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Tag: Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas

Empowering Young People, Strengthening Schools & Mobilizing Communities: Interview with John MacPhee | Episode 97

Suicide rates for our youth and young adults have been climbing since 2001. The reasons for this trend is complex but experts suggest it is a perfect storm of historical events, easy access to distressing information, an unhealthy screen time to outside and social time ratio, and compromised sleep, among other things. The good news is, young people are extraordinary. They have lower mental health bias, they have a desire to help others, and they will change the word.

In this episode I speak with John MacPhee, Executive Director for The Jed Foundation about his thoughts on best practices for engaging young people and schools in the work of suicide prevention and mental health promotion.

John MacPhee
About John MacPhee
John MacPhee brings 30 years of leadership and management experience from the business and not-for-profit settings to his role at the JED Foundation. Passionate about supporting young adults in their transition to adulthood, John advises several organizations including the S. Jay Levy Fellowship for Future Leaders at City College, Trek Medics, Crisis Text Line, the Health Policy and Management Department at the Mailman School of Public Health, and HIV Hero. Earlier in his career, he served in executive positions for Par Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Forest Laboratories, where he oversaw functions such as business development, alliance management, clinical development, regulatory affairs, sales and marketing. John continues to contribute to the development of novel medications for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease through board roles with Adamas Pharmaceuticals and Blackthorn Therapeutics. In 2016, John received The Allan Rosenfield Alumni Award for Excellence in the field of public health from the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He earned a BA from Columbia College, an MBA from New York University and an MPH from Columbia University.

About The Jed Foundation

The Jed Foundation is a 501c3 organization that believes in a comprehensive, public health approach to promoting mental health and preventing suicide. JED’s programs are grounded in our Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for Colleges and Universities and for High Schools. These evidence-based models can be used to assess efforts currently being made in schools, identifying existing strengths and areas for improvement.

The programs and resources recommended through the JED Higher Education and JED High School programs have been developed with an equitable implementation lens that ensures that the needs of students who are potentially marginalized and/or underserved due to societal and structural inequities and school-specific community demographics are considered deliberately and intentionally. For more information go to

Meet Them Where They Are At: Social Media and Suicide Prevention for Youth

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people in many places around the globe, and many countries are seeing increasing rates of suicidal despair among our teens and young adults. How do we develop a more “youth friendly” suicide prevention strategy?

We listen to them and empower them to lead.

Come hear about the incredibly ground breaking work led by A/Prof Jo Robinson at the University of Melbourne in Australia. She is co-designing youth suicide research and prevention programs like “Chat Safe” with youth as her active partners. Their shared mission is to help young people feel better equipped to communicate safely about suicide on-line.
About Jo Robinson
Jo Robinson is an Associate Professor at Orygen, where she leads the suicide prevention research unit, which is regarded as the leading centre of youth suicide research in the world.

A/Prof Robinson’s work focuses on the development, and rigorous testing, of novel interventions that specifically target at risk youth across settings, on evidence synthesis, and on the translation of research evidence into practice and policy. Her work has a strong focus on the potential of social media platforms in suicide prevention. This includes the development of the #chatsafe guidelines, the first evidence-based best practice guidelines for safe peer-peer communication about suicide online, which are now available in 12 countries around the world.

Examples of other current projects include the development of a multi-faceted and systematic approach to youth suicide prevention across north-west Melbourne, the establishment of a self-harm surveillance system in emergency departments across Victoria, and a large-scale school-based study.

A/Prof Robinson also has a keen interest in policy development and evaluation and has led the development of two major policy reports and is regularly called upon to provide advice to both state and federal government. She is a member of the Self-injury Advisory Group for Facebook and was an advisory board member for the Oprah Winfrey production The Me You Can’t See.

She is also an Associate Editor of a leading suicide prevention journal – Suicide and Life Threatening Behaviour and Vice President of the International Association of Suicide Prevention. For more information on this episode go to

Tell a More Powerful Tale — Shifting the Narrative of Suicide Prevention by Engaging People with Lived Experience: Interview with Bronwen E

Storytellers in suicide prevention have the power to shift culture and change the world in ways other stakeholders are not able to do. Our “voices of insight” have influence and shape others’ understanding on a deep level. People with lived experience seek to stand in solidarity with our research colleagues, policy champions and mental health professionals to embed our deep wisdom in a processes of partnership. In this podcast, I speak with the world renowned Bronwen Edwards, a global authority on the power of lived experience to drive large scale change in suicide prevention. We talk about how we can approach our partners — who may have different values, priorities and points of view — with “compassionate curiosity” so we can “collaborate the big collaboration” (instead of “fight the good fight”).

About Bronwen Edwards
Bronwen is the CEO of Roses in the Ocean, a national lived experience of suicide organisation that has spent the last decade building the capacity of people with lived experience to utilise their voice and insights to inform, influence and enhance suicide prevention, and the capacity of communities, organisations and government to meaningfully engage with them.

Having advocated for non-clinical alternatives to traditional services for many years, Bronwen and Roses in the Ocean also work with communities to co-design new service models including safe spaces, develop and support the critical suicide prevention peer workforce, and continue to drive and support the implementation of system reform.

Bronwen holds a variety of state and national advisory positions, to which she first and foremost brings her personal lived experience of suicide to the table, while also striving to honour the vast perspectives of others she has been privileged to work with and walk alongside over many years.

Bronwen is the Co-Chair of the International Association of Suicide Prevention Special Interest Group: Lived Experience.

Strengthening Your Spiritual Core – Practices to Create a Fun and Fulfilling Life: Interview with Kate Eckman | Episode 94

Well-being is a current obsession. When you hear this word, what comes to mind? Fitness? Nutrition? Bliss? A sense of belonging? What is often forgotten in these conversations is our spiritual well-being. For some people this means engagement with their religious traditions and faith communities. For others it is about connecting deeply with nature, the arts or social justice. Still for others, it means contemplative spiritual practices that connect us to a higher power. The common theme throughout all of these practices is a journey to understand ourselves in the context of something much larger and mysterious that invites curiosity, stillness, wonderment, reverence and courage.

In this conversation I speak with Kate Eckman, an elite college athlete, broadcast journalist and TV personality and recent author of “The Full Spirit Workout: A Ten-Step System to Shed Your Self-Doubt, Strengthen Your Spiritual Core, and Create a Fun and Fulfilling Life.” We talk about the neuroscience behind our understanding of well-being — and what gets in our way of achieving and maintaining well-being. We discuss the curious versus the anxious brain and the learning versus the judging brain. We explore the questions of “when is enough, enough?” and “who do we really want to be?” We close with specific strategies on how to tip the scales from immobilizing fear to the ability to “stretch the comfort zone” and “build the emotional muscles.”

About Kate Eckman
Kate Eckman is the author of The Full Spirit Workout: A Ten-Step System to Shed Your Self-Doubt, Strengthen Your Spiritual Core, and Create a Fun and Fulfilling Life. She is a broadcast journalist and TV personality who brings her expertise in communications, performance, and mindfulness to her practice as a success coach for business leaders and professional athletes. She earned a B.A. in communications from Penn State University, where she was an Academic All-American swimmer, and received her master’s degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She graduated at the highest level from Columbia University’s executive and organizational coaching program and is a certified ICF coach (ACC) and a licensed NBI consultant. Passionate about mindfulness practices for both brain and body health, she is also a meditation teacher and course creator for Insight Timer, the world’s number one–ranked free meditation app. Visit her online at and for more information go to

Coping with Suicidal Thoughts — A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: Interview with Dr. Katie Gordon | Episode 92

In this episode, I interview Dr. Katie Gordon, a clinical psychologist and the author of the recently published book “The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook.” We talk about her H.O.P.E. approach to helping people cope with and learn from suicidal thoughts.

H = Seek help to broaden ideas about how to manage suicidal intensity.

O = Find optimism by searching for things to look forward to.

P = Change perspective through tools like “opposite action” and by putting your thoughts on trial.

E = Attend to emotions through self-compassion and emotional regulation strategies.

About Dr. Katie Gordon
Kathryn H. Gordon, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Prior to working as a therapist, she was a professor for ten years. She was recognized as an Inspiring Teacher for her classes about psychopathology, empirically-supported therapy, and cultural diversity. Dr. Gordon is a mental health researcher who has published over eighty scientific articles and book chapters on suicidal behavior, disordered eating, and related topics. She co-hosts Psychodrama Podcast, blogs for Psychology Today, and shares mental health information through her website, Dr. Gordon’s book, The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook. For more information go to

Grant Us the Serenity — The Gifts of Long-Term Recovery: Interview with Dennis Berry | Episode

For many of us, we have experiences in our life that mark “before” and “after.” For people in long-term recovery, one of those moments is the date they decided to take significant action in fighting their addiction. Most recite this date with pride and mark it as a milestone as the months, then years, then decades pass.

As a psychologist I can’t say that I gave 12-step programs much more than a passing thought. The support groups and programs were often seen in many circles I traveled as somehow “less than” or “alternative” to mainstream psychotherapy. I knew about AA and Al-Anon, but I had no idea about how many other groups existed and how many people had benefitted from them.

Now that I’ve had some firsthand experience, I can say that I deeply appreciate the approach and understand why they have helped millions of people.

First, they offer a community. A fellowship of peers who have walked the path. Instantly new people are welcomed as the most important group needing support. There are many rules to protect the psychological safety of this community, because helping people feel less alone is a major part of what heals us. Second, they offer guidance for people to consider spiritual growth — no matter what your religious views are (or aren’t as agnostics and atheists are welcomed too). “Spiritual growth” in this context is about connecting with something bigger than yourself and finding a higher calling. There is an emphasis on serving others, reflecting deeply on how to find forgiveness from your past and find grace and growth in making amends. Finally, there is a clear pathway toward healing. The action steps and accountability of the work keep people taking steps forward — one day at a time.

In this interview, I speak with Dennis Berry, a man 18 years sober. He defines serenity as “not drinking today.” In our conversation he shares his story of he transitioned from his addiction to being on a life mission to help others “shorten their learning curve” to recovery. We talk about the brain science behind addiction and the “H.O.W.” approach to achieving a healthy vibrant life. For more information go to

On Being Fearless — Intimate Partner Violence, Women Empowerment & Well-Being: Interview with J'Anmetra “JoJo” Waddell | Episode 90

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode covers distressing content about domestic violence and physical, sexual and emotional assault.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

~Marianne Williamson

“I can breathe. I can think.”

When J’Anmetra was imprisoned in her home under the threat of her husband, this was her mantra. One that kept her alive and ultimately allowed her the ability to escape.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) survivors of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to have multiple suicide attempts, according to a study published in the Journal of Injury & Violence Research, intimate partner problems were identified as a precipitating circumstance in 30% of all suicide cases in the National Violent Death Reporting System. And yet, the connection between intimate partner violence and suicide is under-addressed on many fronts.

In this episode, we bear witness to the inspiring story of J’Anmetra Waddell and her courage to break free from the bonds of her abuser — her husband and the Pastor of her church. She shares her how her near-miss with suicide transitioned to her journey to becoming an advocate for other survivors of domestic violence.

About J’Anmetra “JoJo” Waddell, MBA/HCM
J’Anmetra Waddell, is the ONLY Live Past Crazy Specialist! She works strategically with women to R.I.S.E – mastering their source of power as a mindset mediator.

J’Anmetra is an Amazon’s International Bestselling Author of Fearless Woman Born to Give Thanks and Transition to Freedom and four other amazing books. She has received Author of the Year Award for two consecutive years and has had the opportunity to share the screen with the late actor Tommy Ford in the movie The Last Time. She is the founder of Be Fearless Inc, Waddell Consulting Services helping companies educate their senior leadership and employees on empathy and employee engagement. She has an MBA in Healthcare Management and currently finishing her Ph.D.

She is a strong advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence. At 40, she instantly understood that she had to start being who she was born to be; a leader, teacher, trainer, thought creator, a REBEL!

for more on this episode please go to

Unplugged — How to Reconnect with Nature in the Digital Age: Interview with Sebastian Slovin | Episode 89

There is a growing scientific field called “ecotherapy” that has demonstrated a strong connection between time spent outside in nature and improved well-being. Shifting our attention to the sounds, smells, and beauty is calming for many. On brain scans we can actually see reduced activity in. the parts of the brain that are linked to rumination — or repetitive negative thoughts. In this episode, I speak with Sebastian Slovin, author of Experience Nature Unplugged: A Guide to Wellness in the Digital Age, a new book on how connecting with nature helps reset our brains. We discuss the ways our digital lives are negatively impacting our mental health and how nature is the perfect antidote.

About Sebastian Slovin
Since Sebastian can remember, nature has been a central part of his life. He was fortunate to grow up in the beach community of La Jolla, California and spent his childhood mixing it up in the ocean. As a young boy, he lost his father to suicide, which would deeply inspire his path in life. As a young adult, he had the opportunity to travel extensively and experience many of the world’s great surf spots as a professional bodyboarder. Through his travel, Sebastian developed a deep love and appreciation for our natural world and at the same time was drawn to the practice of yoga and mindfulness. His passion for nature led him to pursue a BA in Environmental Policy at San Diego State University. He also holds an MA in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. He is the author of The Adventures of Enu, Ashes in the Ocean, and Experience Nature Unplugged: A Guide to Wellness in the Digital Age. He and his wife, Sonya, founded Nature Unplugged, which is all about inspiring wellness in the digital age. When he is not writing or working on Nature Unplugged, Sebastian enjoys swimming, surfing and (pretty much all things) in the wild Pacific Ocean.

Train the Brain — Daily Practices to Disrupt Negative Thoughts and Build Healthier Pathways: Interview with Johnnie Crowder | Episode 88

When it comes to overcoming mental and emotional challenges, we have a problem. In fact, according to Cope Notes we have several:

PROVIDERS: Our mental health providers are often overwhelmed with demand, that accessing services in a timely way can be challenging. Once we find an available provider, we often can’t afford the level of service we need, and, even if we can, we find that many providers are not culturally or linguistically aligned with the people who need the support the most. Medicalization, jargon and pathologizing can keep us in a mindset of “sickness.”

PEOPLE IN NEED: In many instances the process of finding the right services is overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting. This level of perseverance is difficult for people who are functioning well, let alone for people who are feeling hopeless, unseen and unknown. Once people do find their way to support services, they often worry about privacy, judgment, and losing control.

COMMUNITIES: Generally speaking we seem to be focused more on responding to crises than we are on preventing them in the first place. Our approaches, therefore are reactive instead of proactive and big splashes of effort instead of slow drips over time.

In this conversation I speak with the brilliant and inspiring Johnny Crowder. We talk about how we can gain the upper hand on our complex and mysterious brains by short-circuiting negative thoughts. We explore how faith, creativity and community helps us gain new perspectives and forms of expression. We discuss the questions of how do we replace old thought patterns with healthier ones? How do we build a better brain? Stronger friendships and families? More resilient communities?

About Johnny Crowder
Johnny Crowder is a 28-year-old suicide/abuse survivor, TEDx speaker, touring musician, mental health advocate, and the Founder & CEO of Cope Notes, a text-based mental health platform that provides daily support to users in nearly 100 countries around the world. Armed with 10 years of clinical treatment, a psychology degree from University of Central Florida, and a decade of peer support and public advocacy through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Johnny’s infectious positivity and firsthand experience with mental illness uniquely equips him to provide realistic, yet hopeful insight into the pains of hardship with authenticity, levity, and unconventional wit. For more information on this episode go to

Historical Trauma and Historical Healing: Interview with Abigail Echo Hawk | Episode 87

NOTE: Abigail Echo Hawk will be keynoting at the American Association of Suicidology’s Annual Conference on Friday, April 23rd at 9:00AM ET. You can listen to her and the many other diverse speakers virtually or in person at the conference in Orlando.

Her keynote is entitled: Decolonizing Data: Restoring Culture and Building Beauty


Historical trauma is often understood to be multigenerational wounding caused by the cumulative impact of major events inflicted upon a specific cultural, racial or ethnic group. When it comes to research about health and well-being, Western modalities of understanding human experience are limited and biased, further driving disparities and truncated views that can cause even more harm. By contrast, a strength-based, Indigenous framework of understanding resists the narrow view and on-going trauma of colonialism and focuses on restoration and healing. In this interview I speak with a “Storyteller of Health” and epidemiologist Abigail Echo Hawk about her vision of an anti-racist approach to data collection and recovery among tribal communities.
About Abigail Echo Hawk, MA
Abigail Echo-Hawk, M.A., an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, is the Chief Research Officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board, a Federally Qualified Health Center serving American Indians and Alaska Natives in King County, Washington. She also serves as the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a Tribal Epidemiology Center whose mission is to support the health and well-being of urban Indian communities through information, scientific inquiry, and technology. UIHI assists a national network of Urban Indian Health Programs, which are private nonprofit corporations that provide native people in select cities a range of health and social services, from outreach and referral to full ambulatory care. Ms. Echo-Hawk directs a staff of public health professionals who work on multiple ongoing research, evaluation, and disease surveillance projects to benefit American Indian/Alaska Natives in urban and rural settings. She received the University of Washington Bothell’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013 for her dedication to eliminating health disparities and was also recognized in the 2015 class of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED) Native American 40 Under 40.

As a dedicated community volunteer, Ms. Echo-Hawk has concentrated on policy and institutional change to eliminate disparities for women of color locally and nationally. She focuses on policy advocacy in areas such as maternal and child health, domestic violence, sexual assault, and health disparities. Volunteer memberships include the Native American Women’s Dialogue on Infant Mortality, Hope Heart Institute, the Center for Indigenous Law and Justice, the Children and Youth Advisory Board of King County, and the Coalition to End Gender-Based Violence.

Ms. Echo-Hawk’s greatest joy is her place within her extended family. She is a wife, mother, auntie, daughter, granddaughter, friend, and community member. She strives to serve her family, friends, and community with love and to be a small part of ensuring a great future for the next generation. For more information on this episode go to


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