Toni Sutton M.A. LPC discusses warning sides of suicide, prevention, and who you should speak to if you or your loved one is suicidal.
Liz Healy (Host): Listeners, and thanks for tuning into Well Within Reach podcast brought to you by Riverside Healthcare. I'm your host, Liz Healy and joining me today is Toni Sutton, who is the Manager of Clinical Services for Riverside's Inpatient Behavioral Medicine Department. Thanks for joining us today, Toni.
Toni Sutton, M.A. LPC (Guest): Thank you for having me.
Host: Before we get started on our topic, can you give us a little background about yourself?
Toni: Sure. So my background is in clinical psychology. I have a bachelor's and master's in clinical psychology. I started with Riverside in the Central Intake Department Crisis Services, went through case management and currently clinical inpatient manager over our therapists, case managers and overall team.
Host: Okay. And we're here today to talk about a kind of a difficult topic, especially given everything that's happened in the last year, people being separated from their families, their friends, their loved ones, not being able to do everything that they love. We're here to talk about suicide awareness. Before we kind of jump into the things that bring awareness to it, let's talk a little bit about just suicide in general. Are there certain demographics where suicide rate is higher?
Toni: So suicide rate is usually higher in white males. Overall it, unfortunately it hits the spectrum. It hits, every demographic, male, female, race, gender. It's an unfortunate thing. During certain seasons I know with COVID unfortunately, everything's been sort of thrown through a loop and individuals who thought they would never have to experience or feel some of those things, some of that hopelessness have experienced it.
Host: So are there certain types of events during a year that happen to force these thoughts into people's minds more readily than other times of year?
Toni: Unfortunately a lot of times individuals think holidays. So, you think Christmas time, Thanksgiving is that highest peak, because you're around family. Some people are thinking about not being around their family, but for whatever reason, it's usually springtime, summertime that we've seen scientifically in the numbers that there's been the increase. But again, a lot of people say they get those winter blues being in their home and not being able to get out as readily, where they do feel some of that increase in the inability to connect to others.
Host: Okay. So what you've kind of touched on is every situation isn't necessarily the same. So a suicide, might not come out of a severe depression. It could be one of those situations where, you know, we never saw coming or they were the happiest. Is that true? Are there no, situation's the same?
Toni: No situations are the same. I think the, the idea that does hit on every person no matter gender, no matter sexual orientation, I think background is that it's something that needs to be a part of that conversation. You can't put it in their head. So, by saying the word suicide, you are not planting that seed to make them think, oh, that's what I'm feeling. So that's something that is universal.
Host: Okay. So are there some signs that we could watch for, something that might indicate that they're considering hurting themselves?
Toni: Sure. So with a lot of individuals, you might see them pull away from family events. You might see a change in their interactions, a change in them engaging in activities that they've previously liked, sports, hobbies, sometimes they might not want to go to church or their religious events as much, you might see a change in their sleep patterns or eating patterns. So, you might see them just being at home more often, not really wanting to engage with anybody saying, hey, do you want to come out and do to hang out? And they're like, no. And you see that more frequently. Unfortunately, sometimes when it does get very severe, you might notice that they are making comments and they might be side comments that we everyday think of as, oh, you know, Liz is just kidding. Liz was just upset, you know, comments of you don't worry about it, I won't be here anymore. Those kind of things.
Host: Okay. So we hear those types of things or start to see them in our loved ones or our family members, you know, that pulling away situation. Is there a way that we can help them or teach them about treatment options that are available to them?
Toni: Sure. As I said earlier, it's one of those topics, similar to like talking to your kids about puberty that is really difficult. People get very scared, very worrisome about having that conversation like I said, saying that word suicide. But sometimes it might just be asking them very bluntly, like, hey, I've noticed that you've been not engaging with us as much. Your sleep patterns have been really off. I haven't seen you in awhile. Just want to see what's going on. Even just a conversation, truthfully, it takes one person, one situation, one thing that makes them feel like I'm worthy of more, that sort of gets them to speak up more and maybe even say, hey, yeah, this is what's been going on. This is what's gotten me a little down. So, just engaging in those conversations, checking in on our loved ones, making them know that I care. I might not know what's going on with you. I might not be able to sympathize or empathize, but at least I want to be there for you no matter what that looks like.
Host: Yeah. So are there any things that you would suggest to you know, show that exact thing, to show the support that you are not alone? Like I'm here to help you in this situation?
Toni: Sure. Like I said, checking in with our loved ones. Sometimes a phone call, sometimes a text. I have a cousin right now, she sends me a text once a week, a funny meme. Something appreciative, a meme with flowers. Sometimes it takes just that little thing, so a text, a phone call, a visit. I know with COVID everybody's slowly coming out more, but yeah, a visit would be good. A letter goes a long way. You know, we no longer use letters, but even just sending them a letter, or a card, say, hey, I was thinking about you. So whatever that looks like for you, your family or your support system, to engage them and let them know, hey, I'm here. And sometimes that might be being pushy and just, hey, I'm coming over today at this time, we're going to do something, I'm bringing over lunch. Whatever, like I said, every family is very unique. Every support system's unique. So, just doing whatever is unique to you guys to engage them or re-engage them into communication.
Host: Yes. I think those are all really great things and really great suggestions. If someone is at the point that they are ready for treatment or to talk to somebody, a professional, talk to a professional about their thoughts and their feelings, what kind of treatment is available?
Toni: So something I've shared with multiple family members, inpatient, outpatient crisis services, is you are never wrong by bringing them to, you know, the ER. You are never wrong by calling, Central Intake with Riverside, to just ask questions, to see what the resources are, no matter what it looks like. It's never a situation where you're doing too much, because I know sometimes family, friends feel like, oh, I don't want to ask that question. I don't want to push them too much. It's never too much. So if they're at that point where they are ready, like I said, always coming in calling the central intake department with Riverside, asking questions about what the resources are, checking about resources within the community. We have multiple resources within the community that have therapists, counselors, to help almost reinvigorate them with that thought you are not alone. You are here and you're supported.
Host: Perfect. So you touched on the next thing I had questions on. Are there ways that the community can show support, and show that you're not alone, the suicide awareness and kind of help shed a light on this difficult topic?
Toni: Sure. We have a lot of resources online where you can get a lot of information about walks. You can get information about support groups. NAMI has a lot of information. I know we talked earlier about the Out of Darkness Walk, that sheds a light on the support for individuals who are killing with suicide or have had to deal with suicide within their family or support system. So, there's a lot of resources out there. Definitely family, friends, stakeholders, and the individuals of their selves are not alone.
Host: Okay. And is there anything else that we might've missed or that you would like to add?
Toni: Again, just to reiterate, you are never planting the seed when you're asking the question. It's a difficult question. Ask when you see those signs, when you see them, you know, not engaging as much, when you see an individual, a family member just seeming different. It's okay to ask. It is better to ask then to leave that situation thinking but what if I would have asked, but what if I would've said something? What if I would've texted. You are never wrong. At most, it will give you that opening for the conversation, even if it isn't suicide, but giving that support for I am here for you, no matter what it is, whatever the situation is, I'm here for you. I don't walk with you, but at least I can walk next to you.
Host: Okay, thanks for joining us. And thank you for tuning into the Well Within Reach podcast with Toni Sutton, who's the Manager of Clinical Services for Riverside's Inpatient Behavioral Medicine Department, and your host, Liz Healy. To learn more about the services provided by Riverside's Behavioral Medicine Department, visit our website at riversidehealthcare.org or call our central intake department at (844) 442-2551.