Suicidal thoughts, stigma, support and breaking the silence

Suicidal thoughts: don’t be alone

 Who is at risk of suicide?

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].


suicidal thoughts

suicidal thoughts






*CALL LIFELINE  13 11 14  (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).




suicidal thoughts

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.

suicidal thoughts

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

suicidal thoughts

SANE Australia and Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention is integral to all of SANE Australia’s work. See SANE Australia 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:

SANE Australia Helpline   1800 18 7263

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)

suicidal thoughts

suicidal thoughts


See the list of warning signs e.g

*Sleeping problems

*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


Finding support

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.


  • Lifeline
    13 11 14 – 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services. To find local services in your area useLifeline’s Service Finder.
  • Suicide Call Back Service
    1300 659 467 – 24/7 telephone crisis support for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved, as well as online resources and information
  • Kids Helpline
    1800 55 1800 –  24/7 telephone counselling for young people 5-25 years
  • MensLine Australia
    1300 78 99 78 – 24/7 telephone and online support, information and referral service for men
  • beyondblue
    1300 22 4636 – 24/7 telephone support service and online chat 4pm – 10pm (AEST)




Existential therapy: the power of the choices we make

Existential therapy: the power of the choices we make

Choices, Freedom and Responsibility

existential therapyExistential 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.

existential therapy


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.”

Emily Esfahani Smith

“There’s More to Life than Being Happy” by Emily Esfahani Smith;…

existential therapy

A happy moment

existential therapy

Having fun makes us feel happy



Here is a poem I once wrote:

existential therapy


                                                                  TIDES OF THE MIND


                                                              a series of moments,

                                                        like waves t’ward the shore,

                                                                     never to return;


                                                              like surfer’s mindful eye,

                                                             to catch, and ride on high.


                                                          a fleeting, illusive sense of security



                                                                       like a breaker on the reef,

                                                                 cherished moments remaining forever,

                                                                   to ebb and flow…ebb and flow

                                                                       with the tides of the mind.

                                                                                                          Vivienne Morrow

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.

existential therapy

  •  Via creative values, by becoming involved in one’s projects; this includes creativity in art, writing, and inventing.

existential therapy


  •  Via your attitude e.g showing compassion, bravery, a good sense of humour and so on.

existential therapy

existential therapy

existential therapy


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.”

Breast Cancer Survivor

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: 6 ways to reduce your 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
  • attending classes
  • 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.


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

  • sweating
  • blushing
  • heart palpitations
  • nausea
  • trembling

Some people with social phobia experience panic attacks.



An example is the following exercise.

  1. Place one hand on your abdomen right under your ribcage.
  2. 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.
  3. When you have taken a full breath pause and count to five.
  4. 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”.
  5. Take two breaths in your normal rhythm and then repeat the steps above.



See my blog post at



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:

social anxiety at a meeting

“I might say something stupid”. I will blush and other people will notice.


social anxiety speaking in front of people

“I might lose my train of thought and stop mid-sentence. Other people will notice that I am anxious.”


social anxiety at a party

“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.



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.

Phobias: desensitization through graded exposure.


People with social anxiety often have other anxiety issues too. If you suffer social anxiety a course of psychotherapy can be very helpful in looking at your struggles and challenges more broadly.


For more on social anxiety see:

0478 783 506
9943 2400


Living with Anxiety? 10 tips for management

Living with Anxiety? 10 tips for management

Living with anxiety can be difficult.

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:

If you are someone living with anxiety there are a number of things you can do to help reduce your anxiety levels and thus improve your quality of life.

  1. Learn about what stress and anxiety are and how they affect your body.
Stress response system. Stress is a main cause of high levels of cortisol secretion. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex.

Stress response system. Stress is a main cause of high levels of cortisol secretion. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal cortex.



If you are someone living with anxiety it can be helpful to learn about what anxiety is and how it affects your body. Talk to your doctor or a psychotherapist.

To learn about the symptoms of anxiety read:

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.


living with anxiety

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.

living with anxiety

living with anxiety

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
  • exercising regularly
  • learning some relaxation techniques


living with anxiety

living with anxiety




3. Give high priority to adequate sleep.

Sleep tips:

  • 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


living with anxiety


4. Exercise regularly and take opportunities to engage in physical activity.

living with anxiety

Nature has a calming effect on the mind

living with anxiety

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

Relaxation: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Another technique that can be included in an anxiety management plan is visualizing yourself in a peaceful scene.  Visualization is best done after a muscular relaxation session. See

Anxiety Management: Visualization for relaxation

If you practise such skills on a daily basis you can lower your anxiety levels.


    6. Learn and practise mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness is about being in the moment. It is something you can learn to do on a regular basis.


  • helps keep your mind from being lost in the past or future e.g catastrophizing
  • helps keep you more connected.
  • can be practised as a type of  meditation or as a quality of attention you bring into daily life e.g when you are walking
  • can reduce your stress levels
  • involves being rather than doing
  • awakens your senses


Mindful awareness

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.


living with anxiety

catching up with friends

living with anxiety

attending a class for fun

living with anxiety

walking your dog

living with anxiety

playing music






living with anxiety

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

  9. Include some positive affirmations in your “self-talk”.

An affirmation is positive self-talk. Studies of “neuroplasticity” are showing that thoughts can change the structure of the brain. Learn how to think more positively using affirmations.

living with anxiety

The following is an affirmation that can be used to increase your self-esteem:

  • “I am a unique and a very special person and worthy of respect from others”


    10. Talk with a professional counsellor/psychotherapist who will understand your struggles and your needs.

If you are living with disabling anxiety and would like help to manage it call me for a free 10 minute consultation:
Mob.     0478 783 506
Tel.         9943 2400

Emotional Abuse: Are you a victim?


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.


  • 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.


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.

Are you a victim of emotional abuse? You do not deserve to be abused. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You deserve to be treated with respect and as an equal. You do not deserve to be hurt.

Has your self-worth, confidence and emotional well-being been eroded? Is your independence being taken away?

Do you feel stuck or trapped?

Are you aching and longing for the freedom to be yourself?


emotional abuse


emotional abuse

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. Does your partner make you feel that you are wrong, stupid, crazy or inadequate?
  2. Does your partner control where you go?
  3. Does your partner often and wrongly accuse you of flirting with or seeing other people?
  4. Do you feel pressured by your partner when it comes to sex? e.g after a bad day of arguments your partner insists that you have intimate relations.
  5. Does your partner criticise you, belittle you, embarrass you or humiliate you in front of other people?
  6. Are you afraid of expressing your opinion?
  7. Do you often feel that you must say “sorry” just to keep the peace?
  8. Does your partner make threats?
  9. Does your partner control the finances even though you do not want him to? Does he prevent you from having access to money?
  10. Does your partner prevent you from doing activities you enjoy?
  11. Is your partner verbally aggressive? Does he insult you? Does he yell at you? Does he swear at you and call you names like “stupid bitch” or “dumb bimbo”.
  12. Do you feel confused about who you really are now?
  13. Do you feel afraid of your partner?




emotional abuse

“My partner tells me how to wear my hair and clothes, who I can and cannot be friends with and what I can and cannot say.”



emotional abuse

” My husband got mad if I talked to my friends and overly jealous when I talked to any men. “



emotional abuse

“My partner blamed me for every problem he had and would always start fights. He was never happy…I was never good enough.

emotional abuse

“My de facto would order me around and tell me what to do, how to do it, and put me down if I got it wrong.”


















A useful website for women being emotionally abused is:

Mob 0478 783 506
Tel 9943 2400