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Hope Illuminated Podcast

Working Together to Prevent Suicide --What the World Can Learn from One Another on #WSPD: Interview with Professor Rory O'Connor | Episode 43

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. 

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Cutting through the Clutter — How to Effectively Get your Message of Suicide Prevention Heard: Interview with Dr. Bart Andrews | Episode 42

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.

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Join the Social Movement of Suicide Prevention -- Welcoming the New and Needed Voices: Interview with Colleen Creighton | Episode 41

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.

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"Why Would God Do This?" -- Faith, Religion and Suicide: Interview with Dr. Melinda Moore | Episode 40

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….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.

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"We are Still Here" -- Culture is Prevention in Tribal Communities: Interview with Shelby Rowe | Episode 39

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.”

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A New Age of On-Line Peer Support - Impact Entrepreneurs are a Force for Good: Interview with Jeff Dorchester and Dion Gonzales of iRel8.org | Episode 38

In this interview I chat with some amazing impact entrepreneurs who are a force for good in this space. They have found a way to harness the power of peer support — at very unique peer group levels — to give people a way to connect with others who are walking a similar path. iRel8.org is an anonymous, peer-to-peer social network that proactively uses technology to provide access to support people 24/7/365 in 63 languages. Some giants like Microsoft have taken notice. Founded by a passion fueled by their own lived experience, Dion Gonzales and Jeff Dorchester are filling an important gap in our chain of survival.

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Lessons Learned from Colorado -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Marijuana and Mental Health: Interview with Ben Cort | Episode 37

A recent Scientific American article entitled Is “Cannabis Good or Bad for Mental Health?” suggested that if you think you understand cannabis and its impact on our well-being, you probably don’t. With over 500 chemical constituents, interacting a different doses and ingested by different means, there are endless permutations of complexity for the ways cannabis can impact our emotional health. We can’t slap one label on it as either “all helpful” or “all harmful” when it comes to the impact on depression, anxiety, trauma and psychosis. Cannabis and all of the spin-off substances continue to evolve faster than rigorous science can keep up. The truth is — at the level of randomized control trials — we know very little.

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The Role of Arts in Healing A Conversation with an Indigenous Trauma Survivor & Student of Honor: Interview with Swil Kanim | Episode 36

…Swil is an indigenous man and a trauma survivor who credits his ability to overcome racism and suffering and become a student of honor to his discovery of the violin in the 4th grade. Join us as he shares his path of finding that healing was his responsibility and that the way he would be true to his journey was through expressing himself musically.

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A New Frontier in Workplace Safety -- Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention: Interview with TJ Lyons | Episode 35

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….

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Be Vocal, Be Visible, Be Visionary -- The Role of Union Leadership in Suicide Prevention: Interview with Chris Carlough | Episode 34

“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 Center

When 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.”

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Pain and Suffering -- What We Can Do To Address the Opioid Crisis and Its Relationship to Suicide: Interview with Dr. Don Teater | Episode 33
  • 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.

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What the Body and Brain Tell us about Suicide Risk -- Unraveling the Great Mystery from Research to Practice: Interview with Dr. Matt Nock | Episode 32

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.

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Sally Spencer-Thomas
Brain Science and Storytelling -- Learning about Self-Transformation from Neuroscience, Narrative Psychology & Indigenous Healing: Interview with Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona | Episode 31

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.

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Suicide & The Workplace -- Globalization, Job Strain, and the Dark Side of the New Economy: Interview with Dr. Allison Milner | Episode 30

Too 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)….

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.

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Sally Spencer-Thomas
Peer Support & The Helper Effect -- When Doing Good Feels Good: Interview with Lt. John Coppedge | Episode 29

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…

…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.

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.

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A Warrior for Wellness -- One Man’s Epic Battle for Recovery: Interview with Gabe Howard | Episode 28

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.

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Healing after Murder-Suicide -- Mother of Columbine Shooter Shares Grief Journey: Interview with Sue Klebold | Episode 26

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.

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A Journey from Suicide Bereavement to Action -- Peer Support and the Warrior Ethos: Interview with Master Sergeant Christopher D. Jachimiec | Episode 25

In 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.

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The Unimaginable Grief -- Parents Bereaved by their Children’s Suicide: Interview with Dr. Sharon McDonnell | Episode 24

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.”

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