It’s a word that makes people uncomfortable.
It still carries a stigma of fear, sadness and, for some, even shame.
If we were more able to talk about the ‘s’ word openly we could help each other deal with isolation, depression, anxiety and provide support and a road to recovery.
Have you guessed?
Suicide kills almost twice as many Australians as the national road toll each year.
More than 3 million Australians are living with depression and/or anxiety today.
Of those people, more than half will not seek help.
While we can talk about the number of people dying on the roads and suffering and dying with breast and prostate cancer, as soon as suicide is mentioned, many of us look for ways to change the conversation. It can make us uncomfortable because we may be afraid, embarrassed, or feel out of our depth.
R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that we’ve all got what it takes to ask, “are you ok?” and support those struggling with life . Suicide is something that many people consider as a way to make their emotional pain stop. Some people feel suicide is the only way they can escape their situation, however, it can be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
It can be daunting to ask someone if they feel suicidal, often for fear that the person may say “yes”. Then what?!
Before you can look out for others, you need to look out for yourself. And that’s ok. If you're not in the right headspace or you don't think you're the right person to have the conversation, try to think of someone else in their support network who could talk to them.
To help you decide whether you’re ready to start a meaningful conversation, check out R U OK?’s four steps
If there is someone you know who seems isolated, depressed, overwhelmed, or behaving differently to their normal self, find an opportunity to ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide. It’s important not to beat around the bush, but clearly ask.
Don’t start off by saying “ You’re not thinking about doing something silly, are you?” Show the person you respect them and care about how they are feeling by saying something like “ Are you ok? I’ve noticed you are under a lot of pressure/ feeling low/ aren’t participating in things at the moment. Are you feeling suicidal?” or “Are you thinking about harming yourself?”
If the person isn’t suicidal, they simply say “No”, and are usually clear that that isn’t an option they think about. They do not feel offended and the conversation moves on quite naturally after that.
If the person says “Yes”, it is often accompanied by a sense of relief that they are able to talk about how serious their pain is, and the first baby step on the way to keeping them safe.
If you do know someone who is suicidal, stay with them, or arrange for someone else to be with them until you are able to get professional assistance from a doctor, counsellor or other mental health professional. Call Lifeline anytime on 13 11 14 if you need support with this.
Many people worry that asking the suicide question may put ideas into the person’s head. According to Lifeline, it is simply not the case. In fact, it’s a question that Lifeline telephone counsellors are trained to ask each caller as part of their mission to achieve an Australia free of suicide.
Read more about how to ask someone "Are you OK?' here
“Are you OK?” Ask the question, have the conversation. You may just save someone’s life.
0414 99 66 13
How do you know when it would be helpful to talk with a counsellor? Many people don’t even know what counsellors do, and what types of things we can help with.
Some of the reasons people see a counsellor include; not coping, feeling ‘stuck’ in difficult relationships with others or yourself, divorce or separation, death of a loved one, a traumatic event, parenting issues, addictions, coping with a serious illness, carer burnout, workplace distress, the list goes on...
Here are just a few of the feelings you may have which could be helped by visiting a counsellor… stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, confusion, resentment, shame, anger, grief, loss, depression...
What happens in a session? Our first session generally begins with a quick overview of what confidentiality means, then a check in with how you are feeling coming into the session. In a few moments, you will find you are able to begin the process of unburdening some of your problems, fears, frustrations, pressures and complications. Often, the first session uncovers some priorities and goals, which we continue to explore and finesse as the work progresses over the course of the sessions.
At ThoughtMatters, I take a caring, person-centred, empathetic approach, avoiding judgments and assumptions, and really ‘ hearing’ what you have to say, while respecting the unique perspective and individual values you may hold.
A counsellor is bound by a code of professional conduct to ensure confidentiality is maintained. This security, as well as knowing this therapeutic relationship is separate from other relationships in your life, allows you to speak freely and honestly.
Professional counselling provides a structure and framework to assist you to work through the issues that matter most to you. Professional boundaries are established to ensure you feel safe, respected and supported throughout your journey.
Your counsellor is trained to assess important safety aspects such as suicide risk, family violence or risk to children, and provide support or professional referrals to get help where it is needed.
Talking with a counsellor is very different from talking with a close friend or family member.
While talking with someone close about a problem is something we can sometimes do successfully, there are many situations or issues you may have where talking to a counsellor may be a better option.
Often, the issues and concerns that people share with their counsellor aren’t things they are comfortable to share with a friend.
While a friendship is an important part of a support team, friends have their own opinions, beliefs, prejudices and values, which may colour their advice. Friendships can have an imbalance in power, status, or reliability, which can make you feel compelled to follow their advice for fear of being judged.
Friends may also find it difficult to maintain confidentiality, or be completely honest for fear of hurting feelings and harming the friendship.
Talking with your counsellor is not like a normal two-way conversation where your friend may relate shared experiences or personal stories to make you feel less alone. It is the one-way dialogue you have with your counsellor that keeps the conversation focused on your story, your issues and your goals that ultimately helps you find your solutions.
There is a high chance you know other people who have successfully seen a counsellor about some problems or issues that worried them. Many Australians see a counsellor at some point in their life, but fewer people talk about it.
If you are reading this, and you have already been helped by seeing a counsellor, there may be opportunities in your life where you can encourage someone else to reach out and get help for themselves.
The connection you make with your counsellor - the quality of the therapeutic relationship - has been proven to be the most important factor for a positive outcome, which means you will be looking for the right ‘fit’ with your counsellor.
Remember, you don’t have to resolve your difficulties on your own. Make an appointment to speak with a skilled listener who is bound by professional ethics of confidentiality and trained to support you to get through these difficult times.
If you are facing an emotional challenge, want to improve a relationship, reduce your stress or anxiety, or get out of feeling ‘stuck’ in an overwhelming pattern, this is the time to make an appointment.
* Call for a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if it’s something we can work through together.
0414 99 66 13
Ok, there’s your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, to get through, let alone your Messenger, WhatsApp and regular texts to read and respond to! It takes dedication (and a helluva lot of time!) to keep up with the constant flow of ‘information’ about the hundreds of people you know and follow and check if they are noticing, liking and following you back!.
If you are really honest, there is every likelihood that you are spending much longer each day connected to your social media feed than you would prefer.
So how do you change that?
We are social beings - herd animals, if you like!
Humans need connection to feel secure. You might argue that watching what is happening in your friends’ lives is a type of connection. But it is removed and voyeuristic, actually creating a sense of missing out and aloneness.
In Psychology Today, Amy Morin, says “Of course, it would seem logical to assume that people use Facebook because it somehow enhances their lives. But oddly, research suggests the opposite. Studies show Facebook use is associated with lower life satisfaction... envying your friends on Facebook leads to depression."
If you are feeling frustrated by the way your addiction to your social media feed is shrinking your enjoyment of life, here are some ways to develop strategies:
When you make any of these changes, check in with your own happiness and engagement with your experience of life. Acknowledge any improvement you feel by disconnecting from the relentless social media feed that was previously eating up your life.
Be kind to yourself. If you slip up and find your thumbs flicking through the relentless feeds, close it down, congratulate yourself for noticing, forgive yourself and re-commit to your goal.
The moment you do, you'll get the time back to be involved in your own version of life, rather than somebody else’s.
Let me know your thoughts...
0414 99 66 13
How is it that some people seem to have more Aliveness, Joy and Vitality than others? Can you create it, or develop it in your life? Does it equate to being happier or more fulfilled?
I had a conversation with some girlfriends recently about getting older and not wanting to lose that aliveness and vitality that we have all experienced to varying degrees in our lives (and remembered most vividly from our youth!) We were wondering how it is that some people can remain vital and joyful into their older age when others become bitter and depressed, or ‘old before their time’.
Want to feel more Alive?...
1. Use your body: Working with the body is the key to opening up to ‘aliveness’ and freeing your body from being ‘stuck’ and stagnant. Whether it’s yoga or tennis, walking or even gardening, the experience of being connected and alive comes from being and doing. Using your body invigorates the ‘aliveness’ and vitality you will feel.
2. Get up and Dance: By using our bodies in a rhythmic and synchronized way becoming connected with another when dancing, the benefits to aliveness are enormous. The effects from being and doing, and connecting with another or others through dance is more powerful and uplifting than just talking about it and approaching it from a thinking perspective. Try turning up that favourite playlist and jiggle around while you are cooking the dinner, check out your local area for fun dance groups or take dance classes if you prefer more structure and guidance. Whatever way you get your body rhythmically moving, you will generate more ‘aliveness’, more happy endorphins will flood your body and your joy and vitality will soar.
3. Contribute & Connect: Some people aren’t able to use their body as they would like but they are not necessarily excluded from retaining or reconnecting with their Aliveness and Vitality.
Dr Steven Hayes, Psychology Professor at the University of Nevada and founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) said recently,
“If you are actively contributing, pursuing, creating, connecting, if you are sharing your loving, your supporting and helping, depression is just not what’s in front of you.” Some people find volunteering a way to connect and contribute, creating happiness for others giving them a sense of joy and ‘aliveness’.
Check out the opportunities at volunteeringaustralia.org to give to your community or a cause that is close to your heart. The connection and contribution you make will increase your Vitality, Joy and Aliveness, help to ward off those low feelings and age with grace.
Dr Steven Hayes said “People who age with grace learn how to take what they have and pour their caring into that. And that flexibility is, I think, what we need to foster to keep people from losing contact with their birthright really, which is to be alive.”
Of course, it is not something confined to ageing, there are plenty of people of all ages who don’t appear to have an ‘aliveness’ going on. This state is often synonymous with low feelings, sometimes mild or chronic depression. It can be a ‘Catch-22” if you’re feeling low or depressed, to get yourself motivated and your body moving, but we can create and develop Aliveness, Joy and Vitality in our lives at any age. As Hayes says, “If you are waiting for yourself to feel good before you can live well, you might wait for the rest of your life.”
My mum used to say “You’ll never be this young again!” so to grow that Joy and Vitality in your life, it might be time to turn up the music and dance!
If you'd like to see other tips to improve your life or relationships, I can send you occasional posts to your inbox - simply pop your email in the box above
0414 99 66 13
Whether your apology is about something small - like forgetting to pick up some milk, or high-stakes - like admitting to an affair, how you apologise is the difference between being forgiven or not. Take a look at this apology…
“ I’m sorry for being late but I got held up and the traffic was terrible.”
We have all said or heard this before. We meant it as an apology but the message the other person probably heard is, “ I didn’t take enough care to be on time for you - if I blame something else (my workload/traffic) you will be ok with it.”
What about this one…
“ I’m sorry I lied, but you always get so angry.”
The message here is that the other person is actually responsible for the lie. This is a deflection from the issue to transfer the blame, and not going to work as an apology.
Neither of these is an apology because no responsibility has actually been taken, therefore, it is likely to there will be no forgiveness.
We were taught as children to “Say sorry” and we have been able to brush things away ever since. As we got older, we found when we added in a reason or excuse, the blame could be shifted from us to some other person and the apology became simply an entry point to do that: “I’m sorry but…”
We want to take the easy way out when we have done something wrong. This habit can mean some people never learn how to truly apologise. They start out intending to apologise but let themselves off the hook by shifting the blame, then wonder why they haven’t been forgiven.
Here are 3 rules to follow when apologising:
2. Take out the “but…”Apologise, then stop. As soon as you utter the word “but…” you are making an excuse. If you need to explain the circumstances, it is better to start a new sentence by acknowledging facts that you didn’t take into account. For example, “I’m sorry I am late coming home. There was a lot of traffic and I can see I didn’t leave enough time.” This way you are still taking responsibility for your actions and recognise that you need to do things differently.
Which leads us to the next, and most important step…
3. Make it better.
When you acknowledge that you have made a mistake, apologised sincerely and taken responsibility, it is important to outline the way you can resolve the situation, or perhaps a way you will avoid doing that thing next time. Using the first example you might say “If that happens again, I will call you from work to let you know that I have been held back.” Then ask this person if that would be ok – check that you are forgiven.
Although we have used relatively common and ‘small’ apologies as examples, these 3 steps can be your guide when you have made a bigger mistake, even when there is a lot at stake.
Remember, when an apology is sincere, responsibility is taken and reparations are made, forgiveness is usually granted.
Keep these steps in mind and say “Sorry“ like you mean it!
We can all get better at apologising, why not share this post on Facebook -
and while you are there, come and join the Thought Matters community on our Facebook page
...and if you would like to hear about other ways you can improve your relationships sign up to our monthly(ish) newsletter in the box at the top right of this page.
0414 99 66 13
"I asked you to clean up your room!"
"Put your things away, for the last time!"
Have you ever wondered why the things you say to your kids aren’t being done?
Do you feel like they are ignoring you on purpose?
These are frustrations parents can avoid quite easily – yes, really!!!
Here are 3 surprisingly easy steps to get the message to your child in a way that gives you the results you want:
Step 1: Get their full attention
First things first – we need to make sure we have their attention. If you want your child to listen, it’s really important to use their name to get their attention and make sure they are able to hear you. I know I have wasted my breath asking for something to be done when the kids are engrossed in their favourite TV show or playing some game on a screen (those screens!! yes, I know, but that’s a topic for another time!!)
Step 2: Identify the specific action you would like done.
Yes, we need to be clear about the message. No, that doesn’t mean louder!
It actually means being specific about what you would like your child to do.
When a child hears “Tidy your room”, the actions required around that are not necessarily clear for them. To them, it may look tidy already. Let them know exactly what they need to do to make the room tidy. That may include putting all the toys into the toybox, putting all dirty clothes in the laundry, making their bed: the specifics of what makes their room tidy are up to you. Remember to be clear and specific about what you are asking your child to do.
Step 3: Give them a timeframe.
Now, it could be argued that it wasn’t clear exactly WHEN you wanted that room to be tidied, or that game to be finished – we have to give them points for creative justification, right?! This means for the message to be received by your child and acted upon, it is also important to ask for the job to be done in a certain time frame e.g. “before bed”, “in the next 5 minutes”, or even “now…please”.
Which leads me to…
Step 4: ok, this step is an optional (but recommended) extra… Include a “please or ‘thank you”.
Our children learn respect from us by being treated with respect. We show them how it’s done when we say “please” and “thank you”. Make sure some of these words are in your request.
Taking this all into account, your request would sound something like this:
“Emily, before we leave today, please put all your toys in the basket, put your clothes away and close the drawers.”
Sometimes, we can change it around to appreciate what they will do in advance.
This can sound something like “ Tom, thanks for your help - it’s time to clear up the dinner dishes before I get some dessert ready.”
Perhaps you already do part of this, or even all of these things at different times. But to improve the way your child understands what is expected, make sure to first get their attention, be specific about the task, let them know the time frame and use a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in your message.
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.