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Transcript of It's Okay If You're Not Okay podcast 09/16/2019

Kate: As I was sitting here, I was trying to think of a word that would encompass about 900 different things that I would say...

Renee: Not fair.

Kate: Yeah, I know. I like how can I find a loophole with this?

All: Hello listeners. I'm Keith. I’m Kate. I'm Josh. I'm Renee. And It's Okay If You're Okay.

Keith: September is suicide prevention month. So today we're talking a little bit about that. Now specifically, what is the one thing, if you had to, if you had to pick just one thing for the community to know about suicide prevention, what would it be? Renee why don't you get us started.

Renee: That is not a fair question. Man, one thing, biggest takeaway or biggest message I want out there is that anyone at any time experiencing any type of suicidal ideation or thought is not alone.

Kate: I love it.

Josh: Yup. 100%.

Renee: You might feel alone. That is real. You are not alone. I feel super compelled. I know this is probably going to come up a little later. I want to give the crisis line for the, for Johnson County Mental Health Center right now. If that's acceptable.

Keith: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Renee: Okay. 913-268-0156. 24 hours a day, every single day of the year. Don't contemplate if it's an okay scenario to call a helpline or a crisis line, just call, just call, just call a so you're never alone. If you have access to a phone or another human being with a phone or another human being, that's it. You're, you're not alone. Even when it is so dark and it is so lonely you're not alone. That's one of the hardest things to express to people

Josh:  When they're, when they're feelings so dark and so, so sad and feeling like they need to, to end their life is that they're not alone even in that moment. 

Renee: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Cause it's, it's that, that, that place of that loneliness than that, that fear and that isolation. I just, I just, again, if we could reach one person and my, my one message gets out there. You are in those thoughts. You are in that place, right? Just do a half circle. Okay. Do, do a half circle. Do an about face, do a quarter turn. Even if you have to do it physically or do it metaphorically and go do a grab a phone. Do I grab someone's hand? What, what do I, what do I do before that attempt to just reach out to another lifeline and again, use that crisis line. Ah, you're not alone.

Keith: There's also a national crisis line, both phone and text. So the text line, crisis text line is 741741 and Kate, help me out with the national lifeline.

Kate: (800) 273-8255 and 8255 is also a TALK, if that helps.

Keith: That's great. Yeah. Yes. That's awesome. So for our listeners who are outside of Johnson County, anybody can call the Johnson County Mental Health Center's crisis line and get help. But we wanted to provide those national resources too, for those who might want to connect, connect in that way.

Kate: The national suicide prevention lifeline also has an online chat. So if you don't have a phone with you but you've access to a computer or maybe that just feel safer for you, they do have a chat line available on their website that you can go to as well to reach out and they have veterans lines, I think you call the same number and then you hit 1 for the veterans line. But definitely reach out. They have a lot of different ways that you can do that.

Keith: Great. I think that that message about you are not alone is really important. It's also really challenging because a person who is in those moments of deepest despair, that's probably the feeling they feel the most.

Renee: Oh, Oh, I I, yes. That's why it's so tough to just have a simple line of, I want people to know they're not alone, but I also want them to, even if it's hear me saying, I recognize one of the things you might only be feeling in that moment is utter loneliness, right? And that those two things can and are true. You feel alone and everything in your world paints this picture and this feeling of you are alone. I want, again, to get that one liner stuck in your head. You're not.

Josh: I also want to know, I also want to add to that is that when you're, when you're thinking that you're alone and you feel that, Oh, if I ask for help, I'm going to be a burden. If I ask for help, that is not true either. Everybody that loves you will be doing anything they can to help you. You are not a burden. You're not at all.

Keith: Josh, while you're there at the microphone, close to your lips, what's your one, what's your one message on and suicide prevention.

Josh: So recently our family has been impacted by a young man completing suicide. My eldest son had a good friend that, that died by suicide recently. And so we've, we've been processing that a lot in our household.

Renee: Can I kind of say thanks for doing that? Absolutely. Right. Thanks for doing that with your family. I appreciate that.

Josh: It's, it's been, it's been an interesting road. I have dealt with suicide professionally and personally in my life. This is the first time that I've had to deal with it, with one of my kiddos in the sense of a friend of his. And so that's been, that's been another layer of this issue that I, I guess I wasn't really expecting. As a, as a parent. So I've been spending a lot of time talking with him through the why and that he and the, cause, that's the question he asks is a lot of the why. And so, and I, and I told them that there's a, you'll never know the why. And your friend was very sad and, and, and felt alone. And even though he wasn't alone, that's how he felt. So I've been doing a lot of processing around that. So the thing that, the one thing that I think is the most important, right this second for, for my end of this is that to ask the question. To be able to say to somebody, are you thinking about killing yourself? And I think when you ask it as bluntly as that, and I actually learned, I was a clinician before I learned to ask that question, that direct. And I went through ASIST Training, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills that to ask that question directly. And so I would I would say to anybody listening that if you think for one second, somebody in your life is contemplating suicide, ask the question or something's just different, different. Off. Something. Yes. And so I think that's, I think that's important to, to know is that you can ask the question. It's just you just can.

Kate: And that by asking the question, breaking down that myth that when I ask someone, are you thinking about killing yourself? Or are you thinking about suicide? That that's not gonna put the thought of suicide in their head. And so sometimes we hear from people and we talk about what are your concerns about asking? What keeps you from asking the question? Fear. That's one of them. What if I don't have the answer? If they disclose that or I don't have the resources. But we also hear that myth of if they aren't thinking about it and I say, are you thinking about killing yourself? That then they are going to start thinking. And that's we just know that's a myth. What we know is that when you ask the question, what you're doing is you're letting them feel heard sometimes for the first time that someone's willing to love them and care for them enough that they're willing to ask the uncomfortable question. We also know that by asking the question, if the answer is no, I'm not having thoughts of suicide, that really is what's happening is you're breaking down those walls. And if that individual ever does think about suicide, they now know who the person is in their corner, who they can go to, who's not afraid to have that conversation. Exactly. It all comes together. Everything that's being said,

Renee: Which is why I started off with that's a really unfair question. Cause I think one thing is so, man, and one thing is so difficult. I love the question on the other hand,

Josh: Right? But is it really one thing?

Keith: No, it's under the guise of one thing.

Josh: But with that idea is that we all have our one thing which ends up being a lot more than one thing because we're a lot of things. Right?

Keith: I think it's interesting that you're thinking about that question to ask. That's a question you can ask to people of any age and that conversation is different. Maybe like the one that follows, but I mean that could be asked of a five year old or a 95 year old and there's, and there's other you know, like the way you respond and continue that conversation might play a little bit different, but it's the same question and it's okay to ask that and then to listen and to affirm the feelings but then also say, okay, what, you know, what, what are the next steps or what, how can I help you? Or and, and, and moving, moving forward with that.

Renee: Keith, remind us what class you are taking.

Keith: What class right now? In my graduate programs. Microeconomics. Someone in a microeconomics class. I, I just love that, right? That this isn't your maybe career walk of life, but that you've been around us and in this mental health world and have made a commitment to embracing and understanding and can now really be an advocate and a mouthpiece for a really important topic and I had to point that out. Good job. Im proud of our little Keith here.

Keith: So the class I thought you were talking about at first is actually the class that I learned that in, which is Mental Health First Aid. And so that's so Josh mentioned ASIST. The Mental Health Center also has Mental Health First Aid and then we also have Safe Talks. So three different classes that are available to community members to take kind of different levels responding to suicide prevention. So those are all available. You can check out jocogov.org/mentalhealth and then look under Education on the left side or just email [email protected]. And you can find out when the next training is.

Kate: And they're all different durations and times. So you can think about your level of commitment with your job and family. Definitely get informed and get involved.

Keith: Yeah, for sure. I will pause here for our disclaimer for the podcast. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Johnson County government or Johnson County Mental Health Center. Who has the next thought here?

Kate: I'll go ahead and go cause I, mine goes along with that. And so as I was sitting here, I was trying to think of a word that would encompass about 900 different things that I would say...how can I find a loophole with this. So I'm going to say education, I keep it broad but I think it all comes together because my talk, when I think about education, it's just getting yourself informed. We know that 80% of those who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. And so when I think about that, the importance of knowing what that can look like, taking our blinders off and knowing that for example, depression doesn't look the same from one individual to the next. And so a responsible social media use, you know, making sure that we, if we see something on social media that our friend is posting, that just doesn't feel right, that we're reaching out. And so for me, I would, I just, education is a big piece of it. And getting people involved. And knowing, again, breaking down those myths and that help us get people informed and again, going back when you start to become educated on the topic because anyone can be educated on it, I'm not clinical. What we then do is we break down the stigmas and we make it easier to have that conversation and to break down our fear. So when I talk with parents, last year I think I did about five parent presentations, and I every single one, one of the biggest concerns they had about talking with their kids about suicide was if they got the answer, yes, what are the resources that are available and you can reduce some of that fear by having the education and the awareness and the resources in your back pocket. Because suicide impacts everyone to some degree and it knows no boundaries. There's no typical suicide victim. And so having that information there,

Keith: The crisis line that Renee mentioned earlier, specifically Johnson County Mental Health Center crisis line, that's a number you can call if you're with somebody else who is having a mental health crisis too. It's not just for you. If you're personally having a crisis, if you're with somebody and you're in this conversation and you're not quite sure what to do, that's a place you can call in a moment to get help and guidance.

Josh: I just want to say something real quick and if you can't remember the crisis line for whatever reason, call 911. It is okay to call 911 if you feel like you want to kill yourself,

Kate: And you can ask for a coresponder with that if they have them in that location, which is a trained mental health clinician who goes out with the officer. There is a wealth of resources that are available with that, but I lost the train of thought that I was going...

Renee: Crisis intervention, so a CIT officer, crisis intervention team officer also has an additional 40 plus hours of mental health training and exposure. So you are more than welcome to inquire about a coresponder. You are more than welcome to inquire about a CIT officer and you're just plain old. Okay. Asking for help and let them know, I am not feeling safe right now. I need some assistance and letting them guide you.

Kate: And I will say I sat with a youth rather recently and called the crisis line with someone that I was concerned about. And as scary as it may feel in that moment to make that call, and I can only speak to the Johnson County crisis line. It is a crisis line that provides empathy and validation and makes you feel safe in a moment that feels scary and they give you the resources and they normalize the feelings that you're experiencing. It's not as scary as it may feel to some. And so I just encourage everyone, cause sometimes that first fear is just not knowing what is going to look like on the other end. And it's a clinician on the other end who wants to be there for you and wants to support you. And that's kind of what it looks like and call, reach out, get the help you need and deserve.

Renee: And that number again is (913) 268-0156.

Josh: I also wanna talk a little bit about that the thoughts of suicide are normal in the sense of most people in their life have had some sort of a thought that was suicidal in nature. So it's...

Renee: It's okay if you're not okay!

Josh: It's okay if you have that thought because everybody in their life has thoughts have existed that way. So you are normal just like everybody else. When you have a thought like that, it's, it's, it's what happens next and what we choose to do and how and how we express ourselves and ask for help and, and who's supporting us and all of those.

Keith: I think a lot of these strategies we've talked about as far as asking questions and having the resources with you and, and talking about parent classes, it's I always, I repeat this over and over again. You'll probably hear me on more than one episode reminding that no one conversation happens in a vacuum. Like you have the whole other context of that relationship that pours into that. So Josh's ability to walk with his son through this recent tragedy, like that doesn't just happen out of the blue. Like there's all the years before that leading up to it where Josh and his son are building that relationship and the team that Kate mentioned, the same thing. There's, there's some context of relationship there. And so I say that to encourage you to continue to reach out and connect with other people to build those relationships. If you're a teacher, think about the students in your class who need another positive adult in their life. If you are a faith-based person working in the community, look for those people who don't seem to have other connections and make sure you say hello, how are you? And listen for the answer. Just make those connections because you have to start somewhere and being able to ask those, those other questions. So I think my one thing that I would say from the communications perspective is the language we use is really important when we're talking about suicide prevention. And, and I have some of that's been modeled here in this episode where we say, "a person completes suicide." They don't "commit suicide." We don't say that they were successful, a successful attempt at suicide. We, we make that language different to help remove some of the stigma. We talk about some of the language you use when we're talking about someone else's experience. It's not a, it's not positive to share the method by which somebody else commit suicide. Particularly in communication methods. Can someone, one of you with a little bit more clinical perspective, share a little bit about why that's important for us?

Josh: Well, I'll just step in and say that, you know when, when we also use the language of "die by," right? Like death by suicide because people have heart attacks, people have brain tumors, people have aneurysms. People get hit by cars, people die in car accidents. It's just another method that somebody has died by not good or bad or I mean...

Keith: It takes a value or a moral evaluation away from the conversation

Josh: Way of phrasing it. So that's, that's why language is important when doing that even clinically or non clinically and how we use it. So that's my take on that.

Keith: I think the other language pieces around you know, beyond how we talk about it. And then method, I think that the last piece is the tendency to find blame. And so there, there is that natural like asking a question of why, right? Like, how did the person get to this place in their life? And we wonder that. And sometimes there's some answers and sometimes there's not. There's often a whole lot more not answers on a why. Then there is, we need to check ourselves when we start blaming either ourselves or somebody else for somebody's death by suicide. Right.

Josh: And I think we get, we get real judgy when it's a mom or it's a dad with young children.

Keith: How can they do that to their kids?

Josh: They get real judgy on that and to me, I've been guilty of doing that at times in my life and I had to step back and go, it's, it's the same across the board whether they're single or married or have a family or not have a family. Everybody has a family on some level. Right? And so I, I really try to educate people that not to get wrapped up in that and that judgment of they had young kids, how could they do that? It's just that the why is the same. They were sad and felt alone and they felt like they are, we're a burden and, and better off this way, which is usually the why.

Keith: Yeah, it made me think on that. So while we would encourage people not to try and place blame on somebody else or themselves or the judging piece, there is like a natural process in the stages of grief, of feeling anger towards that person. Like if it's like if it's someone you know that you're close to that dies by suicide, it's natural. And that grieving process to feel anger about that. Right? It's not unnatural.

Renee: I'll jump in there. And I think that grief has been compartmentalized historically in like, there's five stages of grief. I want to blow that out of the water just a little bit. To your point, you can feel anything while you grieve. Every loss has a moment of, of grief if you will. And, and I used to do kinda tie it back to some of my other work I used to do was I used to do a really fun hour long training series on loss. I mean, it really was fun because I want to remind us all that we are innately equipped to be resilient and grieve in healthy way. We celebrate things. We lose teeth as children. Okay. Because it is a sign of growth and development. So I wanted, I want to challenge everyone's thinking in the, in the world of loss, any emotion is absolutely acceptable to include anger, to include bargaining, to include guilt, whatever those words you want to put with it, it all does come back to what are the behaviors? What are the actions that you take because of those emotions? But let yourself feel. Let yourself, if anger is the only thing you feel after that person's completed suicide, that's your grief. And that's okay. But in that anger, it's refraining from judgment. It is refraining from aggressive or self harming or mutilating behavior. It's the actions that we want to say, Hey, listen, how do we help you manage this? Because you're angry. And that's okay. So yeah, I just kinda wanna just interesting segue, but right with a completed or even attempted suicide death is, is a potential or an actual -- that's loss. That's grief. It's tough stuff.

Josh: Personally, I tend to stay away from anger. When it comes to suicide it doesn't do me any, any it's not effective for me in the sense of because I understand why the person, I get it. So I spend a lot of time in compassion for them. I spend a lot of time in compassion for their family and empathy and and not, I can't say that I've never been angry at somebody that has completed suicide there cause that would be untruthful because I have but most of the time now in my adult life, I spend a lot of time in compassion for them

Keith: What I wanted to affirm in bringing that up in which Renee helped frame it a little better. I wanted to affirm what Josh was saying as far as not blaming or judging people that that is not helpful in like the long term, how we're preventing suicide. But while at the same time affirming the the feelings that some of our listeners might be having who have experienced it and not, and make sure they realize that it's like that it's okay if that's a feeling and emotion they've had during, during their experience of grief. Okay,

Josh: If you feel it, it's valid.

Renee: Yes. I that I hope that's where I hope that's how it came off. Not that I was trying to refute anything you were saying Keith, but really truly promote you can be angry and that's okay.

Kate: And to get your own support when you are experiencing, there are plenty of support groups that are available for those who have lost a family or a friend or a loved one to suicide and to again feel the feelings and to accept those feelings and to work through that. And you can often do that when you know that again, that you're not alone. And having just as we've said before, that the peer support and those support groups available, I mean call Johnson County Mental Health Center or other organizations and we can link you with that support that you need. And again, as I said this before, that the support that you also deserve. So I would also just mention that.

Renee: So for the folks that might be listening and might have lost a loved one to suicide or recently or historically, you're not alone either. Right? That's a great point. Any anybody in this, in this journey, whether you've experienced it personally or maybe you fear experiencing it personally, you are, you are not alone. And if it's really truth is, if it's a safe, as a crisis line or a text or a chat, please utilize that. That is one of the things that I'm thankful for technology right now in the way that we're able to interact with that. Or if it is, I need a hand. I need an arm. I need a shoulder so I can do that 180.

Josh: I also want to say to the listeners that you're, you're not alone if you've had, if you've been impacted by suicide cause I've been impacted by suicide. I know, I know firsthand what that feels like. Yeah. So you're not alone. It's okay to to reach out to family members, to talk about it, to continue to try to work through the the strange feelings that you have. Cause it's a strange feeling when you have somebody that you love complete suicide because sometimes you feel weird stuff. Sometimes you feel numb. Sometimes you feel anger, sometimes you feel sadness. And all in a matter of seconds

Kate: I would say you can go in and out of those feelings. Yeah. Oh yeah.

Renee: And be cognizant too if you've experienced these thoughts, if you've experienced a loved one, either with an attempt or a completed suicide, milestones and anniversaries, really sting,.

Josh: Those are, those are true things.

Renee: I mean, some things can just creep up on you and you're like, ah, I don't know. Maybe I can't stop crying. Maybe I just don't feel regulated. I would encourage you to go look at a calendar and just kind of go, Mmm, wow. Get to know that date and just do some, do some preparation with that. Cause milestones, anniversaries, man, our body remembers.

Keith: Okay. It's suicide prevention month. The biggest message to drive home is you are not alone. And we're here to help. So feel free to reach out.

All: I'm Keith. I'm Kate. I'm Josh. I'm Renee, and It's Okay If You're Not Okay.