How to Start Life Saving Conversations


can you imagine how different things
would be if in your local community there were people who are trained to
hold space for you when you’re in a crisis or you’re struggling with
something in your life and you don’t need a referral you don’t need to go to
the doctor they’re just in the local park and they’re wearing a badge that
says to you that they are trained and they are available in the present moment
that is deep listeners the program that Ursula has developed in our local
community and I would like to see it expand beyond our local community that’s
where you guys come in for any support that you can give to Ursula I’ll leave
her information down below don’t hesitate to get in touch this discussion
that will follow this introduction is all about our personal beliefs and
experiences around suicide prevention and the most important thing that we
want to communicate to everybody who watches this video is that starting the
conversation about suicide is actually the most important thing you can do
there is this myth that talking about suicide is going to put the idea in
somebody’s head it’s just simply not true
research shows that no matter what you say saying something is better than
saying nothing at all try to ask the question directly if you
think somebody is at risk of taking their own life don’t beat around the
bush have the courage ask the question and then the second most important thing
is don’t react with judgment don’t project onto the person just be there
just hold space just hear what they’re going through hear what they have to say
and show them that they’re loved and that somebody cares if you get anything
powerful out of this video please click the lock button for us and leave your
comments down below well a couple of things that I’ve come
to realize is that as humans were all completely unique and the circumstances
that lead people into feeling suicidal are completely unique and reasons for
having the paradigm shift and deciding to heal
they’re completely individual as well so you know it there’s no script there’s no
one-size-fits-all it’s I think it comes down to we’re humans let’s connect as
human beings and say well we we all live we all die we all suffer pain I’m a
human too I care about you we’re both humans you know I I feel for
you I don’t want you to suffer I acknowledge that you’re suffering I
don’t want you to die you know yeah because it is so different for everyone
yeah going back to whatever whatever is universal about humans you know we want
to belong we want to feel loved we want to be heard
yeah I want to feel a purpose you know and I think it’s harder to feel a
purpose now that we we don’t have those sort of foundational beliefs that we
share as a culture and and you know just talking about living within your values
I think for a lot of people what I’ve noticed in the grief group is losing
people who were living against the grain of of their own internal value and not
sort of recognizing or having time to think about that not even knowing your
values not even having taken the time to really get to know yourself because
you’re just struggling against the forces of reality or the forces of
society yeah there’s so many things to take up our entire day and take our
concentration and distract us from what is really important about life
is what I mean like a big part of my journey was just not even having the
time to reflect on why I was feeling so disconnected and it was just a spiral
into more and more disconnection until the breaking point for me you said
everybody’s paradigm shift is different the movement into healing for me was the
breaking point in the complete dissolution of everything in my life and
starting from scratch again that was my journey but yeah it was because there’s
just no space for the like you said getting in touch with those values and
getting in alignment with anything I just felt completely out of alignment
with the whole of reality and I couldn’t go on with that yeah do you mean did you
have a sense of being disconnected from reality
there was definitely a degree of that like dissociative even like psychosis
element yeah towards the end where a lot of paranoia a lot of um just not
trusting anybody or anything not wanting help because I didn’t trust the help
yeah yeah yeah yep yep yeah that’s when you sort of go to the edges of reality
and you know if you’re thinking philosophically and I
I have delved into sort of the you know the questions of life and philosophy a
number of times in my life but when you push it right to the boundaries then you
can get in this really nothing nothing is real anymore and that this space is
just so fluid that finding your grounding while you’re also trying to
explore the edges of life and reality and logic is you know a bit of a
challenge and sometimes we overstep our mark okay I totally get that and I think
that’s partially why we have a lot of you know mental illness set in in that
sort of late teens sort of age like it’s normal to push the boundaries and I
think it’s wonderful to be exploring and trying to question everything that you
know and if we don’t have people that explore and push the boundaries and
question what we assume is reality and facts then we’re not really
going to get anywhere but at the same time you know you put yourself in that
quite dangerous place you know metaphysically is that the
right word yeah yeah and for me I had a crisis I don’t know how old you were how
are we oh this was ongoing for so many years from like 16 to 24 yeah okay yeah
so that sort of crucial time there yeah for me I was at 18 when I had my crisis
set in and it was a little bit similar and what you’re saying like I had a lot
of paranoia and and started to lose touch with reality because I was pushing
those boundaries mmm and I had paradigm shift as well but it was nothing like
yours it wasn’t hit me hitting rock bottom or anything like that it was for
me seeing my mum and you know I’d made an attempt and realising what that would
do to other people was my shift it doesn’t work for everyone
all right and it can be a lot of work from that point of making that decision
kind of you know to from having that paradigm shift there’s still a lot of
really hard work that you have to do internally but just having made that
decision is taking that path that was an element like this that same sort of
motivation seeing my family and stuff afterwards because I didn’t even tell
them like that I made an attempt for years and it was like several attempts
but it was one that was like you could I couldn’t talk myself like convince
myself that it wasn’t whereas other times I was like oh that wasn’t serious
you know how you’d go into that you’re just missing yourself yep I did a lot of
that and then there was one where I was just I couldn’t deny that that was a
really bad evening yeah I just don’t want to put ideas and like projections
into people’s minds like it because my thing was pretty intense and if I like
I’ve shared it before and then I’ve like taken it down
yeah because it’s just it’s in that gray area where you don’t know how it’s gonna
affect people yeah this is the thing and I think the fear of saying the wrong
thing is partially one of the factors that enables or allows the rates to keep
going and we keep losing people because we’re afraid to have conversations and
there’s certainly you know things that we say and and moments that are damaging
but I think overall my feeling is that silence and fear is actually enabling
the loss of life you know for me once you get out of your own head once that
little sort of worm off suicide is sort of exposed to the outside world you it
starts to lose power and staying within your own head is is how it sort of gains
more and more power and intensity and yeah so but yeah I think if if we can
get to a point where we as humans understand how we can talk about this
concept of me as a person wanting to have control over how how and when I end
my life I think we can save a lot more people from a lot of pain and loss of
life there’s something really powerful there about not being afraid to say the
wrong thing and I think as well people withdraw after they feel like they have
said the wrong thing oh no like that was the wrong way to approach that so now I
feel like I’m I’m not really qualified to help this
person so then I withdraw and I’m not there for him after the damaging thing
because we’re just we don’t want to take the risk of being present with somebody
who’s the risk is greater if we’re not there yeah and this is happening all the
time and you know I’ve been guilty of it with my own son not wanting to you know
knowing how he’s feeling and not wanting to use those words and wanting to help
without kind of opening up the topic and you know now I realize that that’s
that’s not necessarily the best way to go you know what I what I discovered was
the internal experience of people can be remarkably different to what we see on
the outside a girl with ASD showed this to me really
well recently you know we had we went out we had a great day there was a
little issue with something the rest of the day was wonderful lots of smile she
sort of ended the day so it was a worst day ever
we’re state in the world you know and that was just this little simple day but
a light bulb moment for me that we have to stop making assumptions about what is
going on internally for people what people’s internal experience of the
world is for my son Josh he had ASD so autism spectrum disorder
unlike high-functioning and so his experience of life was really really
challenging from the get-go you know all of the different senses were turned up
to ten and things like that and so what we experienced and and think of is just
normal everyday life is really quite overwhelming and then on top of that
you’ve got all the social overwhelm and then you have you know really bad things
happen which are awful for any individual you know and then there’s our
internal processing and then there’s just the capacity as human beings to
hide what’s really going on inside like you know we lost someone else in our
family who was remarkable at hiding the
internal pain that he’d had from childhood and you know this related to
not being who he really was because he who he really was and his identity was
rejected and it’s so important as as a human being to belong that he decided
well I’d rather belong so I’m just going to pretend to be somebody I’m not and
went on for years and years being somebody who wasn’t with this great
internal pain about that and some other traumas in his life and he was so
amazing at hiding that he was one of those people that looked like the
happiest guy on earth and we lost him you know so it really brings back to me
the realization that we can never assume what’s going on inside another person
you know we can just try and connect and let that person know that we’re safe to
talk to and open up to and I feel like most people are surprised when they meet
somebody like that when you meet a new person and they’re totally available and
they have all this space and that and they’re nothing is too much for them or
it phases them and you can just have these really deep conversations in like
that and it’s really cool but it surprises people and I want to live in a
world where it’s not nothing yeah that’d be nice yeah and that’s why I love your
program that’s why as soon as I heard you speak for like five minutes I was
like I want to support this in every way that I can because I see that’s what
you’re creating in my in my mind that’s what I say like just heaps of people
that are available and can hold space and you can have these conversations and
it will affect the community because if if you you’ve never had the opportunity
to connect so deeply with another person and get this example of it and then you
like Wow like we can we can really we can
relate like this like this deeply and being open feels this good and you know
so I feel like it’s not just gonna be your team that is a is affecting
everybody and like affecting the community it’ll be everybody who comes
into contact with them it’ll be spreading well that’s the hope
that we sort of reached this critical mass of people who are deep listeners
and that then spreads and the the skills and the understanding and the values
they spread as well because they’re good because they work you know yeah and then
rather than people suffering for it you know I don’t know how long it took for
you to reach the point of suicidality but for me it was a good couple of years
of difficulty and you know if we can reach people in those a couple of years
when you know when this little worm in the head is is quite little still you
know then we’re saving a lot of people a lot of pain yeah it’s a sign your life
is going the wrong direction this is not who you are this is not what you want to
do this is not what you want to be or you have been vandalised is not the
right word but you know something has happened to you as a person that you
can’t reconcile vandalised brings up a really interesting image
like if you picture like i vandalized human like just graffiti’d up with all
of these values that aren’t theirs and actually the picture behind it yeah that
was actually um this is not gonna connect and i’m gonna have to do some
editing around this but i did a project to lactate lessness
and it was called free chats and i just had a big sign that said free chats and
i just like went out in public and tried to connect it yeah how did that guard we
did it a bunch of times in a bunch of different ways
two different places and it was hard to because the trust wasn’t there but it’ll
be obviously so different when you’re creating like a professional brand that
is known and it’s a community initiative so that’s another reason why I was
really excited because I’ve actually sort of dreamed of doing something
similar awesome yeah building trust is huge we’re still you know looking to
standardize everything you know and I think it’s quite insulting to have
standardized tests in the last two weeks have you you know it doesn’t make you
feel like a human individual you know like a unique person who’s been heard
and validated so we were talking about people people not wanting to admit that
they’re struggling with mental health and you know I’d like to say struggling
spiritually or emotionally as well you know sticking at all in a mental health
basket I’m not necess I’m not sure is necessarily a good thing
you know because if you struggle emotionally long enough by yourself then
it you know then it does become a mental health issue but if you’re struggling
emotionally you’re struggling emotionally you know and and then we can
if we open up we can talk to each other and get on top of it you know but we’re
meant to be social creatures we’re meant to help each other through that kind of
thing like ideas in the head go rampant or by themselves if they’re you know if
they don’t have reflection from other people I think but myself when when I
went through a mental health crisis and I had made my paradigm shift I decided I
wasn’t gonna tell anyone what was going on in my head I was gonna fix it all
myself deal with it all myself and you know I’ve I’ve used counsellors or
psychologists you know once in a while here and there over my
life but it was a long a long journey of recovery that I didn’t share with
anybody and part of that was the lack of trust in people I sought help from no we
need to turn that around I think a lot of the reason that people don’t seek
help in the first place and from what I understand the general figures from
Black Dog are 60% of people feel uncomfortable seeking professional
support for mental health and when it comes to young men in the in the period
that you were in having yours like 15 to 24 or something
it’s like 87% won’t won’t go near a professional we have to turn that around
because you know it when it’s when it stays inside yourself it grows yeah one
of the things that we do with what we’re doing right now is alternatives to
mainstream mental health so I’ve documented like kinesiology holographic
kinetics and like all these other modalities that you could choose that
don’t feel like that mainstream system that I didn’t trust because if somebody
has told me about kinesiology I would’ve been all over that or if somebody had
told me about like micro dosing psilocybin I would have done that but I
just didn’t know though other choices I thought it was go to the doctor and we
very much channeled into that one option aren’t we go to the GP and through the
GP see a psychologist or a psychiatrist or go through the mental health and
that’s part of the paranoia that I had like you you go to a GP and he tells you
what to do and like all of a sudden you did going down this rabbit hole where
everybody’s passing you off to psychologist psychiatrist you’re on some
medication and like picturing that for me at that point in my life was just no
I’ll do it myself I just want to and in a part of what you
really need when you’re suffering with your mental health is a sense of control
over your life a lot of the time you know other people have taken your
control away in some way whether that’s physical or
sexual or emotional or psychological you know a lot of the trauma that brings us
into mental health comes from somehow losing our own sense of control and so
you know we we need to be empowered to lead our own journey and why shouldn’t
we you know why should we have to bow down and and put our our lives in the
hands of other people and not be in control of that when we need it most
because the old paradigm belief was that if you’re suffering from mental illness
then you you’re not in a fit state to make your own decisions and that’s
fallen away over the last like 50 years or so slowly and look there’s points in
some people’s lives where they’re not fit to make their own decisions because
they’re suffering a psychosis or something like that at that moment in
time yeah that doesn’t mean that suffering that way all the time either
so my Josh’s wish shirt is about my boy Josh and I told this story I lost Josh
two years ago to suicide he he was a really good listener and he would do
this naturally for others and I find that a lot of people who are in
difficulty help each other out and I don’t know about you but for me when I
went through trouble the apart from my mum making that sort of paradigm shift
for me the people who helped me were peers people who understood had
experienced it had gone through it themselves that you could relate to
does that ring true for you as well yeah so having someone you can relate to is
definitely you know really important and and for me it was certainly more
important and powerful and valuable than professionals so Josh would be that
incidental counsellor for others in a community that we were in before
Mullaney and there was just that organic sort of setup where it happened
naturally and then we moved and we’re on the Gold Coast and people are everywhere
that there wasn’t that that sense of community people weren’t
naturally filtering in and out of the same space the connectedness was lost
those incidental you know sessions with other people were lost so I wanted to
create a mechanism a way for that to happen you know to bring back those
moments and encourage and enable those moments between people where we’re there
for each other whether we know each other or not and
quite often you know you you do need a stranger in some moments you know it
might be quite a personal thing you know relating to work or family that
you know you need someone who you don’t know to sort of talk to you right and
then it sort of also came from well the concept of are you okay days great for
some people the trust isn’t there you know I know that you can just put a
badge on I don’t know that you know what to do or that you have the time for me
there’s no mechanism to tell me that you’re actually going to be ready to
hear what I have to say and to be able to cope with what I have to say and know
what to do so I think a lot of people don’t
necessarily interact you know with the I you okay so what do you do then well you
create that trust you know if this person’s wearing a badge they’re ready
and they know what to do so that’s kind of yeah the idea is an add-on to the
training and sort of support mechanism for those people who are like people are
obviously happy to be out there and say are you okay which is amazing that’s
wonderful and that’s what we need it’s showing that we’re getting somewhere
but just to give that a little bit take it to the next level yeah yeah get some
training behind your peers and yeah because we as human beings are like you
know intensely afraid of saying the wrong thing and in in that fear we avoid
or dismiss and lose the opportunity to to help you know to be output person so
just having that knowledge and confidence and support to go towards
that difficulty and and be the helpful person I think will make it a good
difference that’s another big insight from the whole journey as well being
that person for somebody else has actually been more healing than having
somebody there for me and that that’s a big principle of like Alcoholics
Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as well once you when you sponsor somebody
you have that huge epiphany that like you’re there for somebody else now so
it’s like it gives you that higher purpose that you were looking for
earlier in the journey yeah and also you can see yourself and other people and
realise what it looks like from the outside it’s like hearing your own voice
it’s it’s quite awkward when you first see it from the outside the internal
experience can be so different yeah and there’s some great studies on how
valuable peer support and volunteering is for the person doing it yeah so I
think it’ll work both ways cuz a lot of people who are interested in being deep
listeners have lived experience and and in being a listener having that that
sense of purpose helping others and you know the value that you can get from
that and having that support for yourself as well I think will be
hopefully really empowering and you having somebody with lived experience
that you can relate to you know oh this person does understand what that’s like
you know whether that’s domestic violence or alcoholism or sexual abuse
or suicidality like you know we’ve got and and the range of people that we’ve
got who are interested in being deep listeners is amazing you know like all
different age ranges and sort of socio economics and you know left to right
wing and everywhere in between it’s it’s really nice because you know we’re
humans and we we’re not all going to relate to that same person yeah that’s
the superpower of the peer work to you you’re not quote unquote perfect like we
would be in tourism stuff we like if we’re not like a
what labcoat like ticking boxes were like yeah I know I was there like I’ve
done that thing and that’s powerful as well yep
yeah life is messy and complicated and it can’t be standardized one thing with
when you start doing the training to get into peer work that’s been really
helpful for me as well as it’s been a form of validation because like I’ve
I’ve been learning about how these things have affected me and it’s been
really helpful too because they’re like you get validated when you share your
story and people say oh that must have been really tough for you but when you
actually look at the research behind it and how like things like cases affect
you and trauma and everything you actually you really get this super
validation that oh my journey has been tough and you get that like affirmation
that like yeah I’m a boss like I’ve made it here and then you can share that with
other people yes and if people just validate and acknowledge what you’ve
been through it’s such a powerful medicine in itself the other thing my
big push is about compassion as medicine and when Josh went through difficulties
for up to three years and you know we we managed to get through a number of
crises but fine not all of them obviously he left this message love
peace help the world you know and I was interesting because the two ended up
connecting I noticed through his journey and it was largely just pushing him in
through the mental health channels you know the the traditional services that
when when people treated Josh with compassion when it was a compassionate
person there’s improvement there was validation that it made a difference
when compassion was missing it was harmful and
I don’t know why I don’t know what it is about us as human beings that blame a
person who is in deep psychological distress rather than giving compassion
but it is a very common error within and without the system you know of humans
and maybe it’s because we as individuals so many of us are suffering and hiding
that suffering and not getting our own validation and comes to mind is I’m
hiding my suffering and doing my job so why can’t you yes we meant to be bloody
robots in our society you know like Oh God get your sadness away we only want
smile fear yeah so I do wonder brookey train but compassion compassion
is the medicine does it’s not so much the different tools that you’re using or
like that saying the right thing it’s if you are actually compassionate and
empathetic in your care yeah that’s not what you do it’s how you do it like a
hundred percent how you do it doing it with compassion made all the difference
every time you know and what I don’t know I think I think Josh actually wrote
this as priorities for himself after he had a particularly non compassionate
response from emergency department a few days before he lost him but when you
look at it these are the three elements of compassion you know love and peace
and help you know and I yeah sometimes you know people come can be quite clear
before we lose them and you know that can be in natural circumstances as well
and yeah it was just such a powerful message that keeps going you know you
can’t go wrong with love and peace and a helpful contribution yeah what just came
up in me then you didn’t really it’s not what you were talking about but you
mentioned it I feel like when I was very suicidal it
was very obvious and it was I was very clear about it and I was like I was
putting it out there I was looking for help but that it comes back to that
we’re afraid of doing the wrong thing because everybody in my life knew it in
my I have a card from my 21st birthday where my family openly like jokes about
it they’re like I’m glad you made it yeah glad you made it
exactly because it was it was so known but like nobody knew how to approach it
or what to do about it and myself as somebody who had been
through it in my earlier years and then you know another 18 years later going
through with my own child I had the same problem you know so I feel like I’ve
probably been apportioning a lot of blame here and and I need to go back and
say well most of us as humans have that difficulty you know for whatever reason
as a society we haven’t we haven’t learned as a group of people how to
respond to this we have ignored and stuck our heads in the sand and made
suicide taboo for so long that all of us as human beings I think desperate to
know how to help and really like I meet so many people so many people come to me
and say what do I do to help this person and even I so say well it’s really
difficult you know um but just compassion love you know listen to them
let them know there’s no judgement and you know just coming down to love peace
help and no one-size-fits-all but yeah we we’re just so under-skilled
as Australian society Western society maybe
yeah well it’s almost discouraged to talk about so as a journalist you might
know a little bit about this I do and I’ve had some difficulties morally
myself with where the rules are at and whether that’s the right level for where
they should be yeah yeah it’s directly told to you you’re not supposed to talk
about it and there’s so many rules around it that it pretty much doesn’t
get any yeah there’s a lot of guidelines and so individual suicides unless
there’s a public interest value in that so that it’s happened in a public place
and even when it happens in a public place unless it is you know you can’t
hide it it’s still not reported and you know famous people or something like
that that’s pretty much all we do on individual stories and then there’s the
numbers the statistics and that dehumanizes it completely and it doesn’t
touch us you know in the same way that constantly reporting on every single
murder and every single traffic accident we understand the nature of the problem
because we’re hearing it all the time and maybe to the extent that we think
the problems bigger than it is because we’re hearing about traffic accidents
and murders that are happening way outside our community on the other side
of Australia where a zero with suicide we’re only talking about figures and
facts and generalizations and it really sanitizes it and and removes the
humanity from the problem which then means that we as a democracy don’t have
enough emotional care factor to really push for you know a lot greater change
and I know some of the reasons for the reporting guidelines are really quite
valid yeah I saw some research that they did where when suicides were reported
suicides increased and things like this but I was just my thoughts go to I don’t
know if it’s a causal relationship or like it’s just bringing up the the
feelings and the suffering that’s already
to that breaking point I think it’s a short-term thing so and it it relates to
again having the skill to talk about it as a society having the skill to talk
about it in a way that’s helpful rather than damaging and there’s issues there
around romanticizing perhaps suicide and the last thing we want to do is
romanticize suicide and there’s a fellow who does tribute videos and I have done
videos that are similar to tribute videos but I’m very careful about the
line of romanticizing suicide and he keeps asking to include Josh I said no
because the way that you do it it romanticizes it’s it’s not a you know
it’s nothing that should be put in that light ever you know like when we took
smoking out of the movies because you know James Dean with a cigarette that
looked pretty hot right but but you know us having a having you know lung cancer
is not so you know that there is that kind of influence around there
romanticization that romanticizing in mass media and then there’s if you’re
talking about details then you know what I think it is actually is about opening
a Pandora’s box and to some extent we’re lifting the lid a little bit on the
Pandora’s Box because it’s no longer taboo and we’re in that crossover zone
but it’s not completely open yet cultures do in various ways have a
framework for suicide and ours has kind of been let’s pretend it never happened
yeah and so because we’ve pretended it never happened we’ve got this Pandora’s
box happening of if and so many people are touched by suicide now that so many
people’s little boxes are opening in their head you know if this person who I
relate to so much they were so similar to me that they were their life
circumstances or where I thought how much potential I thought they had you
know if that person who I relate to can make
that take that action then what about me and and it just starts to grow a little
worm and we need to have some mechanisms in place to you know to deal with out
and not let though you know like we’ve had bloody five I think people go
through suicide crises after Josh so you know friends and family who would not
have been vulnerable to suicide had it not been for losing somebody who they
loved and that’s not the least uncommon you know it’s it’s very common and then
you have families or communities where you lose a spate of people make sure you
check out the description below and the rest of our youtube channel because we
are overflowing with world-changing content thanks for watching

3 Responses

  1. Ky Lives says:

    I think this initiative is amazing and I'm stoked to be a part of it. I'm now trained as a peer support worker. That's why it has been a bit quiet. I've been studying and building new connections to expand this project. Don't worry, there will still be plenty of exciting content in the future. This is far from over. We are just getting started! Please pass the video on. These conversations aren't easy, but they are important.

  2. Ky Lives 2 says:

    I post video journals almost every day if you want to keep up with what's going on with me personally ♡

  3. Melly Burns says:

    You are amazing, your work is amazing and you're making a real difference. Thanx Ky

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