Suicide Prevention

We are hard-wired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose & meaning to our lives, & without it there is suffering. -Brené Brown.png

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, someone, somewhere in the world dies by suicide every 40 seconds which accounts for more loss of life globally than war, acts of terrorism and homicide combined. To add to that, worldwide suicide rates have increased by 60% in the past 45 years. These sobering statistics demonstrate the dire need for ramped up worldwide suicide prevention efforts!

Research into the predictors of suicide has found that risk factors vary around the world and that suicide is a complex issue with many psychological, social, biological, cultural and environmental factors at play. In the past I worked in psychiatric research where we studied the relationship between mood disorders (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder) and suicide. We found that suicidal thoughts were predicted by mood instability (2015) which has since been further researched and supported. Interesting work, but I have to admit that I don't focus on the scientific, statistical research findings about suicide much anymore.

Over the years my personal and professional experiences with people affected by suicide have led me to a different view. What I understand now is that disconnection from ourselves, others and the environment is increasing which leads to feelings of isolation and hopelessness related to suicide.

What is the answer? Re-connection! To thrive and live fulfilled lives more people need to start connecting and loving themselves, others and the earth. We can bring those sobering global suicide numbers down, one hug, one vulnerable conversation, one relationship at a time. Turn off the screens, spend time in nature, breathe with each other, sweat with each other, cry with each other, love with each other. Take time to authentically connect – share your fears, your hopes, your joys, your sorrows - show each other that it’s OK to be vulnerable.

Someone, somewhere in the world dies by suicide every 40 seconds. There is no time to waste – we need to start re-connecting now.

If you or someone you know needs immediate suicide support please contact one of the following resources. If you think someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 911.

British Columbia:

Need2 Suicide Prevention & Support

Crisis Centre BC 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

Canada:

Crisis Services Canada

 

References

Bowen, R., Balbuena, L., Peters, E., Leuschen-Mewis, C. & Baetz, M. (2015). The relationship between mood instability and suicidal thoughts. Archives of Suicide Research, 19, 161-71.

Bowen, R., Balbuena, L., Leuschen, C. & Baetz, M. (2012). Mood instability is the distinctive feature of neuroticism. Results from the British HALS. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 896-900.

Bowen, R., Baetz, M., Leuschen, C. & Kalynchuk, L. (2011). Predictors of suicidal thoughts: Mood instability versus neuroticism. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 1034-1038.

Build Your Self-Confidence

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. -Anais Nin.png

“Confidence is courage at ease.”

- Daniel Maher

We are in a self-confidence deficit. I work with clients that live in Victoria, and also from other areas and countries (through virtual counselling). No matter where a client lives or what they do, most share that they have low self-confidence which feeds into their depression or anxiety. Not surprisingly, the foundation of much of our work together is based on increasing their self-confidence. Although there are many tools and methods to do this work, one of my favorite ways to increase a client’s self-confidence is to help them build a courage practice.

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”

– Winston Churchill

How is your self-confidence? How often are you courageous? 

Here are some guidelines to help you build your own courage practice:

  • Exercise your courage muscle often

Courage is like a muscle that gains strength with practice. Commit to practice it often. This can be daily, several times a week, or weekly. Try something new, face a fear, etc, - it doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small challenge, any effort will either build or maintain the strength of your courage. Anything that you continue to practice becomes a habit.

  •  Make a list of your fears

If you have a list of what scares you then you can begin to plan out how you will be courageous. Once you have the list organize your fears in order of importance. Which one do you think has the most impact on your mind, or hold you back the most? Which would be the second? Third?... Start with the small ones and slowly progress through them one by one. As you tackle the smaller ones you will build the confidence that you need to face the larger fears.

  •  Analyze your biggest fear

By objectively analyzing your biggest fear you will begin the process of eliminating it. With your biggest fear in mind, write down the answers to these three questions:

1.     How does this fear hold me back in life?

2.     How has this fear helped me in the past? Does it still help me?

3.     What would I gain by eliminating this fear?

  •  Recognize & accept that things will go wrong

There’s no way around it – when you practice courage you run the risk that something could go wrong. Accept it when something doesn’t go quite right – this is a courage practice too! When something goes wrong, have the courage to learn from it and move on. Remember pain or stress is temporary and will pass.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.”

- Mark Twain

  •  Commit to your decisions

Believe that you will more often experience positive outcomes which represent your virtues and self-development. The following analogy from Rollo May’s “The Courage to Create” is a good illustration of this:

“The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage.”

  • Most of all, have fun being courageous!

 

Self-care is not a new idea!

Self-care is not a new idea! The Ancient Greeks practiced “philautia”, or the love of the self, to promote societal honesty and compassion. They believed that individuals must love themselves before they can truly love others in a healthy, honest, unconditional way.

“all friendly feelings for others are an extension of man’s feelings for himself.” – Aristotle

Today we agree that self-care leads to improved immunity, & decreased susceptibility to stress, anxiety, depression, & other mental health issues. However, self-care often takes the form of materialistic, individual things such as spas, shopping, travelling, etc.

True self-love means that you take care of yourself in an authentic, self-aware way that is specific to you as an individual – it doesn’t need to cost money!

Here is how you can direct your self-care process toward true healing & self-love!

1. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself.

Do you have an inner gremlin? Work to shift your inner monologue to be more supportive & compassionate.

2. Don’t always use self-care to distract yourself from issues.

Distraction, like reading a book or watching a movie, can be a great form of self-care (i.e. when exhausted, anxious, worried, etc.). However, constant distractions can lead you to numb out or ignore your issues and create a backlog of festering, unprocessed thoughts.

3. Pay attention to your emotions and process them.

Self-care must give you time to consider your stressors and to feel into your emotions. This might mean that rather than watch a movie you do a guided meditation, or talk to a friend. The most important thing is that the activity allows you to access your thoughts & feelings, & enables you to develop a more positive perspective, some emotional release, or even relief. Don’t forget, “what we resist persists” (Carl Jung)!

4. Care for your physical health.

Daily routines can be turned into self-care! Can you sleep earlier/longer? Can you eat food that is more nourishing?

Once we love ourselves we can begin to heal our families, communities & societies!

Contact me to learn more about my counselling practice in Victoria.

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Heart-Opening Visualization

Good early morning!

Today's daily meditation in "Journey to the Heart" by Melody Beattie deeply resonates with the SIH philosophy and work. Each of us has a universal strength and resilience in our hearts, that when blocks leads to dis-ease, and when open allows us to experience life, love, happiness and fulfillment. 

I love this heart-opening visualization!:

“Picture your heart. In front of your heart see a beautiful rosebud, tightly closed. Whenever you want your heart to open, picture the rose blooming wide, beautiful, alive and fragrant. Whenever you want to retreat, turn the rose back into a bud.”

Give it a try! 

How did it feel?

What leads you to close your heart?

Does it deserve that power?

Really, does it?

Love today.

Contact us to learn more about our Victoria BC counselling services.

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The Downward Cycle of Depression

When I work with people affected by depression or anxiety one of the first things we look at is their inner voice or self-talk. Some of these can be nasty. Maybe like a shoulder “Gremlin” – cranky, pessimistic and abusive. Or maybe a continuously dissatisfied, angry coach – Try harder! Why can’t you get that right? You’re never good enough!

People try to quiet these voices by focusing more on them. It’s as though their mind is trying to fix the unhappiness by thinking more about it. This rumination can lead to a downward spiral of depression and anxiety where people find themselves “stuck” and isolated – unable to see their own way out.

In our counselling sessions one way that we interrupt this cycle is through exercises that rework automatic responses to these inner critics. You can change what you feel by changing what you think!

Sometimes our minds also need to stop working...to stop doing and just be! Mark Nepo supports this idea in today’s entry in “The Book of Awakening”: “Sometimes the simplest and best use of our will is to drop it all and just walk out from under everything that is covering us, even if only for an hour or so”

Do you take time to “walk out from under everything”?

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Be Gentle And Kind

Today's daily meditation in "Journey to the Heart" by Melody Beattie is another great one perfectly in line with the Strength in Heart practice philosophy! I love this!!
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"Somewhere along my life's journey, with all its trials, moving about, business, and experiences, I had let gentleness slip away. Now it was time to go there again. It was a reminder to be gentle and kind to others, be gentle and kind to myself."

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Your Ability To Love And Be Compassionate

The Dalai Lama said it! Whether he intended this to be literal or metaphorical, the message is clear - we need to be compassionate for our selves and others to survive!

Your ability to love and be compassionate is dependent upon your connection to the strength and resiliency in your heart.

When life gets tough we often close our hearts in the belief that this will protect us and make us stronger. In fact the opposite is true! When you close your heart you block the natural flow of energy and love that you are born with. This is what is happening when you are depressed or anxious.

The good news is that you can re-access this innate strength and resilience!

Contact me to book a session to discuss how I can help you find the strength in your heart to live your best life now!

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What Do You Need Most Right Now?

Are you having a bad day...or week? Here are some useful strategies to turn it around:

• Identify what has gone wrong or why you are in a bad mood. Sometimes recognizing that you’re in a funk will be enough to pull you out.

• Examine your emotions: What is beneath your immediate emotional reactions?

• Practice looking for the silver lining. Our brains are evolutionarily wired to look for threats which means that modern day minor annoyances (e.g. traffic!) can be interpreted as threats which leads to a negativity bias where we are focused on things that go wrong. To break free of this neural rut you can train yourself to notice when things go right. This can take form in many ways - many find it useful to use a gratitude journal where they write down a few things each day that they are grateful for.

• Create a practice of empathy and give others the benefit of the doubt. For example, if someone is giving you a hard time, imagine what their stressors might be - maybe they have a sick child, money problems, or something else.

• Cut yourself some slack! Personal change takes time and practice. Try using your bad moods to practice some self-compassion. Try to regularly check in with yourself throughout the day, and ask, "What do I need most right now?" It's possible that a glass of water or a quick walk may be all you need to raise your mood.

• Zoom out! Take a look at your past experiences of bad moods, days or rough patches. How did they end up working out? Remind yourself that this is temporary.

Contact me to booking a Victoria BC counselling session.

A Daily Exercise To Boost Your Week

Here’s a daily exercise that will super boost your week!

A simple (yet effective!) exercise to build self-confidence and heart strength:
• Find a friend or family member and ask them, "What have you seen in me that you value and appreciate?” 
• Try to do this at least once every day this week 
• Keep track of the responses
• On Sunday review and reflect on your list. Is there anything that surprises you? Why?

You can also take this exercise a step further and volunteer an answer to this question to at least one friend or family member per day.

Contact me to learn more about my counselling services.

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Narcissism and Its Discontents

In the current political and social environment narcissism has become a normalized social condition that often represents an affinity for financial and professional success. Not surprisingly, a lot of clients share stories with me of how a person with narcissist personality traits has negatively impacted their life. This often leads to questions of how to set healthy boundaries with these people, or how to decide whether or when to sever the relationship. Of course each person’s work is based on their individual context, but the following TedTalk (presented by the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist) is a must watch!

A few of my favourite pieces:

“Narcissistic patterns undercut the core of what’s necessary for healthy relationships. These things include mutuality, respect, compassion, patience, genuineness, honesty, and trust – things that are simply not possible with a system or person that is narcissistic.”

“If someone is not willing to recognize that they need to make a change because they are hurting other people, there is little likelihood that they will change, but there IS likelihood that they will continue to blame other people, the world, or you for their bad behavior.”

“Start giving the best of ourselves to our healthy and reciprocal relationships and really only give the bare minimum to the relationships that aren’t helping us grow.”

What If There’s Nothing Wrong With You?

Many clients come to me because they struggle with low self-confidence and anxiety issues which are often rooted in their childhood. This Tedtalk, presented by Susan Henkels, MSW, is a clear demonstration of how people develop self-judgments and anxieties in response to their early childhood experiences. She described how her father’s criticisms of her (which began at age 4) caused her to “keep her mouth shut” and close her heart. She explained that she lost her voice and self-confidence in turn for safety from her father’s continuous judgment and blame. She internalized all sorts of “wrongs” with herself until much later in her life when she began to ask herself in the mirror each day, “What if there’s nothing wrong with me?”. Through this practice she chose to leave negative self-beliefs behind and opened her heart to strength and fulfillment. This practice sounds like a great way to begin to unravel self-limiting beliefs!

What does your inner critic say? How does it silence you? Is it time to take your voice back? Watch this TedTalk and then give it a try – ask yourself in the mirror each day, “What if there’s nothing wrong with me?” and then strive to live each day into that possibility.

Contact Strength in Heart for more information on how to regain your voice and the strength in your heart.

Deep Breathing Exercise

"I breathe in my courage and exhale my fear".
- Quote from Jonathan Lockwood Huie

To breathe is a basic human function that can detox and revitalize a body in a few short minutes, but most of us don’t take full advantage of it. Deep breathing helps lower your blood pressure, calm your heart rate and aid digestion. Breath is also connected to emotions and mood. Think about when you feel anger or fear – what is your breath like in those moments? I bet it’s short and shallow! If you change your breath to be slow, deep and consistent in stressful situations you can actually change your mood – in a sense you exhale your anger or fear and are more able to remain calm. Breath work can be a great tool to work against anxiety. One method that I like is “square breathing”, give it a try!

1. Relax and focus on your breath as best you can
2. Breath into your stomach for 4 seconds (or longer if you like)
3. Hold your breath for 4 seconds
4. Exhale evenly for 4 seconds
5. Hold your empty lungs for 4 seconds
6. Repeat until you feel content

Contact me for more information on my counselling services in Victoria BC.

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The Power of an Open Heart

This past Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG) conference keynote panel event: “Visionary Women: Inspiring Stories, Limitless Boundaries” a conversation with Lee Maracle, Mayor Lisa Helps, and Reeta Tremblay. The event focused on the paths that these trailblazing women have taken to their many achievements and leadership roles. As I listened to their stories I recognized large differences in their backgrounds, but was struck by one important commonality amongst them all – a high level of strength and resiliency in their hearts! Even when faced with oppression, violence and adversity, these women remained courageous and heart centered in their lives and work.

When asked what she would most like audience members to take away from her panel contributions, Lisa Helps said for people to keep their hearts open in difficult situations so that they can connect with each other to effect positive change. This reminded me of something that Michael Singer wrote in “the untethered soul”: “When you close your heart or close your mind, you hide in the darkness within you. There is no light. There is no energy. There is nothing flowing. The energy is still there but it can’t get in…That is what it means to be “blocked” (2007; p. 43). In other words, the power of an open heart is that it allows positive energy and strength to flow within you, and to and from others. It is true that life can be tough which can cause the strength in our heart to become blocked, but we all have a responsibility to ourselves, each other and the earth to open our hearts and walk in a good way – just as these visionary women have!

How strong does your heart energy flow?

Bell Let's Talk Day

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day - It’s also time for ACTION!

At some point in everyone’s life their mental health will be negatively affected by any of a wide range of factors such as winter darkness, grief, regrets, worries, illness, and on and on. The Bell Let’s Talk initiative opens up the conversation and awareness of mental health in an effort to target mental illness stigma and remind those struggling that they are not alone.

If mental health problems or illness affect us all, then why is discrimination against mental illness still so common in our society? According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “60% of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labeled.” They also state that stigma is “a social process that aims to exclude, reject, shame, and devalue groups of people on the basis of a particular characteristic…stigma sheds light on who in society has access to the power and privilege necessary to define rules and apply sanctions for violating them —those who do, become the beneficiaries of stigma; those who do not, become its subjects.” The complex oppressive function of stigma suggests that talk alone is not enough to eradicate it. We need to do more.

According to the WHO, the 3 most important determinants of mental health are: Social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to opportunities and resources. What does all of this mean? We must re-focus our attention from individual mental suffering to how, as a collective, we are all involved and affected by oppression and mental health. In other words, this is not an individual issue - it is a societal issue and requires collective action. This means taking the conversation a step further to re-establish connections and solidarity with each other and to effectively call policy makers into actions where they meaningfully and sustainably address the social determinants of mental health.

If you are dealing with any mental health issues, contact me for a counselling session in Victoria BC.