Suicidal thoughts are common. “SUICIDE IS PART OF THE HUMAN CONDITION: ANYONE COULD FIND THEMSELVES WITH THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE”. Suicide has been noted in almost every culture and era. However, most people who think about suicide never act on the idea. Suicide is rarely a person’s preferred choice. [Suicide Intervention Handbook. LivingWorks Education Inc. 2004].
SO, ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE?
SUICIDE IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION FOR YOU!
IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT KILLING YOURSELF……
*CALL LIFELINE 13 11 14 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).
*TALK TO SOMEONE.
*PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BEING ALONE.
If you are having suicidal thoughts this an extremely serious matter. Being alone with your suicidal thoughts is known to increase the risk of harm or death. You are most at risk if you feel completely alone with no connections to any friends, family members, groups, community or spiritual entity (LivingWorks Education Inc., 2004).
Pain and desperation can lead you to suicide. If you are suffering from intense emotional pain you may find it too hard to bear and do anything to stop it, whether for a short time or forever. People like you suffering this level of pain are desperate for relief. Such desperation can lead to suicide. You may be depressed, feel overwhelmed, helpless and hopeless. People like you may feel trapped and think there is no other option. You might feel burdensome.
IT IS BEST TO ASSUME THAT SOMEONE WHO HAS SUICIDAL THOUGHTS IS AT RISK. If a person is asked if they are having suicidal thoughts and the answer is “yes”, the situation is serious and demands a suicide intervention (LivingWorks Education Inc. 2004).
Suicide prevention and intervention
SANE Australia and Suicide Prevention
Suicide prevention is integral to all of SANE Australia’s work. See SANE Australia https://www.sane.org People who attempt suicide provide valuable lessons for suicide prevention. A research study by SANE Australia and the University of New England explores their experiences and what we can learn from them. To learn more visit:
In this report “Lessons for Life: The experiences of people who attempt suicide” it is noted that developing a positive and empathetic relationship with a health professional was a key factor in recovery from a suicide attempt.
Guide to staying alive
SANE Australia have a guide called “Guide to Staying Alive”. See:
Recognizing warning signs and having a support network of people in place can help avoid a crisis situation. Preparing a crisis plan with someone you trust is helpful. This might, for example, include making a list of names and phone numbers to call if you feel at risk. It could include:
your local mental health crisis team
a doctor or other health professional
a family member or friend you’ve agreed to contact if you become suicidal
relevant crisis helplines (see below)
See the list of warning signs e.g
*Thinking or talking about death as an “escape” or “relief” from feeling distressed
*Feeling “trapped”…that there is no way out from the feelings of distress that you have
*Talking about the future in negative or hopeless term
If you become suicidal keeping in touch with other people, and with treatment and support services is very important to help you get through this danger period. Someone experiencing suicidal thoughts often feel isolated and alone and that nobody understands how they are feeling.
A support network can include medical care (doctors, psychiatrists and mental health workers), psychotherapy (psychologists, counsellors, psychotherapists) and community support services. Your informal network of family, friends or others you know who can be supportive is also very important.
Suicide, Stigma and Silence
Suicide is still a relatively taboo topic with denial, silence and avoidance common. Community education is required to achieve a positive shift in attitude. The SANE research report notes that stigma and judgemental attitudes were found to be pervasive and came from both professionals and non-professionals; this was a large barrier to recovery.
Having suicidal thoughts is not something to be ashamed of. It is experienced by many people with a mental illness, and talking about it does not increase the risk of someone taking their own life.
If you are having suicidal thoughts:
CALL LIFELINE 13 11 14 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).
Contact The SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 SANE (7263) for referral to mental health assistance in your area.
Existential therapy: the power of the choices we make
Choices, Freedom and Responsibility
Existential therapy is one of the approaches I use in psychotherapy. Common themes include your freedom, your responsibility and your choices; these are all related. According to existentialist philosophers like Sartre our identities and characteristics are the consequences of the choices we have made during our lives. Thus, who you are and what you become are influenced greatly by the choices you make. The capacity to make choices is powerful.
This does not mean that you are to blame for all your problems. Thus if you are a victim of domestic violence it is not your fault. In participating in existential therapy you can learn that although you cannot change certain events in your life you can change the way you view these events and you can change how you react to these events. You are free to choose among alternatives and are challenged to accept responsibility for directing your life. An existential therapist may invite you to recognize how you have let others decide for you and encourage you to move towards making your own individual choices and decisions.
Living a meaningful life
You might think that happiness or the pursuit of happiness will make you feel better about your life. However, research indicates that finding greater meaning in our lives is more fulfilling.
“While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away…Meaning on the other hand, is enduring. It connects to the past to the present to the future.”
Of course it is great to feel happy, to have fun and enjoyment in your life and to create happy memories that stay with you forever. However, like all of us, you will be challenged with other more difficult emotions during your life e.g sadness and grief, anger and resentment, fear and insecurity and so on.
Existential therapy helps you to explore meaning and purpose in your life even when you don’t feel happy.
Meaning and Purpose
The struggle for a sense of significance, meaning and purpose in life is central to human endeavours. To live without a sense of purpose can lead to a feeling of emptiness and a sense that being-in-the-world is pointless; meaninglessness in life.
A survivor of the horrors of being interned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, existentialist Viktor Frankl, focused each day on finding meaning in his existence and in the future he would find when the brutality was over. It is worth reading about his experience and philosophy in his book Man’s Search for Meaning.
According to Frankl you can find meaning even in the context of great adversity because it is always possible to exercise your individual freedom and choose your attitude. In the Nazi concentration camps Frankl was able to find meaning in spite of loss, suffering, isolation, uncertainty, and death anxiety.
Frankl has suggested three avenues to meaning:
Experiencing something or someone you value. Frankl thinks that the love you feel towards another is the highest goal to which you can aspire.
Via creative values, by becoming involved in one’s projects; this includes creativity in art, writing, and inventing.
Via your attitude e.g showing compassion, bravery, a good sense of humour and so on.
According to Frankl your existence is characterized by freedom, by the capacity for decision-making and by responsibility.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
What is it you live for? How can you make your life more meaningful? These kind of questions became particularly important to me when I was faced with having to deal with a life-threatening illness.
If you would like to explore happiness and meaning in your life call me now to make an appointment
to see me: Vivienne 0478 783 506 or 9943 2400
SOCIAL ANXIETY: STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU OVERCOME FEARS
People with social anxiety tend to fear and avoid social situations. They worry that they will do something embarrassing, or that others will judge them. Social anxiety involves fear of embarrassment or humiliation in social settings.
It is normal to feel anxious in social situations from time to time. For example, most people feel anxious when they have to speak in front of a large group. Social anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes quite distressing and starts getting in the way of your ability to function and enjoy life.
If you have social anxiety you may fear:
talking to work colleagues
going to parties
speaking in a meeting
participating in family get-togethers
spilling food while eating in public
being watched at work
speaking to authority figures
going on a date
Some people with social anxiety fear any social or group situation where they can be watched or evaluated.
There are strategies you can use to help manage your fears in social situations.
1. LEARN ABOUT SOCIAL ANXIETY
It would be helpful for you to have a better understanding of what social anxiety is.
If you have social anxiety you are likely to worry that that you will say or do something that will lead other people to judge you as being anxious, weak, stupid or “crazy”. Your level of concern is generally out of proportion with the situation.
If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation you may experience physical symptoms such as
Some people with social phobia experience panic attacks.
2. PRACTICE CALM BREATHING DAILY
An example is the following exercise.
Place one hand on your abdomen right under your ribcage.
Breathing from your abdomen inhale slowly and deeply through your nose into the “bottom” of your lungs.Count slowly to five as you inhale. Your hand should rise.
When you have taken a full breath pause and count to five.
Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth as you count to five. Exhale fully. As you exhale allow your whole body to let go all of your tension. Perhaps say to yourself “Let go”.
Take two breaths in your normal rhythm and then repeat the steps above.
Through using CBT techniques with the help of a counsellor you can learn how to think less negatively and more realistically.
Examples of negative thoughts:
“I might say something stupid”. I will blush and other people will notice.
“I might lose my train of thought and stop mid-sentence. Other people will notice that I am anxious.”
“No-one will talk to me. People will think that I am boring. I won’t know what to say. No-one will like me.
People with social anxiety often hold some unrealistic beliefs. Common examples include:
I need to be perfect to be liked
I should never make mistakes
It is important for everyone to like me
It’s not okay to be anxious
However, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone will like you; that’s normal.
A counsellor can help you evaluate your negative thinking.You may come to realize that some of the things you fear are very unlikely to actually happen, or that if something does happen it’s not as bad as
you may think and that you can cope.
5. EXPOSURE THERAPY
With the help of a counsellor you can make a list of the situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. You then perform the “easiest” behaviour i.e expose yourself to the anxiety-provoking situation. Gradually you move up the list. SEE my POST BELOW.
Feeling anxious occasionally is a normal part of being human. You may feel anxious before taking an exam, when faced with a difficult work problem, while waiting for the results of medical investigations or when going through the process of making an important decision. However, if you have an anxiety disorder the worry or fear is not temporary; for you the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. Anxiety can interfere with your daily activities. There are a number of types of anxiety e.g. generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Read more:
Learning about anxiety is a very important first step since it helps you to understand what is happening when you are feeling uncomfortable. All the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing are due to anxiety.
Anxiety is normal and adaptive because it helps us prepare for danger (for instance, our heart beats faster to pump blood to our muscles so we have the energy to run away or fight off danger).
Therefore, the goal is to learn to manage anxiety, not eliminate it.
Living with anxiety can become a problem when our body tells us that there is danger when there is no real danger.
Our body’s fight-flight-freeze response can be activated when there is a real danger, such as coming across a black bear when hiking in the woods. You may take FLIGHT and run away from the bear. You may FREEZE and stay still until the bear passes. Or, you might FIGHT and yell and wave your arms to appear big and scary.
But these response can also happen when something simply feels dangerous, but really isn’t, such as being interviewed for a job. Anxious feelings can become so overwhelming that you want to avoid doing the interview. Many people stop doing things or going to places that make them feel anxious.
Watch the following youtube video produced by the organization beyondblue with Australian actor Noah Taylor.
2. Reduce stress in your day-to-day living.
If you are living with anxiety it is essential that you find ways to reduce your levels of day-to-day stress. This might include:
time management with your work or study
spending some time with nature e.g taking a walk on a bush track
listening to music that you find relaxing
spending some time on one of your hobbies e.g painting, playing a musical instrument
learning some relaxation techniques
3. Give high priority to adequate sleep.
aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
avoid foods and drinks containing caffeine during the evening
avoid eating close to bedtime
ensure that your bedroom is dark and quiet
establish a relaxing night routine
avoid watching TV or working on your computer before bedtime
4. Exercise regularly and take opportunities to engage in physical activity.
Nature has a calming effect on the mind
Exercise can reduce anxiety and improve mood. It can reduce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The best physical activities are those that you enjoy doing and will continue doing.
5. Learn and practise relaxation skills such as the following:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can be helpful in reducing muscle tension and for achieving a state of relaxation. The technique involves systematically tensing up various muscles then releasing them releasing the tension suddenly. See
If you practise mindfulness on a regular basis you can, with time, reduce your anxiety levels.
7. Take time out to do things you enjoy e.g listening to music, walking your dog or catching up with a friend. Enjoy a good laugh; it reduces stress levels.
catching up with friends
attending a class for fun
walking your dog
enjoy a good laugh
8. Learn some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) skills so that you can challenge your negative thinking.
If you live with anxiety you probably do a lot of negative thinking. CBT is not the be all and end all, but if learnt along with other skills it can be very helpful if you are a worrier, someone who tends to catastrophize.
CBT was pioneered by Aaron T. Beck. The aims are to modify your inaccurate or unhelpful negative ways of thinking and behaving and also to challenge your belief system (i.e. beliefs about yourself and your personal world). The outcomes are emotional and behavioural changes.To learn more see
The emotional abuse of women is a problem that is often hidden. Women often find that emotional abuse is difficult to name. If you are a victim, realize that emotional abuse is a serious problem and that you can get help. Believe in your strengths; you have the tools you need to survive. Consider getting counselling/psychotherapy; this can help you see your strengths, support you, and lead towards your empowerment.
WOMEN BEING EMOTIONALLY ABUSED ASK:
Am I stupid?
Am I going crazy?
Is this all just silly?
Is it all my fault?
What can I do?
These are the kinds of questions women being emotionally abused ask me.
WHAT IS EMOTIONAL ABUSE?
Emotional abuse involves a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviours used to maintain control over an intimate partner. Abusers use fear, guilt, shame and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his thumb. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-esteem, lead to anxiety and depression and make you feel lonely and helpless.
See the following article which discusses both emotionally abusive men and emotionally abusive women. Stosny points out that the systematic use of emotional abuse to control another person is usually the domain of men.
“Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself”
"The Human heart yearns for contact - above all it yearns for genuine dialogue. Each of us secretly and desperately yearns to be "met" - to be recognised in our uniquness, our fullness and our vulnerability".
Hycner & Jacobs