National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Call 1-800-273-8255)
What to do when you're worried your child is suicidal (ChildMind.org)
Have you seen drastic behavior changes in a friend or loved one that might indicate mental illness or risk of suicide?
Can you listen without judgement when a friend talks about suicide?
Do you know what to do next?
Christy Wilkie provides therapy for children and adolescents, ages 5-25, who have complex behavioral health issues. She combines her extensive clinical expertise with a belief in kids, and has a unique ability to find and develop their strengths. She works hard to be an ideal therapist for her clients, doing what is best to fit their needs.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind. Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Our guest is Christie Wilkie. Christy is a therapist in Fargo and provides outpatient therapy for children and adolescents ages five to 25. Christy, it is great to have you on.
It is good to be here.
Host Tim Unsinn:
The topic this time around is going to be suicide. And before we get to that topic, the question I ask all of our guests, why do you do what you do?
There's a lot of reasons I do what I do. I feel like every time I'm asked this question, I give a different answer because there's so many reasons to do this work, specifically in the course of suicide. Suicide has been something I've been passionate about for a long time. I've got personal experiences with it. I've done trainings throughout the community . And specifically with suicide, Why I do what I do is to raise awareness about suicide prevention and make people aware of how widespread the suffering is that people have, and really normalizing conversations about suicide so that people don't feel like they're suffering alone. It's a very odd feeling for people to have. And a lot of people feel like nobody else can understand, and that they're in this abyss that they can't get pulled out of. And it's important for me to do what I do so people can know that they're not alone and they don't have to suffer in silence and that there are people that are willing to talk about it. So like, let's, let's do a podcast on it and see what we can do to help normalize some of those thoughts and behaviors.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Right? Suicide is just one of those topics that just seems like we don't talk enough about, but we hear a lot about if that makes sense. And in talking about suicide, what are, what are some of the things to look for that might be an indicator that someone is struggling with their mental health and may be contemplating suicide?
Sure. I think that the biggest thing to look for is a change in any sort of a behavior, whether that's like a positive change or a negative change, any sort of notable change in anyone's behavior, or the way they talk, or the things that they're doing, or their mood seems different. Those are always indicators. And maybe not necessarily that there's suicidal intention, but that maybe there is some mental health issue that they're struggling with or just something in life that they're struggling with to look out for. Typically those are done through looking at talk, mood, and behavior. So if people start talking about feeling trapped, or feeling really depressed, or feeling like they they're a burden to other people, or that they don't want to be around anymore. Some people will talk about killing themselves and make suicidal comments. And I think those are kind of awkward things for people.
It puts people in a weird position to be like, "How do I respond to that?" And a lot of it is just saying, "Hey, are you really contemplating suicide? Let's, let's sit down and talk about that. What can I do for you?" changes in behavior to look out for would be increased use of drugs and alcohol, acting recklessly, making choices that they wouldn't necessarily make, sleeping too much or sleeping too little, giving away their prized possessions, calling to say goodbye, even like an uptake in aggression or just a behavior that's kind of off the wall or that's not something that your loved one or somebody that you know would typically do. All of those changes in behavior could be indicators that something bigger is going on. And then when we talk about mood, that's people looking like they're depressed, feeling depressed, or even telling you that they're depressed; a loss of interest in activities, people, or relationships. If someone were to call me and I, all of a sudden don't want to make my tee time at 3:40 on a Saturday, that's probably an indicator that something isn't, isn't normal for me, it would be outside of what would be something I would do. Rage, irritability, feeling anxious, and then a sudden change in mood, a sudden change from being happy to being sad.
But also it's a sudden change from being sad to being happy, which is much more frequently overlooked because people are like, "Oh, finally, they're just back in a good mood and everything is fine." Well, a lot of times that's an indicator that they've made the decision that their suffering is going to end, and there's going to be some relief. And so any major change in mood is also something look out for when we're looking at that, just warning signs for people who might be struggling with something bigger.
Host Tim Unsinn:
As we look at friends and family, coworkers, things like that. And if we notice any of those indicators and maybe even if we don't see an indicator, we're just having normal conversations with them when we're pretty close. Is there any reason we shouldn't or wouldn't want to ask them, "are you okay? And are you having suicidal thoughts?" Those kinds of things, those conversations,
There's never a reason to not ask the question. If, if you see, if you notice any of those things, no one is ever going to be mad at you by saying, "Hey, are you okay?" There's actually a documentary about people that have jumped off the golden gate bridge. There's 25 people who had survived and every single person who survived said that, as soon as they jumped, they wished they hadn't. They just wanted someone to have that conversation with them, to ask them, "Are you okay?" Asking a question, can save a life. And it's, it's so easy for you to do, to just say, "Hey, I've noticed this what's up with that. Are you okay?" There's never a reason to not say that there's always been kind of a stigma around asking that question that people would think, well, if I asked them, if they're suicidal, is that going to give them the idea to be suicidal if they weren't before? And that's just been proven over and over and over that, that's not the case. Asking the question and using those words, "Are you, are you looking at committing suicide?" It, it helps them not feel so crazy. It helps them validate that. "Yeah, I am feeling really bad and I don't want to feel this way anymore," rather than feeling like they're all alone. All of a sudden someone's joining with them. And that's a very powerful, powerful thing when we're trying to keep people alive.
Host Tim Unsinn:
So Christy, how do we help a person that we are concerned about—that they may be at risk of suicide.
A lot of it is what is kind of what we were just talking about. You have to take it seriously. Any change in mood, behavior, people making suicidal comments. It puts people in an awkward position, but it's easy to just be like, "Ah, no, they would never really do that." But if people are making comments like that, those aren't rational comments to make. They're not comments that people who are mentally healthy typically make. Take it seriously. Make sure that they know that you are an ally to them by saying, "Hey, if you're really feeling that way, I'm, I'm a go-to person come and talk to me." Be willing to listen. That's a really hard thing to do when we're really worried about somebody, because we just want to talk to them and try to back into a good space when really they just need a sounding board.
They need you to just sit and listen to them and get some of that stuff that's just kind of oozing on inside of them, out to someone that's so powerful. Being nonjudgmental. A lot of people who are contemplating suicide already think people are judging them in one way or another. So it's easy to say, "That's such a dumb idea. Or why would you want to do that? Think of all the other people you are going to hurt." They're not in a space to think about that. Committing suicide is not a rational thought. So trying to put a rational thought on an irrational person is just not, that's not where they're at. Telling someone to just stop never in the history of telling someone to just stop thinking that way. Has that ever worked? It's not about saying stop. Don't do that. That's dumb. That just pushes them farther away and it alienates them more.
Let them know that you care and just say, "Hey, I'm here for you. What, what do you need from me? What can I do for you right now?" Always, always, always find professional help. You do not have to do this by yourself. No matter what town you're in their suicide hotlines. There are mental health professionals that are willing to help. There are mobile crisis teams that will come out and help. There are even on the internet. Now the social media sites are asking, "Are you feeling okay?" There, there are a lot of talk therapy, things that you can do through social media. If you're more comfortable doing that. Help that person find someone they can talk to if you don't feel like you're equipped for that. Always ask if they have a plan. If they have a plan, that means that they're further along in, in where they're at, and in the possibility that they might contemplate suicide.
If they are able to tell you what the plan is, remove any means that they have to access those things. A lot of people will ask me, "Well, aren't they going to get mad? If, if, if I take out of their house?" And by and large, the answer is no. If they've gotten to their point in the conversation with you, where they're telling you, this is what I'm going to do, that usually means that they don't want to do it. They want help managing the situation and they will let you take the things out of their house most of the time. If they don't, that's when you notify law enforcement and have somebody come and help you out. And never ever, ever leave that person alone, that is super important to. Keep your eyes on them all the time, until you can get them the help that they need.
Some things that aren't helpful, conversely, are just trying to cheer the person up or telling them to snap out of it. Suicide is a, it is a, it's a symptom of depression. A lot of people will look at suicide and there's been a lot of talk about people feeling like it's a selfish choice. As a mental health professional. I don't believe that. People who are at that point where they're contemplating suicide really do think most of the time that the world's going to be a better place without them. So just telling them to snap out of it is just not, it's not helpful. And it makes them feel like because they can't snap out of it, that they're even more of a loser and that they, it just exacerbates the symptoms that they're already having. Try not to act shocked, which is also really, really hard to do to just be like, "Oh, what are you doing?" Try to control those emotions that you have. And just, if you can remain calm and clear of mind, that will also help you in your discussion when you're dealing with someone who's in that state of mind. Don't debate about suicide being right or wrong. Don't decide about bringing, like I said, bringing rational thought to an irrational person. It doesn't do any good. There's more thoughts in their head that they're already not being able to organize. That makes it more difficult.
Host Tim Unsinn:
I think what you said, the thing I really took away from that was really genuine listening, really genuine concern. Don't have all the answers because you don't. You're not the professional. Just listen, assess the situation without verbalizing that, assessing the situation and just care for the person you're talking with.
Just care for them. Sit with them. I mean, take their lead and be whatever it is that they seem to need in that moment. So you can get them the help that they need.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Very good. You're listening to mind your mind. Our guest is Christie Wilkie. And as we do with every episode of Mind Your Mind, before we wrap up, we ask you that final question. What do you do to personally mind your mind?
Well I keep practicing to get my hole in one. One day, one day, it's got to happen, right?
Host Tim Unsinn:
Well, let's hit the putt putt course and we'll make that happen.
Oh, it'd be awesome. Golfing and then, and running, running really clears my mind. It's time that I have to myself where I can listen to some good music and just kind of get out there and feel the fresh air. It's good for my brain. Music really in general, for me, I listen to a lot of music. That's really important for my well-being and mental health. I've always got music going on all of the time. Everybody teases me about that, but it's good for me and, and good for my brain.
Host Tim Unsinn:
Thank you for your time on mind, your mind. We appreciate you so much. Thanks for sharing your time and your talent with us. Thank you very much. Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services.
Host Tim Unsinn:
You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to Mind Your Mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more, go to Dakota family services . Org.
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