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Join the Social Movement of Suicide Prevention — Welcoming the New and Needed Voices: Interview with Colleen Creighton | Episode 41

If you are thinking about getting involved in suicide prevention or suicide grief support, we need you. You have a place and your voice matters. Learn more in this interview about how to get involved in my interview with Colleen Creighton, Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology.


Social movements tend to follow predictable phases in their development. In a paper I co-authored with Dr. Danielle Jahn called “Tracking a Movement: U.S. Milestones in Suicide Prevention” we discussed four stages of development that seem track the emergence and decline of a wildfire:

Stage 1: A Spark is Lit — at this stage individuals are triggered by a shared belief that something isn’t right. People start to come together in small groups over water-coolers and in coffee shops and become agitated together.
Stage 2: Combustion and Local Coalescence — at this stage many small local pockets begin to enrolls new voices and create local strategy, and momentum builds.
Stage 3: Fully Developed and Consuming Energy — here we have bureaucratization with broader levels of standards and coordination and enrollment of universal systems like media, education, healthcare, faith communities, politics and workplace.
Stage 4: Decay and Decline — momentum dies out.

In this interview we talk about how the movement is gaining traction through new directions in research to practice, media responsiveness, community engagement and legislation.

Join the Movement
Join now:

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Do you want to get involved? One step you can take is join the American Association of Suicidology — membership is accessible for all.

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About Colleen Creighton

Colleen Creighton joined the American Association of Suicidology in June 2017. Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE), a nonprofit foundation dedicated to the safe and responsible use of consumer household products. She also served as Director of CHPA Educational Foundation where she was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day management of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association’s educational foundation.

Prior to her work in the nonprofit foundation arena, Ms. Creighton worked in the educational field, having taught civics education at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels. Additionally, she spent three years in Lancut, Poland working for the International World Teach program, an organization based out of the Harvard University Center for International Development. Before that, she studied NATO and the European Union at the Irish Institute for European Affairs in Leuven, Belgium.

Colleen holds a B.A. in Political Science from the Catholic University of America and a M.A. in East European Studies from the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany. For more information on this episode go to

“Why Would God Do This?” — Faith, Religion and Suicide: Interview with Dr. Melinda Moore | Episode 40

Faith community leaders are often first responders after a suicide death. Sometimes, as in my family’s situation, faith leaders do an amazing job in supporting a highly traumatized and confused family through their grief journey and facilitate a memorial service that both honors the life that was lived without shying away from the tragedy of suicide. Other times families feel compounded shame and guilt and experience additional layers of loss because of how faith leaders address suicide. Faith beliefs are sometimes shattered in the aftermath of suicide, and anger at God is not uncommon.

From a suicide prevention standpoint, faith communities can foster compassion and support for people who are experiencing hardship, and can use theological reflection to help people make meaning. They can also work closely with mental health resources in the community to build bridges and increase their mental health and suicide prevention literacy. When faced with intervening with someone they are worried about, faith leaders can be trained to expand their pastoral counseling skills to identify someone in an emerging suicide crisis and to help them build out their safety net. Should a suicide impact a faith community, faith leaders are often called upon to conduct memorial services and ofter pastoral care, and thus, would benefit greatly from understanding suicide grief and trauma and best practices in safe and effective messaging.

According to Dr. Melinda Moore, 85% of clergy know that helping people in a suicide crisis is part of their responsibility, but they don’t know what to do. In this interview with her, we explore some of the findings from a recently released guidelines from the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention called “Suicide Prevention Competencies for Faith Leaders: Supporting Life Before, During, and After a Suicidal Crisis.” We also discuss ways that faith communities can offer support through the National Weekend of Prayer and the resources offered through the “Faith-Hope-Life” campaign.

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About Dr. Melinda Moore

Dr. Melinda Moore is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. She is in private practice in Lexington, Kentucky, and routinely trains clinicians in suicide-focused treatment. Dr. Moore serves on the board of the American Association of Suicidology as the chair of the Clinical Division and is the co-lead of the National Action Alliance’s Faith Communities Task Force. She recently published The Suicide Funeral: Honoring their Memory, Comforting their Survivors (Wipf & Stock) with her co-author Rabbi Dan Robert. She conducts suicide bereavement research at Eastern Kentucky University with an emphasis on Posttraumatic Growth ( She received her PhD from The Catholic University of America. For more information on this and every episode go to

“We are Still Here” — Culture is Prevention in Tribal Communities: I Shelby Rowe | Episode 39

All over the globe, young Indigenous men have some of the highest rates of suicide. When we take a closer look at this trend, we understand it is much less about individual mental health issues and much more about the consequences of historical trauma. Programs addressing suicide prevention in these communities are promoting culture and community connectedness through storytelling, ceremony and reclaiming culture. These cross-generational initiatives are rooted in values that link the past and present. Values and priorities like honor, identity, pride and resiliency. In this interview I interview my dear friend and one of the most resilient people I know, Shelby Rowe, who shares how she was inspired by her ancestors to be a “designated culture keeper.” For more information on this and every episode go to

A New Frontier in Workplace Safety : TJ Lyons | Episode 35

In the US, the construction industry is the top industry with the highest suicide rates and largest numbers. Historically, mental health and suicide have not been considered safety priorities, until now. In this podcast a global safety expert helps us connect the dots.

Safety professionals are well-versed in “the fatal four” — falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between — and know that if they are able to prevent these forms of deaths, they will save almost 600 lives each year (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.). What most safety professionals are not aware of is that suicide in construction kills takes many more lives. A recent study published by the CDC (Peterson, et al, 2018) found that in their sample 20% of all men who died by suicide in the US were in the construction/extraction industry. In 2017, 47,173 people died by suicide, 27,404 of them were men ages 20-64 (CDC, 2017). If 20% of them were in construction/extraction that means we can estimate that over 5,000 men working in construction/extraction died by suicide — over 9x more than all of the fatal four deaths together.

When a workplace fatality happens, the cause is almost always determined to be “accidental” and a deeper investigation into intent to die is not undertaken. The remedy is then to do more safety training. When we look at the fatal occupational injuries, however, the first two most common (transportation incidents and falls) are also common ways people think about taking their lives (CDistrosby et al, 1999; De Andrade & DeLeo, 2007). Thus, it is possible that some if not many of these workplace fatalities are actually suicide deaths, which then means that safety training may not be effective in preventing them.

The reason suicide has not concerned safety professionals before is that most suicide deaths do not occur at the workplace, and thus, were not considered a work-related fatalities. Today, we know different, and there are many things workplaces can do to make suicide prevention and mental health promotion health and safety priorities.

There are many reasons why mismanaged mental health conditions and unchecked suicidal thoughts can lead to safety concerns:

Distraction: having suicidal thoughts and symptoms of illnesses like depression, anxiety and addition are intense and trying to hide them from other people can make them all-consuming. For example, racing or intrusive thoughts as experienced by people living with bipolar condition, trauma or thought disorders like schizophrenia can be very distracting. This distraction can interfere with decisiveness and safety planning.

Impulsivity, Impaired Perception and Judgment: agitation, tunnel vision, distorted thinking and paranoia are common symptoms among several mental health conditions. When left untreated these symptoms can interfere with workplace security and morale.

Fatigue and Microsleep: sleep disorders are common in many forms of mental illness and suicidal intensity. Insomnia is present in many forms of mood disorders, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. People living with depression often experience lethargy and what is known as anhedonia – of the inability to feel pleasure. Sometimes extreme fatigue can result in microsleep (Kock, 2016) where the brain involuntarily goes “off-line” to a sudden sleep state for a matter of seconds. This state can have disastrous consequences for many safety-conscious professions.

Other Medical Complications: When mental health challenges reach crisis levels, other physical health challenges involving pain, gastro-intestinal problems and heart functioning can result.

Risk-taking and Disregard for Safety Precautions: When people are overwhelmed by the emotional pain in their life and have come to a place where the only way they can get out of this pain is to die, they often consciously or subconsciously start to take more risks or even practice suicidal behavior as they test out their capacity for self-harm.

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About TJ Lyons
TJ Lyons is a safety professional and regional manager for a large mechanical contracting firm in the Northeast. He has had the opportunity to serve as Safety Director for some of our largest general contractors and has extensive experience working overseas. Currently he is overseeing work across the US supporting some of the greatest safety professionals in the world. One particular focus is on the sons and daughters who do our hard work every day. Whenever he gets the opportunity he takes the time to listen to those in the field. Often that results not only in a safer workplace but a happy and more trusting group of what he calls, friends. He lives with his wife Tracy in 200 year old stagecoach stop house near Saratoga, NY. For more information on this and every episode go to

Be Vocal, Be Visible, Be Visionary : Chris Carlough | Episode 34

“Be vocal, be visible, be visionary. There is no shame in stepping forward, but there is great risk in holding back and just hoping for the best.” ~Higher Education Center

When it comes to suicide prevention in the workplace, we need bold leaders — leaders who are willing to take a stand and say, “suicide prevention matters to me, and it matters to our workforce.” We need leaders with a vision to aspire to a zero suicide mindset and to yield their influence to creating a culture of caring and mental wellbeing. When workers are having a hard time, we need leaders to notice and tell them, “If you reach out to me when you are suffering, I’ve got your back. I will persist with you until we’ve found the right support and resources to help you be your best self again. You matter to us and we need you to achieve our mission.”

In this episode we will hear from one leader who is doing just that within the construction industry — within labor specifically — building upon the culture of “we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.”

About Chris Carlough
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Chris Carlough is the Director of Education for the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and is a tireless advocate for union members and their families struggling with substance use disorder, suicide prevention and other mental health issues.

Through the SMART MAP training initiative, SMART is building a network of trained compassionate union members who offer support and guidance to union members and their families struggling with a variety of chemical dependency issues. For more information on this and every episode go to

What We Can Do To Address the Opioid Crisis and Its Relationship to Suicide: Dr. Don Teater | Ep 33

Did you know?
Approximately 30% of ALL ER visits end with a prescription for a opioid. (Teater, 2015)

Approximately 60% of patients going to the ER with back pain will get an opioid prescription. (Teater, 2015)

Primary care doctors give opioids to about 35% of their patients presenting with back pain.

Pain is the most common reason for people to go to the ER or to their primary care doctor. (Teater, 2015)

One opioid prescription after an injury doubles the risk of being disabled at one year. (Teater, 2015)

The combined deaths among Americans — suicide and unintentional overdose — in 2000 was 41,364 deaths and in 2017 was 110,749 deaths. (Bohnert & Ilgen, 2019)

The good news is there are shared prevention approaches, and we are learning more and more as the silos between those addressing the opioid crisis and those addressing suicide begin to fall away. In this podcast Dr. Don Teater and I explore how opioid use and suicide are connected and what we need to do to find better ways to alleviate pain and suffering.

Teater, D. (2015). Prescription Opioids: The Real Story.
About Dr. Don Teater
Medical Advisor
National Safety Council Don is a family practitioner from Western North Carolina. His practice now concentrates on the treatment of pain and the treatment of opioid use disorder. Don was the lead facilitator for the expert panel discussion during the development of the CDC guidelines for treating pain. He continues to contract with the CDC on educating prescribers on the treatment of acute and chronic pain. For more information on this and every episode go to

What the Body and Brain Tell us about Suicide Risk : Interview with Dr. Matt Nock | Episode 32

For the past century, the science of suicide prevention has not revealed much that is highly promising; however, innovations coming from the research lab of Dr. Matt Nock are quite exciting. Join us as we talk about his work with electronic diaries, attentional bias, ketamine, and much more. Findings that are helping us be able to better predict suicide risk and find more effective ways to prevent this tragedy.

About Dr. Matt Nock
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Dr. Matt Nock received his Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University (2003) and completed his clinical internship at Bellevue Hospital and the New York University Child Study Center (2003). Nock’s research is aimed at advancing the understanding of why people behave in ways that are harmful to themselves, with an emphasis on suicide and other forms of self-harm. He has been published in over 250 scientific papers and book chapters. Nock’s work has been recognized through the receipt of four early career awards from the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the American Association of Suicidology.

In 2011, he was named a MacArthur Fellow. In addition to conducting research, Nock has been a consultant/scientific advisor to the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Childhood and Adolescent Disorder Work Group. In 2017, he was named the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard. For more information on this and every episode go to

Brain Science and Storytelling : Interview with Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona | Episode 31

Well before we had writing and certainly before we had powerpoint, people were sharing stories. When it comes to suicide, we must “tell a more powerful tale” — one of resilience and redemption. When we cultivate stories that describe experiences of coming through unimaginable suicidal despair or suicide grief, storytellers “make meaning” and broader societal changes are possible. In other words, storytelling is good for the storyteller, and when done safely and effectively, it is good for the listener and can powerfully shift culture. In this interview Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona and I talk about the neurobiology and cultural implications of the power of the story to heal.

About Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona is the author of the “Coyote Trilogy,” (1998, 2003 & 2005), “Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process” (2007), “Healing the Mind through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry” (2010) and “Remapping Your Mind: The Neuroscience of Self-Transformation through Story” (2015). A Stanford educated MD, Mehl-Madrona is familiar with brain science and pharmacology, and while he does not eschew Western medicine when it is helpful, he seeks to find additional answers and alternatives to well-being. Inspired by his Cherokee grandmother’s storytelling and tapping into Lakota, Cherokee and Cree traditions of healing, he has spent his career understanding how storytelling converges with neurobiology.

Mehl-Medrona and others involved in Narrative Psychology have noticed the power of stories to transform our lives and shift our inner voices from victim and chaos to redemption and honor. The spiritual journey and healing use of storytelling has been at the cultural center of many indigenous peoples including the Maori, Africans, Mongolians, Aborigines, and Inuit for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and there is much we can learn from the oldest living cultures on earth. For generations within many tribal communities storytelling is valued for it healing capacity, especially when connected with ritual. Paula Gunn Allen, a Laguna/Sioux writer describes “medicine stories” as ceremonial narratives that alter states of consciousness — creating connection between body and spirit. In other words, language in the form of narrative is medicine (ardenhegele, 2017). For Mehl-Madrona, what we can learn from these native traditions is the mindset of narrative medicine, and that these values and practices are portable across cultures.

Frustrated with how conventional medicine ignored the experiences of the patient, Mehl-Madrona believes that by crafting our personal, family, and cultural narratives, we can reshape the dysfunctional patterns of our lives and the larger worlds in which we interact. While modern medicine has made tremendous advances, both the speed of interaction and the high-tech approach has created more distance between the healer and the helped. The practice of storytelling as a healing practice can help bridge this gap.

In his book, “Healing the Mind through the Power of Story,” Mehl-Madrona explains that many people who are suffering emotionally are not defective or ill, requiring drugs to “fix them”; instead what needs “fixing” are the sabotaging internalized stories that have seriously challenged their self- and world-view. The healing then comes from “telling a more powerful tale” about their lives. We construct story to reduce the chaos of our experience. For more information on this and every episode go to

Suicide & The Workplace : Interview with Dr. Allison Milner | Episode 30

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Suicide & The Workplace — Globalization, Job Strain, and the Dark Side of the New Economy: Interview with Dr. Allison Milner | Episode 30
NOTE: This podcast will air on 2/26/19 at 10:00AM ET
Too often when we talk about mental health promotion and suicide prevention in the workplace, the main message is about how to get workers who are suffering to counselors. Not enough attention is paid to the environmental aspects of the workplace that may be contributing to despair and what peers, managers and leadership can do to solve these problems. The research is clear — job strain is connected to suicide risk (Milner, et al, 2017). In particular certain types of job strain are related to suicide attempts and death:

Low control (limited decision-making)

High demand (pressure, workload)

Effort-reward imbalance (e.g., high pressure/expectations with little reward — income, respect or security)

Job insecurity

Bullying/harassment (Leach et al)

On this podcast I interview an international authority on workplace suicide and mental health research, Dr. Allison Milner. Join us as we explore some of the social determinants of suicide through a social justice lens in the world of work.

“Suicide prevention doesn’t just magically happen on the psychiatrist’s couch…It happens peer-to-peer. We need the day-to-day interactions to support mental health services and help resolve issues when they are smaller.”

About Dr. Allison Milner
Allison Milner
Dr. Allison Milner is a Deputy Director of the Disability and Health Unit, Melbourne School Population and Global Health, the University of Melbourne. Her current areas of research interests include the influence of gender, employment characteristics, quality of work, and occupation as determinants of mental health and suicide. Allison also focuses on specific employed groups that may be particularly likely to face disadvantage, such as blue-collar workers in the manufacturing and construction industry. Allison’s work ranges across a number of externally-funded etiologic and intervention projects. She works with key policy stakeholders to promote research on the link between work and mental health, and is the co-chair for an international panel of researchers aiming to promote workplace suicide prevention. She has been awarded the Victorian Health and Medical Research Fellowship for her work on gender, employment and mental health. In this work, she is progressing the concept of “gendered working environments” as a cause of health inequalities. For more information on this and every episode go to

Peer Support & The Helper Effect When Doing Good Feels Good: Interview with Lt. John Coppedge Ep 29

While peer support and peer specialist efforts have long existed in areas of mental health communities and post-critical incidents, their role in suicide prevention has been more recent. Some feared that peer support might increase vulnerability through the “copycat” phenomenon. Others were concerned that suicide was just too complicated of an issue for peers to try to take on.

Then we listened to the voices of people with lived experience with suicidal intensity who told us over and over that peers played an incredibly influential role in not only bringing them back from the brink, but giving them new reasons for living and hope. Peer supporters and peer specialists also told us that helping others helped them.

The Helper Effect
This “Helper Effect” is a well-established phenomenon where people use the wisdom they have gained through living with a problem to help others with the same or similar problem, and in return their own recovery is strengthened. There are many reasons why this is so:

Makes meaning and affirms recovery.
When we are applying the insight from our own experience while helping others, we can sometimes think, “Well, I wish I never had to go through my hard time, but now that I have, I can use my inner wisdom to help another in a way I wouldn’t have been able to without the experience.”

Feelings of social value and respect.
Helping others is an honorable role — even when we feel like imposters — we can feel a boost when others have confidence in our abilities and knowledge.

Keeps helper accountable to wellness.
When we find ourselves in a position of supporting another person, we often think, “I need to take care of myself for me AND because now I am a role model for someone else.” OR as my colleague Chris Carlough once said, “You are like a lifeguard — you can’t be tired if you are saving the lives of others; you need to be strong enough for two.”

When we “have each other’s backs” and are willing to be vulnerable with one another, we develop high trust relationships. Our safety net for emotional crises is strengthened.

It feels good to do good.
When we connect in positive ways our brain releases endorphins and oxytocin that helps us feel bonded and improves our self-image.

In this interview I get the honor of chatting with Lt. John Coppedge, whom I met through the Denver Police Department’s Peer Support Program. Lt. Coppedge was a key leader in our “Breaking the Silence” video and training workbook with the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Here he shares his journey about his own trauma history and how it has helped shape his passion for peer support.

Lt. John Coppedge
About Lt. John Coppedge
John Coppedge has served as a police officer with the Denver Police Department since 1992. He currently serves as the Director of Training, as well as supervising the departments employee wellness and resiliency program. He has volunteered as a peer counselor with the agency’s Peer Support team since 2002. John received his BA in Communication with a minor in Psychology from Regis University, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He is pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling also from Regis University.

When not working, John enjoys spending time with his wife Joni, his children and grandchildren. For more information on this and every episode go to


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