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What You Need to Know about Mental Health Crisis Response Strategy Covington | Episode 4

When people are in the depths of a mental health crisis the last thing they need is a response that is based in fear. Having a crisis response strategy that is rooted in dignity and compassion can make all the difference. Join me in my interview with international visionary David Covington, who shares with us his journey in implementing crisis services from many leadership perspectives. David shares compelling science that challenges our misperceptions of what works and provides a road map for effective support for people in their darkest moments.

In this podcast David and I explore the importance of strategy, especially when it comes to crisis response. We discuss how awareness and educational efforts are necessary but not sufficient for true cultural change, and how instead we need to “bake it in, not bolt it on” with changes that are comprehensive and sustained.

David shares with us his early days as a crisis response professional in Georgia and how he saw shocking mistreatment of people who were experiencing suicidal thoughts and behavior. He explains with us that the experience of many people reaching out for support during crisis is often like lifting a 400 pound phone. Many have relied on inner strength and support resources until all else has fallen away. The act of reaching out is often daunting and throughout history, many forms of crisis response have failed to deliver adequate care. Today we have standards and technology that are improving wait times, costs, and quality of care.

David explains some of the science behind contemporary crisis response and how the findings often put conventional wisdom on its head. In particular, he advocates for a form of evaluation that allows for rapid cycle robust improvement of care. Some of the hallmarks of current framework for crisis care are the full integration of peer support and a benchmarking process that helps keep behavioral healthcare systems accountable to improvement.

More information: For more information on this and every episode go to

How to Best Support Someone Living with a Mental Health Condition Kevin and Margaret Hines Ep 5

Meet my dear friends Kevin and Margaret Hines. Theirs is a true partnership, and I feel very honored to witness their love.

Being a caregiver for someone living with a major mental health condition like bipolar disorder is not easy. Let’s be honest, our mental healthcare system is challenging — even when people are mentally well, let alone when they are in the grips of a mental health crisis. Friends and family are often the overlooked links in the chain of survival.

I had the pleasure of working closely with them as part of our founding board for United Suicide Survivors International (see video below). We got a chance to interview them in Denver not too long ago.

In this episode, Margaret and Kevin share what’s worked for them. They share their very humorous story of how they met, and the serious commitment they have to stay mentally fit.

View video here:
View video here:

Tips for caregivers include:

1. Making self-care a priority

2. Learning how to advocate for your loved one: “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.”

3. Noticing patterns in behavior

4. Continually educating yourself, especially about medication options

5. Empowering people to take control of their lives For more information on this and every episode go to

9 Tips for Effective Construction Suicide Prevention: Jorgen Gullestrup of MATES Ep 2

Jorgen Gullestrup’s LinkedIn profile lists him as a plumber and suicidologist; a Danish man from Brisbane, Australia. The truth is since 2007, he has helped revolutionize how the construction industry addresses suicide prevention, and his innovative strategies are now recognized internationally. Listen to his 9 top take-away tips from a decade of discovering best practices in moving an industry from awareness to action.

Jorgen Gullestrup, CEO MATES in Construction
Jorgen Gullestrup, CEO MATES in Construction

I first met Jorgen at the International Association for Suicide Prevention’s World Congress in Oslo in 2013. Shortly after, he invited me to keynote at the Inaugural Mental Health Conference in 2014 in Brisbane:

Mental Health Conference, Brisbane
Mental Health Conference, Brisbane

What inspires me most about Jorgen’s MATES in Construction program, is that he has achieved a level of buy-in from the industry for suicide prevention that is unparalleled. More on MATES in Construction (Australia):

MATES in Construction Logo
In this podcast, Jorgen shares his own lived experience with suicide and his passion for this cause. He also covers the science and strategy behind MATES. Listen to the podcast to hear him give excellent advice on these 9 top take-away tips:

1) Start with research

2) Bring all the industry players together to build a unified approach

3) Play to the strengths and values of the industry

4) Build suicide prevention into the safety culture

5) Remove the barriers for engagement

6) Provide quality follow up services and outreach for people needing support

7) Build social capital through gratitude and recognition

8) Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate — partner with researchers who can help you demonstrate ROI and continually improve your program

9) Make programs culturally specific — “nothing about us, without us” For more information on this and every episode go to

Storytelling and Suicide Prevention: “THE S WORD” Movie Producer Lisa Klein | Episode 3

Effective storytelling is critical to the suicide prevention and suicide grief support efforts. Intimate, vulnerable, inspiring stories let us know we are not alone. Stories of recovery allow us to see a road map before us that leads us out of our despair. For more information on this and every episode go to
Speaking the word itself is not the problem.

The silence that so often follows is.

THE S WORD, a feature-length documentary, tackles one of the most unfathomable issues of our time by telling the stories of suicide attempt survivors, along with the families and loved ones of those who have died by suicide – who are left behind to suffer the anguish, guilt, and confusion of death by suicide. The voices of those living through suicide loss and attempts will be amplified above simple discussion and politics of the issues. This film is bracing, controversial, and surprising in its revelations, its humor, its connections, and its multiple points of view.


Raise awareness about suicide prevention and resources, including alternatives that reach outside the box.

Expand the conversation about suicide to include everybody, because we have all been touched by it in some way.

Talk openly about suicide without judgement, shame or discrimination.

To get people to think about suicide in a completely different way – highlighting the complexity, pain and even humor of our survivors.

Change the world. (Okay we know one film can’t change the world but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.) for more information on this episode go to

Why are men so lonely? Preventing Deaths of Despair with Dr. Thomas Joiner | Episode 1

Episode 1: Why are Men So Lonely? Preventing Deaths of Despair with Dr. Thomas Joiner

This podcast answers the question: “why are so many men of working age finding themselves in unbearable psychological pain that leads them to deaths of despair?” in a conversation with international thought leader and psychologist Dr. Thomas Joiner.

Dr. Thomas Joiner
Dr. Thomas Joiner

Dr. Thomas Joiner, author of “Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men’s Success” and “Why People Die by Suicide”, has spent much of his career trying to find out why people die of suicide. The desire for death, according to Joiner, is comprised of two psychological states. One is a perception of being a burden to others, having let everyone down, and the other is a feeling of not belonging, not feeling connected to a family or a relationship. Alone, neither of these states is enough to instill the desire for death, but together with what Dr. Joiner has labeled an “acquired capacity” for suicide (a fearlessness for death) the risk for suicide is increased. Join us in a conversation about how we can best help men avoid the pits of despair – such as isolation and addiction – through proactive changes in our culture and support services. If you are a man living with these challenges, or if you are worried about a man in your life, come listen to Thomas’ suggestions to bring back a passion for living.

Show Notes:


1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line

Man Therapy (a humorous mental health program for men):

· White Paper on why we did what we did:

· Outcomes:

· YouTube Channel:

Thomas Joiner’s Books and Research

· Why People Die by Suicide

· Myths about Suicide

· Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men’s Success

· The Perversion of Virtue: Understanding Murder-Suicide

More on Thomas Joiner’s Research Lab at Florida State University:

Opioid Crisis and Deaths of Despair

Military Suicide Research Consortium

Suicide as a derangement of the self-sacrificial aspect of eusociality

Veterinarians and Suicide

Physicians and Suicide

Tracking a Movement: U.S. Milestones in Suicide Prevention

About Thomas Joiner:

Dr. Joiner grew up in Georgia, went to college at Princeton, and received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University (FSU), Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Joiner’s work is on the psychology, neurobiology, and treatment of suicidal behavior and related conditions. Author of over 600 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Joiner was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Residency Fellowship. He received the Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, the Shakow Award for Early Career Achievement from the Division of Clinical Psychology of the American Psychological Association, both the Shneidman Award and the Dublin Award for excellence in suicide research from the American Association of Suicidology, and the Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association, as well as research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, Department of Defense (DoD), and various foundations. The Lawton Professorship, which Dr. Joiner received in 2010, is FSU’s single highest honor.

He was a consultant to NASA’s Human Research Program, and is the Director, with Pete Gutierrez, Ph.D., of the DoD-funded Military Suicide Research Consortium, a ten-year $70 million project.

Largely in connection with Why People Die by Suicide, he has made numerous radio, print, and television appearances, including articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London, a radio interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and two appearances on the Dr. Phil Show. He runs a part-time clinical and consulting practice specializing in suicidal behavior, including legal consultation on suits involving death by suicide. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife and two sons, the elder of whom is an FSU senior and the younger of whom hopes soon to be an FSU freshman. for more information on this episode got to

A New Age of On-Line Support – Jeff Dorchester and Dion Gonzales of | Episode 38

Seems every day there is a new app designed to support some angle of well-being. Many are seeing great opportunity in the integration of technology and mental health. With technology we have awareness of mental health issues and ease of access to resources like never before. Many cost effective supports found on-line are great supplements to in-person therapy, some work just fine by themselves (I’m a big fan to and Others are seeing how our obsession with technology can turn into a huge distraction, or even addiction driving us to increased loneliness and second-guessing our worth.

Check it out:
Check it out:

In this interview I chat with some amazing impact entrepreneurs who are a force for good in this space. They have found a way to harness the power of peer support — at very unique peer group levels — to give people a way to connect with others who are walking a similar path. is an anonymous, peer-to-peer social network that proactively uses technology to provide access to support people 24/7/365 in 63 languages. Some giants like Microsoft have taken notice. Founded by a passion fueled by their own lived experience, Dion Gonzales and Jeff Dorchester are filling an important gap in our chain of survival.

Twitter: @iRel8org


About Dion and Jeff
Dion Gonzales.jpg
Dion Gonzales – Co-Founder of
Dion is a successful entrepreneur and executive with a proven history of creating and delivering successful products and companies, domestically and internationally. Today, his passion is to make positive impact on mental wellness globally. He has been fortunate to have founded three companies which have all been acquired, and now looks to improve lives worldwide.

Jeff Dorchester.jpg
Jeff Dorchester — Co-Founder of
Jeff is an experienced and successful designer, entrepreneur, and executive with decades of passion and innovation in the technology space. Today, he brings in an emotional side of life in my new company iRel8, a new peer-to-peer social network for mental wellness. for more information on this and other episodes go to

Lessons Learned from Colorado The Good Bad and Ugly of Marijuana and Mental Health Ben Cort Ep 37

A recent Scientific American article entitled is “Cannabis Good or Bad for Mental Health?” suggested that if you think you understand cannabis and its impact on our well-being, you probably don’t. With over 500 chemical constituents, interacting at different doses and ingested by different means, there are endless permutations of complexity for the ways cannabis can impact our emotional health. We can’t slap one label on it as either “all helpful” or “all harmful” when it comes to the impact on depression, anxiety, trauma and psychosis. Cannabis and all of the spin-off substances continue to evolve faster than rigorous science can keep up. The truth is — at the level of randomized control trials — we know very little.

Weed Inc.jpg
Generally speaking, the psychoactive agent THC can produce anxiety and psychotic features like paranoia at high doses, and CBD tends to counteract these. On one hand, addiction to cannabis does happen, but only to a minority (1 in 10) of users (still, a lot of people). On the other hand, cannabis is being used to help people with opioid addiction with their withdrawal and cravings.

For the causal adult user — just like with alcohol — there are few issues. In this episode, I interview Ben Cort — a man who literally wrote the book on weed (Weed Inc, Health Communications Inc 2018). We cover the evolution of marijuana and what has happened since Colorado Amendment 64, which was passed by voters on November 6, 2012 and led to legalization in January 2014. We talk about the factors that lead to addiction, what we are learning about youth use, and the risks of overdose and THC facilitated mortality (e.g, drugged driving). Finally, we discuss the social justice issues and community well-being when profit is king in the marijuana industry.

We also discuss the “responsible use” guidelines for cannabis use:

Use before the brain is fully myelinated (age 25 for males, 23 for females) is not recommended.

Less than 10% THC (better 8% THC) WITH 4% CBD will often get people the experience they are hoping for — stronger than that and it might be very intense for the user without tolerance.

Buy local or grow it yourself. Corporate weed comes with many social justice issues.

Don’t get high and drive or engage in behavior that requires swift reactions for safety.

Don’t use in front of kids.

If weed is your go-to solution for problems, you probably have a problem. As Ben reminds us, “Even Snoop takes reset no-use periods to adjust tolerance.” If the idea of a 60-day abstinence period makes you squirm, consider 30 days. Try stopping and see what comes up.

About Ben Cort
Ben Cort headshot.jpg
Sober since 6/15/96 Ben Cort has walked the road of addiction and recovery. A co-founder of the non-profit Phoenix Multisport, a “sober active” community that provides peer-based athletic and adventure activities to hep people sustain their recovery.

He worked on public policy related to Colorado’s Amendment 64, the constitutional amendment that would ultimately allow for the commercialization of marijuana in Colorado and is the founder of Addiction Treatment Marketers Organization (ATMO), an organization that educates marketers and admissions professionals working in the field with a strong foundation of ethics.

His first book, Weed, Inc published in 2017 and his TEDx Talk “What Commercialization is Doing to Cannabis” has over 2 million views.

for more information on this and other Hope Illuminated episodes go to

The Role of Arts in Healing A Conversation with an Indigenous Trauma Survivor; Swil Kanim Episode 36

5 Ways the Arts Can Play a Role in Healing
While you may know me as a psychologist, what you may not know is that I was also a Studio Art major in College, and the arts have always played a big role in my life. Over my career, I have continually tried to connect the dots between emotional recovery and the power of the arts, sometimes downplayed by researchers who claim there is a lack of evidence to show a connection. The American Journal of Public Health, however, published a meta review of the literature looking at the connection between healing and music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression and expressive writing and concluded that there are “clear indications that artistic engagement has significantly positive effects on health.” (p. 261)

The arts come in many forms — painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, music, dance, theater, poetry, creative writing and so much more — and throughout the ages, art has played a unique role in individual and community healing from trauma and suffering. Here are five ways art helps us transform our wounds into sources of power:

Connection — art brings people together and builds community and the connection we feel through our shared experience of the art helps us feel like we belong to something greater than ourselves.

Indirect communication — if I am suffering, but I cannot share with you directly what I am going through, I can talk about a piece of art I admire related to my suffering, and we can have a conversation about my experiences as a first step in expressing vulnerability.

Positive attraction — for most people the arts are compelling and intriguing, we lean in to experiencing them, even when (especially when?) the focus of the art is dark or taboo. We open a door and draw people in to explore the unspeakable through the language of the arts when otherwise they would run away.

Brain stimulation — when we communicate theory or statistics through our words, only a small part of our brain lights up. When we stimulate the brain through music and stories and poetry, we engage more areas of the brain and have a much richer experience, one that is more likely to be remembered later.

Transcending and transforming — there are some experiences that cannot be captured by words and the arts give us the tools to expand our ability to communicate to a more fuller picture and be changed by the experience of that expression in ways regular talk therapy can fall short.

In this interview, I speak with Swil Kanim — my “new friend in the canoe,” as he likes to say. I met Swil at the Four Directions Problem Gambling and Health Awareness Conference put on by the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling in Washington State, and as I sat in the front row experiencing Swil’s gift of storytelling and musical performance, I was transfixed. You will be too. Swil is an indigenous man and a trauma survivor who credits his ability to overcome racism and suffering and become a student of honor to his discovery of the violin in the 4th grade. Join us as he shares his path of finding that healing was his responsibility and the way he would be true to his journey was through expressing himself musically.

About Swil Kanim (from
Swil Kanim.png
Swil Kanim, US Army Veteran, classically trained violinist, native storyteller and actor, is a member of the Lummi Nation.

Because of his unique ability to inspire audiences to express themselves honorably, Swil Kanim is a sought-after keynote speaker for conferences, workshops, school assemblies, and rehabilitation centers.

He travels extensively throughout the United States, enchanting audiences with his original composition music and native storytelling. His workshops, The Elements of Honor, are attended by people from all walks of life.

Swil Kanim considers himself and his music to be the product of a well supported public school music program. Music and the performance of music helped him to process the traumas associated with his early placement into the foster care system.

Swil Kanim’s compositions incorporate classical influences as well as musical interpretations of his journey from depression and despair to spiritual and emotional freedom. The music and stories that emerge from his experiences have been transforming people’s lives for decades. For more information on this and every episode go to


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