From anxiety to depression to body dismorphic disorder, Toby Allen intended by this artwork particularly to give these intangible mental illnesses some substance and make them appear more manageable as physical entities. “The project originated from imagining my own anxieties as monsters and finding it to be a cathartic and healing process to draw them,” […]
Nature photography mirroring the human nervous system. The first installment of this exploration in nature and the human body through art and photography.
Here’s Why I Openly Talk About Suicide
In a previous post, I discussed the connections of being a clinician and experiencing a suicide loss. Two people in my life died by suicide. And, without naming names, I have had multiple loved ones express suicidal ideation, be involuntarily held for suicidal ideation at the hospital, and be hospitalized from the result of a suicide attempt.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, over 42,000 people die by suicide. For every suicide death, there are 25 suicide attempts. (source)
It is estimated that for every suicide there are is 6 people who grieve the loss. Some suicidologists believe this is a conservative estimate. Based on this average, it is estimated that 6 million people in the United States have experienced a suicide loss in the last 25 years. (source)
The biggest barrier to preventing suicide is not talking about it. I truly believe that.
I used to be one of those people who believed talking about suicide increases the risk for suicide, that somehow talking about suicide plants a seed and encourages others to consider suicide. This is not true. In fact, talking openly about suicide decreases the risk for suicide.
I am very vocal in my personal life about suicide prevention and my personal experiences with suicide loss. I truly believe that talking about suicide is essential for decreasing suicide risk, validating the experiences of people struggling with suicide, and encouraging people to seek help.
Before my own experience with suicide loss, I had the belief that folks who die from suicide are selfish, shameful, weak, sinful. This is the stigma attached to suicide, and we are taught this stigma our entire lives through social messaging. As a result, we internalize this suicide stigma. For those of us who do not have suicide ideation, it causes us to view others with suicidal ideation and others who pass away from suicide with judgement. For those who have suicidal ideation, this internalization of the stigma increases the ideation and deters folks from seeking help.
When a close friend passed away from suicide, this stigma came up for me. I’d been taught that folks who die from suicide are selfish and weak, but I didn’t believe my friend was selfish or weak. I struggled often with what I’d been taught and what I believed.
One way I have dealt with de-stigmatizing suicide has been by talking about suicide openly without fear, shame, or blame.
Talking about suicide…
…decreases suicide risk.
…decreases suicide stigma.
…eliminates tendency to shame and blame folks experiencing suicidal ideation/folks who passed away by suicide.
…increases possibility for human connection, and, by extension, human compassion.
…increases the likelihood folks experiencing suicidal ideation reach out for help.
…normalizes feelings of suicide.
…normalizes the personal experiences of folks struggling with suicide and mental health.
…makes you a support person for loved ones in your life whom you might not realize are struggling with suicide.
…can be incredibly healing for folks who have suicide loss (as is in my case!)
…CAN SAVE THE LIFE OF ONE OF YOUR LOVED ONES. CAN SAVE THE LIFE OF A STRANGER. CAN SAVE A LIFE.
Stigma is shame. Shame is silence. Silence hurts us all.
Suicide prevention begins with talking about it.
I will never stop talking about it.
At a total of 10 pages, this workbook uses ninja turtle faces to accelerate learning about feelings! On some pages, there is already a feeling drawn on the ninja turtle. On others, the ninja turtle has no feeling face–leaving space for the participant to draw and make the face fit a certain feeling, such as “disgust” or “worry” or “excited.”
Each page instructs the participant to identify the feeling, color the ninja turtle’s face, and to draw and/or write about the designated feeling.
I used this book with a six-year-old client for individual therapy, and it proved to be successful (this client loved the ninja turtles!).
In the end, I used a three-hole puncher and some yarn to bind the pages together and form a book.
You can download a sample (3 pages) of this workbook on my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.
You can purchase the full workbook (10 pages) on my Teachers Pay Teachers store HERE.
At my internship agency serving children and families, I often had to create safety plans with clients who were in danger of harming themselves.
Why create a safety plan?
Safety plans can help us get through difficult moments and can make a difference in keeping us safe. Safety plans are developed in collaboration between a client and therapist. It is designed in such a way where the client writes down signals of emotional distress, actions to take, and people they can contact to keep themselves safe.
After researching online for templates and ideas from other mental health professionals, I found the following S.A.F.E.T.Y. acronym…and decided to use it as an overall template for safety plans with my clients!
Each letter in the word “SAFETY” signifies a different portion of the safety plan. I love this because it makes it easier for the client to remember aspects of the plan. It also helped me remember the details of the plan–which was super convenient because I didn’t always have my client files with me when I was in the field.
“S” stands for…
“A” stands for…
“F” stands for…
“E” stands for…
“T” stands for…
“Y” stands for…
When the client and I finished the plan, we both signed at the bottom. I also made a copy of the plan for my records and provided the client with the original for themselves.
Download the free printable from my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
During my internship with children and families, I created a Daily Mood Chart for certain clients to complete each day. The chart asks the client to identify emotions felt during that day, notable events/factors that might have influenced those emotions, and ways they dealt with it all (whether “good” or “bad”).
I also added a section to monitor medication and sleep. Both of these factors can influence mood and behavior!
Benefits of tracking mood–CLIENT
- Increased awareness of feelings
- Identify patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior
- Identify factors that have a positive or negative effect on moods
- Learn how to detect patterns and take preventative action (e.g. practicing coping skills)
Benefits of tracking mood–THERAPIST
- Teach the client about the connection between thoughts, feelings, and behavior (excellent opportunity for CBT psychoeducation!)
- Become increasingly aware of the client’s patterns of behavior, factors/events that affect feelings and behavior
- A collection of the daily charts can be a handy starting point for therapy sessions
- Excellent way to engage client outside of the therapy room
Many of my young clients loved making their own books. After the success of the All About Me book with clients, I created a Feelings Book that clients could write and illustrate.
There’s just something about making their very own “book” that hooks the kids in. They illustrate and write according to each feelings page.
At 12 pages long, each page lists a different feeling for the client to draw and write about.
As a therapeutic intervention, I would focus on 1-2 pages per session.
Possible questions I would ask a client during the intervention…
- What does your face look like when you feel ______?
- Can you show me on your face?
- Can you draw a picture of yourself when you feel _______?
- When you feel _______, what do you do?
- How do you know when you feel ________?
- What makes you feel _______?
- (For emotions like sad, worried, ashamed, angry) — What makes you feel better? What do you do to calm down? What do you do to help yourself feel better?
Once we finished the book, we poked holes using the 3-hole puncher. Then we tied the pages together with yarn.
You can purchase this Feelings Book for $1.00 for a digital download on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click here to view.