When the body is chilled, things donít work right. To oversimplify, we humans are electrified bags of goo, the circuitry of which is very sensitive to cold, which explains why early symptoms of hypothermia are lethargy and confusion. The colder the body, the less brain activity there is, and the more confused and sluggish a person can become. This confusion can lead to a lack of awareness of what is happening: being hypothermic impairs your ability to understand that you are hypothermic.
In addition to confusion and shivering, mild hypothermia can also make a person feel hungry or nauseous, but the feeling will fade to apathy as the bodyís temperature continues to drop. Once youíre around 90 degrees fahrenheit, shivering stops and confusion worsens. This stage is known as moderate hypothermia, but donít let the name fool you: the next stage, severe hypothermia, means you are probably in a coma and are about to have a heart attack. In the precursor to such an end, the heart, struggling to maintain its electrical regularity in the absence of warmth, will slow down. It may become irregular in its rhythms, flirting with cardiac arrest. Itís at this stage of hypothermia that a person may feel compelled to strip off all their clothing, a phenomenon called paradoxical undressing. Despite all the research done on hypothermia, weíre still not really sure exactly why this happens. Something about the bodyís thermoregulators malfunctioning. Suddenly, the victim of hypothermia feels like their skin is much too hot. Itís why bodies are sometimes found frozen and naked in the snow.
Letís talk about suicide. Washingtonís rate of suicide is about 11% higher than the national rate, according to the Washington State Department of Health, with around 15 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages 10-24, and thousands are impacted by suicide loss every day. Itís time to do something.
Mental Health Awareness Month is coming up in May, but the need for mental health care doesnít stop there. Community organizations like Crisis Clinic work to spread a message of mental wellness that continues beyond the month of May through a variety of programs and services. Receiving over 260,000 calls last year, Crisis Clinic also aims to erase stigma that prevents people from getting access to much-needed care.