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How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

My best effort to share how to help someone suicidal:

When someone plummets into dark, hopeless thinking, it appears like a deep hole, not a tunnel, to them. No light at the end, just blind darkness. And in those moments, people see the drastic act of suicide as an obvious escape. They are lost in their own misery.

What is missing is any realization that the whole experience is a chimera. Or that all thought is transitory and will disappear in the blink of a distraction. Or that everyone who lives into adulthood has seen that dark place, but not stayed there.

In those bleak moments, the innate spiritual strength, the natural wellbeing, we all have and can never lose is still flickering, the pilot light of our life on earth, but we have temporarily lost remembrance of how to turn on the burner. Desperately despairing thoughts throw a heavy pall over wisdom.

Because of recent celebrity suicides, the airwaves, the press and social media have been filled with links to suicide hot lines and with people offering advice for those who suspect a friend or loved one may be suicidal. For me, as a person who has worked with the Principles for more than 30 years, a lot of the current advice, well-meaning and heartfelt as it is, misses the mark.

If someone is overwhelmed with self-destructive thinking, talking with them about what is on their minds, or trying to talk them out of what is on their minds. is counterproductive. It keeps their negative thoughts churning in the foreground. If my tormented thinking is roiling my mind, it will not help me to get past it to try to express it or explain it. I would have to hold it in place to do that. As long as it is on my mind, it remains my reality, and the more I talk about it, the more it intensifies.

If, on the other hand, other thoughts come to my mind, the dark thoughts start to fade and pass on. With an understanding of how human psychological functioning works, anyone who intervenes with a person on the verge of suicide will create a distraction first thing. It only takes one thought for the person to start to move into a different reality. It doesn’t have to be a happy thought; it doesn’t have to be an optimistic thought. It just has to be a different thought. But it has to be that person’s thought.

Once the person moves out of the dark hole, even if it’s only into a shadowy place with just a little light, THEN a meaningful intervention can begin. But the first step is to elicit something totally different from the sadness in which they are absorbed, and to see the person’s mind turn even a little bit outside of themselves.

Our own common sense tells us, in the moment, what that might be. Maybe ask a question? Maybe point out something interesting outside and elicit an opinion about it? Maybe bring up the person’s family and inquire how someone is doing? Maybe spill something and ask for help cleaning it up? There are infinite things that could come into anyone’s mind who has the intent to change the subject and engage the person in a different kind of thinking and conversation.

So that’s the first thing I want to share. With the certainty that everyone actually is only one thought away from experiencing a different reality, we can confidently talk to anyone and know that as soon as we engage them, their thoughts will shift and their mind will move away from their torment.

But the most important immediate next thing is love and reassurance. In an effort to stay calm and rational, I know that sometimes we feel we have to keep cool, keep talking, and keep the talk neutral. But really, extremely insecure thinking is painfully lonely and alienating. A human connection can do more than a lot of reasonable talk to draw someone back to life. Do not be afraid to touch someone’s arm, hold their hand, give them a hug if you know them well. Be with them. Listen to them. Silence, in a loving feeling, is often healing. But if it makes sense to talk, talk to the health in them, not to the temporary dysfunction.

Wisdom is like our circulation; it is an essential fact of life. We don’t feel it or even think much about it. But it is keeping us going. Wisdom is a life force. As soon as a person’s a mind quiets, their heart settles and their own wisdom arises. We don’t have to cheer them up; their spirits lift naturally.

Love, just pure unconditional love, is the balm that helps the heart to settle and the spirits to lift. Wisdom is the light that shines from within all of us.

Who is a Teacher?

Who is a Teacher?

Have you been part of a child’s life? Have you watched YouTube videos to see how to do something? Have you helped a colleague figure something out? Have you given directions? Have you mentored someone? Have you helped a teenager learn to drive, or operate a piece of equipment, or use tools? Have you trained a pet? Have you helped someone new get to know your neighborhood? Have you contemplated a scene, and simply wondered?

There are so many ways to ask the questions, but there is one answer. We are all teachers. We teach ourselves. We teach others. We explore, explain, discover, share… The simple definition of teacher — one who helps to learn — defines our experience of growing through life.

Official “teachers” — those who work in schools — carry the burden of imparting the core knowledge of civilization, but we all share the opportunity to expand and enhance that knowledge and engage in lifelong teaching and learning. Fundamentally, the truths that guide the best experiences of teaching and learning in school settings are universal, explaining how our minds and others’ minds function optimally across all of life.

We have put together a series of courses for teachers, using the metaphors and examples of school because school is something we all share. The courses point to the explanation of how our minds work, and how we access the innate source of wisdom, insight, common sense, creativity and joyful learning common to us all.

If you’ve noticed “Resiliency in Teaching” as a CSC offering, and been curious about it but perhaps thought it didn’t have anything to do with you, we’d like you to reconsider.

We all have times when it feels like we just can’t cram anything new into our heads. We all have times when we are in a flow of “Aha!” moments, seeing beyond what we thought we knew. In the first case, we feel stuck and discouraged. In the second case, we feel inspired and exhilarated. Both are perfectly normal feelings, the product of the way we are holding and using our ability to think. When we understand how our minds work, when we understand the nature of thought, when we understand that we are all capable of clear-headed, high-spirited, enthusiastic, joyful learning and teaching, those “stuck” moments diminish, and when they occur, we know they will pass. We are just free to be.

So, if you’ve noticed “Resiliency in Teaching” as a CSC offering, and been curious about it but perhaps thought it didn’t have anything to do with you, we’d like you to reconsider. There are four courses in the series. The first, “Redefining Mental Health,” is critical to understanding the assumptions of the rest of them. but it is about how an understanding of the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought is changing many of the prevailing views about mental health and mental illness, generally. “What is Resilience?” addresses the nature of resilience, and how our access to our own innate resilience is related to our understanding of thought. “Problem-Solving” uses examples of common school situations (which are common to life, as well) — such as bullying, distraction, anger — to show how our varying states of mind are related to behaviors, and how addressing states of mind changes behaviors. “Resilience in the Classroom” describes the way in which understanding the Principles changes our experience of teaching and learning. All 4 courses can be taken together as a certificate program.

When our minds are free and clear, every moment generates joy and appreciation for our wonderful capacity to be awake to learning.

Judith A. Sedgeman. EdD

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