Holidays, depression, and ways to help from WPD and MHRS

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — If you or someone you know shows signs of depression or even suicide, it’s always good to seek help and talk to someone — whether it’s the holiday season or any time of year.

Over the past few weeks, the Wilmington Police Department has responded to multiple calls of subjects who were possibly suicidal. Ashley Dunn, who joined the department in March, is one of the officers who responded to some of them.

According to her, there is no set way police handle these calls since each one is different, and they go on the information they have.

WPD officers take a special three-day training course to become crisis intervention team members. But even then there’s no go-to way of handling each situation.

“When you get there, there are people who are cooperative. They know they need to go to the hospital, they’re having a mental crisis, they’re reading to go. Other times it’s people getting called in by family members who are concerned about them. So when we get there they have no idea that anyone has even called for them,” said Dunn.

One of the calls Dunn responded to was a college student who told them she was intoxicated, was having an anxiety attack, had mental health issues and agreed to be transported to the hospital.

“With a mental health crisis, you speak to them in your normal, calm tones. Sometimes if they’re sitting down, you can get on their level to speak with them. It makes feel more comfortable,” said Dunn. “You always want to approach it as trying to talk them into realizing they’re not healthy and they need help.”

Dunn says anyone with feelings of depression, anxiety, or thoughts of hurting themselves should seek out help. She said the police department will always come out and talk to people. There are even Solutions workers who come to the department certain days to help.

“The answer is never to commit suicide. You leave more behind than what you realize. It hurts more people in the end. I would say reach out, however you feel comfortable,” said Dunn.

According to the Mental Health Recovery Services (MHRS) of Warren & Clinton Counties, suicide warnings include talking, writing or posting about wanting to die or kill oneself, looking for ways to do it, increased alcohol or drug use, acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, sleeping too much or too little, being withdrawn or feeling isolated, displaying extreme mood swings and showing uncontrolled anger.

The person may also talk about feeling hopeless/having no reason live, feeling trapped/in unbearable pain, or being a burden to others.

Colleen Chamberlain, Director of Adult & Community Support Services at MHRS, notes that there is a difference between being suicidal and depressed, and just having the blues.

“The difference between having a bad day and real depression is that depression has a much longer life. As opposed to just having the blues where you have a couple of downer days,” said Chamberlain.

Signs of depression, according to Chamberlain, include changes in appetite and sleeping patterns and any loss of interest in a hobby. Tommy Koopman, Director of Prevention and Wellness at MHRS, said when MHRS teaches mental health first aid, they say that depression lasts more than two weeks.

“I think sometimes just by engaging in a conversation you can feel some of it out. See if you can get a sense if they’re just having a bad day or if it’s a long-term issue.” Koopman

Koopman said he teaches students to ask, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself or others?” and “Do you have a plan?” Depending on the answers, they determine the next step. Which can depend on whether they’re in immediate danger.

Chamberlain said they are plenty of crisis prevention hotlines, or people go to the emergency room since they’re open 24/7 which may have mental health people on standby.

The MHRS crisis hotline is 877-695-6333 and the text hotline is text “4hope” to 741741.

Koopman said there are MHRS kiosks in Clinton County — where they can take assessments for depression and anxiety — at the Blanchester Public Library at 119 N. Broadway St. and the Wilmington campus of Southern State, 1850 Davids Drive. The assessments are also available at

While the WPD has received multiple calls on suicidal subjects this time of year, high suicide rates around the holiday season are a myth, according to Chamberlain, with springtime the highest and fall second highest. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t feelings of anxiety or depression around the holidays.

“Everybody perceives this time of year as a very happy time where we’re supposed to be celebrating. We all have issues that we’re dealing with,” said Chamberlain.

Many people might have lost a relative or it could be the first holidays without a relative. But a celebration can have positive and negative feelings surrounding it. Chamberlain attributes some of it to the aforementioned losses but also additional stress and people getting out of a typical routine.

“Schedules get altered and we’re trying to cram a lot of things in. We do better with routine. When we get out of that we’re not sleeping as well, we’re overeating. It really can affect your anxiousness and irritability,” she said.

Keeping a routine this time of year is a way to handle anxiety or depression. She also recommended working out, eating healthy, and stepping back and de-stressing whenever you can.

“Getting that gift wrapped isn’t the end of the world,” she said. “Don’t put too much stress on yourself, remember what the season is about. Think about the time you spend with friends or family. Try to reach out and make connections, don’t isolate yourself.”

By John Hamilton