After the Webinar: Suicide Explained. Q&A with Amy Morgan

Webinar presenter Amy Morgan answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Suicide Explained: What Leads Someone to that Moment.  Here are just a few of her responses.

 

Audience Question: Regarding the suicidal mindset and the person’s perceptions of being a burden, that sounds like a delusion. Therefore, would you categorize some with this, someone with suicidal ideation and action is influenced by mental illness? 

Amy Morgan: No, it is a frame of thought. It is a place of being, basically. So, to try to clarify that further, I would not say the person is delusional. It’s not a delusion. It’s a perception. You may see it as delusional maybe because you don’t understand it. The person is going through things. Let’s say you see someone who’s suicidal, you don’t get it at all. And you think, “Man, their frame of mind is not going here and there, and delusional, or they’re not seeing this right?” You don’t know what their childhood is like. You don’t know necessarily what they went through, what experiences they’ve had. We don’t know everything, every factor that is built up to the point that they are at. So, I would not say it’s delusional. I would say, it is their experiences and the point that they’re at, and a combination of all of those experiences and their coping skills at that moment, in that time in their life with everything else is going on with whatever resources they do or don’t perceive that they have available to them, their point of clarity – if you’ve ever been in a place of things going really bad, your clarity is not like it is when everything’s going great. You just cannot try to figure out what they are thinking if you don’t have everything. You don’t have every thought that they have. You can’t judge or say what they’re thinking. It’s not a delusion, it is a perception.

 

Audience Question: I work with domestic violence perpetrators and that cohort has a significantly higher suicide rate than the general population. In fact, they often say, “If you leave me I’ll kill myself,” and then oftentimes will carry out that threat. Do you have any suggestions on how to help these folks develop a different perception? 

Amy Morgan: Domestic violence perpetrators? So, I would say, you have to again look at what have they gone through in their life? What has brought them to the point of domestic violence, and inflicting that on someone else, what has brought them to that point? So, you try to understand how they got to where they are in the first place. All of that. And a lot of times, violence comes out of frustration and a lack of ability to problem solve. It seems to be the only thing a lot of kids are raised in environments where the parent gets mad, or the parent can’t problem solve, and the parent loses their temper and is violent. And that is taught, I talked about that a little bit about teaching the coping skills in families and stuff. The child is sometimes taught the way to get your way, or the way to solve the problem is to be violent. Because when you get violent and angry, then people listen to you. And so, they will threaten things whatever works. I’m making a generalization here, but they don’t have the coping skills to cope with things not going their way, and the only thing they know is to act out violently. Suicide is also a violent act. Homicide and suicide often go together because it is a violent act. It is an outward display of all of these things, frustration, overwhelm, and lack of problem-solving skills, and all of those things. I think it goes back to helping them get resources. Helping teaches problem-solving, and whether it’s anger management, or just the basics of those kinds of things like handling life stressors, in a healthy way that could prevent them the suicidal thoughts. And again, those are sometimes used as a method to get someone else’s attention. Youth have higher rates of suicide attempts, as opposed to suicide completions than the elderly have. And it’s often because youth don’t have the resources available. They can’t pick up the phone maybe and make a call to a counselor, they don’t have a car, they can’t drive, or they don’t have the money to go, or they’re dependent on someone else. And if they were to go to a parent saying, “I need to talk to a counselor,” and the parent doesn’t immediately say, “Yeah, I’m driving, I’ll pay for it, and I’ll make it happen.” If they don’t have it available to them, they have to be asking someone else and explain it to someone else who may not understand, and may not support them. Same thing, here. And if you don’t have those abilities, you don’t know to ask for help. You don’t know where to reach out to you, and you’re just frustrated and overwhelmed with life, and things aren’t going your way. It comes out sometimes in a violent manner. Hopefully, that helps. I don’t know if I even really answer the original question.

 

Audience Question: The weariness of a suicidal person can sometimes be perceived as laziness or lack of motivation by those around them. Can you speak about how to overcome this barrier to communication? 

Amy Morgan: Yes, I’m curious as to whether it’s overcoming it from the suicidal person or from the person who is seeing the suicidal person. If you think about depression, if you’ve never had depression or never dealt with depression, people think, “Well, oh, you have depression, what are you sad about?” It’s not sad, a lot of times it’s fatigue, it’s apathy. And it’s not something you can say to somebody, snap out of it. It’s a mental imbalance, a chemical imbalance in the brain. Your chemicals are not aligned properly, they’re not balanced properly. Someone can’t just decide to not be depressed, you can’t just decide to get up off the couch and feel better. You can make yourself do things and people who are dealing with depression very often make themselves do things and go through the motions, but that’s all they’re doing. Internally they’re not handling things very well. If you don’t have a real understanding of depression, and you’re dealing with someone who appears this way, learn everything you can about depression. Because once you learn about depression, you’re going to learn about the signs that you’re seeing, and you’re going to understand them better. Literally, people cannot just say, “Okay, I’m done being depressed. I feel better, I’m just going to make myself feel better,” you can surround yourself with positivity, and you can watch and read and learn all sorts of positive things, and that is going to help change your brain chemistry. But it is gradual and slow, and it has to be done over a long period of time, the same thing an anti-depressant will do. But once you find the right anti-depressant, the right balance. Not an overnight process. So, if you’re seeing someone who you think, man, they’re lazy, if they would just get up and do things, they’d probably feel better. Again, carrying all those books, hiding that from you. You don’t know everything that’s going on and lead them there and just saying, “Hey, snap out of it. Let’s get you up. Let’s do things.” That just adds pressure. That just basically says, “I don’t understand you and I don’t want to. I just really want you to just get up and stop acting this way.” You have to get to the bottom of it, which is do they have depression? How can you get to the bottom of the depression? How can you help with their depression? How can you help with anxiety? How can you help with the problems that are causing the depression and anxiety in the first place?

 

Audience Question: Is there empirical evidence that the amount of time spent intervening and talking with a suicidal person is related to the survival rate of the suicidal individual? Is the length of the intervention a factor in predicting the survival of a suicidal person?

Amy Morgan: I think by the length of intervention, meaning time spent, I don’t know about empirical evidence. But from what I know, it is not the amount of time that you spend with someone, “I spent four hours listening to this person, so they’re going to go a lot better than the person yesterday I only spent an hour with.” That’s not it. First of all, everybody’s an individual. What you do with one individual that works really well may not work for someone else. Something that didn’t work with someone may work great with someone else. So, it’s an individual thing, but it is all about, first being listened to. Everybody, I don’t care who you are, needs to be heard, needs to be listened to, wants to be understood, wants to be known. Once you can spend enough time, and it can take 10 minutes, just to be like, “I really get what you’re saying, that’s got to be really hard.” That may be all someone needs to hear, to give them just that little glimmer of hope, so that you can say, “Hey, let’s get you to a counselor so that you can talk all this stuff out.” Then you give them a counselor, and the counseling can go on for a year. But you can also save a life, I’ve done interventions for a very long time, and you can save a life in 15 minutes by just letting someone know they’re not alone and letting them know that “You know what, I’m here to listen if you want me to.” And taking all those books off and listening to those one by one can maybe take a long time. But it’s not about the time spent. It’s about how genuine you are, what a good listener you are, how much that person feels listened to and understood, and then what resources you can connect them with afterward for ongoing help so they can actually get support and get resources and get the problem solved over the long haul.

 

Audience Question: Can you give a link to the documentary you described about the Golden Gate Bridge? Or maybe you can let everyone know what the name is? 

Amy Morgan: Yeah. It’s called The Bridge. I’m not sure, but I think I bought it on Amazon Prime or something. But, if you just search for it, and maybe even on YouTube, it’s just called The Bridge.

 

Audience Question: What are your thoughts on shows and music and things like that, that seem to glamorize suicides? As an example, 13 Reasons Why, can you talk a little bit about those shows and their impact on suicidal ideation? 

Amy Morgan: Yeah, I’m not going to pick one show, in particular, just to comment on. As a general rule, I think anybody who watches anything, a lot of the things I watch are things that interest me that I can relate to. People are going to get out of shows and things that they’re hoping to get out of it just like they would. You listen to podcasts that maybe support your own thoughts already, you don’t listen to things that contradict your thoughts. So, people that are watching things, that maybe they’re already having suicide and they watch something that glamorizes. Once it comes right down to actually following through, as I said, your brain has an innate job of saving your life. I don’t think a show on its own is going to take someone who’s non-suicidal and convince them that suicide is the right answer. It’s kind of like when people use it. You know, I used to teach it like junior high and high school and suicide prevention, and we would ask if we could come speak to their students. And they were saying, “No, we don’t want to talk about suicide because if we bring it up and it’s going to make them think about it, it’s going to give them the idea.” Well, let me just tell you. If you’ve ever been in your life, where your things are going fine, or even struggling a little bit, and you aren’t thinking about suicide and somebody comes to you and talks about suicide, you’re not going to go, “Wow, I wasn’t thinking about that before, but I am now.” That’s not how that works. If that’s in your mind, and you’re watching a show that confirms your own thoughts already, then that’s just confirming thoughts you already have. Or it’s going to contradict the thoughts you already have. But the bottom line is these are thoughts you’re already having. A show is probably not unless it’s intended to persuade someone who’s fine to be suicidal, it’s not going to turn someone into, that’s just my 2 cents. It’s not going to suddenly make suicide look like a great option for someone whose life is fine, and who isn’t struggling with it.

 

Click Here to Watch a Recording of Suicide Explained: What Leads Someone to that Moment.  

 

 

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