"I had been silently struggling with depression for quite some time and was having a hard time convincing myself that life was worth living."
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month! Part of starting the conversation is about hearing and sharing real stories and being inspired to take action, so I'll share some of my own story and some things I've learned along the way.
As a seventeen-year-old college student, I had been silently struggling with depression for quite some time and was having a hard time convincing myself that life was worth living. While moving away from home is a big adjustment any student, for students like me who did not feel support at home, college can feel especially lonely. Things I could normally rely on to make me feel better, like my success in sports and academics, were no longer available - I wasn't playing a sport and college classes were challenging. Many days it was a fight to get out of bed, and sadly, it was the fear that someone would think there was something "wrong" with me that would force me to get dressed and go to class and the cafeteria.
That's why fighting stigma by starting the conversation around mental health is so important. Had mental health services been viewed as normal and healthy, I would have been more apt to speak up about my struggles. A pivotal moment in my journey was when I learned about organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms, who work to raise awareness about depression, addiction, and suicide. Soon after, I realized I wasn't alone and was able to work toward getting healthier.
Suicide awareness is more than just being aware, it's about taking action. By seeking out those we know who are struggling and offering something as simple as a smile, a chat over coffee, or a game of basketball, we sometimes offer more than we know. My journey toward mental health began when a girl in my dorm saw that I could use some encouragement and befriended me. Instead of sitting in my room alone, she invited me on walks on quiet trails in the woods near campus. Sometimes we discussed our favorite bands or what our families were like or shared a funny thing that happened in class that day. Other days we'd stroll in silence, watching butterflies float from flower to flower along the trail. I discovered walking around in nature to be calming and more importantly, I found friends and professionals who cared about my well-being.
I was shocked to read that in 2016, 8.8% of adults 18-25 years old had suicidal thoughts in the last year. To put that into perspective, that's two people in your 24-person chemistry class, or seventeen of your 200 Facebook friends who have thought that the world might be better without them at some point last year. Connect with a loved one or classmate over lunch or go for a walk in a nearby park. Share your story or ask them about theirs!
If you’re struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK.
Samantha Stites, Counseling Intern
It's time to take action.
Thank you for tuning in this month as we #starttheconversation about suicide prevention. At the beginning of the month, we discussed how stigma can prevent people from seeking help. Last week we had a conversation around warning signs of suicide. This week, we answer the question “Now what?” So far you:
> Have reduced judgement and think getting help is a good idea.
> Know how to identify if you or others need help.
Now, simply put, it’s time to take action.
The acronym ALGEE guides you to take action on preventing suicide.
Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
Give reassurance and information.
Encourage appropriate professional help.
Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
There is an overwhelming list of resources available for you or someone who needs help. Keyword: overwhelming. My #1 suggestion is to connect with a real human. Below are three easy ways for connecting with a real human. Note: In an emergency, meaning someone’s life is in danger, call 911.
Taking action is key. You can save someone's life. Below are additional resources in assisting you in taking action for yourself or helping someone else. Still not sure where to start? Give Resolve a call, and a licensed professional will answer the phone and help walk you through what you can do.
Kansas City Resources:
Protective factors shine a light in dark places and find peace in overwhelming situations. - jessica nickels
Life is a series of ups and downs. We stabilize by searching for meaning and purpose. The compass, which tells us the way back to equilibrium, is our value-system. Our resilience in the midst of these ups and downs depends on our protective factors. Protective factors shine a light in dark places and find peace in overwhelming situations.
Protective factors are influences that contribute to our well-being. Like most things in life, there are some protective factors you can influence and some you cannot. For example, you cannot control your genetics, the neighborhood where you grow up or your family. However, you can influence your social support, how to cope with problems, and how you spend your time.
Identifying our protective factors and understanding the influence they have is a powerful and healthy way to surf the ups and downs of life.
Here are six common protective factors that you can influence:
Which two factors are you strongest in? Which two factors need more focus and strength? For example, if you feel strong in social support and physical health, but weak in healthy thinking and self-esteem, start working on your relationship with yourself.
Strengthening Protective Factors
Below is a list of ideas on how to strengthen each area, but I’d love to hear some of your ideas. How do you strengthen your resilience?
Jessica Nickels, Counseling Intern
"Suicide. The word suicide catches people’s attention. The truth is that suicide catches everyone’s attention. It’s the actions that lead up to suicide that often go unnoticed." - Allison kidd
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. When we hear statistics like this, many questions surface such as:
Some might even think, those “signs” aren’t really a cry for help, they’re just to get attention.
People in crisis don’t think, “I’m going to act different to get people’s attention”. Often times, people struggling to make it through the day are more focused on hiding their symptoms than publicly displaying them.
Some people, however, do want you to notice those behavioral changes as a cry for help. They may not be able to verbalize their needs so they suffer on the inside, struggling to acknowledge and admit to others that they need help. This is their way of gaining that attention that they so desperately need in order to take action and get help.
Know the warning signs:
Warning signs are clues that people exhibit that caution us something isn’t right, and we should investigate further. Individuals might already display some of these behaviors on a regular basis with no concern noted. The real concern lies when behaviors are new, out of the ordinary for a person's character, or have increased in frequency or severity.
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide created the acronym F.A.C.T.S. to detect the warning signs for suicide. This is a helpful reminder of what to look for in your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, or yourself.
Feelings: different from the past
Actions: different from the way they normally act
Changes: in personality, behaviors, sleeping patterns, eating habits
Threats: that convey a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, or preoccupation with death
Situations: that can serve as "trigger" points for suicidal behaviors
No matter the reason for behavior changes, mental health and suicide should always be taken seriously. If someone mentions that 7 letter word or is acting in a way that you are concerned about, START THE CONVERSATION with them about how to safety plan and get action. If you yourself are experiencing uncomfortable thoughts, images, thinking patterns, or changes in mood and behaviors, START THE CONVERSATION with yourself and a trusted individual.
Know the signs, start the conversation. One conversation can change a life. #starttheconversationkc
Allison Kidd, LSCSW, LMAC
I can see the light! This December, I will graduate with my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. Over the past year, working as a Counseling Intern at Resolve has been the highlight of my Master’s program. I want to briefly reflect on why I have enjoyed my internship, and share a little more about Resolve’s Counseling Internship Program.
MY TOP 3:
During my time at Resolve, I have had the opportunity to work with kids, teens, adults, couples and families. Each client brings a diverse background and unique goals for counseling. Working with these individuals is the best part of my entire graduate program. Working with my clients reassures me of why I spend so many nights and weekends away from my own family to complete this degree.
James and Amber, the owners of Resolve, have worked with me on a weekly basis to ensure I am providing the highest quality care to my clients. Their expertise and drive motivates me to be the best version of myself in this field. They have a contagious passion and serve as beacons of hope in our community.
#3: Professional Network
The team of clinicians at Resolve are a great source of knowledge and experience. The variety of specialties is very rich and I’m grateful for their willingness to mentor me this past year. Community partners who have allowed me to come deliver seminars, facilitate support groups or attend a continuing education course have also been a highlight.
Thank you Resolve for having me!
ABOUT RESOLVE’S INTERNSHIP PROGRAM:
Resolve is committed to our community, and in doing so, we want to be able to provide a counseling option for everyone. This means providing quality services that are cost effective for any budget. We are able to do this is through our Counseling Internship Program.
Resolve’s Counseling Internship Program consists of Graduate level students (like me!) who are pursuing degrees in Counseling Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy or Social Work.
Qualifications of Counseling Interns:
Prior to embarking on their internship, Graduate students complete many of their core classes such as Counseling Theories, Helping Relationships, Diagnosis, Human Growth & Development and Ethics. Graduate students must be approved by their university prior to starting an Internship Program.
Counseling Interns meet weekly with both a Site Supervisor (Resolve Clinician) and a School Supervisor (Professor). During these supervision sessions, Counseling Interns consult on their current client caseload and receive guidance on applied theory, professional attitude and behavior, clinical practice and cultural competency. The Counseling Intern practices under the Site Supervisor’s professional license during the program.
Quality of Service:
Counseling Interns are eager to help others. They are constantly absorbing education and consulting with other professionals. As mentioned above, Counseling Interns work closely with supervisors, ensuring clients a high quality of service from multiple professionals.
Who should work with Counseling Interns:
Resolve is a unique practice that provides a variety of focus areas for counseling. This includes adults, kids, couples, and families. Our clinicians have expertise in trauma, anxiety, substance use, relationships, parenting and much more. As a part of our diverse team and under supervision, Counseling Interns are highly capable to work with clients experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and looking to grow and enhance their lives.
Counseling Interns in the Community:
Counseling Interns are also able to facilitate groups, provide onsite education and participate in events to promote Mental Health. Counseling Interns are a great fit for other non-for-profits and social service organizations that might not have a large program budget.
Interested in working with a Counseling Intern? Contact us today or set up a session using our easy online scheduling system.
Jessica Nickels, Counseling Intern
"Stigma around mental health difficulties stops people from seeking help, inhibits conversations around treatment and keeps a veil of secrecy over the hope that comes with seeing a professional and addressing the issues at hand." - Amber reed
Starting the Conversation
September is Suicide Awareness Month and that means here at Resolve, we are reminding everyone of the importance of starting the conversation around mental health. We will be having a month long series of blogs and social media posts highlighting mental health, giving you tips and tricks for coping, sharing stories from survivors and traveling around the city to spread the word to #starttheconversationkc.
In our office, clinicians have spent the past few months talking about barriers to seeking treatment. The one barrier that continually comes up time and time again is stigma. Stigma is broadly defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”
Stigma around mental health difficulties stops people from seeking help, inhibits conversations around treatment and keeps a veil of secrecy over the hope that comes with seeing a professional and addressing the issues at hand. Stigma and suicidal thoughts thrive in an environment of secrecy, making people feel as though they are the only ones with a specific problem and that help is fruitless. In 2016, in Kansas alone, 1 person died each day by suicide. According to NAMI, nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness have not received treatment in the past year.
What can I do to reduce stigma?
There are many things we can do on a daily basis to reduce stigma associated with mental illness; here are a few starting points:
There is Hope
As a therapist, I have always wished to have some type of a time machine that allowed people to get a glimpse of themselves towards the end of treatment. The changes that people are able to make when they get the right treatment, be that medication or therapy, are incredible. People are resilient, and they are able to grow in change in ways that are unimaginable. Let’s work together to begin reducing the stigma around mental health issues, suicide and seeking help. #starttheconversationkc
Amber Reed, LSCSW, LCAC
Co-owner of Resolve Counseling & Wellness
"The first step is the hardest. Our mind often leans more towards the negatives, preventing us from following through with something. We think of what we will lose, such as sleep and time, rather than what we could gain, such as energy from others and an experience." - ALlison Kidd
Ever have one of those days where you struggle to get yourself somewhere? Maybe you’re too tired, overloaded with tasks to do, or feel anxious about going.
For the past year, I have been attending the Wellness Consortium with Dr. Michelle Robin where she often says the first step is to “just show up”. This really resonates with me on days where I’m struggling to get myself somewhere. I find my mind focusing on all the excuses as to why I can’t or why I shouldn’t go, when I really need to be more mindful of the personal growth opportunities.
The first step is the hardest. Our mind often leans more towards the negatives, preventing us from following through with something. We think of what we will lose, such as sleep and time, rather than what we could gain, such as energy from others and an experience.
When working with teens, I find that this is something that they struggle with often. As school approaches, they tend to dread waking up and going to school where they might have conflicts with peers, feel overwhelmed in the classroom, or overall don’t enjoy the educational aspect of school. This can be a hindrance from getting out of their comfortable bed and going to an environment that they don’t acknowledge the positive possibilities. If they “just show up” they could meet someone new, learn something intriguing, strengthen current relationships, and enjoy the experience more.
For adults, it’s often the thought of “I have too much going on” and don’t prioritize time to something that could be very meaningful to them. They too could meet someone new, learn something, and enjoy the experience. But, they won’t know if they don’t “just show up”.
I challenge you to spend the month of August reminding yourself to “just show up”. Here are some tips to help get you to where you need to be:
Allison Kidd, LSCSW, LMAC
“The sudden noise sent a shockwave through my brain and jolted me out of my TV trance. It sounded like sirens, several of them, blaring over a gust of wind, and caused a terrible pressure to build in my ears. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.” – Glenn Schweitzer
When I first read about a case of Tinnitus leading someone to counseling, I instantly felt like a rookie counseling intern again. "What on earth is Tinnitus?," I thought. "I have taken 80% of my Master’s classes and I have never heard this word before; how did I miss this?" Tinnitus is a medical condition that can be treated utilizing different techniques learned through counseling. Phew, this was simply a learning opportunity for me, more of a zebras over horses type situation for those of you that are familiar with that analogy!
Tinnitus put simply is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself – it’s a symptom of an underlying condition such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder. So why do I feel as a counselor that it’s important to write to you about Tinnitus? About 1 in 5 people will suffer from Tinnitus in their lifetime, which adds up to 45 million Americans. That also means that 20% of the people that read this article will suffer from Tinnitus, and that is a big number!
For most diagnosed with Tinnitus, including Glenn Schweitzer author of Rewiring Tinnitus, the condition is not curable. There is no magical pill or treatment to make this condition go away. While that may be a devastating prognosis, don’t lose hope quite yet, by utilizing simple techniques that rewire your mental, emotional, and physiological response to sound, you can get to a point where Tinnitus no longer disrupts your daily life! This is where a counselor can come in.
One of the techniques that Glenn shares with us in his book it the use of meditation. There are many ways that meditation can benefit the tolerance of Tinnitus and they’re not limited to just the noise from Tinnitus itself! If you have ever experienced Tinnitus my guess is that you have also experienced frustration and irritability. I don’t blame you, a constant buzzing, hissing, or ringing in my ear would most definitely bring up some negative emotions within me. Fortunately for us, meditation has been founded to manage these negative feelings that accompany the noise. But wait, there’s even more evidence as to why meditation can empower your fight against Tinnitus.
“Our brains are fully capable of filtering out repetitive stimuli, like sound, from our conscious awareness with a mental process known as habituation. It’s how we’re able to focus in noisy places and why we don’t constantly feel our clothing against our skin,” explains Glenn. This practice is key to living with tinnitus, but unfortunately sometimes it is just simply impossible to ignore a sound that our brains interpret as threatening or dangerous. You see, when experiencing the noise from Tinnitus, our brains automatically kick into fight or flight mode and all of our senses are then pushed into hyper drive. Since sound is one of our five senses, our sensitivity for sound is also kicked into hyper drive making the noise from Tinnitus seem even louder and more intense than the normal sound would be.
In his book, Glenn explains the night where he suddenly decided to stop ignoring the urge to fight his tinnitus, and curiously began focusing on the ringing instead. Through this practice of meditation Glenn began to focus on the sound itself and nothing else. Now as every beginner learns with meditation, your mind will start to wander, but as his mind began to wander he realized that for that brief moment, he hadn’t noticed his Tinnitus. The more that Glenn practiced meditation and focused on the sound in a calm and peaceful setting, the more that his brain began to associate the intense calm of meditation with the sound of his tinnitus. As with any form of meditation, the more that you practice it, the more natural it becomes for your body. For tinnitus sufferers that practice meditation regularly, the more that they can continue to associate calm with their Tinnitus, the less intense the sound becomes for them; and ultimately the less disruptive their Tinnitus becomes. Wow. Meditation is such a versatile concept!
There may not be a cure for Tinnitus, but there are definitely ways to change the way that you react to the sound which in return can dramatically improve the quality of your life.
Sometimes we face incredibly daunting medical prognoses and feel there are no answers to make these fathomable, but sometimes we simply need to open our minds to alternative forms of medicine like meditation to help us through our journey! It may not be the cure, but it could definitely be the key to a little more joy in every day.
I use LinkedIn often, probably 5-6 times a week. I've been an avid user since 2012. My then-boss encouraged me to create a profile so I could find sales prospects. This platform offered me the perfect tools to connect with people I met, or to get introductions to decision makers in order to close a sale. I've built a robust network over time, and I've learned a lot along the way. Things like:
In the past, I was quite guilty of just clicking away to see who would accept a request.
I was once one of The Strangers. It was totally a numbers game a few years ago, kind of like online dating. Now, I only send a request if I've met the person, or if I have a business purpose for connecting.
As a sex coach, and one who proudly lists this without any euphemisms on my profile, I get a lot of connection requests from The Strangers now. Like, a lot, a lot.
The Strangers are mostly men, but there have been a few ladies in the mix. However, with the ladies, usually, I look at their profiles and find that they are trainers, nutritionists, doctors, or in the health and wellness field in some capacity. I will gladly connect with both women and men in these areas, but I send them a quick note to start a conversation and try to schedule a coffee or lunch together after a few emails. It's about connecting, not collecting, right?!
But the male Strangers, well, they aren't always looking for business chit-chat.
Since last fall, I have been doing what Johnson recommended in his blog post. I now send The Strangers a polite message saying, "Thanks for the request. I don't usually connect with people I've not met before. Did we meet recently and I've forgotten, or do you have a business purpose for wanting to connect with me?" Simple and to the point.
I've gotten the full gambit of responses:
I get it - everyone uses this platform differently, and etiquette is complicated. My goal is to give people the opportunity to actually express their intentions with my message. Maybe they don't hold the same reverence for the Connect button as I do, or they just aren't savvy with the iPad app and were licking Connect on suggestion after suggestion. Maybe they are new to the area and are just trying to build their network, or worse, we met and I forgot! Maybe they really just wanna get laid.
Whatever it is, I'm finding out before clicking Accept.
Johnson and I recently discussed my experience with LinkedIn since becoming a sex coach when we ran into one another, which led me to reach out for a more in-depth conversation about what could be behind some users' behavior. I wanted to discuss The Strangers and get his perspective on using LinkedIn as anything other than a business site. Because it's complicated...
We admit there's certainly got to be users on LinkedIn that have used it as a dating site with success, even though we don't personally know someone who has (Pssst...if you met your spouse on LI, email me please). But, by and large, users are on there for business only. Not. To. Find. Dates.
Now, I admit I've checked out my share of profiles after someone pops up and I find their picture attractive, but I don't send connection requests just because I think a dude is smokin' hot. Light creeping is fine. I think it's on par these days with checking out someone at the pool from afar.
Simply put, he and I agree LinkedIn is not a dating site.
But, we kinda get why some people treat it as such. Really the problem isn't trying to find a date on there. The problem lies in one's approach.
Johnson said he is fascinated by people's use of social media platforms in relation to their emotional baggage. He noted that many people, especially men, were taught to not address their emotions, and did not learn communication skills as children. Who hasn't heard this before, right? "A lot of people don't do the work" to overcome the baggage we all gather in life. They don't grow and take that next step of letting it all go.
Many people are not good communicators, Johnson said very bluntly. "Your entire (childhood) you're told to not communicate, feel, or express emotions…now you're in the real world." And guess what? You have to use your words. Your adult relationships at home, work, and in public rely on quality communication. And many of us suck at it! We carry that baggage everywhere, even to LI. You may very well just want to connect for strictly business reasons. But if you don't tell the person on the receiving end why you want to connect, it leaves them wondering. Then their baggage can have an effect on the exchange.
"Approach matters. I always recommend you send connection requests from your laptop." Sending the personalized message along with your request noting why you want to connect is important. It provides much-needed context. Johnson notes a design flaw - clicking Connect from your mobile device does not allow you this opportunity easily. "It's not obvious. Go to a profile and click the three little dots. You'll see an option to personalize the invite."
I look to see if the person wanting to connect has actually looked at my profile, too. If you haven't, well, then I can only assume a few things. You don't know what I'm about and you don't want to connect to learn about my business, my services, or my goals. You're probably not going to be a valuable component of my network, and you're probably not going to send me referrals.
Plus, in today's digital world, there are plenty of ways to connect with someone. Look at their profile and see if they have their Twitter handle listed. Look them up on Facebook. Whatever! There are alternatives. Use them.
What if you just can't resist?
Say you're on LinkedIn one day, and you see a woman that is attractive. You click on her profile. Then you find that she's got a great job, she works with some charities that you support as well, she's actually pretty cool and seems smart, and now you're interested in more than just that business connection. What do you do? Our recommendation - tread lightly. "You don't know what she's experienced before you sent her that request," said Johnson.
This is true! Maybe she just got 6 requests from other Strangers, and someone bothered her in her DM's earlier on Twitter, she got whistled at by the construction crew down the street while walking her dog, so she's not in the mood to entertain what she perceives as creeping on her profile.
Again, approach matters!
If you do go out for coffee and there's no spark, you left it open enough to fall back on just being business buds or networking connections. Or, maybe you'll make a rad new friend!
I have had some wonderful conversations with people since I started Johnson's approach to The Strangers. People have come back with responses about their business and how we could work together, that they have a non-profit I may find interesting, that they were given my card by a friend, and many more business-relatedreasons. And I want to be clear - I do not think every man who doesn't send a note indicating why they want to connect is just trying to score a date. My point is, state your intent from the beginning with a message accompanying your request so I don't have to guess or ask!
There's no perfect way to find your potential next partner, but you can certainly up your chances of not striking out. Want to learn more ways how? Follow my blog or email me for a one-on-one session.
You can find Mic Johnson on LinkedIn.
Kristen Thomas is the Owner and Head Coach of Open the Doors Coaching, LLC. She helps people nurture their love lives as a relationship, dating and sex coach. Follow Kristen via Twitter @openthedoorskc, Facebook, and Instagram @openthedoorscoaching. Need help with your sex life or relationship? Striking out on dating sites? Email her at Kristen@openthedoorscoaching.com.
"Change can be hard, but it can also help you realize how strong you really are." - allison kidd
Just 6 weeks ago, I made a major change in my life. I transitioned from working at Marillac full-time to being solely at Resolve, my new home. Although I think of this as making a huge leap, it was really a gradual transition for me. I wandered out of my comfort zone of working a regular schedule, around colleagues I felt at ease with, in an environment that I had known for the past 6 years (plus 1 additional year as an intern). I made this choice, weighed the pros and cons, created expectations, and thought I knew what this would look like. However, adjusting to change can be hard. Resolve allows me to have the flexibility I had craved, the creativity I needed, and the outlet to grow professionally and personally. But, just because I made this positive choice, doesn’t mean the adjustment to it has been easy. In the past 6 weeks, I’ve needed to create my own schedule and routine, have worked on self-discipline, spent time learning as a clinician again, and definitely gone out of my comfort zone to spend more time in the community.
Adjusting to change can be hard.
Sometimes we make a personal choice for change, sometimes it happens unexpectedly or out of our control. When we are able to plan for change, the expectations we make of the outcome aren’t always realistic. We like to “hope for the best” in terms of how we manage it, but it doesn’t always play out the way we would like it to. For those times where change happens to us, we can often feel confused and powerless with how to process it.
We’ve all experienced some form of these stressful times in our lives. This ranges from the ending of relationship or marriage, losing or changing jobs, getting married, having a baby, retiring, having an accident, death of a loved one, developing a serious illness, being a victim of a crime, living through a disaster (fire, flood, hurricane), etc.
When change happens, people often feel lost and overwhelmed. They might go through the Stages of Grief (Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, Acceptance) or process it in their own way. However, when they are unable to maintain stabilization through this course, they might experience what is known as Adjustment Disorder.
According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual), Adjustment Disorder is defined as the presence of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).
Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder
The most common symptoms include:
That’s not to say that everyone who struggles with adjusting to change would be diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder, but I’m sure we can all relate on some level. If symptoms are beyond the normal part of bereavement or grief that is to be expected, that is when seeking some assistance would be beneficial. A therapist can help to understand how the stressor affected their life, support in reducing the intensity of symptoms, and develop better coping skills to manage.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with adjusting to a recent stress, please reach out. Resolve clinicians are here to help you get through this difficult time. Change can be hard, but it can also help you to recognize how strong you really are.
Allison Kidd, LSCSW, LMAC