Podcast
Mental Note

57 - Suicide Prevention with Hope for the Day

By Ellie Pike, MA, LPC

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Suicide is one of those words that stops us in our tracks. Often, we treat it tenderly — acting like saying it too loudly will inspire someone to do something awful. But the truth is that not talking about suicide is what actually increases the chance a person with suicidal thoughts will act on them.

So how do you have such a loaded conversation? Well, it helps to get advice from people who’ve been there before. September is Suicide Prevention Month and in recognition of that goal, we reached out to the experts on dialoguing about difficult mental health topics - an organization called Hope for the Day.

Hope for the Day is a non-profit movement empowering conversations on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. While based in Chicago, their resources are global. Their whole approach focuses on peer-to-peer led conversations that are guided by clinical oversight. It’s incredibly effective. So today, I’ll speak with five members of their team about tools, programs, and mindsets that can help prevent suicide in the communities we love.

Also, be sure to check out our resources list below for an abundance of ways to get the help you or a loved one may need.

Resources

Emergency Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Dial 988
  • Mental Health Emergencies: Dial 911 and say, "I need an ambulance, at this address, for a mental health crisis."

Our Show’s Resources

  • Free mental health assessment: (877) 850-7199
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Dial 988

Transcript

Ellie Pike:
Allison Herman first discovered her passion for candid mental health conversations in an unlikely spot. Her workplace.

Ellie Pike:
I was in advertising for 11 years and I actually saw Hope for the Day presentation, I think 2017, they came into my workplace and it was like a town hall setting. I was like, oh, this is really cool. This is different. I like how they're speaking about mental health and suicide prevention, and they're being very honest.

Ellie Pike:
The organization she encountered, Hope for the Day, is a peer tope initiative to prevent suicide that actually grew out of Chicago's music community back in the early 2000s. Those musical roots resonated with Allison.

Ellie Pike:
As I tell my high school students, when I go in and do classes, I'm an old school email kid. So I started listening to email music in 2003. And if you know anything about the pop punk world, we all have tattoos. And there's a lot of discussion about mental health woven into a lot of things.

Ellie Pike:
She began volunteering and quickly transitioned into working full-time at Hope for the Day as their director of education. That's why I reached out to her for this podcast. I really love the peer to peer with clinical oversight model that Hope for the Day has honed over the past decade. It's an approachable yet accountable way to support the people we care about. So today in honor of suicide prevention month, we're talking with five different people from the organization about the best ways to approach hard conversations and what resources are available for suicide prevention and mental health. You're listening to Mental Note Podcast. I'm Ellie Pike. The real secret to Hope for the Day's success is clinical oversight. But how does that work? Meet Audra.

Audra Duren:
I'm Audra Duren, I'm a licensed clinical social worker based in Chicago, Illinois.

Ellie Pike:
She leads their clinical oversight committee.

Audra Duren:
So yes, Hope for the Day's curriculums and all of our services are peer led. With that being said, we find that it's incredibly important that all mental health education curriculums be reviewed by clinicians who are trained in each of these areas to ensure that accurate information is being given to the communities, that it's trauma informed or that it's inclusive of all experiences to ensure that we can really meet the needs of anybody who's experiencing mental health issues.

Ellie Pike:
I think that, that's so incredible and it sounds like a good collaboration. And as this podcast is being released, September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Can you share a little bit about what you know about the need for these conversations?

Audra Duren:
Absolutely. So on average, a 130 people complete suicide in the United States on a daily basis, which equates to about 700,000 completed suicides in a year, only within the United States. And we know because of the stigma, many more go unreported. And so with that, we know that starting conversations is a great step in breaking the stigma. And so educating yourself and facilitating proactive prevention in the community is how we are starting to shatter the silence around mental health.

Ellie Pike:
Those stats are staggering. That's really terrifying. And something that I know I've talked about on this podcast before is that research tells us that by talking about suicide, it does not increase someone's risk to complete suicide. Can you provide a couple tips or lessons learned in that area?

Audra Duren:
Yeah. It can be really scary to talk about something that is so stigmatized. The best way that we can really create this community and create support is by discussing it with one another, because there's so much shame associated with it. And so when we connect with one another, that support system is really powerful for reaching out for help before going down really dark paths.

Ellie Pike:
The number one way Hope for the Day creates community support is through a program called, The Things We Don't Say. Hope for the Day's marketing and events director, Becca Milligan, says to think of it as their crash course and having intimidating conversations.

Becca Milligan:
I've probably seen each of our education presentations over a hundred times each. And I feel like I learned something new every time. Our general education program is called The Things We Don't Say. It was our first education program, and it teaches people how to spot the signs of someone who's struggling, how to be supportive to people who may be going through things, how to say the right things instead of the wrong things and how to access resources. We break down stigmas, we break down what mental health means and give people an intro level understanding so that they can empower themselves and their community members to support others around them.

Ellie Pike:
Here's Allison Herman again on why this educational programming stands out.

Ellie Pike:
Yeah, they actually say the word suicide. I feel like sometimes when I'm in other courses where I'd been in other courses previously, a lot of educations are very, either one of two things. They're very clinical or they're very wellness oriented. And they're dancing around the conversation that everybody wants to have. When I go into high schools, and when I go into workspaces, people always tell me, wow, you don't sugarcoat anything and it's not upsetting, but it's just like we say it, how it is. And I really enjoy just, there's a lot of plain language. There's not any jargon. We don't record our sessions. So sometimes people are a lot more comfortable being open, being like, hey, I struggled here. And it weaves into the material in a very unique way. And I really enjoy that, because I think that a lot of, like I said, a lot of programs are separating the person speaking from the material. And instead we integrate the two and it feels very authentic. It feels like you're talking to a friend. It feels very real, which I really enjoy.

Ellie Pike:
Knowing what to say in a critical moment is a key part of Hope for the Day's education. But what if the job or the gender identity of the person you love adds extra social stigmas to conversations around mental health? That's why Hope for the Day launched three follow-up programs. Project R.E.D Team is for members of the military, first responders and their families. Next there's a workplace version of the Things We Don't Say. And finally, identity and orientation focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ+ experiences and mental health. Kenedey Ward heads up Project R.E.D Team.

Kenedey Ward:
My name is Kenedey Ward. I was a military spouse for three and a half years, and I am the director of Project R.E.D Team. So our military and first responder community is very unique because they chose the job that they're in. But what a lot of individuals don't realize is for those who go into public service, specifically military, EMT, firefighters, police, talking about their mental health can quite literally put everything on the line for them, their job security, finances for their family, their future, because we still have these stigmas and common misconceptions about mental health.

Kenedey Ward:
So going from a peer to peer approach and using clinically backed information, we're able to really get into these spaces and start this conversation in a way that's like, hey, I understand what you're going through. I also felt that sense of insecurity and fear, but I've been able to navigate spaces where people do want to listen, whether it is confidentiality, you're able to be like, hey, your military experience was something that maybe you loved, or maybe you didn't love, but it doesn't have to carry over into your everyday life if you don't want it to.

Ellie Pike:
Can you share some of the impact that you've seen it have on a larger scale?

Kenedey Ward:
Oh, absolutely. Yesterday's a really great example. So we were able to go into a VFW post in Naperville, Illinois, and we had a woman who was drafted as a military police officer. And she was talking a lot about how being a military police officer, she was just told to be quiet and sit back and not say anything. And then she went into the post office and she continued being a part of the good old boys. And she just really said, all I wanted was for someone to say exactly what you're saying to me.

Kenedey Ward:
She told me that we were able to reframe the way she thinks about things, the way that she wants to engage in conversations. And the fact that we really push respecting the dignity of the individual I think that's a lot of things people want to do, but they just don't know how. And so when we're talking about the military community or first responders, you have rank structures that dictate the way you exist in your community. And so by having these conversations on a human level, recognizing that everyone is a person underneath their uniform, we're able to really see the humanity again and realize that so many people's nervous systems experience the same thing. It just manifests or looks differently on the outside.

Ellie Pike:
Apoorva Katikaneni, manager of partners and development on Hope for the Day's workplace programming.

Apoorva Katikaneni:
For me, I think it's so important to normalize these conversations at workplace. We spend about 60% of our everyday lives at work. We form so many relationships with our coworkers, with our teams, with our managers. And it's so important to have these involved into our daily conversations, be it good or bad. We, I think should talk about if you're having a good day, are you having a bad day? Are you struggling right now? Are you thriving right now? What are you doing to take care of yourself? Or what are the commitments that you're making for yourself to take care of yourself? I think we learn so much when we're having these conversations with our peers, because we've seen that a lot of clients come to us and say, we want to make this a priority, but do not know how. We want to have these uncomfortable conversations, but do not know how.

Apoorva Katikaneni:
And we hear as instructors or as being a part of the program. We learn how to do that on a daily basis and teach people that it's okay to have that conversation. It's okay sometimes to make mistakes when you're having that conversation. And you can learn through the process. Everybody's not perfect. I think we learn so much about having a conversation about a physical injury sometimes that we do not know how to have a conversation if somebody's crying or somebody's having a bad day. And we can learn through the process.

Ellie Pike:
Finally, Allison Herman again, on Hope for the Day's identity and orientation program.

Ellie Pike:
It's really impactful to hear that other people are going through the things that you're also going through. Other people are hearing slurs or microaggressions and that's impacting their day even if you don't want it to. It wasn't until 1987 did homosexuality fall out of the DSM as a diagnosis. So that's basically framing it as until 87. It was something that was to be fixed. And having that information in the way that the presentation talks about the world shifted, sometimes when you're working with older generations, they don't quite understand that, that impacted the way that they view people, that stigma persists intergenerationally, and really makes some of those interpersonal conversations harder.

Ellie Pike:
So something that identity and orientation does that I really, really love is we have questions to ask your therapist to make sure they know what they're talking about when you're in a space where you're like, I really need therapy, it usually means that you are really tired and putting in all that work is pretty challenging. So we do the work for you. For example, what's your comfort level when it comes to topics around discrimination, intersectionality and microaggressions? Another really good question that I think is really cool to have on there is how do you respond if your client says that maybe you're being homophobic or racist or stereotyping. So I really enjoy the way that the discussion reminds people that a therapist works for you, and you should not have to be educating your therapist. And for a lot of LGBT+ people, we are, we're educating our therapists about things that they don't always learn in school. So making sure that, that person is specializing and you can just go into a therapy session and do the thing that everybody else gets to do is really cool.

Ellie Pike:
And when you talk about access to support, are there any specific nonprofits or crisis hotlines that you refer folks to from the LGBTQ community?

Ellie Pike:
Yeah, so there's a lot of really good ones. And as I'm doing this, I'm looking over at my stack of resource cards over here. And what I really love is if you turn over our LGBT specific resource there's things on there that everybody on that hotline knows who you are. So Sage, which is for folks who are elders in the community, it's a really good hotline to talk to folks that have lived a little bit longer and experiencing different challenges. Trevor project is also a really good one. Trans lifeline, and those are all things that, again, you don't have to explain who you are. They have really good competency training, and you can just pick up the phone and be like, hey, I'm having a hard time. And they're like, cool. As I talked about earlier, you don't have to explain your identity to someone else. You can just talk to somebody who gets it, which is really cool.

Ellie Pike:
I really appreciate that. And we'll definitely link to those in the show notes, along with the programming opportunities. As we bring this podcast to a close, I'd like to share a final thought from Audra Duren to reinforce the most important takeaway.

Audra Duren:
There's more people out there experiencing the same things than you could ever imagine. And so by reaching out there really are people who understand and care. And even if they're not equipped to provide you with the support that you may need at that time, there are connections to resources that can be really impactful.

Ellie Pike:
Thank you so much for listening to today's special episode on suicide prevention awareness. There are a long list of resources we'd like to share with you and our show notes that are simply too long to go over here. Also, Hope for the Day has an international database of resources on their website. Simply go to hftd.org and click on the find help button in the top right corner. Finally, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need support, call 988. If you or someone you love are experiencing a mental health emergency call 911. If you call 911 for someone in crisis, please say I need an ambulance at this address for a mental health crisis.

Ellie Pike:
Mental Note Podcast is brought to you by Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center. If you'd like to talk to a trained therapist to see if in-person or virtual treatment is right for you, call them at (877) 850-7199. If you're looking for a free support group, our sponsors offer a wide variety. Check them out at eatingrecovery.com/support-groups, or pathlightbh.com/support-groups. Also check out their website for free suicide prevention, QPR training this fall. If you like our shows, sign up our eNewsletter and learn more about the people we interview at mentalnotepodcast.com. We'd also love it if you left us a review on iTunes, it helps others find our podcast. Till next time.

Written by

Ellie Pike, MA, LPC

Ellie Pike is the Sr. Manager of Alumni/Family/Community Outreach at ERC & Pathlight Behavioral Health Centers. Over the years, she creatively combined her passions for clinical work with…

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