Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Properly Wear a Cape

Some days, I feel as if I am balancing my life pretty well: saving lives, changing the world, achieving goals by day, earning a graduate degree by evening, and making Pinterest worthy meals and decorations*  for my husband and kiddos at night. I have even been called Super Woman**.  This was definitely not the case this week.  A client relapsed after a year of sobriety and was struggling.  I learned that my new school schedule would be at the exact same time as my sons’ practices so not only was I going to miss the practices, but I would also have to rely on others to help transport them to and from the practices. Not to mention the vast amount of work that this semester of grad school would entail.  I felt like yanking my cape off and tossing it in the corner.

I began to wonder how many other people felt similar. Those capes that we once wore proudly begin to become tattered, worn, and dirty. The same piece of fabric that once lifted us up and made us feel invincible and proud now weighs a ton and is threatening to drag us down.

Then, I asked for help. I contacted my support system, my framily, my cohort, and husband.  I cried, vented, and asked for suggestions. They listened, validated my feelings, and offered to help. Slowly, I felt as if the weight of my cape was decreasing and it didn’t seem nearly as heavy as it was before I spoke with them. It felt as if each member of my support system was helping to hold the cape up, mend it, and help me clean it off.

You see, we all wear different capes because we all do amazing things every day. We are all everyday superheroes, if you will. However, we all need a support system to help hold our capes up from time to time. The people in the support system then become everyday superheroes. The point is that none of us can be Super Woman or Superman all the time nor can we do it alone.

*-Ok, not total Pinterest worthy meals and decorations. That may be a slight exaggeration.

**-Although I appreciate the compliment, I’m not even close to Super Woman. She saves the world in tights and a skin tight body suit. You win lady. I’ll just keep my cape.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two things you can do to help save a life

What if I told you there are two things you can do to help save someone’s life. Would you do it?
There are two things that all of us are capable of doing that can help save someone’s life.   This may come more natural to some of you, but for some of us, we may have to work on it.

The First One is Listening

Notice that I didn’t say hearing; there is a big difference in listening and hearing.   I love the way Mental Health First Aid teaches about listening.  It talks about listening without judgement.   This means listening just to hear what the other person has to say and to learn why they are hurting.    One of my favorite people, Grateful Berthia spoke at our recent conference and he stated “Listening saved my life”.  He was talking about Highway Patrol Sergeant Kevin Briggs. Even before Grateful  Berthia knew who it was listening to him, he knew he was being listened to. That is one example of how important and powerful listening can be.   Grateful Berthia shares in his TedxTalk all about the Impact of listening

Grateful Berthia presenting at #SEMOSP16

The Second One is Share Your Story
With at least one out of five people struggling with some type of mental health concern in any given year, there are a lot of people with lived experience in the world. When sharing their story in an appropriate way, people with lived experience can be very beneficial to helping others who may be having the same or similar struggles.   PLEASE NOTE:  you should only share your story when you are comfortable and only share what you are comfortable with sharing.   
It took me almost twenty years before I was ready to share my story.  I can tell you that it has been rewarding and therapeutic for me, but it has also been scary at times.  

Some tips:
1.     Make sure you want to share your story
2.  Know why you want to share your story
3.  First share your story with one or a few people you trust and feel comfortable around.   I remember the first person I told my whole story to was Heather Williams. She listened and I did not feel judged so I shared with a few other co-workers. As my confidence grew, I began to share it openly, when I feel it is appropriate or beneficial to help someone else.  
4.  Be prepared for the emotions you may feel after sharing your lived experience

My friend Josh Rivedal is an international speaker who helps share the value of telling your story.  When presenting,  he helps explain how sharing a story can be very helpful, beneficial, and inspring.   Josh believes in this so strongly he decided to have a book series called the iMpossible Project . So far there is one book in the series in which 50 different people share their story; the stories show just how powerful and resilient humans can be.  

Josh Rivedal performing part of his story #SEMOSP16

Imagine a world where people can feel safe to share their story and know that they will be listened to (non-judgmentally).  This is the world I am working towards in my own life.   I think we have so much we can learn from each other, if we only listened.  I think we all can benefit from being listened to as well.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sharing Stigma: Pitbulls and People with Co-Occurring Disorders

Gator, a Boxer/Pit mix and Zeus, a Pit, are anxious awaiting a treat for sitting still long enough to take a photo.

I never realized how much my role of a pit bull owner and my role of a co-occurring substance abuse specialist would intertwine.

“Aren’t you scared they are going to turn on you?”

“They are so violent!”

“They are just bad. You can’t fix them.”

“Aren’t you scared for your family?”

“Lost causes.”

Those are all statements that I have heard in regards to when people learn I’m a Pitbull Mama and work with people with co-occurring disorders. The fear and ignorance surrounding both pitbulls and people with co-occurring disorders is astounding. However, I do see how pitbulls and people with co-occurring disorders are alike.

Both are perceived as dangerous and violent but typically have big hearts and treat you with the same amount of respect that you treat them with.

Both are misunderstood and often times are given up on because of this reason alone.

Both are extremely resilient and can live happy, healthy lives after experiencing heartbreaking conditions.

Both possess incredible amounts of strength. Pits have massive amounts of physical strength while people with a co-occurring disorder have immense strength for daily working towards recovery.

Both have been victims of the media painting less than accurate portraits of them.

Both need advocates to help dispel some of the inaccurate stereotypes and discrimination against them.

Both don’t need to be fixed. They need to be loved, appreciated, supported, and respected.
So, yea. Pitbulls and people with a co-occurring disorder ARE alike….and I’m lucky enough to be able to be in their lives daily.
Zeus is also a suicide prevention advocate. Here he is at the Cape Girardeau Out of the Darkness Walk with my husband and son.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Zero Suicide

Zero Suicide, is that even possible?   Dr. Bart Andrews, a friend of mine and a Zero Suicide Faculty member, states “what number would you be ok with?” 

My work in suicide prevention has primarily been in organizing suicide prevention conferences, teaching Mental Health First Aid, and providing other trainings.  I believed these things to be important and beneficial, and I still do.  However, I believe Zero Suicide can be a game changer for many reasons and here are my top ten reasons I love Zero Suicide.

  1. It is a systems approach – it doesn’t rely on one person. The whole health system is transformed with a focus on policies and protocols using proven interventions and treatments for people at risk for suicide. 
  2.  It reaches people who would often be overlooked by conventional suicide prevention and intervention methods. 
  3. There is an easy-to-understand framework and guidance available from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) to implement the life-saving system changes. 
  4. The framework includes providing support to both the patient and to the clinicians doing this difficult work to increase engagement reduce burnout.  
  5.  Leaders in the zero suicide movement are transparent about what worked for them and what didn’t. They say “Please contact me if I can help in anyway”. They also share resources openly and freely.  It’s about saving lives.   
  6.  Places that are using the Zero Suicide approach are seeing success. 
  7.  Even though there is a framework, it still allows for each agency to tailor their approach to what works for their specifics such as number of offices, number of staff, number of clients, rural versus city, and other differences.
  8.  It changes a culture of an agency, hospital or other system, by increasing education and awareness of suicide.  
  9. There is a ripple effect.  Staff trained through Zero Suicide can become comfortable and even respected for their lived experience.
  10.  When staff learn these interventions and awareness, it doesn’t just stay at work, they take it home to their family, their friends, their neighbors and their community.

I believe the Zero Suicide approach can be instrumental in reducing the number of suicides in our country as well as reducing the stigma (or should I say discrimination) that individuals with mental illness and/or suicidal thoughts face.

So what can you do as members of society?    I would encourage everyone to demand that their hospitals and medical offices get trained and adopt a Zero Suicide framework.  I would mandate all mental health agencies to implement a Zero Suicide framework.   If every hospital and mental health agency was trained in and used the principles of Zero Suicide we would see a dramatic reduction in suicides.  

As citizens of this country, I would ask you to email your representatives to help provide funding for Zero Suicide and to make it mandatory for systems of care to have this training.  Here is a link to an example letter:   Sample letter (you can find your states information at www.afsp.org)

It is hard for us to connect with human suffering if we are not directly affected. It may help to remember that it could be your family member’s life that is saved or mine.   But if the basic humanity of saving a life isn’t enough, the financial aspects of reducing suicides and suicide attempts will reduce cost to our economy due to years of productivity lost to death, sick days and absenteeism, and reduced work quality.  

I know that the consumers I have talked to about Zero Suicide love the idea that our agency is taking one more step to help protect them.  They like knowing that we care about them and that their life is important to us.

So for me, I will continue to provide traditional suicide prevention and education, but I am definitely 100% on board with Zero Suicide and I believe that the systematic changes we are making for Zero Suicide will save lives.
Please let your voice be heard in support of Zero Suicide.

You can find more information at http://zerosuicide.sprc.org/