Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How to Resist Psychiatric Injustice on National Coming Out Day

By Jess Stohlmann-Rainey

Today is National Coming Out Day. I remember the first time I was excited about this day. It was my first year of college, and I felt so liberated from my oppressive and traumatic high school experience. It was the first time I thought I could be proud about my identity and be supported by the community around me. I felt like I had left discrimination in the dust when I moved away. As it turns out, I had some prescription strength rose-colored glasses on, but I wouldn’t trade that feeling for the world.

Later that same year, I had my first encounter with a therapist who blatantly treated my sexuality like the root cause of all my problems. I had experienced some bad providers before, one who even told me I may not be able to hold a job or move out of my parents’ home. This was different, and worse. This therapist seemed to believe that a fundamental piece of my identity might cause me interminable pain. The most unbelievable part of it is that this person considered themselves an ally, and even had a Safe Zone sign plastered on the wall. At the time, I wrote all of this off as an individual problem with this therapist. Now I know better.

The mental health system has a sordid history, and that history is intertwined in current practice. It is particularly sordid for queer people. (Whoa – why are you using the word queer?) Those of us who work in mental health and suicide prevention do a pretty bad job of acknowledging this history and apologizing for it. I get it, it isn’t easy to admit when you’ve screwed up. It is particularly hard when the screw up destroyed people’s lives. The problem with not acknowledging and apologizing is that it denies the very real experiences of people being harmed by the system. That’s called gaslighting, folks. While it might make the mental health community feel better, it completely obliterates the ability to address the last vestiges of this painful history – very real, very destructive discrimination.

A History Lesson

I could write volumes about the history of queer people’s interactions with the mental health system, but I won’t. There is an even deeper dive than what I am going to discuss here.


For the first time, queer identities enter into the mental health scene. During this period of time, queer identities are pathologized and criminalized, and “therapies” are utilized to try to eliminate people’s queerness, but end up just attacking their humanity. The myth that queer people are crazy, dangerous, and criminal, upheld by the mental health community, is leveraged to ban queer people from entering the country and joining the military.
  • LGB identities are characterized as pathologies, associated with psychopathy and criminal behavior
  • Trans* identities are considered sexual pathologies
  • Frontal lobotomy and electroshock therapy are recommended treatments for queer people
  • Queer people are banned from entering the country and from the military because they are “dangerous”

During this time period, queer people are further pathologized, although the type of pathology shifts around some.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders enters the scene, serving as a teaching tool and guiding manual for all providers. The DSM includes queer identities as disorders and painful, harmful therapies are recommended treatments.
  • Trans* identities are associated with psychopathy
  • DSM categorizes homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disorder, then as a personality disorder
  • Pharmacological aversion therapy and electroshock therapy are recommended treatments for queer people

Lots of progress was made toward the end of deinstitutionalization. This was a time of progress for many marginalized people. The major mental health associations and institutions got on board with progress, but didn’t do much in terms of reparations or apologies.
  • Sodomy laws repealed in many states
  • Queer people represented at American Psychiatric Association
  • Activists work to increase protective factors in the queer community 

In the last twenty years, there have been great strides in rectifying some of the blatantly discriminatory practices. Some of the biggest wins are below.
  • Homosexuality removed from the DSM
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell compromise instituted and repealed
  • American Psychological Association condemns conversion therapy, supports marriage equality and second-parent adoption
  • Sodomy laws ruled unconstitutional
Photo by Daniel Watson
If you just look at the wins, the last twenty years look pretty good. Unfortunately, the remnants of this difficult history still impact people’s lives today. There are no national standards requiring that mental health providers receive training about the unique needs of queer populations. Gender confirmation surgery, hormone therapy, etc. require a mental health diagnosis and treatment for insurance coverage. Medicare/Medicaid require that consumers receive a diagnosis to qualify for treatment. The leading cause of death among queer people age 10-24 is suicide. Conversion therapy is still legal in the United States.

It’s a setup. Queer people are systematically excluded from high-quality care, and because we don’t get what we need, we struggle. The struggle is often used to pathologize our identities further, creating a vicious cycle. We are treated by mental health professionals who are untrained and unprepared to work with us. We are stigmatized both as consumers and as queer people. We are over-diagnosed with some conditions, underdiagnosed with others. Data collection is not inclusive of queer people or does not ask demographic questions necessary to become inclusive. Diagnostic studies rarely consider queer identities as a factor. We are highly likely to be exposed to trauma. Minority stress increases the severity and frequency of our mental health symptoms, and marginalization interferes with connectedness – the cornerstone of suicide prevention.

Getting What You Need in a Broken System

The system is clearly broken, but for now, it is the one we have. As a queer person, working in suicide prevention, with 15+ years of mental health services under my belt, I have developed a few tricks to get what I need when the system isn’t enough.

Make Your Good Practice Checklist

I developed my checklist so that I could look at a website, make a phone call, and/or walk into the waiting room without paying a copay and decide whether or not I should give providers a chance to work with me. Everyone’s list could look a little different, but here are some ideas of what you might include.
  • Non-discrimination policy
  • Inclusive intake forms
  • Inclusive restrooms
  • Inclusive language
  • Queer people represented on website/print materials/office

Interview Your Provider

Anyone who has experienced an intake knows how rough that process can be. The problem with intakes for me is that they put all the power in the provider’s hands. My way of leveling the playing field is to refuse to do an intake until I have gotten to interview providers. The types of information I look for are: the provider’s attitudes about queer people and my diagnosis, their experience with people like me, how they make therapeutic decisions, their approach to forced treatment, how many people they have put on a 72 hour hold, and what training they have had. Here [JS1] is a handy list of some sample questions I have developed with some peers.
Photo by Sharon Pittaway

Find Alternative and Additional Pathways to Recovery

Traditional mental health treatment is not the only path to recovery, and isn’t right for everyone. I have been both helped and hurt by the traditional mental health system, so a combination of traditional services and alternatives ended up being the right route for me. Some alternatives to consider are: mindfulness, volunteering, activism, dance/movement therapy, art/music therapy, sobriety, getting outside and doing nature things, peer support, spirituality, massage, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

Link Up with Your People

I can’t say enough about the benefits of finding people like you to support you through dark times, share their wisdom, and lift up your voice when you speak truth to power. Finding my people has been integral to my wellness.

Making Queer Spaces Inclusive

While we are working on changing the system, we can also make our queer spaces better. Often times, queer spaces are not intentionally designed to support queer people who experience mental health challenges. To make our spaces better, we can:
  1. Provide mental health resources
  2. Advocate for education for mental health providers
  3. Educate our groups about mental health and accessing care
  4. Advocate for parity
  5. Offer dry/sober activities outside of recovery meetings
  6. Train our constituents and leaders in mental health and suicide prevention

Making the System Better

System change is slow and challenging. One of the best ways to influence system change is to educate the people within the system to push back. Seven things mental health providers can do to improve the system
  • Educate yourself about queer issues
  • Advocate for national training standards about queer identities and issues
  • Do not practice conversion therapy and advocate that it be outlawed
  • Do not conflate queer identities with disorders, pain, or suffering
  • Use identity affirming intake paperwork
  • Represent queer people in your advertising, website, and office
  • Recognize and celebrate queer holidays and remembrance days
In honor of National Coming Out Day, I want to invite my peers in suicide prevention and mental health to challenge themselves. Learn and grow. Do not let the history or our institutions define us. It is our responsibility to make the world a safer place for people to come out.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Congratulations to all my queer family who are daring greatly today.

·         How is social justice incorporated into your practice?
·         Have you worked with suicidal clients or attempt survivors before?
·         What kind of services do you think suicide attempt survivors typically need?
·         Have you worked with clients who are generally well, but use services for maintenance?
·         What types of therapy do you use most often?
·         Do you have specific training about behavior therapy? What training? When?
·         Have you had specific training about suicide? What training? When?
·         What does it mean for your clients to be well?
·         When do you think someone should be done with therapy?
·         What do you do when you think a client is lying or avoiding certain issues?
·         How many clients have you put on an M1/72 hour hold?
·         What is the process of putting a person on that hold?
·         When you have put people on a hold, have they come back to you for treatment?
·         What do you do to ensure your client’s dignity while they are in your care?
·         What types of concerns/conditions do you think you are best at treating?
·         Have you treated clients in interracial relationships? What unique challenges do they face?
·         Have you treated clients who are bisexual? What unique challenges do they face?
·         Have you treated people who work in the mental health field? What challenges do they face?
·         Have you treated clients who are substance users? What unique challenges do they face?
·         Do you use a harm reduction approach?
·         Have you worked with clients with severe and persistent or recurring suicidal intensity?
·         What has your experience working with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder been like?
·         What are deal breakers that would lead you to terminate treatment?
·         What is your strategy for developing a treatment plan?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Suicide Prevention Problem: We Need To Listen To the Real Experts

By Jess Stohlmann-Rainey

Photo by land[e]scape
Suicide prevention has a problem. There are some really important people whose voices are being left out. Some of the most important people. The people who know what it is like to want to die, but choose to live.

The lived expertise of suicide attempt survivors has been pathologized by the mental health community, and because of this it is often treated as invalid, unreliable, uneducated, or otherwise ill-informed. The production of knowledge in the field has come from one primary source: the “objective” researcher. There are a number of concerns with this being the primary source of knowledge production.

  1. Objectivity in research is a myth. The positionality of the observer impacts the way results are understood or interpreted. For example, most of the big names in suicidology are men. Men die by suicide much more frequently than women, and women attempt suicide much more frequently than men. As a field when we look at reducing the public health “burden’ of suicide, we look at reducing the number of deaths. This means that somehow, someone decided that the primary issue when it comes to suicide is suicide death. This puts the focus on reducing death and loss, not necessarily on changing, interrupting, or preventing the experience of suicidal intensity. Phrases like, “men bear the burden of suicide in the United States,” appear in public health documents and suicide prevention programs alike, but is that really the case? Would the women attempting suicide at four times the rate of men think that is true? Would their loved ones? Is the experience of suicidal intensity not a burden? Interpreting the meaning of numbers is almost certainly affected by the culture and identity of the person doing the interpreting.
  2.  Research funding is not neutral or equitable. Funding institutions have interests and priorities that are propagated by their investments. Returning to the example above, if the knowledge being produced tells us that we ought to focus on reducing death as opposed to reducing suffering, funding institutions will invest their money into research and strategies designed to prevent death. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does leave a significant gap around the practice of alleviating suffering. This means that while suicidologists may agree that means restriction is one of the most effective ways of preventing death (that we know of), it may not have any impact on the things that matter most to the person who is actually experiencing suicidal intensity. If suicide prevention just means literally preventing a death from occurring, it may be missing the bigger and perhaps more important issue of existential suffering.
  3. Where and how research is conducted are also not neutral or equitable. The vast majority of research is conducted in one of two ways. First, on college campuses or the community immediately surrounding research institutions. This means that participants in research reflect the campus community, tending to be higher income, highly educated, white, etc. Second, through a paternalistic approach which positions the researcher as a savior or rescuer, removing all power and agency from the subject. This feeds directly into the issues of the pathologization of the experiences of suicide attempt survivors.

None of this means that all research is bad, that the information we have is wrong, or that all research is conducted using these approaches. It does mean that some very important knowledge is being left out: the lived expertise of people who have considered and attempted suicide.
Photo by Luis Llerena

Seeing this valuable perspective marginalized within the field that is intended to support people experiencing suicidal intensity was frustrating for me, both as a professional and as a suicide attempt survivor. In 2015, the Carson J Spencer Foundation made a decision to put more emphasis on suicide attempt survivors in our programming. This shift opened an opportunity for me to develop programming by and for suicide attempt survivors.

The entire process of developing this program, from the questions we asked in the needs assessment to the analysis of the information collected has been completed by people who identify as suicide attempt survivors. Through the needs assessment process, we found a set of common experiences that participants felt were core components of their path to recovery.

Key Experiences

Five important categories of experience emerged consistently from people’s stories. What we heard, over and over again in the more than eighty interviews with suicide attempt survivors, is that the following experiences needed to happen for them to identify themselves as in recovery.

Becoming Willing to Live
Most people think that all suicide attempt survivors have this moment following a suicide attempt where they feel like they made a huge mistake, they wanted to live all along. Based on our interviews, some people had this type of experience, but it was more common for people to give in to the idea of living. We heard things like: “I figured out that being alive wasn’t the worst thing, even though it hurt...” and, “When I was in the hospital I was alone, in the corner with my dunce cap like “you have to find a way to stop hurting yourself.” Becoming willing to live is no easy process, and while it can be transformational for people, it doesn’t change all the factors that contributed to people’s desire to die. It is just the first step.

Finding Refuge
The next common experience was for people to seek out sheltering, positive, nonjudgmental spaces to heal. Some found physical spaces, like the participant who returned to her college town. “I went back to the town I went to college in because It was the last place I remembered feeling good,” she said, even though she didn’t know anyone who was still living there. Others found refuge with people who felt supportive. Another participant said, “I lived with friends who were safe, loving, and supportive. It was so much better than family.” Finding refuge is like laying the foundation for the other parts of the process.

Photo by Jochen Vander Eecken

Speaking Truth
Participants felt significant pressure to be silent about their experiences. They heard they should not talk about it from mental health providers in group therapy, their families, their friends, their doctors. Keeping their experience a secret was at best, annoying or frustrating, and at worse, shaming and contributed to more acute suicidal intensity. Telling was an important experience. One participant said, “It was just burning on my tongue. I felt like I had this big secret and I couldn’t go on keeping it. So I told. Then I couldn’t stop telling.” In The Transformationof Silence into Language and Action, Audre Lorde says “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken… I was going to die, if not sooner, then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.” All of the participants expressed the sentiment that giving voice to experience was liberatory. One participant asserted, ”I felt so powerful when I finally talked about it. Like I wasn’t a slave to my secret anymore.”

Finding Kinship
Once participants began telling their stories, they began searching for others like them. Because their identities as suicide attempt survivors were so often erased, and the discrimination they faced was so significant, finding kinship networks of people who understood their experience became incredibly important. Being able to share recovery strategies, talk about the challenges they faced without judgment, and provide mutual support was integral to their journey. There has been a pervasive practice within the mental health system of not allowing suicide attempt survivors to share their experiences openly in groups, whether or not a clinician was present. It is clear from these interviews that survivors are not only finding each other and having these discussions anyway – one participant stated, “What was so weird was that in the hospital we weren’t allowed to talk about our attempts. So we said, “fuck you,” and started our own outside group afterward. We are still friends.” – but that finding kinship and solidarity with other suicide attempt survivors is an irreplaceable part of recovery. One participant explained how vital finding this network was, saying, “I just knew there had to be more people like me, and it was so much worse for us to just be all alone.” This was frequently cited as the most important experience. The importance of connectedness as a protective factor has been confirmed by suicide prevention research many times, so it is not surprising that this process was so imperative to the participants.

Developing Power
The final key experience that emerged was to developing power by making meaning of the experience. This experience was defined by actions that allowed something positive to come from their suicide attempt. The two most common ways of developing power were helping and activism. One participant served as Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. She explained, “I wouldn’t say I was “recovered” until after I started volunteering as a CASA. I couldn’t believe they let me do it, actually. I was so dark and twisty, who would let me help kids? But they did. It changed my life. I was part of something and it healed my soul.” Another participant worked on a crisis line, saying, “Once I got on that hotline everything changed. I was whole again, and I could help people. That was the moment I knew I would live. Really live.”

It is important to note that that throughout these interviews, there was no treatment or experience with the mental health system that participants identified as integral to their recovery process. This doesn’t mean that traditional mental health treatment was not effective; for some people it absolutely was. When in this process people found traditional treatment helpful varied greatly, and many of the participants did not find benefit in traditional treatment modalities at all. These findings indicate that recovery requires much more than traditional therapy, and that some practices in the mental health system actually prevent these key experiences from occurring.

What Next?

The mental health and suicide prevention communities should examine how these experiences are being supported or discouraged in their practice. Reducing the barriers to these experiences and promoting opportunities for them to happen. This information can also help friends and family of suicide attempt survivors better understand their experience.

The Carson J Spencer Foundation is using this data, along with other data gathered in this process to inform the development of a new care package for suicide attempt survivors leaving hospitalization settings. The contents of the package will be designed, reviewed, and approved by suicide attempt survivors, and will serve as a companion through the complex experience of recovery following a suicide attempt. For more information about this data, the collection process, or the development of this new program, please fill out our contact form with the subject “SOSA Blog”.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“Words Make Worlds”: Language and the Culture of Mental Health in Workplace Wellness

by Donna Hardaker and Sally Spencer-Thomas

Part III: Words about Mental Health

In Part I: “Words Make Worlds”: Language and the Culture of Mental Health in the Workplace”, we explored the rationale for being mindful and intentional about language as we address stigma and social prejudice due to archaic and unconscious speech. In Part II, we addressed specific language about suicide. Here in Part III, we look at specific language about mental health.
“Power is the ability to define reality and to have other people respond to your definition as if it were their own.” – Wade Nobles
“Words are powerful. Old and inaccurate descriptors and the inappropriate use of these descriptors perpetuate negative stereotypes and reinforce an incredibly powerful attitudinal barrier.” – Kathie Snow
Workplaces are microcosms of society as a whole and have a significant contribution in generating social inclusion or exclusion. Workplaces can be powerful change agents when they create caring cultures through mindful attention to how suicide and mental health are discussed.

Photo by Benjamin Child
It is difficult for us to write this article in a simple “Say This” and “Don’t Say This” way. The topic is far more complex than swapping out words. This discussion is inside of a social movement (generally referred to as the recovery movement) that seeks to draw attention to unconscious bias held by the powerful dominant group who own and operate the communication methods that describe people who are not in the dominant group.

Generally, clinicians are the dominant group who name this experience. Clinicians use diagnosis-based thinking. Thoughtful language about mental health and suicide does not rest on diagnostic categories, but rather tries to communicate more clearly, accurately, individually and holistically about the experience. We constantly look to find language that is dignified, empowering, and inclusive as well as being as descriptive as possible.

This is not about political correctness. It is about altering how we all speak, and therefore how we all think, in order to permanently end social injustice in this area. Just as with other social justice movements, polite society no longer accepts these terms: “mental retardation”, “handicapped”, “colored”.

It is not easy to find “the best” language; we are forced to use common terminology developed by the dominant group that does not emanate from the empowered voice of the people being talked about:

1. The terms are often clinically based and clinically biased. Many people in the recovery movement push back against the term “mental illness” because it puts the descriptor of a person in medical language. This forces a medical presence inside the naming of a group who do not always wish to be identified based on a medical perspective. The medical model, when socialized in the media and in boardrooms, contributes to rampant oversimplification that looks like this: “All that has to be done is to get these ill people to seek treatment, they take a pill and they are fixed!” It is important to keep in mind that diagnosis serves the medical practitioner in treatment planning. It does not provide good information or understanding about the whole person and encourages us to see a person only in terms of a medical condition. And diagnosis is often incorrect, so should not be the focus of how we educate.

Clinical bias mostly does not include a trauma-informed approach. It is very common for people who have received a label regarding mental health or substance use to have a significant history of trauma. 

This correlation is ignored in the language, and often in treatment too. The trauma experience is not addressed, only the set of “symptoms” currently seen.

2. The choice of words is not mindful. In heavy usage is the word “suffering” as in “people who suffer from depression”. This paints a pathetic picture of nothing but suffering inside this experience, which is a fallacy while suggesting a passive state of inaction.

Another common term is “the stigma of mental health”. This word usage infers that there is stigma inherent inside of mental health. Instead, words should more accurately describe that stigma is an attitude of prejudice towards a group of people by a group of people who are dominant. See below for suggested alternatives.

3. Terms promote “other than” thinking. The words “disorder” and “disability” inform us that those who fall into these categories are other than “ordered” or “able”. “Order” and “able” are the givens, the desirable things, the “normal” things.  “Dis” infers “other than” and forces the thought that a person described this way has a value relative to the desirable given, and of course falls short. 

Consider this: the term “non-white” is not used to name a person who is other than Caucasian because it would be deemed to be disrespectful. Unfortunately, we do not have a wording solution to this dilemma.

4. Better terms require more words. Because we are forced to use terms that represent dominant culture mindsets, we can refer to them as labels, not as the “truth”. For example, a better way of saying “a person who has a mental illness” could be to say: “a person who has the experience of having been assigned a medical label in the category called ‘mental illness’ “. But this makes writing and speaking very cumbersome.

5. We do not have consensus around best language. Inside the recovery movement, we do not have consensus on best language, and that is okay. Let’s all keep thinking about this, talking to each other and pushing us collectively toward better communication.

The chart below provides some principles of progressive language. The suggestions that appear in the right-hand column are far from perfect, and we hope that they will continue to adapt and improve. To fulfill our desire to support self-determination, please note that if a person with the lived experience of a mental health challenge wishes to identify themselves using language from the left-hand side of the chart below, we support their choice.

(This is not an exhaustive list, and for reasons of space does not hold all the terms and usage that we wish would change.)

Moving language away from…
Moving language toward…

Phrases that perpetuate incorrect thinking

·         “stigma of mental health”
·         “mental health stigma”

Infers that there is something inherently stigmatizing about mental health.

More appropriately descriptive phrases

·         “stigma, discrimination and social prejudice towards people who are deemed to be in the group labeled as having a mental illness”

We recognize that this is too long, but let’s continue in this vein! Especially important is the insertion of “social prejudice” to call out the group who are engaged in the attitudinal damage.

Words that promote only one aspect of the experience

·         “people suffer from a mental health challenge”
·         “people who struggle with a mental health challenge”

It is inaccurate to indicate that the entire experience is one of suffering and struggle.

·         “have a mental health challenge”
·         “lives with a mental health condition”
·         “living through suicidal thoughts.”
Language here begins to communicate resilience.

It could be appropriate to speak about functional impact with use of the word “struggle”
·         “overcomes struggles with concentration”
·         “finds ways to cope with the struggle of fatigue”

Confusing lay usage of clinical terms

·         “he is acting so bipolar”
·         “the weather is schizophrenic”

Test your language by swapping out a term for an experience that is generally accepted, for example, you wouldn’t say “he is acting so diabetic” or “the weather is cancerous”

Hate speech

·         “psycho”
·         “cray-cray”
·         “nutjob”
·         “whacko”
·         “lunatic”

Respectful language that promotes dignity. Ask: would you enjoy the word being used to name someone you care about?

·         ”a person in distress”
·         ”a person in emotional distress”
·         ”a person with a history of psychological distress”
·         ”a person experiencing a mental health challenge”
·         “a person living through overwhelming life challenges”

Language that cuts a broad swath and defines people by their conditions.

·         “the mentally ill”
·         “the homeless”
·         “the disabled”

Wording that recognizes individual experiences and differences.
·         “people who have mental health challenges”
·         “people who live with mental health issues”
·         “people whose experiences are labeled as a mental illness”
·         ”people who experience homelessness”
Language that uses clinical or legal identifiers

·         “a patient”
·         ”a case”
·         ”a client”

·         ”a person who is engaged in treatment”
·         ”a person who is receiving services”

Language that emphasizes a diagnosis, not the person

·         “he is a schizophrenic”
·         “she is bipolar”
·         “he is an addict”

People-first language

·         ”he is a person who has received a diagnosis of schizophrenia/bipolar disorder”
·         ”she is a person who experiences addiction”
·         ”he is a person who identifies as an addict”

Shorter, but problematic due to diagnosis as a descriptor:
·         “he has schizophrenia”
·         “she lives with an anxiety disorder”
·         “she is in treatment for depression”
·         “she is coping with the effects of trauma.”

Portions of this chart have been adapted with permission from Each Mind Matters, California’s Mental Health Movement, funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63).

In conclusion, words matter, especially where there is such a long history of marginalization, misinformation, and mystery around daunting topics. When it comes to language related to mental health, we may not have all the right answers, but many of us are in the struggle to do better.



SALLY SPENCER-THOMAS: As a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, faculty member, and survivor of her brother's suicide, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas sees the issues of suicide prevention from many perspectives. Currently, she is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Denver-based organization leading innovation in suicide prevention. One of the main programs of the Carson J Spencer Foundation is “Working Minds: Suicide Prevention in the Workplace” – the nation’s first comprehensive and sustained program designed to help employers with the successful prevention, intervention and crisis management of suicide (www.WorkingMinds.org). Additionally, she is the Co-Lead of the Workplace Task Forces for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and the Co-Chair of the Workplace Special Interest Group of the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

Donna is an internationally recognized industry expert in the emerging field of workplace mental health. She is an award-winning curriculum developer, advocate, public speaker, writer, and advisor, who has leveraged her personal experience of mental health challenges and their impact on her employment history into a significant body of work. She is the Director of Wellness Works, a workplace mental health training program of Mental Health America of California that has been evaluated as highly effective in stigma reduction with lasting behavior and culture change. She is also a member of the Workplace Task Force for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Donna is from Toronto, Canada, but now lives in Sacramento, where she greatly enjoys the California sunshine.
Learn more about the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: http://actionallianceforsuicideprevention.org/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Male First Responders, Mental Health & Suicide Prevention: September 1st Twitter Chat to Kick off Suicide Prevention Month

We depend on our first responders to keep us safe and save our lives. Now we need to make sure those who are willing to risk their lives to protect us get the support they need when they hit hard times. To kick off Suicide Prevention Month, the Man Therapy partners ask you to join them on September 1st at 6:00 p.m. MT (5:00 p.m. PST, 7:00 p.m. CT and 8:00 p.m. EST) for a live Twitter chat hosted by the Carson J Spencer Foundation. The Twitter chat will engage first responders and mental health providers in a conversation on how to best reach and support first responders. To participate, simply follow #ManTherapy for the duration of the chat and be sure to use the same hashtag in your questions and responses.

During this hour conversation, first responder panelists (see below) will be engaging participants in a dialogue on the following questions:
  •        What factors increase risk for suicide among first responders? What are the differences among groups of first responders?
  •          What are some barriers to reaching out for mental health services and other forms of support?
  •          What are some promising practices, resources, and tactics for mental health promotion and suicide prevention among first responder communities?
  •          What do you think of the new first responder resources from Man Therapy?

Derrick Delgado: Derrick Delgado is a Captain for the Denver Fire Department and the President of the Firefighters Incorporated for Racial Equality (F.I.R.E.). After the death of Captain Steve Magana, Delgado helped lead a new suicide prevention initiative at DFD that has become a model for other departments in Colorado and nationally. More here:
·         Delgado shares why suicide prevention in important for fire service: https://youtu.be/xSnVGwAc0mI
·         YouTube video from Denver Fire Department on Total Wellness: https://youtu.be/SskSfiMLxl8   
Brian Humphrey:  A lifelong California resident, Firefighter Brian Humphrey is celebrating his 31st year as a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department. In 1993, Brian was appointed to a Command Staff position as Public Information Officer prior to that year's monumental wildfires and the Northridge Earthquake in the year that followed.
Shawn Mobley: Shawn Mobley is the Otero County Sheriff in Colorado. He is a U.S. Army veteran, an accomplished police instructor, veteran criminal investigator, and a community-oriented problem solver. Mobley has received numerous awards throughout his career and is the highest decorated officer for the La Junta Police Department, earning the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism and bravery, two Lifesaving awards, commendations for homicide investigations, accident reconstructions, and community service.
Greg Pixley: For over 30 years as a Firefighter, Greg Pixley has witnessed the tragedy of suicide faced by our Brother and Sister firefighters and their families. This has driven him to assist those in need. As the Director and member of the Denver Fire Department Peer Support Team, he knows how important it is to always be there when called upon.
Tom Wood: Tom Wood is the Field Director and 18 year veteran of the Alpine Rescue Team in Evergreen, Colorado. He’s a U.S. Delegate for Terrestrial Rescue to the International Commission for Alpine Rescue. Tom is an author, and his memoir Trading Steel for Stone: Tales of a Rustbelt Refugee Turned Rocky Mountain Rescuer, tackles the difficult topic of backcountry suicides and their effect on first responders.   
Give Us Feedback on the Man Therapy website here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ManTherapy

About the Man Therapy Partners
The Man Therapy campaign is the result of a unique partnership between Cactus, a Denver-based advertising agency, the Office of Suicide Prevention at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Carson J Spencer Foundation, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization with a focus on innovation in suicide prevention.


Cactus is a full-service brand communications agency providing business solutions for companies and causes through brand strategy, advertising, design, interactive and media services. Cactus has been nationally recognized for its breakthrough creative executions by The One Show, Communication Arts, The Webby Awards, South by Southwest, Favourite Website Awards, Advertising Age, Creativity and Print’s Regional Design Annual. To learn more about Cactus, visit cactusdenver.com.

Carson J Spencer Foundation - Sustaining a Passion for Living

The Carson J Spencer Foundation (www.CarsonJSpencer.org) is a Colorado nonprofit, established in 2005.  We envision a world where leaders and communities are committed to sustaining a passion for living. We elevate the conversation to make suicide prevention a health and safety priority by:
  • Delivering innovative and effective suicide prevention programs for working-aged people
  • Coaching young leaders to develop social enterprises for mental health promotion and suicide prevention
  • Supporting people bereaved by suicide and people with lived experience with suicide.

Colorado’s Office of Suicide Prevention –– Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

The Office of Suicide Prevention, a legislatively mandated entity of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, serves as the lead entity for statewide suicide prevention and intervention efforts, collaborating with Colorado communities to reduce the number of suicide deaths and attempts in the state. To learn more about the Office, visit www.coosp.org.