiety and even lead into depression than men are.
Peter: How do you recommend that people deal with their stress and their anxiety?
Andi: I think the first things that we have to do is remember that this is a temporary thing most likely. And if we deal with things when they're small, they're actually going to be easier to deal with and not let them build up.
Peter: I know for some people, anxiety strikes close to home. So we talked about helping our kids, our grandkids. How do we help our spouse, if they are anxious or stressed, even our close friends that are suffering from anxiety and stress and depression? How's the best way when it strikes close to home?
Andi: Listen. And when you're listening, listen without judgment, because I think that's very difficult for us to do. And especially difficult for men because men are fixers. Women are more emotional, we tend to talk about our feelings a little bit more. But when we listen and we really listen, we look at the body language of the individual and the facial expressions, all of this flows in together, and you don't interrupt, and you don't ridicule, they actually feel heard. A lot of times, we just don't feel heard when we have anxieties.
Peter: How do I recognize anxiety in myself? Maybe I have some and I don't even realize it but others see it in me.
Andi: If you're not listening to what your body is saying, your body will tell you that you're having some anxiety. You're not gonna be sleeping well, maybe you're going to have a little bit of palpitations in your chest, or you just don't feel right. You may be a little stressed. Your muscles are tight. If you're not listening to your body, you're gonna miss those signals. If other people are telling you, however, "You know, Peter, this isn't the way that you normally act and, you know, what's going on?" Pay attention to what they're saying to you because they're recognizing what you are either ignoring or you don't recognize at all. But we'll see different character things within us as well. We'll be a little bit short-tempered, maybe we'll just pop at the drop of a hat over something that is very minor. Somebody spills milk, and it just sends you into a rage. Those are things that if it's an unusual reaction for your character, pay attention to those things. But definitely listen to other people because sometimes they recognize it before we do.
Peter: Okay. So, how has the COVID 19 pandemic affected our stress, impacted stress for us and society do you think?
Andi: I think it's had a very negative impact. People...we tend to be very social and that was taken away. We tend to be fearful for what we can't see and, of course, you know, the media, I think, has fed into a lot of that. And so, we have a lot of fearful people. The young people are particularly disturbing because it used to be that millennials were called millennials and they have a new name now. It's the anxious generation. So, we see young people who are not coping well. We see little ones who are having difficulty because of all the masks, they're not recognizing the social cues like they would have learned before. So, it's really had a huge impact. And then we have the financial impact and people that are worried over their jobs and the people that now are collecting unemployment that aren't worried about their jobs and I wish they would some, a little bit. But it's been a huge impact.
People have put off surgeries because they haven't been able to get into the hospitals. And people sadly have died alone because their family can't be with them. So it's had a huge emotional impact on everybody, physical impact because it does change, when we're under stress, it changes how our bodies work. But it's also had a big impact spiritually I am afraid. Maybe in some ways, it's been really good because it has brought some people a little closer, studying the Word more, getting together with brethren a little bit more, but there are some that are just so fearful now because they're looking at this is the end and what's gonna happen next. So, I think COVID's really had a huge impact on our nation and on all of us personally as well as spiritually.
Peter: In the healthcare industry where you work, especially with those that are going through hospice, especially, what's been the impact of COVID on the seniors and the elderly in nursing homes and hospice care and that type of thing?
Andi: We're seeing a lot more very ill people. And, you know, there were some people that were afraid to come onto hospice services, an example, because they didn't want to have people around them because of COVID and yet they really needed help. So, it denied them that privilege at some point. But also we're seeing a huge decline because of the lack of socialization, the lack of medical care, really because they haven't been able to go out and get the services that they would have normally gone to. Telehealth has been a problem because some of our older people don't know how to do telehealth. And as far as your Alzheimer's patients, we've had that distance from the family, that isolation and even isolation from individuals in the building. So that's been a huge impact. The masks have been a huge impact on some of the people because while they have forgotten a lot of things, the dementia patient, they haven't been able to do the facial cues, just like the small children. And so, it's really had a huge impact on healthcare overall. And some very sad situations where a family had to be with their loved one via Zoom while their loved one was taking their final breath. And that was just horrible. I can't even imagine the grief that that family is suffering as a result of it and even some guilt for not being there.
Peter: I think our little kids that are just 2 or 3, 4, 5 years old, they've grown up knowing nothing else but masks.
Peter: And so, I think it's probably gonna change their psyche some just from a health perspective, just having to cover your face, and like you said, not see those visual cues as they grow up to express their emotion and see what people are thinking, you know? Yeah. So, it's definitely impacted our stress.
Andi: Oh, yeah. It has. Definitely.
Peter: And what have you seen in the area of people being so depressed that they wanted to even take their own life? I've heard that suicide rates have gone up significantly during the last, you know, 18 months.
Andi: Oh, they have. They've really increased. And sadly, the ages of the individuals have also lowered. When you think about suicide, you don't think about it too much, you know, somebody's 35, 40 years old. But now we're getting younger, as young as 10, where these individuals are wanting to end their life. It's so sad. And I was quoting something from a helpline that there were calls that had increased from April of 2019 to April 2020, that the calls to the helpline had actually increased 890%, where people were calling asking about help for themselves, which is actually a healthy sign. They're not calling about their Uncle Joe or somebody else that...
Peter: They realize they need help?
Andi: Yeah, they do. And they're seeking that out. And I think that that's wonderful. I wanna encourage people to do that. There's nothing wrong with asking for help.
Peter: What are some of the things you can do for someone that you think has suicidal thoughts even? As a friend, what should you do?
Andi: It's very difficult with suicide because it's very multifactorial in what creates that desire to end life. But I think that when we listen, again, it goes back to listening, not judging, and helping them to see a different perspective by asking questions. What makes you think that, you know, life's not worth living? Well, what makes you think that life's not worth living? What's going on? Probe those questions. Don't be afraid. And, you know, even if you're talking to someone like that, eventually they may go ahead and complete their suicide, but it isn't because you haven't tried. You will have a lot of grief if you haven't talked to this individual and tried to understand what's going on. The other thing that you can do though, is there our suicide hotlines, there's all kinds of places where we can go and contact somebody and say, "This is not for me, but this is my friend and this is what's happening. How do I talk to them?" So, there are people that are very educated in that field and they will help you through so that you can help your friend or your loved one.
Peter: And I've been told that it's best not to leave that person alone until they do get, you know, professional help.
Andi: That is true. That is true.
Peter: Not to leave them alone.
Andi: But you have to be mindful that when you are with this person, you can't make them feel like they are a little fragile flower that's getting ready to break off at any moment. They have to have some autonomy in it as well. But I think the one thing that really is important is just to be available when they do wanna talk if it's 02:00 in the morning. But yes, don't leave them alone, but don't smother them either.
Peter: I went through a course at one time about helping people with suicide, and one of the suggestions was to even just directly come out and ask them, "Are you thinking of taking your life?" And just get them to point-blank tell you what they're thinking.
Andi: Yes. Sometimes it's that shock of someone asking that question that they're, "What? No. Why would I do that? So yeah, that's a good question.
Peter: Yeah. And it could shock them into not admitting it or not trying it.
Peter: Yeah. So, let's end part one here now. And we'll come back for part two. So, please stay tuned, and we'll discuss more with Andi, on how to move forward if you do find yourself under stress, anxious, depressed. So, stay tuned for part two.