Revisiting: Suicide Prevention and Awareness with Victoria Secrist
We're continuing our second week of looking back at past episodes by revisiting our September episode on Suicide Prevention. The holidays season can be difficult for many people, including those who already struggle with depression or suicidal ideation. Dr. Fredrick's interview with Victoria Secrist is just as important as ever, helping de-stigmatize and clarify the issue of suicide with the ultimate goal of prevention.
Suicide is a growing problem in the United States. Suicide rates increased 33% between 1999 and 2019. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for more than 47,500 deaths in 2019, which is about one death every 11 minutes- according to the CDC.
On this episode of Calm, Cool and Connected: we welcome Victoria Secrist, MA | LAMFT to dive into this difficult topic.
Key Takeaways from Liz’s one-on-one with Victoria:
• Hear about Victoria’s background, and how it ties into her work
• Learn some of the misconceptions about suicide
• Find out about the connection between impulsivity and suicide
• Hear what the big risk factors for suicide are
• Learn if there is a direct link between self harm and suicide
• Find out when, as parents, you should be concerned for your child
All of this and more, on this episode of Calm, Cool and Connected.
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DISCLAIMER: THE CONSULTATIONS OR INTERACTIONS OFFERED ARE NOT MENTAL HEALTH THERAPY. THE CONSULTATION IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND NOT STRUCTURED IN A WAY TO PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING/PSYCHOTHERAPY/THERAPY/ DIAGNOSING OF ANY KIND. YOU UNDERSTAND THAT CALM COOL AND CONNECTED IS NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION AS YOUR TREATING MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR, PHYSICIAN, ATTORNEY, LEGAL COUNSEL, EMPLOYER, MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. We offer no guarantees or promise of results from event nor assume liability for any information provided.
Dr. Fedrick: [00:00:00] Now more than ever. We have an opportunity to be a positive force in the world to help heal the divide, to treat each other and ourselves with respect. Well, there's so many tools out there from meditation to physical training, proper nutrition therapy, and so many others. We all need a little help navigating all the options.
Join us as we share in-depth information, insights and thought provoking discussions that will help answer your questions about how to stay calm, cool, and connected. During these times. Welcome to calm, cooling, connected your guidebook to peace of mind.
hello and welcome to calm. Cool. And connected. I'm your host, Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick today. We're going to be talking about a very sensitive and often misunderstood topic of suicide. According to the national Institute of mental health suicide falls into the top 10 leading causes of death in the U S and as the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, September is suicide prevention awareness month.
And so you've probably seen a significant amount of [00:01:00] information regarding suicide on your social media accounts, in the news. But often it can be really difficult to make sense of this. It's hard to process through it. It's hard to really understand it. So here today is Victoria Seacrest. She's a therapist and suicide prevention advocate.
Victoria is here to answer some of our questions on these difficult topics. And I also help clear up some of the misconceptions around it. So hi, Victoria.
Victoria: Hi, Liz. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Fedrick: Yes. Thank you so much for being here before we jump in. Let's talk a little bit about your background. Let's talk about the work that you're doing in the mental health field.
As well as the advocacy work that you do.
Victoria: Absolutely. So I just always like to start off with, I am a military veteran. And so through my service, I saw a lot of people who were impacted or who died by suicide. And so I think that's really where some of this passion started to come up for me. So now as a marriage and family therapist, I specialize in working [00:02:00] with people who have been impacted by suicide.
And so when I say impacted by suicide, that means people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings, that also means those who have lost someone to suicide. So really helping them navigate the grief because it's, it's hard, it's confusing. And like you said, there are a lot of misconceptions out there.
Dr. Fedrick: are some of those common misconceptions that you run into? So whether it is when even we know the clients that come in with suicidal ideation even have misconceptions around it. And so when working with clients, when working with friends and family members, what are some of these things that you have noticed that are more of a thing.
Victoria: So one thing that I noticed, you know, both from people who are struggling and from, you know, people in, in those people's lives are that suicide is selfish and, and this one's tough, right? Because everyone's going to have, you know, different thoughts and opinions based on their [00:03:00] background when it comes to suicide.
So I really just try to break it down for people that, you know, People who are struggling with these thoughts, they are experiencing immense pain. And within that pain feeling like a burden feeling like they don't know that they're alone, you know, I oftentimes these people are in isolation. It's easy to kind of have a narrow view of life in those moments.
So I really don't view it as these people are. Selfish, but it's that at that point in time, you can't see anything else around you. You're only left with, you know, your immense emotions, big emotions at that time.
Dr. Fedrick: Right. And that, that flooding and that debilitating. Feeling a lot of people are, are in a place of just make it stop.
Like whatever, because we know a lot of even unhealthy coping mechanisms, other type of unhealthy coping mechanisms are very [00:04:00] frequently tied to no one is sitting there in their prefrontal cortex thinking through, is this the most logical response, but rather it is literally the feeling of just get the pain to stop.
Is that your experience with, with clients who.
Victoria: Oh, absolutely right. People come in and often what I hear you know, more times when people are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I don't hear as much those direct thoughts of, I want to kill myself or I'm planning on killing myself. It's more like I, like, I just am tired of life.
Like life feels really heavy right now. I want this to end. And so. It's usually those more passive thoughts that I hear first, but then of course need to then assess further so we can get an understanding of, you know, are you in a dangerous place right now? You know, do we need to get you some extra support?
Dr. Fedrick: What other misconceptions are common? What, what else comes to mind?
Victoria: Okay. So, so this [00:05:00] next one I think is really tough for people. And when it comes to suicide, It's complicated. It's complex, you know, even just being able to like study it, it's like, wow, there are so many potential warning signs and there are so many potential risk factors and people can have a lot of those risk factors and not be at risk for suicide.
So that, that throws a lot of people off. And so then when, you know, they, someone, you lose someone in your life to suicide, whether it's a friend or a family member, People feel guilt and shame of like, how did I not know? Like how did I not see the signs? And for the majority of people, when they do decide to attempt suicide or to end their life, they decide within a 10 minute window.
Oh, wow. So there is a level of impulsivity to suicide, which is one of the things that I always assess for in my clients. And, and knowing that. That's kind of scary.
Dr. Fedrick: Yes. I mean, extremely [00:06:00] scary. I, that is a very fascinating statistic and, and that, so I would imagine being aware of what are some of the risk factors that you're assessing for then if we know that impulsivity is highly tied to this, what do you assess for when you're working with these.
Victoria: So, so some of the big ones I look for is, is this person currently isolated, you know, who are who's in their social network. And how often are they having contact with those people, whether it's in person or online on the phone, I'm also looking for. My clients saying that they feel like a burden. So that's, that's a big warning sign along with the isolation.
I'm also, you know, seeing if they feel hopeless or helpless, they feel like they're lacking purpose or meaning in their lives. Looking for. Mood swings. So having those, you know, intense emotions coming up and also if people are directly talking about wanting to die you know, whether it's [00:07:00] more in that passive way that I mentioned earlier, or if they're directly saying like, yeah, I think about killing myself at times.
Dr. Fedrick: And with those risk factors, something that we commonly, we know when we work with parents of teens or even partners of individuals who have expressed suicidal ideation, There's often this link between self-harming behaviors. So you're cutting or engaging in other self-harming activities and that fear of suicide in, based on the research and your experience, is there a direct link there?
Victoria: So again, this is where it gets a little tough for some people, right? Because just because someone is. Let's say like they're cutting themselves. For example, that doesn't mean they're necessarily at risk for suicide. So if I'm working with teens where I see some of these other warning signs that I mentioned, and they are also cutting, then I'm more concerned.
Or it could even be, you know, if they are [00:08:00] restricting calories in their diet, if they're bingeing or purging, that's another, you know, I view that as a way to harm yourself as well. And so that is when I become concerned about self-harm behaviors. Because usually we look at self harm as a way of coping.
So it's one of those unhealthy coping mechanisms that people develop and that they use in their lives. So I still work with that and we still work on like, what are healthy coping skills. But again, just because your team for example, is self-harming, that doesn't mean they need to go to the house.
Dr. Fedrick: I think that that is such an important distinction to make one of the other common misconceptions that we hear frequently is that individuals with suicidal ideation or individ individuals who have attempted, are just seeking attention, they're just doing it. So people pay attention to them. What are
Victoria: your thoughts around that?
I hear that often too. I think it's hard at times for us to take children and [00:09:00] teens seriously when they talk about wanting to die. And I tell all of my parents, my clients, you need to take that seriously. So sometimes children, maybe they do develop. Maladaptive strategies to get their parents attention.
But if your child is talking about wanting to tie, you need to pay attention and seek out professional help, because then at least, you know, you did your due diligence to have them professionally assessed. I have worked with children who I, they were suicidal and there were times where I'm like, wow, like it's amazing that I have a nine-year-old in my office who really does want to end their life right now.
Of course that person, they receive the proper care that they needed. But take it seriously.
Dr. Fedrick: Yes. I that's. I mean, beautiful feedback that regardless of, if you, what your belief system is about why your child is engaging in those behaviors or making those states. Taking it seriously [00:10:00] is, is always a necessary step.
And in doing so you said, so seeking professional help, is that what would be for parents listening? What would be just even a couple pieces of advice that you would give if, and let's not even narrow it down to parents. So if somebody is worried about a friend or their partner, What steps can they
So, you know, if you're concerned about someone in your life, go to them, check in with them. You know, if you are concerned that they're having suicidal thoughts, ask them, just say, are you having thoughts of wanting to kill yourself? Or even are you having thoughts about death dying or wanting to kill yourself?
And just engage in that conversation. Now what's important with being able to engage in this conversation is actually listening to what that person is saying, because oftentimes we want to jump in with fixing it. We want to jump in with advice or at lecturing, that person on how they're wrong. That's not going to help in those situations.
Right. So if you do feel like this person is at risk in your life and You can ask them to get professional help. If [00:11:00] it's your child, take them to seek out a therapist who specifically works with suicidal ideations self-harm cause they're really going to have the proper assessments and resources to be able to have an accurate assessment on, on that person.
Dr. Fedrick: Yes. All such good information. Tell us where can our audience find out more about you and what are some, even some resources that you might suggest for.
Victoria: Absolutely. So oftentimes we talk about resources for, you know, friends, family members of what to look out for. But one of my favorite websites for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts is now matters now.org.
So this website is proven is backed by research that when people are in a crisis, if you go to this website, you will be able to deescalate your emotions in under 10 minutes. Oh, wow. Okay. It's according to your earlier
Dr. Fedrick: statistic would be, I mean, the perfect amount of time when you're talking about [00:12:00] that impulsivity of that decision being made within the 10 minutes.
So I'm sure that there's a link there with the research. Okay. So that's
Victoria: a great resource. Yes. And then my second resource that I give to all my parents that I have with me is Robbie's hope adult handbook. And so if you just Google Robbie's hope this, their website will come right up. These handbooks are.
Written by teens for adults, whether it's a trusted adult or a parent in their life on how to engage in conversations about mental health and suicide.
Dr. Fedrick: Ah, okay. So that's very informative. It's coming
Victoria: straight from that perspective. Exactly. So this is available. You can download the PDF in English and in Spanish.
Dr. Fedrick: Okay. Amazing. And where can our audience find you? Where can they connect?
Victoria: Absolutely. So you can find me on Instagram at the hopeful therapist.
Dr. Fedrick: Perfect. Thank you so much for being here, Victoria. I really
Victoria: appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Dr. Fedrick: And thank you all for tuning into this episode of calm, cool and connected.[00:13:00]
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