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  • The World Health Organization has declared suicide prevention a global imperative. Every year World Suicide Prevention falls on September 10th. This year I interviewed Professor Rory O’Connor as he prepared for the 30th World Congress of Suicide Prevention in Derry, Northern Ireland. Rory O'Connor B&W.pngAbout Professor Rory O’ConnorRory O’Connor was “born to be a psychologist,” knowing at an early age he was fascinated with human behavior and emotions. Currently he is a Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glascow and the Director of Suicidal Behavior Research Laboratory. The personal impact he has experienced in losing people he cared about to suicide helps to fuel his passion for learning more about the experience of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. His Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behavior is well respected internationally.Professor O’Connor is a global leader as the Past President of the International Academy for Suicide Research and the current Vice President for the International Association for Suicide Prevention. For more information on this episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/43

  • As we approach National Suicide Prevention Week, it sometimes feels like a multitude of voices are clamoring for attention with various (and sometimes conflicting) messages. How can we cut through the clutter and be heard? One place where we can learn lessons is from is big business. A recent article by Peter Gasca in Inc. magazine called “Get Your Message Heard With This Simple 5- Step Checklist” offers helpful tips to the suicide prevention community. The 5-Step Checklist for Effective MessagingAdd Value — does your message improve the lives of those who receive it? Is it helpful? Is there a clear call to action?Be Clear — does your message get to the point and have a direct call to action? Are you using jargon or acronyms?Be Concise — does your message use as few words as possible? Better yet — have you considered an infographic to convey your message?Be Compelling — does your message use urgency, storytelling, humor or something unexpected to get the receiver’s attention? How are you engaging others?Be Credible — are you trustworthy? Use citations and get your information from highly credible sources.Recently, with major news coverage of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and celebrity suicide deaths, we are having more conversations about suicide, but are we having the right conversations? Are we telling a more powerful tale? In this episode Dr. Bart Andrews shares his story of deciding to “come out” as a suicide attempt survivor, how he challenges “safe messaging guidelines,” and what he believes are most important suicide prevention messages need to be.About Dr. Bart Andrewsbart andrews headshot B&W.pngBart Andrews, PhD, is Vice President of Telehealth & Home/Community Services at Behavioral Health Response. Dr. Andrews is the Chair of Missouri’s Suicide Prevention Network, Co-Chair of the Suicide Lifeline’s Standards, Training and Practices committee, a member of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) Steering Committee, an SPRC ZeroSuicide Academy Faculty member and member of the American Association of Suicidology’s Executive Board of Directors. Dr. Andrews is a suicide attempt survivor and a proponent of embracing of lived expertise in our suicide prevention efforts. For more information about this episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/42

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  • If you are thinking about getting involved in suicide prevention or suicide grief support, we need you. You have a place and your voice matters. Learn more in this interview about how to get involved in my interview with Colleen Creighton, Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology. OverviewSocial movements tend to follow predictable phases in their development. In a paper I co-authored with Dr. Danielle Jahn called “Tracking a Movement: U.S. Milestones in Suicide Prevention” we discussed four stages of development that seem track the emergence and decline of a wildfire: Stage 1: A Spark is Lit — at this stage individuals are triggered by a shared belief that something isn’t right. People start to come together in small groups over water-coolers and in coffee shops and become agitated together. Stage 2: Combustion and Local Coalescence — at this stage many small local pockets begin to enrolls new voices and create local strategy, and momentum builds. Stage 3: Fully Developed and Consuming Energy — here we have bureaucratization with broader levels of standards and coordination and enrollment of universal systems like media, education, healthcare, faith communities, politics and workplace. Stage 4: Decay and Decline — momentum dies out. In this interview we talk about how the movement is gaining traction through new directions in research to practice, media responsiveness, community engagement and legislation. Join the MovementJoin now: https://www.suicidology.community/general/register_member_type.asp?Join now: https://www.suicidology.community/general/register_member_type.asp?Do you want to get involved? One step you can take is join the American Association of Suicidology — membership is accessible for all. JOIN AASColleen Creighton Headshot.jpgAbout Colleen CreightonColleen Creighton joined the American Association of Suicidology in June 2017. Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE), a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the safe and responsible use of consumer household products. She also served as Director of CHPA Educational Foundation where she was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association’s educational foundation.Prior to her work in the nonprofit foundation arena, Ms. Creighton worked in the educational field, having taught civics education at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels. Additionally, she spent three years in Lancut, Poland working for the International World Teach program, an organization based out of the Harvard University Center for International Development. Before that, she studied NATO and the European Union at the Irish Institute for European Affairs in Leuven, Belgium.Colleen holds a B.A. in Political Science from the Catholic University of America and a M.A. in East European Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. For more information on this episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/41

  • Faith community leaders are often first responders after a suicide death. Sometimes, as in my family’s situation, faith leaders do an amazing job in supporting a highly traumatized and confused family through their grief journey and facilitate a memorial service that both honors the life that was lived without shying away from the tragedy of suicide. Other times families feel compounded shame and guilt and experience additional layers of loss because of how faith leaders address suicide. Faith beliefs are sometimes shattered in the aftermath of suicide, and anger at God is not uncommon. https://theactionalliance.org/faith-hope-lifehttps://theactionalliance.org/faith-hope-lifeFrom a suicide prevention standpoint, faith communities can foster compassion and support for people who are experiencing hardship, and can use theological reflection to help people make meaning. They can also work closely with mental health resources in the community to build bridges and increase their mental health and suicide prevention literacy. When faced with intervening with someone they are worried about, faith leaders can be trained to expand their pastoral counseling skills to identify someone in an emerging suicide crisis and to help them build out their safety net. Should a suicide impact a faith community, faith leaders are often called upon to conduct memorial services and ofter pastoral care, and thus, would benefit greatly from understanding suicide grief and trauma and best practices in safe and effective messaging.According to Dr. Melinda Moore, 85% of clergy know that helping people in a suicide crisis is part of their responsibility, but they don’t know what to do. In this interview with her, we explore some of the findings from a recently released guidelines from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention called “Suicide Prevention Competencies for Faith Leaders: Supporting Life Before, During, and After a Suicidal Crisis.” We also discuss ways that faith communities can offer support through the National Weekend of Prayer and the resources offered through the “Faith-Hope-Life” campaign. Melinda Moore headshot B&W.pngAbout Dr. Melinda MooreDr. Melinda Moore is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. She is in private practice in Lexington, Kentucky, and routinely trains clinicians in suicide-focused treatment. Dr. Moore serves on the board of the American Association of Suicidology as the chair of the Clinical Division and is the co-lead of the National Action Alliance’s Faith Communities Task Force. She recently published The Suicide Funeral: Honoring their Memory, Comforting their Survivors (Wipf & Stock) with her co-author Rabbi Dan Robert. She conducts suicide bereavement research at Eastern Kentucky University with an emphasis on Posttraumatic Growth (www.posttraumaticgrowth.com). She received her PhD from The Catholic University of America. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/40

  • All over the globe, young Indigenous men have some of the highest rates of suicide. When we take a closer look at this trend, we understand it is much less about individual mental health issues and much more about the consequences of historical trauma. Programs addressing suicide prevention in these communities are promoting culture and community connectedness through storytelling, ceremony and reclaiming culture. These cross-generational initiatives are rooted in values that link the past and present. Values and priorities like honor, identity, pride and resiliency. In this interview I interview my dear friend and one of the most resilient people I know, Shelby Rowe, who shares how she was inspired by her ancestors to be a “designated culture keeper.” For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/39

  • In the US, the construction industry is the top industry with the highest suicide rates and largest numbers. Historically, mental health and suicide have not been considered safety priorities, until now. In this podcast a global safety expert helps us connect the dots.Safety professionals are well-versed in “the fatal four” — falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between — and know that if they are able to prevent these forms of deaths, they will save almost 600 lives each year (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.). What most safety professionals are not aware of is that suicide in construction kills takes many more lives. A recent study published by the CDC (Peterson, et al, 2018) found that in their sample 20% of all men who died by suicide in the US were in the construction/extraction industry. In 2017, 47,173 people died by suicide, 27,404 of them were men ages 20-64 (CDC, 2017). If 20% of them were in construction/extraction that means we can estimate that over 5,000 men working in construction/extraction died by suicide — over 9x more than all of the fatal four deaths together.When a workplace fatality happens, the cause is almost always determined to be “accidental” and a deeper investigation into intent to die is not undertaken. The remedy is then to do more safety training. When we look at the fatal occupational injuries, however, the first two most common (transportation incidents and falls) are also common ways people think about taking their lives (CDistrosby et al, 1999; De Andrade & DeLeo, 2007). Thus, it is possible that some if not many of these workplace fatalities are actually suicide deaths, which then means that safety training may not be effective in preventing them.The reason suicide has not concerned safety professionals before is that most suicide deaths do not occur at the workplace, and thus, were not considered a work-related fatalities. Today, we know different, and there are many things workplaces can do to make suicide prevention and mental health promotion health and safety priorities. There are many reasons why mismanaged mental health conditions and unchecked suicidal thoughts can lead to safety concerns:Distraction: having suicidal thoughts and symptoms of illnesses like depression, anxiety and addition are intense and trying to hide them from other people can make them all-consuming. For example, racing or intrusive thoughts as experienced by people living with bipolar condition, trauma or thought disorders like schizophrenia can be very distracting. This distraction can interfere with decisiveness and safety planning. Impulsivity, Impaired Perception and Judgment: agitation, tunnel vision, distorted thinking and paranoia are common symptoms among several mental health conditions. When left untreated these symptoms can interfere with workplace security and morale.Fatigue and Microsleep: sleep disorders are common in many forms of mental illness and suicidal intensity. Insomnia is present in many forms of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. People living with depression often experience lethargy and what is known as anhedonia – of the inability to feel pleasure. Sometimes extreme fatigue can result in microsleep (Kock, 2016) where the brain involuntarily goes “off-line” to a sudden sleep state for a matter of seconds. This state can have disastrous consequences for many safety-conscious professions. Other Medical Complications: When mental health challenges reach crisis levels, other physical health challenges involving pain, gastro-intestinal problems and heart functioning can result.Risk-taking and Disregard for Safety Precautions: When people are overwhelmed by the emotional pain in their life and have come to a place where the only way they can get out of this pain is to die, they often consciously or subconsciously start to take more risks or even practice suicidal behavior as they test out their capacity for self-harm. TJ Lyons Headshot.jpgAbout TJ LyonsTJ Lyons is a safety professional and regional manager for a large mechanical contracting firm in the Northeast. He has had the opportunity to serve as Safety Director for some of our largest general contractors and has extensive experience working overseas. Currently he is overseeing work across the US supporting some of the greatest safety professionals in the world. One particular focus is on the sons and daughters who do our hard work every day. Whenever he gets the opportunity he takes the time to listen to those in the field. Often that results not only in a safer workplace but a happy and more trusting group of what he calls, friends. He lives with his wife Tracy in 200 year old stagecoach stop house near Saratoga, NY. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/35

  • “Be vocal, be visible, be visionary. There is no shame in stepping forward, but there is great risk in holding back and just hoping for the best.” ~Higher Education CenterWhen it comes to suicide prevention in the workplace, we need bold leaders — leaders who are willing to take a stand and say, “suicide prevention matters to me, and it matters to our workforce.” We need leaders with a vision to aspire to a zero suicide mindset and to yield their influence to creating a culture of caring and mental wellbeing. When workers are having a hard time, we need leaders to notice and tell them, “If you reach out to me when you are suffering, I’ve got your back. I will persist with you until we’ve found the right support and resources to help you be your best self again. You matter to us and we need you to achieve our mission.”In this episode we will hear from one leader who is doing just that within the construction industry — within labor specifically — building upon the culture of “we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”About Chris CarloughChris Carlough.jpgChris Carlough is the Director of Education for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and is a tireless advocate for union members and their families struggling with substance use disorder, suicide prevention and other mental health issues.Through the SMART MAP training initiative, SMART is building a network of trained compassionate union members who offer support and guidance to union members and their families struggling with a variety of chemical dependency issues. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/2019/4/34

  • Did you know?Approximately 30% of ALL ER visits end with a prescription for a opioid. (Teater, 2015)Approximately 60% of patients going to the ER with back pain will get an opioid prescription. (Teater, 2015)Primary care doctors give opioids to about 35% of their patients presenting with back pain. Pain is the most common reason for people to go to the ER or to their primary care doctor. (Teater, 2015)One opioid prescription after an injury doubles the risk of being disabled at one year. (Teater, 2015)The combined deaths among Americans — suicide and unintentional overdose — in 2000 was 41,364 deaths and in 2017 was 110,749 deaths. (Bohnert & Ilgen, 2019)The good news is there are shared prevention approaches, and we are learning more and more as the silos between those addressing the opioid crisis and those addressing suicide begin to fall away. In this podcast Dr. Don Teater and I explore how opioid use and suicide are connected and what we need to do to find better ways to alleviate pain and suffering.Teater, D. (2015). Prescription Opioids: The Real Story.About Dr. Don TeaterMedical Advisor National Safety Council Don is a family practitioner from Western North Carolina. His practice now concentrates on the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorder. Don was the lead facilitator for the expert panel discussion during the development of the CDC guidelines for treating pain. He continues to contract with the CDC on educating prescribers on the treatment of acute and chronic pain. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/33

  • For the past century, the science of suicide prevention has not revealed much that is highly promising; however, innovations coming from the research lab of Dr. Matt Nock are quite exciting. Join us as we talk about his work with electronic diaries, attentional bias, ketamine, and much more. Findings that are helping us be able to better predict suicide risk and find more effective ways to prevent this tragedy. About Dr. Matt NockMatt Nock headshot.jpegDr. Matt Nock received his Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University (2003) and completed his clinical internship at Bellevue Hospital and the New York University Child Study Center (2003). Nock’s research is aimed at advancing the understanding of why people behave in ways that are harmful to themselves, with an emphasis on suicide and other forms of self-harm. He has been published in over 250 scientific papers and book chapters. Nock’s work has been recognized through the receipt of four early career awards from the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the American Association of Suicidology.In 2011, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. In addition to conducting research, Nock has been a consultant/scientific advisor to the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Childhood and Adolescent Disorder Work Group. In 2017, he was named the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/32

  • Well before we had writing and certainly before we had powerpoint, people were sharing stories. When it comes to suicide, we must “tell a more powerful tale” — one of resilience and redemption. When we cultivate stories that describe experiences of coming through unimaginable suicidal despair or suicide grief, storytellers “make meaning” and broader societal changes are possible. In other words, storytelling is good for the storyteller, and when done safely and effectively, it is good for the listener and can powerfully shift culture. In this interview Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona and I talk about the neurobiology and cultural implications of the power of the story to heal.About Dr. Lewis Mehl-MadronaLewis Mehl-MadronaDr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona is the author of the “Coyote Trilogy,” (1998, 2003 & 2005), “Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process” (2007), “Healing the Mind through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry” (2010) and “Remapping Your Mind: The Neuroscience of Self-Transformation through Story” (2015). A Stanford educated MD, Mehl-Madrona is familiar with brain science and pharmacology, and while he does not eschew Western medicine when it is helpful, he seeks to find additional answers and alternatives to well-being. Inspired by his Cherokee grandmother’s storytelling and tapping into Lakota, Cherokee and Cree traditions of healing, he has spent his career understanding how storytelling converges with neurobiology.Mehl-Medrona and others involved in Narrative Psychology have noticed the power of stories to transform our lives and shift our inner voices from victim and chaos to redemption and honor. The spiritual journey and healing use of storytelling has been at the cultural center of many indigenous peoples including the Maori, Africans, Mongolians, Aborigines, and Inuit for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and there is much we can learn from the oldest living cultures on earth. For generations within many tribal communities storytelling is valued for it healing capacity, especially when connected with ritual. Paula Gunn Allen, a Laguna/Sioux writer describes “medicine stories” as ceremonial narratives that alter states of consciousness — creating connection between body and spirit. In other words, language in the form of narrative is medicine (ardenhegele, 2017). For Mehl-Madrona, what we can learn from these native traditions is the mindset of narrative medicine, and that these values and practices are portable across cultures. Frustrated with how conventional medicine ignored the experiences of the patient, Mehl-Madrona believes that by crafting our personal, family, and cultural narratives, we can reshape the dysfunctional patterns of our lives and the larger worlds in which we interact. While modern medicine has made tremendous advances, both the speed of interaction and the high-tech approach has created more distance between the healer and the helped. The practice of storytelling as a healing practice can help bridge this gap.In his book, “Healing the Mind through the Power of Story,” Mehl-Madrona explains that many people who are suffering emotionally are not defective or ill, requiring drugs to “fix them”; instead what needs “fixing” are the sabotaging internalized stories that have seriously challenged their self- and world-view. The healing then comes from “telling a more powerful tale” about their lives. We construct story to reduce the chaos of our experience. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/31

  • " target="_blank" class="SocialLinks-link itunes" style="">Suicide & The Workplace -- Globalization, Job Strain, and the Dark Side of the New Economy: Interview with Dr. Allison Milner | Episode 30NOTE: This podcast will air on 2/26/19 at 10:00AM ET https://soundcloud.com/user-225414284-842732102OverviewToo often when we talk about mental health promotion and suicide prevention in the workplace, the main message is about how to get workers who are suffering to counselors. Not enough attention is paid to the environmental aspects of the workplace that may be contributing to despair and what peers, managers and leadership can do to solve these problems. The research is clear — job strain is connected to suicide risk (Milner, et al, 2017). In particular certain types of job strain are related to suicide attempts and death:Low control (limited decision-making)High demand (pressure, workload)Effort-reward imbalance (e.g., high pressure/expectations with little reward — income, respect or security)Job insecurityBullying/harassment (Leach et al)On this podcast I interview an international authority on workplace suicide and mental health research, Dr. Allison Milner. Join us as we explore some of the social determinants of suicide through a social justice lens in the world of work.“Suicide prevention doesn’t just magically happen on the psychiatrist’s couch…It happens peer-to-peer. We need the day-to-day interactions to support mental health services and help resolve issues when they are smaller.”About Dr. Allison MilnerAllison MilnerDr. Allison Milner is a Deputy Director of the Disability and Health Unit, Melbourne School Population and Global Health, the University of Melbourne. Her current areas of research interests include the influence of gender, employment characteristics, quality of work, and occupation as determinants of mental health and suicide. Allison also focuses on specific employed groups that may be particularly likely to face disadvantage, such as blue-collar workers in the manufacturing and construction industry. Allison’s work ranges across a number of externally-funded etiologic and intervention projects. She works with key policy stakeholders to promote research on the link between work and mental health, and is the co-chair for an international panel of researchers aiming to promote workplace suicide prevention. She has been awarded the Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowship for her work on gender, employment and mental health. In this work, she is progressing the concept of “gendered working environments” as a cause of health inequalities. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/30

  • While peer support and peer specialist efforts have long existed in areas of mental health communities and post-critical incidents, their role in suicide prevention has been more recent. Some feared that peer support might increase vulnerability through the “copycat” phenomenon. Others were concerned that suicide was just too complicated of an issue for peers to try to take on.Then we listened to the voices of people with lived experience with suicidal intensity who told us over and over that peers played an incredibly influential role in not only bringing them back from the brink, but giving them new reasons for living and hope. Peer supporters and peer specialists also told us that helping others helped them.The Helper Effect This “Helper Effect” is a well-established phenomenon where people use the wisdom they have gained through living with a problem to help others with the same or similar problem, and in return their own recovery is strengthened. There are many reasons why this is so:Makes meaning and affirms recovery. When we are applying the insight from our own experience while helping others, we can sometimes think, “Well, I wish I never had to go through my hard time, but now that I have, I can use my inner wisdom to help another in a way I wouldn’t have been able to without the experience.”Feelings of social value and respect. Helping others is an honorable role — even when we feel like imposters — we can feel a boost when others have confidence in our abilities and knowledge.Keeps helper accountable to wellness. When we find ourselves in a position of supporting another person, we often think, “I need to take care of myself for me AND because now I am a role model for someone else.” OR as my colleague Chris Carlough once said, “You are like a lifeguard — you can’t be tired if you are saving the lives of others; you need to be strong enough for two.”Reciprocity. When we “have each other’s backs” and are willing to be vulnerable with one another, we develop high trust relationships. Our safety net for emotional crises is strengthened.It feels good to do good. When we connect in positive ways our brain releases endorphins and oxytocin that helps us feel bonded and improves our self-image.In this interview I get the honor of chatting with Lt. John Coppedge, whom I met through the Denver Police Department’s Peer Support Program. Lt. Coppedge was a key leader in our “Breaking the Silence” video and training workbook with the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Here he shares his journey about his own trauma history and how it has helped shape his passion for peer support.Lt. John CoppedgeAbout Lt. John CoppedgeJohn Coppedge has served as a police officer with the Denver Police Department since 1992. He currently serves as the Director of Training, as well as supervising the departments employee wellness and resiliency program. He has volunteered as a peer counselor with the agency’s Peer Support team since 2002. John received his BA in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Regis University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He is pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling also from Regis University. When not working, John enjoys spending time with his wife Joni, his children and grandchildren. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/29

  • After listening to many people describe their experiences with suicidal intensity, I and others have come to think about the clash between the will to live and the desire to escape unimaginable emotional pain as an “epic battle” between fierce forces. On one side is the warrior fighting to live, continuing to make future plans and persevering toward health and vitality. At the same time the pain this warrior is battling can be all-consuming. In this interview we hear from one man about his “epic battle for recovery” and how he bolstered the strength of his inner warrior who fought valiantly for a passion for living. Gabe Howard is not just managing his bipolar condition and hanging on the edge, he is living well. In other words mental illness and mental well-being are two different dimensions.About Gabe HowardGabe Howard headshot.jpegwww.gabehoward.comIn 2003, Gabe was formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. He weighed 550 pounds and had been living with mania for the better part of a year. He felt so hopeless that he rented an apartment so he could carry out his plan for suicide. AND at the same time he commenced treatment in the fight for his life. Once his recovery was in motion, Gabe honed his writing and speaking skills and became an activist. Today he is fighting a new battle — one to end discrimination and prejudice for other people like him who are living with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar and schizophrenia. He is an award-winning writer contributing to The Mighty and the NAMI Advocate and publishing My Mental Illness is an Asshole and Other Observations. In addition, he produces two podcasts: the Psych Central Podcast and A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic and a Podcast. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/28

  • I first became aware of the power of humor in wellness through my involvement with Cactus Inc. and our Man Therapy initiative. In this program, we used humorous outward facing media to draw men into the website portal and then self-assess for depression, anxiety, anger and substance use issues. When we evaluated the program, the humor was the #1 thing the guys told us they liked because it helped put them at ease. Having a sense of humor is a sign of emotional well-being. Here are five ways humor helps our wellness:Stress-relief: When we laugh we increase our endorphins and decrease our stress-related hormone cortisol. These responses help us relax.Connect: Humor pulls down social barriers and helps us overcome conflict.Distraction: Humor can take our mind off our problems. A good coping strategy when you are feeling blue is to put on your favorite stand-up comedian or funny movie.Perspective: When we can laugh at ourselves, we can often find the funny in our distress and put our woes into perspective.Positivity: Humor gives us positive feelings like hopefulness and amusement that can counter-act dysphoric moods.In this interview I get the opportunity to chat with the “Mental Health Comedian” Frank King. Frank has used his sense of humor to help open up conversations about depression and suicide from classrooms to corporate conference rooms. Join me as we put on our “giggle goggles” together and learn more about how laughing helps heal us.About Frank KingFrank KingFrank King, The Mental Health Comedian, was a writer for The Tonight Show for 20 years.Depression and suicide run his family. He’s thought about killing himself more times than he can count. He’s lived with Major Depressive Disorder and Chronic Suicidality turning that long dark journey of the soul into 5 TEDx Talks, and sharing his lifesaving insights with corporation, association and college audiences.Coming out, as it were, and standing in his truth, and doing it with humor.He believes that where there is humor there is hope, where there is laughter there is life, nobody dies laughing. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/27

  • While only 2% of suicides are murder-suicides, the narrative of this tragedy dominates public consciousness. Due to the fact that the circumstances are horrific, and the media reports on these stories more frequently and with more details than most other community tragedies, it’s not surprising that we feel overwhelmed. What is often not discussed is the unimaginable grief and trauma left behind in the families of the perpetrators. In my interview with Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, we learn more about why she spent many years in hiding and what she is doing now so that other families don’t have to experience what hers did.Sue Klebold and cover.pngAbout Sue KleboldSue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters at Columbine High School in 1999 who killed 13 people and injured more than twenty others before taking their own lives. Since the tragedy, Sue has worked to understand the crucial intersection between mental health problems and violence. From her book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (Crown, 2016) she is donating all author profits to mental health and suicide prevention organizations. She is a member of the Loss and Healing Council of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and a member of the Consumer Survivor Subcommittee of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/26

  • “I don’t expect my friends to understand what I’ve been through. When I’m around Veterans, like-minded Veterans, I don’t have to explain myself. They already know.” ~Male VeteranIn this podcast, Master Sergeant Christopher D. Jachimiec shares the tragedy of losing his brother Adam to suicide. We explore our shared grief experiences as sibling survivors of suicide loss and the making meaning process. Out of catastrophe we have options — to get buried under, to gloss over or to go through. Chris found his higher purpose was “honoring the dash” — our lives are not about the start date or end date, but what happens in between. During the interview, Chris shares so many resources (many listed below), key steps in the journey of healing, and lessons learned from Viktor Frankl.Pictures of Chris and Adam growing up.Pictures of Chris and Adam growing up.ABOUT MASTER SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER D. JACHIMIECChris J headshot.png Master Sergeant Christopher D. Jachimiec is the Section Chief, Quality Assurance for the 99th Communications Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. He serves as the principal advisor to the commander on cyberspace policy, evaluations and compliance for 130 assigned individuals and provides guidance on cyberspace efforts to six wings and over 52 tenant organizations. He leads 20 Wing Inspection Team members who ensure established directives and public law is being adhered to. He advises and mentors organizations and teams on continuous process improvement and problem solving methods. Chris J and plane.jpgSergeant Jachimiec was born in Palos Park, Illinois in 1980 and graduated from Muskego High School in Muskego, Wisconsin in 1999. He entered the Air Force in September 1999. His background includes various duties in the Security Forces and Radio Frequency Transmission Systems career fields along with service in the First Sergeant Special Duty Identifier. His stateside assignments include Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases and his overseas assignments include Osan Air Base and Ramstein Air Base. His deployment experience includes tours to Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait and Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Additionally, Sergeant Jachimiec was one of thirty Airmen selected to augment the United States Secret Service during the 2012 Presidential Campaign, is a certified Master Resilience Trainer and leads peer support groups in the local community. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/25

  • When we talk about suicide bereavement, we often think about the grief part of the response, but sometimes we forget that the experience of losing a loved one to suicide is also traumatic. When a parent loses a child to suicide, the complications of traumatic grief are frequently unparalleled. For many, their core beliefs about the world and themselves are shattered and the pieces take a while to pull back together — like “someone pulled the pin on the grenade and threw it into the (emotional) center of the family.” The order of how life is supposed to go is disrupted, and it takes a long time to make sense out of what happened. People often stumble around in their suicide grief state while other things start to fall apart around them. Families can sometimes also find resilience and even transformation during their recovery pathway.What about the people who surround the parents bereaved by suicide — the first responders, the coroners, the funeral home directors, the healthcare providers? Sometimes these people are also so shocked they don’t know how to support the family. Sometimes these people are also fellow grievers.In this interview we follow the journey of Dr. Sharon McDonnell. In 1990 she lost her brother to suicide, and she found herself on a ‘mission to move mountains.” Today she is a world leader in suicide bereavement research. Her dissertation was entitled, “Identifying the Experiences of Parents Bereaved by Suicide or Undetermined Death.” Listen to the lessons she has learned along the way.Sharon headshot.jpgAbout Dr. Sharon McDonnellDr Sharon McDonnell is the Managing Director of Suicide Bereavement UK and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester (UoM). She has specialized in suicide bereavement research for 18 years and is considered to be one of the leading researchers in this field in the UK.Prior to setting up Suicide Bereavement UK, Sharon was employed by the University of Manchester. During this time her research team developed PABBS (Postvention: Assisting those Bereaved by Suicide) evidence-based suicide bereavement training, which was informed by a 3yr study funded by government and first of its kind internationally.Sharon’s team is currently conducting a national suicide bereavement survey, which is being conducted at the UoM in collaboration with Support After Suicide Partnership. Over 7,000 people have completed it, making it the largest suicide bereavement survey internationally. A report will be launched 25th Sept 2019 at Suicide Bereavement UK’s 8th international suicide bereavement conference. The findings will be of national and international importance. sharon.mcdonnell@suicidebereavementuk.comTwitter: @SJMcDonn For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/24

  • In this podcast I interview Sebastian Slovin, author of “Ashes in the Ocean: A Son’s Story of Living though and Learning from his Father’s suicide. We touch upon themes of survival, stigma and safe space and how he was able to grow up in the shadow of suicide and piece together a narrative and a life worth living. Sebastian shares to other men, “Not feeling does not work” in the grief healing journey. He talks openly and honestly about how peer and professional support — even spiritual connections — can make a big difference in letting men know they are not alone in their bereavement by suicide. About Sebastian SlovinSebastian Slovin headshot.jpgAs a young boy, Sebastian Slovin lost his father to suicide, which would deeply inspire his path in life. Later, he had the opportunity to travel extensively as a professional bodyboarder. He holds a BA in Environmental Policy from San Diego State University and an MA in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. Sebastian’s recent memoir, Ashes in the Ocean, is about living through and learning from his father’s suicide. Since releasing his book Sebastian has been sharing his story to a wide range of audiences. He has also been featured on a variety of media including National Public Radio, Fox 5 News, the San Diego Union Tribune, and numerous podcasts. . For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/23

  • Mental health crises occur when our ability to cope is overwhelmed by the internal and external stressors in our life. Sometimes crises are related to inner experiences like worsening depression, mania, psychosis or other symptoms of a mental health condition. Sometimes they are in reaction to an external stressor like trauma, divorce or intense grief. Often times it’s many things coming together in a point in time. For whatever reason, in that moment, people often feel unable to resolve the situation with the resources they have and feel out of control and hopeless.Here’s one thing you should know: Crisis can happen to anyone.One common symptom of people in this temporarily heightened state of emotional distress is agitation where people have trouble sleeping or thinking straight. One way people try to cope with these uncomfortable feelings are by self-medicating by consuming alcohol or drugs. Others may isolate and shut down. Still others may seem to be much more irritable that usual and they may find themselves reacting violently. When the emotional intensity becomes so unbearably painful, people think about suicide. Crisis services are our safety nets. The people who offer support here are our angels behind the curtain.As the Crisis Text Line says, “The goal of crisis services is to help someone move from a hot to a cool moment.” People who are trained to help de-escalate emotional crises listen to the callers and help them create a plan to stay safe for now. The crisis support is not only there for the person in crisis, but for the people who are worried about someone. Today’s podcast will explore the day in the life of a crisis support center — how it works, what to expect if you or someone you care about needs some help getting back on track. My interview with Jennifer Battle explores the social justice roots of the evolution of crisis support services and her deep gratitude for the work she does every day. About the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255NSPL Logo.pngNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 159 call centers in 49 states in the US and provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is independently evaluated by a researchers from Columbia University.Call volume to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has grown significantly since the inception of the Lifeline in 2005. Between 2016 and 2017, calls increased 32% and over two million calls were answered. There are a number of factors contributing to the 2017 call volume increase including more awareness of the Lifeline number through social/public health messaging efforts (ex. BeThe1to campaign), the release of Logic’s rap song entitled “1-800-273-8255,” his performance of the song at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2018 Grammy Awards. When the first season of 13-Reasons Why aired in 2017 this may have also contributed the the influx of calls. Finally the Lifeline number is often highlighted following the deaths of high profile individuals such as musicians Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park), Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, and this promotion is likely to contribute to continued call volume increases. About Crisis Text LineCTL Logo.jpgText CONNECT to 741741The Crisis Text Line has had over 83,421,416 messages exchanged since August 2013. Every person to texts the Crisis Text Line is connected with a Crisis Counselor, often in less than 5 minutes. The Crisis Counselor then engages in active listening and collaborative problem solving to help them develop a plan to cope. All of Crisis Text Line's Crisis Counselors are volunteers, donating their time to helping people in crisis.About Jennifer BattleJennifer Battle headshot.pngJennifer is a proud social worker and Program Director in the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program at The Harris Center for Mental Health in Houston, Texas. Jennifer oversees The Harris Center Crisis Line which serves as the crisis line for 34 Texas counties. The Harris Center Crisis Line partners with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as well as the national Crisis Text Line. In collaboration with the Houston Police Department, Houston Fire Department, and Houston Emergency Communications Center, Jennifer supervises the Crisis Call Diversion Program. This team routes people calling in through emergency services who have stated they have a mental health concern away from a law enforcement or EMS response and to a more appropriate level of care through local behavioral health options.In addition to her work at The Harris Center, Jennifer serves as the President of the Board for the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD) and is the past Co-Chair and current member of the Texas Suicide Prevention Council. She serves on the Steering Committee for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/22

  • In many societies we are predominantly youth-focused and overlook the healthcare and policy needs of our elders. This ageist perspective often leads to cultural scripts that prevent us from listening better to alleviate suffering and increase reasons for living, and ultimately help us all live well into our golden years. In the podcast our panel includes two experts a leading researcher of geriatric psychiatry and a co-founder of United Survivors Suicide International who has tremendous experience in many national board positions leveraging the perspectives of people with lived expertise. Together they bring sound research and stories about the resilience of our elders — their life satisfaction and happiness and tactics to ward off the 5 D’s of suicide risk: Depression, Disease, Disability, Disconnection and Deadly means.Together they passionately advocate for age-friendly health systems and communities, especially more providers with specialties in working with elders. Together let’s shift the attitude and appreciate more for the value our elders, “When we lose an older person, we lose a library.”Heidi Bryan.jpegAbout Heidi BryanHeidi is a suicide attempt survivor who also lost her brother to suicide. She has been working in the suicide prevention field since 1998 as an advocate, QPR Master Trainer, speaker, and author. Heidi founded Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Council in 1998 which is now known as Prevent Suicide Pennsylvania. She served on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Suicide Attempt Survivor Task Force, and is currently on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Consumer Survivor Committee.About Dr. Yeates ConwellYeates Conwell.JPGYeates Conwell, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry at the University ofRochester School of Medicine and Dentistry,where he is Director of the URMedical Center¹s Office for Aging Research and Health Services andCo-Director of the UR Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide. Heis immediate past president of the American Foundation for SuicidePrevention and chair of its Scientific Council. Dr. Conwell received hismedical training at the University of Cincinnati and completed hisPsychiatry Residency and a Fellowship in Geriatric Psychiatry at YaleUniversity School of Medicine. In addition to teaching and service systemdevelopment, Dr. Conwell maintains a clinical practice with older adultsand directs an inter-disciplinary program of research in aging, mentalhealth services, and suicide prevention.. For more information on this and every episode go to https://www.sallyspencerthomas.com/hope-illuminated-podcast/21