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


Stress: 6 ways to reduce the menace

Stress: negative effects on your body and mind


negative effects of stress



Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life; everybody experiences it. For us to accomplish anything requires some degree of it to keep us motivated. However, our stress can be heightened to unhealthy levels by everyday situations. For example:

  • juggling job and childcare
  • workplace difficulties such as meeting deadlines or having difficulties with coworkers
  • watching the NEWS on television
  • financial difficulties
  • caring for a sick family member
  • being stuck in traffic and running late for work
  • studying for exams
  • worrying about your health
  • relationship difficulties
  • losing sleep

stress management


Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This is the so-called “fight-or-flight” response. This allowed our ancestors to flee from a grizzly bear and other threats to life. Today it is often daily stressors that activate the same physical response. Your body’s physical response can be triggered by a wide variety of situations and problems.

Once the response is triggered your hypothalamus (an almond-sized control centre within your brain) sends messages to your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands send cortisol  and adrenaline through your bloodstream. Sugar is pulled from your liver and fatty acids from your fat cells to activate your muscles. Your heart races and your breath shortens. Your body is getting ready for action.

The continual stress of modern life means that your alarm system is on most of the time.  Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems.

Common physical effects of stress on your body include:
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Muscular tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Skin disorders
  • Headaches

Chronic stress can lead to more serious health issues.


Common effects of stress on your mood/emotional symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Disappointment with yourself
  •  Increased emotional reactions – more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
  • Loneliness, withdrawn
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of confidence
  • Discouragement
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope


stress management



Common effects of stress on your ability to think
  • Confusion, indecision
  • Inability to concentrate
  • poor memory


Common effects of stress on your behaviourstress management
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less often
  • Aggression
  • Diminished creativity and initiative
  • Problems with relationships
  • Disinterest

 Ways to reduce stress 


Explore management strategies such as:



1. Regular physical activity

walking for stress management

  • exercise for stress managementRegular exercise can significantly reduce your stress levels. Schedule time for exercise e.g swimming, a workout at the gym; brisk walking; dancing.
  • A walk in a peaceful place outdoors where you can appreciate nature can be calming.
  • Other suggestions are participating in sporting activities such as soccer or tennis or taking your dog for a walk.



2. Spend time with supportive people

Socialize with your supportive family members and friends.

  • join a group of friends at a cafe
  • relax at home with your partner
  • invite friends for dinner

socializing to reduce stress



3. Time management


time management to reduce stress

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your workload consider the following questions:

What really needs to be done now?

How much can you do?

Is the deadline realistic?

What adjustments can you make to your planning?

Your day-to-day workload can sometimes seem unbearable. One way to cope is to take one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to get done and start with one task. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of “checking off” tasks can be very satisfying and it will motivate you to keep going.


4. Hobbies

Schedule time to enjoy your hobbies e.g gardening, playing a musical instrument, painting, listening to music.

hobbies for stress management

Music as Therapy: Music for Relaxation, Inspiration and Mindfulness


5. Relaxation techniques


relaxation to reduce stress

Relaxation techniques, practised regularly, can help keep your stress levels down. There are many different kinds of relaxation methods. Try some and find what suits you. Examples are yoga, tai chi, meditation, visualization and Yoga Nidra.






Muscular Relaxation such as Progressive Muscular Relaxation:

Learn more

Read my post

Steps for Progressive Muscle Relaxation



Learn more

Read my posts

Try mindful awareness



Learn more

Read my post

Suffering anxiety? Finding peace.


Yoga Nidra:

Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation. There are many variations of the practice. To learn more and to listen to a script that will take you through the practice:

Yoga Nidra



Before visiting a counsellor consider the following:

  • What are the things which cause stress and tension in your life.
  • How does this stress affect you, your family and your job?
  • Can you identify the stress in your life as short or long term
  • Do you have a support system of friends/family that could help you make positive changes?
  • What are your biggest challenges to reducing stress in your life?
  • What are you willing to change or give up for a less stressful life?
  • Have you tried any ways to reduce stress? What works for you. What doesn’t work?


VIVIENNE: 0478 783 506; 9943 2400