No suicide attempt should be dismissed or taken lightly.
Why do people attempt suicide?
“A suicide attempt is a clear indication that something is gravely wrong in a person’s life. No matter the race or age of the person; how rich or poor they are, it is true that most people who die by suicide have a mental or emotional disorder. The most common underlying disorder is depression, 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffer from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder.”
Information from the CDC on taking care of your emotional health during a disaster. A few steps that you can follow:
Take care of your body.
Connect with others.
Avoid too much exposure to the news.
Seek help when needed.
Common signs of distress to look for:
Feelings of numbness, disbelief, anxiety or fear.
Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels.
Difficulty sleeping or nightmares and upsetting thoughts and images.
Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
Worsening of chronic health problems.
Anger or short-temper.
Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
* If you are experiencing these feelings or behaviors for several days in a row and are unable to carry out normal responsibilities because of them seek professional help. * There is further information and additional resources on CDC’s website, here.
Do I belong here? Who am I to be doing this sort of work? I feel like a fraud, though I’m not doing anything wrong, but sometimes this feels wrong.
Dealing with imposter syndrome can be confusing. Someone who is feeling like an imposter may have these thoughts and emotions, one side telling you that you’re a fraud and the other working to rationalize the situation.
Note: Imposter syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM-5).
Who can be affected?
It’s common to have these thoughts of feeling like a fraud in an academic or work setting. Many people, both women and men, including experts in their field, will experience it. People in the helping and healing fields, like mental health professionals, also go through this. They may think something along the lines of, why do people come to ME for support with their issues?
Graduate students may experience this imposter sensation because they are at an in-between phase of professional development. They tend to feel unprepared and don’t fully acknowledge their strengths as they begin their career.
Why does this happen?
People will feel like they’re lacking a certain skill to get the job done. Realistically, people who are working in a constantly evolving field are sharpening their skills and learning new ones quite frequently to keep up with new technologies and research findings. There is an infinite amount of information to learn and an equal amount of skillful work to be done.
Remember, nobody is perfect and mistakes will be made, especially when someone is stepping into a new career. Not only should people acknowledge that their skills need dialed in, people need to also acknowledge their strengths.
The people who don’t acknowledge their capabilities and efforts tend to attribute their accomplishments to external causes, like luck, good timing, or effort that they can’t regularly expend.
If you are having difficulty pinpointing your strengths
If someone is struggling to recognize their strengths, a good way to figure out what those are is to schedule some time with a pen and paper and reflect on times that you handled something well.
What was the problem?
How did you handle it?
What were your strengths?
How can you use those strengths now?
Another way of finding strengths is to list achievements.
What short-term goals have you accomplished? These can be as simple as time management or maintaining a weekly schedule.
What long-term goals have you accomplished?
What were your strengths?
How can you use those now?
Journaling about talent that you use in school or on the job may be useful.
If someone is still having difficulty thinking of their strengths, they can ask someone whom they are close to, who knows them well, and are comfortable asking that person to list three things that they are good at. Next, the person should take those three things and journal about times they used those characteristics, and lastly, how to apply them in the present. Everyone has things they’re good at.
Recognizing expertise is important. People tend to be overly self-critical, on a level that is self-defeating or unhelpful. Over time, this behavior is destructive and likely smothering out productivity. If someone is working in Information Technology (IT) and they recognize a weakness in a skill, instead of playing into unhelpful thoughts, remembering what what one does well and playing to their strengths will combat this. It’s important to strengthen the weaker skill, but the person also must recall that they are good at. If the IT worker has strong communication and group work skills, then simply highlighting those should help. One can’t always be good at everything. Then, they can communicate to their team where they need assistance in getting the job done.
Pressure to achieve
Pressure to achieve comes from many places. People experience pressure to perform at a higher level from their peers, colleagues, managers, themselves, and messages from society (Think about the American culture, where it is practically a badge of honor to be overworked. This is an unhealthy habit.). Society’s message is that we must always achieve.
Research shows that certain people are more susceptible to fraudulent feelings stemming from their family’s beliefs on achievement and how parents praised or criticized their child.
One thing to be mindful of when going through imposter syndrome is perfectionism. People will attempt to do everything perfectly and might have an “all-or-nothing” mindset. Being aware and weary of perfectionism is important because it can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. “All-or-nothing” thinking is a cognitive distortion and should be reframed (Refer to the cognitive reframing article on how to reframe unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones).
Please, take care in understanding and protecting your mental health. Grow your understanding by reading and listening to credible resources.
Just a few thoughts
If you use social media or the internet to find information, use caution, as there are people who spread misinformation about mental health. – People who are lifestyle bloggers, coaches, or celebrities (people who probably don’t have an educational degree on the subject). Always get the professional’s advice.
Expand your resources and tools. If you’ve never listened to a podcast episode on mental health, consider listening one day while cooking dinner. Subscribe to a mental health care professional’s YouTube channel. Buy a new book that sounds really interesting. You could start a wish list of books and workbooks on Amazon or write them in your journal. Having more valuable resources at your fingertips helps you to further understand and protect your mental health.
Other’s mental health
Also, take the time to learn about how mental health affects everyone differently. We will all likely respond in dissimilar ways to issues and crisis. Many people struggle in silence and still carry on throughout their day doing the best that they can. A struggle isn’t always fully apparent.
According to Alcohol Rehab Guide, alcoholism is a growing health concern in America, affecting nearly 14 million people.
Alcoholrehabguide.org is an organization that focuses on producing high quality substance abuse and recovery content. There are vital resources on this site, which was founded on a passion to help people in need, and the belief that with the right resources they can make the difference in someone’s life.
Visit Alcohol Rehab Guide to help people affected by substance use disorder and to learn more about the issues surrounding it.
Just being a listener is powerful. Depending on the person who needs listened to and the situation, listening can be the only thing needed to help somebody. We’re bombarded with messages about listening and responding in a particular way. That we must follow A, B, and C or we aren’t being effective or that we might cause harm to the speaker. While we should aim to listen skillfully and to do no harm, we still can’t forget [or minimize] that just listening is impactful. We don’t always need to know what to say, that should relieve some pressure, all you have to do is listen and be present.
If you have a friend or family member who is experiencing issues and concerns, consider just listening to them first, rather than listening and offering up advice. While listening, practice being an active (non-distracted) listener, paying attention to nonverbal messages, listening to understand, making some eye contact, and being empathetic.
Keep in mind, that the speaker might not need an in-depth conversation. They may just need someone to listen and be there for them. The act of sharing out loud helps lift weight off of shoulders and problem solve. The brain processes differently while speaking out loud, as opposed to keeping your thoughts to yourself.
Ivy, mentor and mental health advocate, wrote about the power of listening. She says, “I have always emphasized that it is important even if you don’t agree with or understand how someone is feeling, to simply just listen to them and what they are going through. Simply asking someone if they are okay and letting them know you are there for them, is something so simple, yet so extremely powerful. Too often we feel like we won’t have the right words to say to people who reach out to us in need, so we keep our distance as a safer alternative. But you can make such a huge difference by just listening to someone’s story.”
Ivy continues, “When we listen to others, we let them know without even saying the words that their feelings are valid, that they themselves are valid and that we care about them. When we listen to other people’s story and allow them to be vulnerable and honest with us, the unexpected benefit is that we too can feel empowered to tell our own story and feel confident that someone will also listen to us when we are struggling.”
Listen to someone’s story and let them know that you’re there for them.
When you want to help, but feel like you can’t
Have you ever felt overwhelmed or stressed out by feeling like you need to help that someone who is coming to you about their problems? Maybe you have your own things that you’re going through and don’t have enough space to hold what they’re going through, as well. Perhaps, you’re feeling burnt out and need to practice self-care. You shouldn’t try to help another person when your glass is empty. Nothing comes out of an empty cup when you try to pour from it. [Even if your glass is full, practice daily self-care.] Whatever your situation, if you still want to be there for them, then just being a listener takes some pressure off of you. You can be present for the other person, but not hold as much responsibility in giving advice.
When to suggest that someone considers talking to a professional counselor
Know when to suggest that someone needs to go seek a mental health professional’s services. Topics like abuse, neglect, addiction, suicidal ideation, and suicide are red flags. Report abuse and neglect when you suspect something serious is going on, so that it can be looked into. Know the signs of suicide in order to prevent it and know what to do. Non-Judgmentally, ask open-ended questions to see what’s going on. Gently suggest that they speak with a mental health professional. Mention two or three benefits of speaking with a professional.
For information on lifeline contacts and resources, visit here.
Other times when a person should talk with a professional is when what they’re going through has impacted their life in such a way that they have difficulty functioning and maintaining a normal routine. Their job, family, social life, sleep, eating, major areas like that have been impacted. Especially, if this has been going on for a few weeks or longer, but really anyone, at anytime should go talk with a professional. It’s easier to fix something before it gets out of hand. This distress scale can help keep tabs on the impact that what you’re going through has on you.
Final words on just listening
Mindy Pierce, MA, LPC of Grow Counseling adds this to help us think further as listeners.
“Here are a few questions to help us think further about the powerful importance of listening and how well we listen:
• Who is the best listener you know?
• What makes that person a good listener?
• How do you feel when you are with that person?
• What can you learn from that person that would make you a better listener?
• What do you hesitate to talk to your partner about? Why?
• What happens to those withheld thoughts and feelings?
• What are the consequences of that withholding for you? For the relationship?
• What conversations would you like to go differently?
• If people think you aren’t listening to them, what will they assume it means? What will this lead to?
The next time something is really bothering you, notice if something holds you back from sharing that with someone. What fears or expectations do you have about what would happen if you shared? And if you do share, what happens?”
The rest of Mindy’s thoughtful article can be found here.
Being present and listening can be helpful to someone. Your friend or family member might just need someone to talk to, so they can empty part of what they’re carrying, a way to problem solve, or process what they’re going through. As a listener, a response isn’t always required. Be there for someone by listening to their story and letting them know that you care. Don’t underestimate the power of just listening, it’s helpful.
For about nine years, I worked as a counselor in higher level of care settings. A ton professional growth occurred during those years. I taught people how to better cope, apply therapeutic strategies, and believe in their own strengths. Days ranged from 8 to 16 hours long. One month, I took an overnight shift. I battled insomnia due to the crazy hours. What I learned during those times still helps me. And I beat the insomnia.
About a year ago, I felt the desire to go into outpatient private practice. It would be a completely different experience, slower pace, though still always busy. I was interested in business. For almost an entire year, I researched how to properly set up the independent contractor and business details, then chipped away at putting the pieces into action. I was also pregnant, so there was no hurry during this process.
The business didn’t start out as teletherapy. I shared an office with another counselor and saw people in-office. That was alright, but I wasn’t happy with a few of the business aspects that weren’t within my control, nothing counseling related. It felt off. I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be there. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about teletherapy, but I didn’t believe that it could be as secure as in-office and wondered about some ethical aspects. I had a lot of questions. Back while I was researching how to set up the business, teletherapy came up, but I had too many concerns about doing harm or something going wrong. So I didn’t go there.
Well, Coronavirus struck and places went into lockdown. Our office was open because we were essential workers. Coronavirus was my sign to leap into teletherapy. I took a 12.5 hour course on properly running a teletherapy private practice and did more research. No one was inquiring about services due to the lockdown. I jumped ship and into the new waters, I swam.
As everything fell into place, it was rewarding on many levels, personally and professionally. Of course, I was setting everything up from scratch, doing it the hard way to save money because I was just starting out. I created my own documents, made sure everything was HIPAA compliant, secure, and private, and used as much free software as I needed. It ran like clockwork. How about that?!
I completed continuing education and became certified in telemental health and in treating anxiety. My business grew and remained steady over the next year. With my heart full, I wanted to upgrade my business and give more to my clients. I researched practice management software and EHR software, comparing all of the platforms, perks, ease of use, and which one would be the best fit for myself and my clients. I went with SimplePractice because it was intuitive and had a great client portal.
The free trial was handy, I picked through everything that SimplePractice offers and learned about it. When it came to getting the system and paperwork to align with what I already had set up, it was a bit overwhelming and difficult. SimplePractice has good “how to” videos and I was getting daily emails from them to make sure things were going well. After fiddling around during that free period, my business was operating on SimplePractice. So happy!
My small private practice has come a long way within a year, as it started from scratch and now uses a fancy EHR. There’s a lot to be proud of and grateful for in this journey of business ownership. The practice has been fruitful. I look forward to meeting and helping people in the years to come.
Mental health professionals: use this code below to try out SimplePractice, and when you’re ready to sign up for a paid account, receive a $50 discount.