The four letter word we need more of

It’s not the four letter word you’re thinking of - that word is used far too often

I am talking about a different word, a much more powerful word. A word that can get a family through the worst crisis imaginable, through a war or famine. Without this word, all is lost and people give up. The word is hope.

When it comes to mental health, some times hope is all we have.

In Alberta, with all that is happening in the economy, young men especially are choosing to end their lives at an alarming rate because, among other things – they have lost hope. There has been a rise of over 30% in suicide in our province in the past year leading to an average of one suicide a day.

That breaks my heart. Although I am supposed to write a weekly health, lifestyle and fitness article today I have been moved to write about this trend instead.

When I was a young teenager I went down this dangerous road. Thankfully, I failed at my chosen task. Speaking to a close friend this week who has recently lost his son, I tried to be supportive and share that it was not his fault. Having been in a similar situation once myself, I felt the need to stress the importance of this. It is not your fault.

I will get back to fitness and health, but before I do, I ask that you be on the watch for signs of a suicidal person. According to the government’s Mental Health site one should watch for these things:

– Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.

– Looking for a way to kill oneself.

– 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 feeling isolated.

– Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

– Displaying extreme mood swings.

Maybe, just maybe, if we can talk about this as a society we can in turn stop someone from losing hope. For those of us not in that place, hope is still critical. Hope is often all we have.

Any time you start something new, like an exercise program, you start with hope. Hope that your dreams and goals will come true or at least your pants will fit again.

With this tough economy and our ‘interesting’ government, losing hope is pretty easy. Lots of us are really digging deep to find a way through and hope is what we need. So how do you find hope when it seems all is crashing down around you? Everyone is different, but here’s what keeps me going some days:

1. Make a list of all the great things you have done in your life so far. Shoot for 100 at least. Remember to include all the things that were really hard, where it seemed you would not succeed, but you did.

2. Go outside. Nature is amazing and has no awareness of economy, politics, bad drivers or anything. Check Jarvis Bay trails and stare out at Sylvan Lake. The lake is truly full of hope.

3. Find yourself a ‘battery’. You know, those people that charge you up. They say great things and are always inspirational. Hang out with those people or just give them a call. Ask them how they are doing and what they are up to. Don’t talk about your problems yet. Then maybe bring them up and ask if they have a fresh perspective. Ask what they would do. Maybe there’s something you haven’t thought of. On the other end of this spectrum, you can also be someone’s battery.

4. Read inspirational material. Go to the library and get the book Unstoppable by Cynthia Kersey. It’s a book of 45 stories from people that overcame ridiculous odds to succeed. You can also download it for free. Just Google it. Or grab Amanda Lindhout’s book A House in the Sky. It’s amazing.

5. Write out what you wish your life was like a year from now, six months from now, three months from now and then go do anything that brings you closer to that. It could be a $1 lottery ticket or reading about starting a home business, doing 10 push ups, clearing out some junk from your cupboards. It doesn’t matter, so long as it fosters hope.

With hope, we can literally do anything.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.