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Shine A Light

Although Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month has come to an end, CBP’s efforts to combat this crisis are nonstop. CBP has launched an annual campaign called Shine A Light to bring awareness to suicide risk factors while promoting and educating CBP employees and their families on the free, confidential resources available to them. There is no single cause of suicide, so throughout the year CBP will emphasize key themes, topics of focus, program activities and communication efforts to create a more informed and resilient CBP workforce.

Mental Health Awareness Month (May 2021)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Consider this a reminder to check in with yourself. 

How are you doing? 

The unprecedented pandemic, the pressures of events in our nation, and the current surge at the southern border impact us all in different ways.  It is important to take stock and acknowledge how you are feeling.

CBP encourages you to strengthen your resiliency by making time for self-care and re-establishing connections.  Reach out to the people in your life and your community.  Social connections help to strengthen us in times of difficulty.  By reaching out, it may help others in their times of need.  Often, the act of helping others can help you too.

Tips (for self):

  • Ask for help when you need it;
  • Identify mood-boosting activities that work for you, like exercise, meditation, or journaling; and
  • Practice self-care, such as eating well and setting boundaries.

For others:  

  • Stay connected and check in on loved ones; and
  • Be an active listener.

For community:

  • Get involved in volunteer activities; and
  • Participate in local resources and support events.

And as always, if you, a colleague, or a family member is experiencing an emotional crisis, help is available:

Stress Awareness Month (April 2021)

Are you feeling burned out, stressed out, or just plain tired? You are not alone. Pandemic-related symptoms of anxiety and fatigue are part of a normal response to the stresses of an abnormal situation. While there is such a thing as healthy stress—the short-lived kind that motivates you in non–life-threatening situations like job interviews or tight deadlines—the demands of the past year tend to fall outside that category. Left unchecked, chronic stress can harm your health and may contribute to serious problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression. The key is to determine the coping strategies that work best for you.

Here are some ways to manage and reduce stress:

  • Be mindful. Recognize the signs of your body’s physical response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping. Seek help right away if you have suicidal thoughts, feel overwhelmed and cannot cope, or use drugs or alcohol frequently to escape stress.
  • Get regular exercise. Adding just 30 minutes of walking to your daily routine can help boost your mood and improve your health. Getting out in nature is also a surefire way to reduce anxiety.
  • Create and maintain a consistent sleep practice. A good night’s sleep not only improves mood and memory, but also supports the release of proteins called cytokines that help the immune system respond quickly to pathogens that invade your body.
  • Stay connected. You are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help.
  • Take breaks during the day. Try “Box Breathing” to calm your body and mind: To begin, expel all of the air from your chest over a four-second count. Keep your lungs empty for a four-count hold without creating any tension. Then, perform your inhalation through the nose for four counts, while feeling the sensations of inflation/expansion. Hold the air in your lungs for a four-count. Maintain an expansive, open feeling while inhaling. Soften the body around any tension. Release the hold and exhale smoothly through your nose for four counts and repeat 4-5 cycles, allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.
  • Identify financial stressors and create a budget. Stress related to financial issues can be especially insidious, but the steps toward financial wellness are not difficult to master.

And as always, if you, a colleague, or a family member is experiencing an emotional crisis, help is available:

Financial Stress (March 2021)

If financial stress is keeping you up at night, you are not alone.

Money worries plague most Americans, consistently ranking at the top of the list of sources of stress. Financial stress affects the entirety of our lives—our mood, our relationships, our resilience, and our productivity at work. Over time, chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. In fact, financial stress ranks in the top 10 risk factors leading to suicide among CBP employees.

There are ways to get control:

  • Check in with yourself. Be mindful of signs that your body may be reacting to stress—difficulty sleeping, increased use of alcohol or other substances, feeling short-tempered or depressed, and having low energy.
  • Know that you are not alone. Remind yourself that money worries are at the top of the stress list for almost everyone.
  • Get perspective. Though you should try and refrain from irrational, catastrophic thinking (“I’ll be in credit card debt for the rest of my life!”), it can be helpful to think about your worst-case financial scenario. If the absolute worst thing that could logically happen is inconvenient but not life-threatening, it helps you keep things in perspective.
  • Ask for help. If your money worries have become overwhelming, ask for help. You can easily learn basic financial literacy which will help you feel empowered to change your situation.

CBP has free resources to help you become financially literate and empowered. Visit the Financial Wellness webpage to find links to financial wellness webinars, which are available to all CBP employees and their families. The webinars cover a variety of topics, such as Managing Money in Tough Times, Tax Tips, Investment Basics and Financial Planning for Couples and New Families. If you cannot attend the webinars live, you can still register to receive an on-demand recording to watch at your leisure. You may also contact the CBP Employee Assistance Program to request a free consultation with a certified financial advisor.

And as always, if you, a colleague, or a family member is experiencing an emotional crisis, help is available:

  • Call 911;
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255);
  • Call the CBP Employee Assistance Program (Password: CBPEAP) at 800-755-7002;
  • Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741; and/or
  • Find a local Chaplain, Peer Support, or Veteran Support member.

American Heart Month (February 2021)

Heart with text to the right of it that reads Drawing a Blank? Knowing Your Health Numbers Can Reduce Heart Health Risks

Shine a Light on American Heart Month

Valentine’s Day may be a popular time to reflect on what’s in your heart, but February is also a good time to consider the condition of your heart.

February is American Heart Month. Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in most groups, including CBP employees? Heart disease does not discriminate—it affects all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Risk factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes and excessive alcohol use.

Educating yourself is extremely important.  Know your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers and discuss them with your health care professional to maintain good numbers and to establish a plan for your specific needs.

Here are some healthy tips to lower your risk of developing heart disease:

  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke;
  • Check your cholesterol;
  • Check your blood sugar and glucose;
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation;
  • Be active; and
  • Eat healthy.

For more information on Cardio Health, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or view the February 2021 RRB Fitness Center Newsletter.

Related Content:

  • Mental Health and Heart Health: Medical research shows that biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health also influence heart disease.
  • Heart Disease and Mental Health Disorders: Some of the most commonly studied mental health disorders associated with heart disease or other related risk factors are mood disorders (i.e. depression or bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic stress. 

Mental Wellness Month (January 2021)

January is Mental Wellness month.  This year, perhaps more than any other, we need to give special attention and care to our mental health and that of our families. 

Resilience is the ability to withstand, recover, and grow in the face of life’s daily stressors and changing demands.  It allows us to overcome daily hassles and major obstacles while coping and adapting to adversity or stress, and leads us to become successful even when under significant duress.  It doesn’t mean we will not experience adversity; it simply means that resilience can protect us from the adverse effects of stressful life and events. 

Four domains contribute to resilience:  mental, social, physical, and spiritual. 

The Workforce Resilience and Engagement Division has made the Mental Wellness Activity below available to support the mental wellness and resilience of our CBP workforce and families.

Often times, many CBP employees may choose to not seek care for mental health issues, out of fear of jeopardizing their security clearance eligibility, duty position, and career. CBP values a hands-on, transparent, and proactive mental wellness approach, so the SF-86 Mythbuster webpage is available to demystify the career impacts of seeking help. 

Remember this:  Seeking help is a sign of strength.  Resolve to be Resilient!

Support is available for employees and their families through the Employee Assistance Program (Login with the password CBPEAP) or call 800-755-7002; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255); or Chaplain, Peer Support, and Veteran Support here.

Mental Wellness Activity

This simple activity from CBP’s Basic Resilience Skills Course —is a short, targeted activity designed to help strengthen resilience in the Mental Domain. 

Resilience Domains & Tenets: Mental Domain; Socrates thinking image with text Awareness: Self, Awareness: Situational, Decision-Making, Adaptability and Resilient Thinking

  1. Cultivate Positivity: Think about one good thing that happened during the last 24 hours. Specifically, something relatively small that went well (a good meal, a peaceful moment, or a goal achieved). Ask yourself these questions and write down your responses:
  • What about this good thing is important to you right now?
  • Why is this good thing meaningful?
  1. Define the Best Version of You:
  • Describe yourself when you are feeling proud.
  • When are you at your very best?
  • What emotions or thoughts do you experience when you are at optimal performance?
  1. Deep Breathing: First, find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. While seated, remain upright and attentive but not stiff and tense. If comfortable for you, close your eyes.
  • Start by taking slow, deep breaths all the way down to your abdomen.
  • Next, begin to breathe rhythmically. Count 5 seconds as you inhale and 5 seconds as you exhale while focusing on a physical sensation associated with your breathing (e.g., air moving in/out of nose, breath sounds, and your stomach moving in/out).
  • After a few minutes have passed, open your eyes slowly and begin to adjust your breathing and sensory intake back to normal.
  1. Savoring: The act of mindfully attending to the experience of pleasure. Savoring is actively trying to prolong and/or intensify a pleasurable event by ruminating over either the anticipation of it, the experience during it, or the reminiscence of all of the most enjoyable details. In the next 24 hours, try savoring moments in the following ways:
  • Share your positive feelings: reach out to someone and explain to them a moment when you experienced positive emotions during the past few days.
  • Take mental photographs: capture moments and images cognitively that are special to you.
  • Eating: enjoy the excitement prior to eating your food. Take time to smell it and take in its aroma. Eat slowly and mindfully while noticing tastes and textures.
  1. Notice Three Things:
  • First, find a comfortable, quiet place to sit. While seated, remain upright and attentive but not stiff and tense.
  • Start by focusing on things around you.
  • Think about three things that you can see. Look at the environment around you.
  • Next, think about three things you can hear around you.
  • Finally, notice three things that you can feel in contact with your body.

For more information on basic resilience skills training, visit the Resilience Skills Training webpage. 

Helping Kids and Teens Cope With Loneliness During COVID-19 (December 2020)

Teenager sitting on the ground with head buried in her lap

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed family life but this challenge also brings the opportunity to come together within our families to build strong relationships.1, 2

Social isolation, loneliness, chronic stress, health concerns, financial worries and difficult life transitions can play a role in suicide, but we also know that connectedness and a sense of belonging can protect against suicide risk. While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for everyone, staying at home or practicing social distancing may be particularly hard for some children and adolescents.3

Although the potential mental health impact of the current pandemic exists, there are ways you can promote your child’s mental health resilience to this pandemic, and counter loneliness.4

Parental Tips

  1. Schedule time for interactive play. An example could be playing a board game with family members. This activity allows younger children to engage in practicing social skills like taking turns and negotiating roles.3
  2. Allow for private space and provide support. Older kids may need a place to be alone or enjoy peer friendships and escape the togetherness of staying at home.3
  3. Understand the importance of being online. Many adolescents need social interaction with peers. Familiarize yourself with the apps teens are using and ensure safety parameters are in place.3
  4. Support physical activity. Encourage your children and teens to exercise daily to help counter stress and stay resilient.3
  5. Provide extra reassurance. Children may need reassurance to counter feelings of worry and improve coping. Enhanced parental support can involve more hugs or regular checks on how your child is doing.5
  6. Stay connected with family and friends. Set up scheduled calls or video chats to allow your child to spend time with other family members and friends who are an important part of his or her life.5
  7. Be empathic and talk about feelings. Your child may be sad about missing an important social event (ex: birthday party). Acknowledge their experience, ask about their feelings and let them know you understand. You can also encourage your child to write about their feelings and identify what they miss. It is important to provide empathic listening to teens and avoid minimizing their feelings.5,6
  8. Explore alternative celebrations. Help teens explore virtual substitutes and remind them that the situation is temporary and there will be future opportunities to celebrate with family and friends.6

References

  1. Cluver, L., Lachman, J. M., Sherr, L., Wessels, I., Krug, E., Rakotomalala, S., ... & Butchart, A. (2020). Parenting in a time of COVID-19.
  2. Szabo, T. G., Richling, S., Embry, D. D., Biglan, A., & Wilson, K. G. (2020). From helpless to hero: Promoting values-based behavior and positive family interaction in the midst of Covid-19. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 1-9.
  3. Adapted from: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/social-distancing-effects-on-social-development
  4. Banerjee, D., & Rai, M. (2020). Social isolation in Covid-19: The impact of loneliness.
  5. Adapted from: https://www.mayoclinic.org /diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/help-kids-cope-with-loneliness-covid19/art-20490135. Accessed 12012020
  6. Adapted from: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/8-ways-to-help-teens-cope-social-distancing-blues 

National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month (October 2020)

ISP is an anonymous web-based way to reach out to the EAP. Employees and their eligible family members can access a short questionnaire to learn more about their mental health. Participants will receive personalized response from counselor who can answer questions and inform about available EAP support services. EAP offers employees and their eligible family members up to 12 free and confidential face-to-face counseling sessions each year.

Did You Know?

One in four people live with mental health problems but of those, only one in five seek treatment. 

What Can You Do?

The Interactive Screening Program (ISP)—a completely web-based way to reach out to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (Password: CBPEAP) for connection, engagement, and treatment. Employees and their eligible family members can access a questionnaire—which takes about 10 minutes to complete—and receive a confidential, personalized response from a counselor. 

Note: The Standard Form 86 (SF86), Questionnaire for National Security Positionsdoes not require employees to report counseling related exclusively to grief, family, or marital issues, or counseling related to military service. More information is available here.  

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October 2020)

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is a pattern of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse used by a partner to gain or retain power in a relationship and is a risk factor for suicide.  If you are being abused, or know someone who is, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org.

Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is a pattern of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse used by a partner to gain or retain power in a relationship and is a risk factor for suicide. Research also indicates a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. The added stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has disconnected many from their support systems and stimulated or worsened violence in homes.  If you are being abused, or know someone who is, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org.

And as always, if you, a colleague, or a family member is experiencing an emotional crisis, help is available:

  • Call 911
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Call the CBP Employee Assistance Program (Password: CBPEAP) at 800-755-7002
  • Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741
  • Find a local Chaplain, Peer Support, or Veteran Support member 

If you have any questions, contact cbpresiliency@cbp.dhs.gov.