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Hope Illuminated Podcast

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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Ashes in the Ocean -- Men and Suicide Grief: Interview with Sebastian Slovin | Episode 23

In this podcast I interview Sebastian Slovin, author of “Ashes in the Ocean: A Son’s Story of Living though and Learning from his Father’s suicide. We touch upon themes of survival, stigma and safe space and how we was able to grow up in the shadow of suicide and piece together a narrative and a life worth living. Sebastian shares to other men, “Not feeling does not work” in the grief healing journey. He talks openly and honestly about how peer and professional support — even spiritual connections — can make a big difference in letting men know they are not alone in their bereavement by suicide.

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Suicide Crisis Services -- What to Know When You Need a Lifeline: Interview with Jennifer Battle | Episode 22

Today’s podcast will explore the day in the life of a crisis support center — how it works and what to expect if you or someone you care about needs some help getting back on track. My interview with Jennifer Battle explores the social justice roots of the evolution of crisis support services and her deep gratitude for the work she does every day. 

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The Resilience of Our Elders -- Protecting against the 5 Ds of Suicide Risk: Interview with Heidi Bryan and Dr. Yeates Conwell | Episode 21

In the podcast our panel includes two experts…together they bring sound research and stories about the resilience of our elders — their life satisfaction and happiness and tactics to ward off the 5 D’s of suicide risk…

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Disruptive System Change — Tackling the Injustice of Suicide: Interview with John Mendoza | Episode 20

When it comes to engaging a wider circle in our suicide prevention and mental health promotion movements, we need to take a page from the playbook of other social justice movements. During this interview I got to spend time chatting with one of the most accomplished social change agents I know. In this podcast we hear from an international inspiration, John Mendoza, on how he has mobilized change throughout Australia and beyond. From working with the International Olympic Committee while planning the Sydney games to working with the indigenous people of the Kimberly, John has learned much about empowerment, building capacity and disrupting the status quo. 

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The 3 Cs of Suicide Crisis Response -- Connection, Collaboration & Choice: Interview with Dr. John Draper | Episode 19

Early in his career Dr. John Draper had a lightbulb moment when he was on suicide watch for patients while they were being "treated" with isolation and restraints; he thought "we can do better." Today, John is one of the global leaders transforming crisis care for people on their worst day. He has helped spark an evolution through his leadership of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by using data, standards of excellence and the input of people with lived experience to continually improve care…

…John closes with a very clear call to action on how best to support people in a suicide crisis -- the "3 Cs": Connection, Collaboration and Choice. Tune in to hear more!

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Sally Spencer-Thomas
The Papageno Effect -- What Does it Mean to Promote the Positive in Suicide Prevention?: Interview with Dr. Thomas Niederkrotenthaler | Episode 18

What does it mean to "promote the positive" in suicide prevention? 

When we are inundated with discouraging data about increasing suicide rates and tragic stories of suicide loss, our hearts are moved to the urgency of the need to "do something;" however, sometimes we feel hopeless that we can ever get in front of this daunting issue….

When we change the public narrative to hope, connectedness, social support, treatment and recovery we can transform systems from helplessness to inspiration. We don't need to minimize the pain or the social injustice that drives despair to do this….

In this podcast, we hear some powerful insights from Dr. Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, the associate professor for public health, Medical University of Vienna (Austria) about the Papageno Effect and the potentially protective effects of specific positive messaging, especially related to stories of people who live and grow through personal experiences with suicidal intensity.

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Youth Change Makers -- Power, Empathy & Creativity Unleashed: Interview with Stan P. Collins | Episode 17

How do we communicate about suicide with teens? Perhaps, they are the ones in the best position to tell us.

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention recommends strategy, safety and a positive narrative when messaging about suicide. Messages and images that encourage hope are better than ones that imply "nothing can be done." Messages that celebrate resilience, healing journeys and compassion are better than ones that romanticize death or are voyeuristic or sensationalized. Messages that inspire action like reaching out or offering compassion are more valuable than ones that perpetuate misinformation and myths.

In this podcast we learn some best practices in enrolling our youth to be these positive, safe, and effective messengers for suicide prevention and mental health promotion.

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The New "Stop, Drop and Roll" - 3 Ways to Extinguish the Fire of Suicidal Intensity: Interview with Dr. Ursula Whiteside | Episode 16

Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts to escape emotional pain, we may find ourselves "on fire." And in these instances of the most extreme forms of suicidal intensity, we need a different set of survival behaviors. We need to extinguish the "oxygen" that is feeding the crisis by quickly resetting the emotional state. In this episode, Dr. Whiteside shares three important steps that can help people reset their emotional system; the suicide crisis equivalent of "stop, drop and roll."

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From Awareness to Action -- Best Practices in Training for Suicide Prevention: Interview with Dr. Paul Quinnett | Episode 15

With high profile celebrity suicides dominating the headlines in June, the topic of suicide was on the mind of many. While we still have a ways to go to undo the misperceptions, prejudice and discrimination that surrounds suicide and suicidal intensity, we need move beyond just "raising awareness" in our efforts.

We need to take action. 

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Owning Your Traumas -- 3 Ways to Live with Trauma with Love and Power: Interview with Jorge Narvaez | Episode 14

In light of the “Zero Tolerance Policy” that is forcibly separating children from their families at the US/Mexico border, childhood trauma is a hot topic. We know that child separation from family increases risk for suicide, especially when the separation is traumatic. Averse childhood experiences have a massive impact on future risky health behavior, chronic health conditions, and early death in what we call a “dose-effect relationship” — that is as the number of averse events increases, so does the risk. 

This podcast shares one man’s journey from traumatic childhood experiences to inspiring the world to cultivate health families. One of Jorge Narvaez’s earliest memories is seeing his father put a gun to his mother’s head. As a toddler he resolved to be different. Listen to his story to learn his  three take-aways on what he had learned from integrating these traumas into the mission of his life.

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Sally Spencer-Thomas