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The New “Stop, Drop and Roll” : Interview with Dr. Ursula Whiteside | Episode 16

When people experience suicidal thoughts, a helpful best practice is to find collaborative ways to build “safety agreements” or “safety plans” (Stanley & Brown) or to engage with apps that help people cope with suicidal intensity like the “Virtual Hope Box.” These tools can be very useful in keeping the suicidal thoughts at a safe distance as time passes and their intensity lessens.

The Harvard School of Public Health’s Means Matter project published findings that when a suicide crisis hits a certain threshold, there is often little time between decision to act and the action of a suicide attempt. Sometimes this impulse from thought to action is only a matter of minutes. Because of this important piece of research, one critical life-saving step is to reduce access to lethal means.

But we need more ways to help people survive this experience.

Dr. Ursula Whiteside has been working developing a set of skills that people can use when they feel emotionally “on fire.” The analogy is a powerful one. Since elementary school we have been trained in fire drills and escape plans on what to do if we suspect there is a fire in the building. When it come to the fire of suicide intensity, these escape plans are our safety agreements or crisis response plans.

Sometimes, however, despite our best efforts to escape, we may find ourselves “on fire.” And in these instances of the most extreme forms of suicidal intensity, we need a different set of survival behaviors. We need to extinguish the “oxygen” that is feeding the crisis by quickly resetting the emotional state. In this episode, Dr. Whiteside shares three important steps that can help people reset their emotional system; the suicide crisis equivalent of “stop, drop and roll.”

About Dr. Ursula Whiteside
Ursula Whiteside
Dr. Ursula Whiteside is a licensed clinical psychologist, CEO of and Clinical Faculty at the University of Washington. She is also the co-founder of United Suicide Survivors International.

As a researcher, she has been awarded grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Whiteside is co-principal investigator on a study involving 18,000 high-risk suicidal patients in three major health systems. This study includes a guided version of, a program she developed that includes skills for managing suicidal thoughts based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and paired with Lived Experience stories.

Clinically, she began her training with Dr. Marsha Linehan in 1999 and later served as a DBT-adherent research therapist on a NIMH-funded clinical trial led by Dr. Linehan. Dr. Whiteside is a group and individual certified DBT clinician. Now, she treats high-risk suicidal clients in her small private practice in Seattle using DBT and caring contacts.

Dr. Whiteside is national faculty for the Zero Suicide initiative, a practical approach to suicide prevention in health care and behavioral healthcare systems. This program was recently described by NPR on a segment titled “What Happens If You Try to Prevent Every Single Suicide?” Dr. Whiteside serves on the faculty of the National Action Alliance Zero Suicide Academy. She is also a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Standards Trainings and Practices Committee.

As a person with Lived Experience, she strives to decrease the gap between “us and them” and to ensure that the voices of those who have been there are included in all relevant conversations: nothing about us without us.

Learn more about Dr. Whiteside by visiting her website.” For more information on this and every episode go to

community, coping, coping skills, Crisis, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, educational, empowerment, health & fitness, hope, life skills, lifestyles & health, mental health, mental illness, mental wellness, new beginnings, recovery, resilience, science, science & medicine, self-care, Self-compassion, Self-empowerment, society & culture, stories, suicide, suicide awareness, suicide prevention


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