The Transition Game – Week 4

Welcome back!

Good news, since last week I have completed both the book and online lessons for Habits, got back on the workout train, have been much more productive, and have made progress in changing my bad habit of procrastinating tasks I dislike. My facilitator made it very clear to only focus on one habit at a time and I felt changing this one first would have the greatest impact on how I feel day to day. My gratitude practice is still really lacking and I need many reminders to do it daily, now that I am back to working out I have put a notepad and pen on my dumbbell rack and will incorporate my gratitude practice into my warmup ritual. Using my scheduler is another big challenge for me that I have yet to consistently integrate into my daily and weekly routines. I love having a plan, I hate having things planned down to the minute and that is my character strength score of 1 – which means I am very flexible as opposed to traditional. Often, I find myself completely disregarding everything I planned on paper which in turn causes me to think “well why the hell am I wasting time on this, I got way more done when I just winged it”. That is NOT a growth mindset and I will continue to work at using my scheduler consistently AND STICKING TO THE PLAN.

The Habits section of the Success Strategies program has been a great challenge but also my biggest opportunity for growth yet. I have realized how many poor habits I have which makes it difficult for me to not beat myself up. I have to constantly fight my utter disappointment in myself with each bad habit I recognize in my homework as well as when they pop up throughout my days. This is going to take years of hard work and dedication to break all these bad habits and replace them with good ones. I am very familiar with years of hard work and dedication however; I am not so used to it being on the mental side of things. Going back to the first blog post I wrote I talked about how during my Hockey career “I was the athlete equivalent of a Formula 1 racecar being driven by a gorilla”. This has rung true yet again, after writing down all of my habits both good and bad, all the good ones were physical (eating healthy, drinking lots of water, staying in great shape, staying very active even when working out is a challenge) and the bad ones were mental (stressful thinking, negative self-talk and self-doubt, mistrust of people, skepticism of all things society, procrastinating tasks I dislike or think are stupid, pushing my feelings down, putting up emotional walls).

I truly cannot wait to rid myself of the “gorilla” but I have to stay patient, focused, and increase my dedication to this work. Through the work that I have done so far here is what I’m noticing (on days I stay on top of it):

  • Decreased symptoms and feelings of depression
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Increased motivation
  • Better sleep (less dependant on cannabis)
  • Less autopilot and more present in the moment
  • Exhausted… but from the work, workouts, and mindfulness not for seemingly no reason
  • I’m starting to get excited about doing things again (rollerblading, walking, outdoor hangouts)
  • Looking for new hobbies instead of just letting myself rot, though this has been hard due to covid, at least I want to find something, I’m interested in trying Muay Thai and can’t wait for things to open up and to get vaccinated so I can dive in.

There is much work to be done, but for the first time in a while, that doesn’t bother me or stress me out.

Thanks for checking in, write you next week!

Esty

The Transition Game – Week 3

Welcome back!

So what’s new? Well since I last wrote I completed the online portion of “Defining your Role”, had another meeting with my facilitator, and completely went off the rails with all my new self-care habits.

The online portion was great, it helped me solidify the lessons I learned in the book and allowed me to add more to my strengths and weaknesses as a family member. An area that I have struggled to define my role and find my identity within. The facilitator meeting was a highlight as always, these meetings bring so much clarity, direction, and energy. I’m always ready to run through a wall by the time I complete my course work and have that discussion. It has kept me far more accountable than anything else I have ever tried.

Why did I completely go off the rails with my self-care? I thought about omitting this, but the whole point is that I’m real with what I experience and how I feel. We had to say goodbye to a dear family member, Trooper. Those of you that are close with me know all about Troops and what he meant to our family and those that know me at all know I’m a crazy dog person. Those of you who were lucky enough to know Troops, well you know why his name was Trooper. From being dumped in someone’s back yard with a massive gash across his face and eye, multiple eye surgeries, knee surgeries, and cancer. Troops went through a lot in his 13 years, and man did he ever live up to his name.

The loss rocked me, you’re never ready for that kind of thing, but I really wasn’t ready. I don’t know if it’s just that I have been very lucky and not suffered much loss in my life. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, Trooper was the closest thing I ever had to a brother. Maybe I am just a crazy dog person, whatever it is dogs are the key to my heart, whether it’s filling it or breaking it. All this made me realize I hate the word pet, I don’t know about you but “pet” sells every relationship I have ever had with a dog so incredibly short. In my crazy dog person opinion, there is only one word worthy of the unconditional love and joy we get from dogs… FAMILY. So needless to say I have been a bit of a mess. It has been cry, then work, then eat, then cry and repeat, nothing else. Should I have kept working out? Yep! Should I have continued to practice gratitude? YEP!! Should I have pushed extra hard to use my scheduler? For sure! I did none of it, not even one of them one time. From the time I got the news that he was starting to go until a week after he was gone, I didn’t even try to do any of these things. All I wanted to do, all I still want to do is sit, process, cry, and remember. I let it cripple me, and honestly, it wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized the best way I can honour him is to be a trooper myself.

I’m ready to get back to my new routines and I’ll remember this the next time life squeezes a lemon in my eyes. During those hard times is when I need to put in an extra effort to stick to my workouts, gratitude, and scheduling. Have I been told that before? Yes, of course! My facilitator even gave me plenty of reminders but I have a bad habit of learning things the hard way which is another item on my long self-improvement list. Funny enough, my next lesson is “Habits – Why Do You Do What You Do” which I am quite enthusiastic about as I am such a creature of habit. Whether they are healthy or unhealthy, I’m notorious for my habits and looking forward to finding out why and better yet finding out how to break those unhealthy ones!

Write you next week! Till’ then, keep on being a Trooper!

Esty

The Transition Game – Week 2

Welcome back!

Since last Thursday I have received my PES (Profile Evaluation System) results, had my kickoff meeting with my facilitator, and completed lesson 1 in my workbook. Let’s start with my PES results, this is the most accurate and insightful personality evaluation I have ever done. Some of the results caught me off guard but after reading the explanations and having a discussion with my facilitator things started to make sense. Going through the results with my facilitator was awesome, it helped me see where these things pop up in my life and what they can cause me. We highlighted a few scores that I need to be mindful of which helped me connect the dots to some of my past experiences. I was very nervous before we started but as soon as we started discussing it, I found myself having fun, laughing and telling stories. My facilitator got to know and understand me on a much deeper level while I gained a clearer picture of who I truly am.

The scores that surprised me at first were in dominance and competitiveness. On a 1-9 scale I scored a 9 assertive in dominance (the opposite end of the spectrum is 1 cooperative), and 8 winning oriented competitiveness (the opposite end of the spectrum is 1 team oriented). These threw me off as I always thought of myself as a team-first guy who was very cooperative. After digging into it, I realized that what was going on in my head was this: “Hockey is a team game, I want to win, so we need to play as a team”. I’m not team oriented, I’m winning oriented, but I need the team to achieve the win. Here is where my 9 assertive dominance score kicks in “if you aren’t being a team player, you don’t care about winning, so f*** you why are you even here?” which explains all of the conflicts I had with my teammates. I only see one way to get the win and anyone who isn’t thinking the same way pisses me off. Another example of these scores shining through in my career is my “practice how you play” mentality. I believed this with my entire being, and I was a very physical player. For me, that meant never letting a teammate off the hook in practice because I would never let an opponent off the hook in a game. If I had a chance to throw a hit, I was throwing it, as hard as I could. That was my job, that’s what I needed to do so we could win. More hits in practice, for me, meant more hits in games. Yes, this often made it difficult to make friends but I didn’t care, I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to win. My friends were typically guys who thought the same way as me, we’d laugh about running each other in practice, we loved the battle and to us, it was just iron sharpening iron. To all my former teammates that hated me or just hated when I ran them in practice, sorry man, I just wanted us to win.

Lesson 1 Defining your Role was interesting and a bit frustrating for me. it exposed some insecurities and honestly really made it clear that I don’t have a solid identity when it comes to my family or work life. I was asked to list my strengths and weaknesses as an athlete, student/employee, and family member. It is further broken down into the categories leadership, mental strength, communication, and habits. I rattled off my answers as an athlete with no problems. As a student/employee, it was a bit of a challenge. As a family member, I was completely stumped and I’m still trying to put some answers down. Makes sense why I feel so lost since I hung up the skates, at least now I know I need to find my identity and focus on defining those roles for myself and it will make a huge difference in how I feel day to day. I’m really looking forward to my next facilitator meeting and finding even more clarity. The workbook helped me to draw some parallels between how I felt in certain roles on certain teams and how I feel in certain roles in my life today which is what clued me in. The moral of the story, define your roles! ALL OF THEM, or you’re going to have a bad time. If someone gives you a role, have a deep and meaningful conversation about it. Maybe you are a little nervous to have that kind of conversation with that specific person, but trust me just do it. What you’ll feel if you don’t is far worse than the anxiousness before the conversation.

Thanks for the support!

Write you next week,

Esty

The Transition Game – Week 1

Welcome back and thanks for being here!

So what’s new since last week? Well, I just went through the Profile Evaluation System which essentially builds a psychological profile that will help me and my facilitator identify my strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies. This is the first step in the Success Strategies Program.

How’d it go? Well, my incredible lack of basic math skills shone through in the beginning and got me sweating. I didn’t realize the kind of questions I’d be asked in the various sections and oh man it was embarrassing even though I was alone in my office. I ran out of time on the first few sections (even with leaving many of the math questions blank) so that made me even more anxious. Once I made it through to the vocabulary and more personal behaviour-related questions I relaxed and it was a breeze. I’m excited to see my results and I will share them with you once I have them. Although I think of myself as someone who is very self-aware I’m hoping it brings some new things to light that will help me shift my perspective.

My Success Strategies workbook has arrived so next week I’ll detail how the first lesson and facilitator meeting go! I’m excited to have some tough conversations and take a hard look in the mirror. In the meantime, I have still been trying to solidify a new workout routine, 30-45 minutes of dumbbell work weekday mornings as soon as my alarm goes off at 6 am followed by shoulder rehab until 7 am. I’m now consistently getting that done 4 out of 5 days and striving for 5 high-intensity efficient lifts per week. I am eating way healthier and more consistently, I signed up for Hello Fresh to help which has turned out to be a great investment. Those two things combined have made a huge difference in my overall mood. However, I have had days where I didn’t stick to these routines and paid the price in terms of mood and energy. My biggest struggle of late is focus and motivation. I have struggled to use my scheduler and notebook effectively, I seem to spend way too much time planning only to not stick to the plan or I forget about the planning entirely and spend a day shooting from the hip. Oddly enough I have been getting way more done when “shooting from the hip” for some reason those days I can focus on individual tasks better. I’m not giving up on it though, I think these are just growing pains.

I am still trying to practice gratitude as well but have been very inconsistent. My new plan is to work it into some positive self-talk during my morning lifts. I will put a sticky note on my weight rack as a reminder. This should help with the self-doubt and my tendency to disassociate and live in a fantasy world in my head. Focusing on the great life I have instead of daydreaming about a different one is my goal with the gratitude practice.

Thanks for checking in, write you next week!

Esty

The Transition Game – Week 0

The Transition Game

Week 0

Estevan Hale

Welcome to The Transition Game blog series! Every week I will make an entry to summarize and reflect on my experience as I go through the I Got Mind Success Strategies Program. I will do my best to be entirely open and honest about the experience and how it affects me. I hope through reading this series you will gain a better understanding of what I Got Mind does and learn some things that you can apply to your own life. What I really want is for this to inspire you to be open and vulnerable about your own experiences.

So, why am I doing this? Well, I have plenty of answers to that question but the simplest way to put it is I feel like shit! Now, I’m not here to vent or complain, I’m here to learn, grow, and feel the way I want to feel. Let me give you a bit more background on who I am and what led me to be writing this blog today. I’m a Hockey guy, I just finished playing five years of college Hockey. Always known for my work ethic, dedication to the weight room, and being an absolute grinder. My almost non-existent point totals throughout my career will back that up.

Hockey and the weight room have been my two main outlets almost my entire life. If I had a bad day, you’d most likely find me in the weight room or on the ice trying to hit every single person who touched the puck. This kept me going and feeling great for many years but once I got to the college level, things started to change for me. I found myself struggling with confidence on the ice, which meant I got to play less, which meant I spent even more time in the weight room. Of course, I always found time for a heavy bench press or squat day, but stretching and mobility… managed to mostly avoid being placed in my daily schedule. I started to struggle with injuries due to the way I played and the way I was “taking care” of myself. I struggled with injuries and confidence my entire five-year college career.

My two outlets began to slowly fade and it took a toll on my mental health. The first time I saw a counsellor was in my second year of college Hockey. Things were bothering me in my personal life at the time on top of my athletic struggles. It was a good first step, but it didn’t last long, and I didn’t commit to it fully, so I saw few positive results.

These same things plagued me for the next three years, but at the time I didn’t realize, I just kept doing what I had always done because it got me where I was.

Then Covid-19 arrived, cutting my final season short, cancelling my last Athletic Banquet (The best night of the year every year as a student-athlete), and of course my grad. I remember watching my virtual grad ceremony and seeing my name scroll across the screen, I’m not sure what it was, but I just broke down. I couldn’t believe that’s how my five-year journey ended, all the work, injuries, and pressure for what? I felt like a loser, I felt like I put myself through so much for nothing.

Then I was faced with a question I had no clue how to answer… “now what?”. I didn’t want to start my work career… all I ever really wanted was to be a professional athlete. I needed reconstructive shoulder surgery from countless dislocations and my groin was hanging on by a thread. I still lacked confidence and I had grown quite bitter when it came to Hockey. So, I hung up the skates but I still didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do.

I floated around, worked part-time hours consulting for some small businesses and got my shoulder surgery. The combination of surgery and Covid ended up being quite hard on me, but it was a good time to do it as I didn’t miss out on anything. However, going from an extremely active and social student-athlete to being trapped in a small condo in a sling affected me in ways I never imagined. I started to spiral, more and more negative thoughts every day, no purpose, no socialization, no motivation. I just let myself rot, I felt stuck, and I felt like “what the hell is the point”. My attitude and mental state started to affect the people closest to me. It caused friction, fights, and further isolation. I continued to spiral. I finally recognized that this was more than just “a Covid year” and that I needed some help. I found a counselling service and started that process again, this time determined to really commit and see the benefits, and pull myself out of this black hole I was letting myself be sucked into. I half-committed and saw positive results, but they didn’t last long.

I continued to spiral, more negative thoughts invading my mind. I dreaded hearing the alarm go off in the morning, I never wanted to leave my bed. I didn’t want to deal with life, it started to feel like a burden I didn’t ask for. Everyday tasks became harder and harder and I recognized myself in the mirror less and less. Every once and a while I’d have a day where I felt motivated to make some change and pick up some healthy habits, from journaling to a new workout routine. But, I could never seem to make any of it stick, which isn’t like me… especially when it comes to working out.

Finally, one day on my way home from work I broke down again, this time I called my Mom. I vented to her, I told her how hopeless and lost I felt, how stuck I felt. She was unreal, Mom of the year, it was a conversation I don’t think I’ll ever forget. After I finished venting and she calmed me down, she told me about some other family members who have struggled with depression. I had no idea that those family members had struggled, but it gave me some hope. I thought okay if they can get through something like that, I can get through this. Unfortunately, that thought was followed with little and inconsistent action.

For a few more months I stayed that way, some good days, mostly not so good days. I had a really hard time taking care of myself physically, not eating, not working out, I couldn’t sleep without cannabis, all of which made me feel even worse mentally. Most days the only thing that got me out of bed was my puppy needing to go for a walk. I honestly don’t know where I’d be mentally without the little guy. I became very self-destructive which I had struggled with in years prior, but never to this extent.

I am incredibly fortunate to have the support system I have. Someone finally just called me out because it got to the point that I was bringing other people down with me. People I deeply care for. Sadly, that’s what it took for me to ACTUALLY do something about the way I have been feeling.

I called my doctor and officially was diagnosed with depression, checked off every single box. This was actually a huge relief. I finally had an actual explanation of why I felt so stuck, why I kept feeling the “call to the void”, why I couldn’t commit and pull myself back up. Now I just had to decide exactly what I was going to do about it.

The IGM Success Strategies program was the first thing that came to my mind. I need structure to keep me accountable when I am in this state, something more than just a Zoom call with a counsellor. I knew it would be at least a month before I could start. So I came up with a few ways to get back into working out, my boss gave me a great workbook to organize my days and set both personal and career goals, my girlfriend and I came up with a plan to eat better and more consistently. Essentially, I’m trying to reinstate my student-athlete lifestyle but in a sustainable way. I spent so long focusing on building the racecar (my body) but never once thought about the driver (my mind). I was the athlete equivalent of a Formula 1 racecar being driven by a gorilla. This time, my focus is balance, and mental wellness above all else. It’s time I truly practice what I preach.

Wish me luck, I’m nervous as hell, but I’m excited to share what I learn and how it affects me.

Write you next week,

Esty

I Got Mind Inc – Best Sport & Lifestyle Mental Health Programming Specialist – Canada

We are honoured to have been presented with this award from the prestigious LUX Global Excellence Awards from LuxLife Magazine for the second consecutive year! We want to thank our clients, sponsors, supporters, teammates and LuxLife magazine. We wouldn’t be here without any of you.

What a year it was, filled with ups and downs, growth and change. We came out the other side better than before despite any challenges we faced. We found opportunity in the chaos; the best kind of opportunity, the kind where you get to help others.

We are grateful for the ways 2020 pushed us, it has helped us be better for you. We discovered new ways to support our clients, ways to touch more lives, and new issues that need to be addressed. We have seen reduced stigma and more courage, but the job isn’t done yet and we will continue to fight for mental wellness for all.

2021 is off to a great start and we have no plans to slow down, keep your eyes peeled for more events, revamped programs and courses, new tribe members and more! See you all this time next year when we complete the threepeat!

Finding Hope – 10 Tips for Reaching Mental Wellness and Practicing Self Care

We are so happy you chose to join us for our Finding Hope webinar. If you have found your way to this page and did not attend the webinar, you haven’t missed out! Click here and “reserve your seat” to register and receive the recording.

We want to thank you for your support and highlighted some action steps mentioned during the event that you can start taking right away! There are also some additional resources linked at the bottom of the page.

10 Tips for Reaching Mental Wellness and Practicing Self Care

Raeanne Woycenko

 
Self Care by definition is to take action to preserve or improve one’s health.
 
We have been taught and conditioned from a young age to be kind, help others, and be selfless, however, in today’s hectic world we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our loved ones when we don’t take time to care for ourselves first.
 
Think of the safety message we hear each time before we takeoff on a flight. The flight attendant announces, ‘In the event the cabin loses pressure we are to first place our own oxygen mask on before we help others’. This is so that we can in fact help others. This same type of safety message needs to be at the forefront of our minds each day as we go through life. We need to provide self-care to ourselves each day so that in turn we are strong and able to show up for our loved ones as the very best version of ourselves. Help yourself so that you may help others, it’s also an excellent practice to role-model for those around us.
 
When we recognize we aren’t feeling mentally or emotionally healthy, we need to take steps to get ourselves back on track. 
 
Here are some coping strategies and tips that were discussed in our Finding Hope webinar. We hope you will introduce some of them into your daily routine.
 
1.  Give thanks. It is important to express gratitude for even the smallest of life’s wonders. Even something we may normally take for granted, “like a tiny snowflake landing on your cheek” suggested Registered Nurse Gerri Harris, during the webinar.
   
Gratitude also helps us to recognize that we are part of something larger in life.
 
2.  Try new things. Find joy in learning about something new. Perhaps take up a new hobby, craft, or activity like snowshoeing where you can learn to appreciate and find joy in a season many of us dread. Trying something new allows us to focus for a period of time on something present rather than dwelling on something in the past or worrying about something in the future.
 
3.  Move your body. Start with a short walk around your block and add half a block each time you go out. If that sounds too daunting, even adding a few steps and walking to your kitchen from your bedroom, and then maybe to your living room the next day, and to the mailbox at your front door the day after. Each step doesn’t have to be large, it just needs to be forward motion, a little progress made each time. Not only does the sense of accomplishment feel good, but as you move your body you will get stronger, reduce stress hormones and produce endorphins – the feel-good neurotransmitters.
 
4.  Grounding Exercise shared by IGM Mental Health Clinician, Shawn O’Grady 
When you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, slow down and ground yourself by using this 5-4-3-2-1 method. Place your hands on your thighs or rub your hands together, now look around you and notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Share this technique with a trusted friend or family member so they can help you when they notice you are stressed or anxious. They can help by saying “I think it would be a good idea to do some grounding. Describe the top you’re wearing to me, tell me about what I’m wearing, what is the texture of the chair you’re sitting on?”
 
5.  “Don’t do it alone” was the piece of advice offered by Kelly Hrudey. Speak with a trusted friend or relative. Have those connections. Share your feelings. When you share with someone it helps you to feel mental and emotional relief. 
 
If you have a difficult time sharing with those close to you, schedule a time to meet with a mental health professional. “Unload your backpack” or “Drop your pack!” as IGM facilitator and former US Marine Derek Hines described it. “Talk about it and then let it go”.
 
6.  “Pick your hard” as I Got Mind’s Caitlyn Watters suggested. “Is it harder to do the work (to better your mental health), or is it harder to stay where you are?” Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. I Got Mind can help to connect you with a Professional through our partners at Hull Services.
 
7.  Keep a consistent routine and don’t over-schedule yourself. When we are running from task to task or activity to activity it causes us overload and stress. Slow down, allow extra time to alleviate the stress of running behind and keep balance in your life through offsetting some of your ‘busy’ activities with calmness from reading positive affirmations, meditating, or going for a walk.
 
Try to go to sleep and wake at a regular time each day, and do your best to get up, shower and dress. You will feel better.
 
8.  Breathing exercises help us to regulate our breathing rhythm. When we are stressed and anxious we tend to take quick, shallow breaths that come from our chests. This chest breathing can cause us to feel more stressed and anxious as it causes an upset in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body which results in feeling dizzy, having tension in our muscles, and an increased heart rate. When this happens our blood is not receiving proper oxygen and can cause a stress response that contributes to anxiety.
 
9.  Learn to love yourself! Practice self-care daily. Remember, as stated above; before you can give more to others, you have to give more to yourself first. Schedule some ‘me’ time into your day. Investing in your wellness is the best investment you can make.
 
10.  Be Proactive. Seek out information about how to stay ahead of the mental health curve. Learn about why we feel the way we do, what we can do to change things, learn new skills and develop healthy habits.
 
We are here to help! At I Got Mind we offer affordable and accessible online courses for individuals (you, your family), sport organizations, business, and schools.
 
Whether the need is big or small, we have solutions for you.

Resources and Learning Opportunities

IGM Mental Health Checklist

I Got Mind Professional Counselling Services. In house psychologists, individual or group sessions. Please contact [email protected]

I Got Mind Referral for Hull ServicesPlease contact [email protected]

Distress Centre – CALL 403.266.HELP(4357) If you need immediate help.

Centre for Suicide Prevention

IGM Introducing Stress Course – Gain a deeper understanding of the thing that can both destroy and create.

IGM Preparing to Adapt Course – Created to aid people during the first Covid 19 lockdown.

IGM Success Strategies Program – The signature program for clients, this WILL change your life.

Research Roundup – January 2021

Post credit, our friends at: The Centre for Suicide Prevention

This is a summary of the latest significant Canadian (🇨🇦) and international suicide research we collected in the past month:

🇨🇦 Canadian Patient Safety Institute & Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2021). Suicide risk assessment toolkit: A resource for healthcare workers and organizations.
We typically do not include items from the grey literature, but we thought this new resource was deserving of attention. It is an accessible compilation of selected risk assessment tools. Accompanying text include current best practices culled from the research for risk assessment use. This is a major overhaul of a previous edition (2011).

Hvidkjaer, K., et al. (2020). People exposed to suicide attempts: Frequency, impact, and the support received. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 1–11. DOI: 10.1111/sltb.12720. A Danish population-based online survey suggesting that suicide attempts affect those exposed to them in more significant ways than previously thought.

Abstract – Objective: Little is known about people who have been exposed to a suicide attempt by someone they know. The purpose of this study was to examine how many people have been exposed to a suicide attempt by someone they knew and whether the exposure was associated with general well‐being and suicidal ideation. Method: A population‐based online survey was conducted during 2019 in Denmark (n = 6,191). The associations between exposures to suicide attempt and general well‐being (WHO‐5) and suicidal ideation (Suicidal Ideation Attributes Scale) were examined using linear regression analyses. Results: Overall, 24.6% reported having experienced a suicide attempt by someone they knew. Of those, 46.5% had experienced a suicide attempt of a close relation and this group reported having been more affected by the event. Those exposed scored lower on general well‐being (b: −3.0; 95% CI: −4.2 to −1.8; p > 0.001) and higher on suicidal ideation (b: 1.6; 95% CI: 1.3 – 1.9; p = 0.001) than those not exposed. Half of the exposed reported not having received sufficient support after the event. Conclusion: Suicide attempt affects a substantial share of the population, and it might be relevant to ensure that support is available for those exposed perceived to be in need of support.

🇨🇦 Leenaars, A., Dieserud, G., & Wenckstern, S. (2020). The mask of suicideArchives of Suicide Research. DOI: 10.1080/13811118.2020.1851832
Veteran Canadian sucidologist Antoon Leenaars uses tools of the Psychological Autopsy (PA) to investigate the prevalence of dissembling or “masking” among suicidal decedents. This was a study of 120 survivors/informants in Norway.

Abstract – Although it has been stated that the majority of suicidal people give definite warnings of their suicidal intention, a percentage of suicidal people may dissemble (or mask), possibly 20%. The aim of this psychological autopsy (PA) study was to explore the mask of suicide, examining age and sex of the decedent, and survivors’ relationship to the deceased. A PA study in Norway, with 120 survivors/informants, was undertaken. Overall, 80% of informants reported manifest and/or latent content of deception (dissembling); well above the 20% suggested. Three main themes emerged from the interviews of the 95 survivors that were related to the mask. In the opinion of the bereaved, reasons for the mask were due to: 1) Inability to adjust/ impairment; 2) Relational problems; and 3) Weakened resilience. Differences in masking or (self) deception were found in the age of the decedent, but not in sex, nor in the survivors’ closeness of the relationship. Older deceased people were perceived to exhibit more dissembling, associated to the suicide. Limitations are noted in this beginning study into the mask of suicide, and it is concluded that much greater research is needed to unmask the dangerous dissembling, maybe in some, self-deception.

🇨🇦 Zortea, T., et al. (2020). The impact of infectious disease-related public health emergencies on suicide, suicidal behavior, and suicidal thoughts: A systematic review. Crisis. DOI: 10.1027/0227-5910/a000753
A Canadian comprehensive systematic review analyzing the impacts of epidemics on suicide-related outcomes. 8 studies, published between 1992 and 2017, were identified and investigated.

Abstract – Background: Infectious disease-related public health emergencies (epidemics) may increase suicide risk, and high-quality evidence is needed to guide an international response. Aims: We investigated the potential impacts of epidemics on suicide-related outcomes. Method: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycInfo, CINAHL, Scopus, Web of Science, PsyArXiv, medRxiv, and bioRxiv from inception to May 13–16, 2020. Inclusion criteria: primary studies, reviews, and meta-analyses; reporting the impact of epidemics; with a primary outcome of suicide, suicidal behavior, suicidal ideation, and/or self-harm. Exclusion criteria: not concerned with suicide-related outcomes; not suitable for data extraction. PROSPERO registration: #CRD42020187013. Results: Eight primary papers were included, examining the effects of five epidemics on suicide-related outcomes. There was evidence of increased suicide rates among older adults during SARS and in the year following the epidemic (possibly motivated by social disconnectedness, fears of virus infection, and concern about burdening others) and associations between SARS/ Ebola exposure and increased suicide attempts. A preprint study reported associations between COVID-19 distress and past-month suicidal ideation. Limitations: Few studies have investigated the topic; these are of relatively low methodological quality. Conclusion: Findings support an association between previous epidemics and increased risk of suicide-related outcomes. Research is needed to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on suicide outcomes.

Too, L.S., & Spittal, M.J. (2020). Suicide clusters among top 10 high-risk occupations: A study from 2001 to 2016 in Australia. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 208(12), 942-946. DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000001234
An Australian study looks at the potential role suicide clusters may have on rates of suicide for at-risk occupational groups.

Abstract – A number of studies have demonstrated elevated risk of suicide in certain occupational groups. We seek to understand a possible new risk factor: suicide contagion, as demonstrated through a suicide cluster analysis. National-level coronial data and census population data were used for the study. We calculated suicide rates to identify “risky” occupations. SaTScan .1 was used to perform Poisson discrete scan statistic. Suicides occurring in arts and media professionals, construction, manufacturing, and skilled animal and horticultural workers seemed to cluster in time and/or space. Those working in construction settings were at risk of being in both time and space clusters.

🇨🇦 Grzeda-Isenberg, E., et al. (2020). Suicide attempt after determination of ineligibility for assisted death: A case series. Journal of Pain Symptom Management, 60(1), 158-163. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.02.016
Three case studies are presented of patients who attempted suicide after being deemed ineligible for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in Canada. None met the current requirements of having a serious illness, experiencing intolerable suffering, and having a reasonably foreseeable natural death. The authors foresee this period of MAID ineligibility as an emerging category of vulnerability to suicide.

Abstract – Medical assistance in dying (MAID) and similar right-to-die laws are becoming increasingly common in jurisdictions across North America and elsewhere. To be eligible for MAID in Canada, requesters must have a serious illness, intolerable suffering, and a reasonably foreseeable natural death. They must also undergo two assessments to confirm eligibility. Although a growing body of literature now exists to help clinicians understand and support patients around requests for assisted death, a dearth of literature exists on how best to support those patients who are deemed ineligible. Here, we report on a case series of three patients who attempted suicide after being found ineligible for MAID. Two patients were ineligible because they did not appear to have reasonably foreseeable natural death. The third patient was ineligible because of concerns around decisional capacity. All three cases had previous diagnoses of depressive disorders and mild cognitive impairment, and two cases had histories of suicide attempts. In at-risk patients, we speculate that the period surrounding a finding of MAID ineligibility may represent a period of particular vulnerability. Clinicians must be vigilant and prepared for the possibility of heightened risk, including risk of self-harm, after a finding of ineligibility for assisted death.

🇨🇦 El-Magd, R.M.A., et al. (2020). Family members’ perspectives on family and social support available to suicidal patients, and health systems’ interactions and responses to suicide cases in Alberta: Protocol for a quantitative research study. Journal of Medical Internet Research Protocols, 9(11), e19112. DOI: 10.2196/19112. A Canadian protocol for a study of personal, familial, societal, and health systems factors that contribute to suicide deaths in Alberta. It will also look at the supports available for families who have lost members to suicide.

Abstract – Background: Suicide is a major cause of preventable death globally and a leading cause of death by injury in Canada. To support people who experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors and to ultimately prevent people from dying by suicide, it is important to understand individual and familial experiences with the health care system. Objective: We present the protocol for a study, the objective of which is to explore how people who died by suicide, and their family members, interacted with the health care system. Methods: This is a quantitative research study. Data will be collected through a self-administered paper-based or online survey of the family member of patients who died by suicide. The sample size was calculated to be 385 (margin of error ±3%). Results: Data collection will start in October 2020 and results will be available by March 2021. We expect the results to shed light on the experiences of individuals who died by suicide and their family members with the health care system. The study has received ethical clearance from the Health Ethics Research Board of the University of Alberta (Pro00096342). Conclusions: Our study may inform practice, policy, and future research. The findings may shape how members of the health care system respond to people who are at risk of suicide and their families.

Mak, J., et al. (2020). Suicide attempts among a cohort of transgender and gender diverse people. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 59(4), 570-577. DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2020.03.026. Electronic medical records from an American dataset of individuals who are transgender or gender diverse were analyzed to gauge the prevalence of attempted suicide.

Abstract – Introduction: Transgender and gender diverse people often face discrimination and may experience disproportionate emotional distress that leads to suicide attempts. Therefore, it is essential to estimate the frequency and potential determinants of suicide attempts among transgender and gender diverse individuals. Methods: Longitudinal data on 6,327 transgender and gender diverse individuals enrolled in 3 integrated healthcare systems were analyzed to assess suicide attempt rates. Incidence was compared between transmasculine and transfeminine people by age and race/ethnicity and according to mental health status at baseline. Cox proportional hazards models examined rates and predictors of suicide attempts during follow-up. Data were collected in 2016, and analyses were conducted in 2019. Results: During follow-up, 4.8% of transmasculine and 3.0% of transfeminine patients had at least 1 suicide attempt. Suicide attempt rates were more than 7 times higher among patients aged <18 years than among those aged >45 years, more than 3 times higher among patients with previous history of suicide ideation or suicide attempts than among those with no such history, and 2–5 times higher among those with 1–2 mental health diagnoses and more than 2 mental health diagnoses at baseline than among those with none. Conclusions: Among transgender and gender diverse individuals, younger people, people with previous suicidal ideation or attempts, and people with multiple mental health diagnoses are at a higher risk for suicide attempts. Future research should examine the impact of gender-affirming healthcare use on the risk of suicide attempts and identify targets for suicide prevention interventions among transgender and gender diverse people in clinical settings.

Sharp, L., et al. (2020). Delivering the first internationally accessible Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on suicide prevention: A case study and insights into best practice. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 8(2), 72-80. The authors present guidelines of how best to deliver “sensitive and/or controversial topics,” such as suicide prevention, in the context of the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC).

Abstract – To date, little guidance exists on how to design safe and effective online programming on sensitive and/or controversial topics. Massive online open courses (MOOCs) represent a unique opportunity for delivering inclusive and accessible teaching to international learner audiences. This paper provides an insight into designing and delivering the first internationally accessible MOOC on suicide prevention in the global context in 2019-highlighting insights into best practice as well as pertinent challenges. The results from two runs of this MOOC indicate that there appears to be a global demand for education on suicide prevention. Our practice suggests that new knowledge on extremely sensitive topics such as suicide can be safely and effectively delivered through a MOOC to an international community of learners. Learner safety needs to be carefully considered when developing and delivering online learning. Thorough and careful moderation is essential to ensure that learners engage safely and sensitively with the content and with one another. The involvement of diverse stakeholders, including people with lived experience, in the MOOC design is recommended to enhance the authenticity, inclusiveness and rigour of the curriculum.

🇨🇦 Sampasa-Kanyinga, H., et al. (2020). 24-hour movement guidelines and suicidality among adolescents. Journal of Affective Disorders, 274, 372-380. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.05.096. Data culled from the 2015-2017 Ontario Drug Use and Health Survey of student in grades 7-12 are used to determine if adherence to the 24-hour movement guidelines affects the frequency of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Abstract – Background: The 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth recommend ≥60 min/day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, ≤2 h/day of screen time, 9-11 h/night of sleep for 11-13 years and 8-10 h/night for 14-17 years. The objectives of this study were to examine the associations between meeting combinations of the recommendations contained within the 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, and test whether age and gender moderate these associations. Methods: Data on 10,183 students were obtained from the 2015-2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, a representative cross-sectional survey of Ontario students in grades 7-12 (mean [SD] age, 15.2 [1.8] years). Results: Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts were reported by 13.1% and 3.3% of students, respectively. Meeting individual recommendations or combinations of recommendations were differentially associated with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts between adolescent boys and girls and younger and older (three-way interactions statistically significant for both outcomes). Meeting all 3 recommendations was associated with lower odds of suicidal ideation (OR: 0.24, 95% CI: 0.09 – 0.69) and suicide attempts (OR: 0.08, 95% CI: 0.02 – 0.41) among boys aged 15 to 20 years, but not those aged 11 to 14 years nor girls in both age groups. Limitations: The cross-sectional nature of the data precludes causal inferences and there is possibility of bias related to self-reports. Conclusions: These findings suggest that adherence to the 24-hour movement guidelines among adolescents is related to lower odds of suicidality in older boys.

Liu, R.T., et al. (2020). Sleep and suicide: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 81. DOI: 10.1016/j.cpr.2020.101895. A review of 41 studies on the association between sleep disturbances and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

Abstract – The current review provides a quantitative synthesis of the empirical literature on sleep disturbance as a risk factor for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs). A systematic search of PsycINFO, MEDLINE, and the references of prior reviews resulted in 41 eligible studies included in this meta-analysis. Sleep disturbance, including insomnia, prospectively predicted STBs, yielding small-to-medium to medium effect sizes for these associations. Complicating interpretation of these findings, however, is that few studies of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, as well as none of suicide deaths, assessed short-term risk (i.e., employed follow-up assessments of under a month). Such studies are needed to evaluate current conceptualizations of sleep dysregulation as being involved in acute risk for suicidal behavior. This want of short-term risk studies also suggests that current clinical recommendations to monitor sleep as a potential warning sign of suicide risk has a relatively modest empirical basis, being largely driven by cross-sectional or retrospective research. The current review ends with recommendations for generating future research on short-term risk and greater differentiation between acute and chronic aspects of sleep disturbance, and by providing a model of how sleep disturbance may confer risk for STBs through neuroinflammatory and stress processes and associated impairments in executive control.

Sandford, D.M., et al. (2020). The impact on mental health practitioners of the death of a patient by suicide: A systematic review. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. DOI: 10.1002/cpp.251554 studies are analyzed in this systemic review. Quantitative and qualitative research is examined which focuses on the effects that losing a patient to suicide has on mental health professionals.

Abstract – There is a growing body of research investigating the impact on mental health professionals of losing a patient through suicide. However, the nature and extent of the impact is unclear. This systematic review synthesizes both quantitative and qualitative studies in the area. The aim was to review the literature on the impact of losing a patient through suicide with respect to both personal and professional practice responses as well as the support received. A search of the major psychological and medical databases was conducted, using keywords including suicide, patient, practitioner, and impact, which yielded 3,942 records. Fifty‐four studies were included in the final narrative synthesis. Most common personal reactions in qualitative studies included guilt, shock, sadness, anger, and blame. Impact on professional practice included self‐doubt and being more cautious and defensive in the management of suicide risk. As quantitative study methodologies were heterogeneous, it was difficult to make direct comparisons across studies. However, 13 studies (total n = 717 practitioners) utilized the Impact of Event Scale, finding that between 12% and 53% of practitioners recorded clinically significant scores. The need for training that is focused on the impact of suicides, and the value placed upon informal support was often cited. The experience of losing a patient through suicide can have a significant impact on mental health professionals, both in terms of their personal reactions and subsequent changes to professional practice. The negative impact, however, may be moderated by cultural and organisational factors and by the nature of support available.

🇨🇦 May, A.M., et al. (2020). Motivations for suicide: Converging evidence from clinical and community samples. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 123, 171-177. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.02.010. This study looks at The Inventory of Motivations for Suicide Attempts, a self-report measure to assess potential motivations for suicide. Two distinct groups of people who had experienced a suicide attempt – adult psychiatric patients and community participants recruited online – were issued the tool and their responses were analyzed.

Abstract – Understanding what motivates suicidal behavior is critical to effective prevention and clinical intervention. The Inventory of Motivations for Suicide Attempts (IMSA) is a self-report measure developed to assess a wide variety of potential motivations for suicide. The purpose of this study is to examine the measure’s psychometric and descriptive properties in two distinct populations: 1) adult psychiatric inpatients (n = 59) with recent suicide attempts (median of 3 days prior) and 2) community participants assessed online (n = 222) who had attempted suicide a median of 5 years earlier. Findings were very similar across both samples and consistent with initial research on the IMSA in outpatients and undergraduates who had attempted suicide. First, the individual IMSA scales demonstrated good internal reliability and were well represented by a two factor superordinate structure: 1) Internal Motivations and 2) Communication Motivations. Second, in both samples unbearable mental pain and hopelessness were the most common and strongly endorsed motivations, while interpersonal influence was the least endorsed. Finally, motivations were similar in men and women — a pattern that previous work was not in a position to examine. Taken together with previous work, findings suggest that the nature, structure, and clinical correlates of suicide attempt motivations remain consistent across diverse individuals and situations. The IMSA may serve as a useful tool in both research and clinical contexts to quickly assess individual suicide attempt motivations.

Bantilan, N., et al. (2020). Just in time crisis response: suicide alert system for telemedicine psychotherapy settings. Psychotherapy Research. DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2020.1781952 . A Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm is developed to detect suicidal content in written communications from patients to their caregivers. Its utility and applicability in a telehealth context is addressed.

Abstract – Objective: To design a Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm capable of detecting suicide content from patients’ written communication to their therapists, to support rapid response and clinical decision making in telehealth settings. Method: A training dataset of therapy transcripts for 1,864 patients was established by detecting patient content endorsing suicidality using a proxy-model anchored on therapists’ suicide prevention interventions; human expert raters then assessed the level of suicide risk endorsed by patients identified by the proxy-model (i.e., no risk, risk factors, ideation, method, or plan). A bag-of-words classification model was then iteratively built using the annotations from the expert raters to detect suicide risk level in 85,216 labeled patients’ sentences from the training dataset. Results: The final NLP model identified risk-related content from non-risk content with good accuracy (AUC = 82.78). Conclusions: Risk for suicide could be reliably identified by the NLP algorithm. The risk detection model could assist telehealth clinicians in providing crisis resources in a timely manner. This modeling approach could also be applied to other psychotherapy research tasks to assist in the understanding of how the psychotherapy process unfolds for each patient and therapist.

Mental Health Checklist

This is to help you identify anything you might not have noticed. It is not a professional assessment. It is for your own use. It will allow you to start to have a conversation or to look for professional help.

☐ Recent mood swings
☐ Has become more withdrawn in the last 30-60 days
☐ Has become irritated with my requests in the last 30-60 days
☐ Is not eating
☐ Is not sleeping well
☐ Is not hanging out with friends as much in the last 30-60 days
☐ Has wanted to quit their passion recently
☐ Has become defiant and aggressive with me and others
☐ I have noticed bruises/cuts lately
☐ Does not want to communicate about anything
☐ Says “I’m Fine” all the time
☐ Says “Just leave me alone”

These are some things that you can start to be aware of and sit down and take a good look. If you are noticing any of these issues, it is critical to sit and have a conversation ASAP to address.

How to Have the Difficult Conversation

One of the hardest things to do is to try to start a conversation with someone who is in pain. In their minds they are alone and no one can relate or understand what they are going through. Self-Pity is one of the most damaging illnesses that can occur. It stops the person from dealing with reality and can take the Mind to a very dark place.

In the darkness it is difficult to make sound decisions. It is hard to breathe; it is hard to believe that there is a way out.

The first questions are critical to getting the conversation going. Here are some starters.

I have noticed a change in you recently, has something happened to you?

I attended a presentation recently that has made me aware of some things that I have done. I want to apologize if any of (insert what you became aware of) have caused you pain. I simply did not realize how my actions have caused issues for you.

• I have not been feeling myself lately and did some research and found that I have some things to learn. I have noticed your behaviour is similar, would you be open to learning some new things together?

I love you very much and my biggest fear is that I am not providing what you need, can you help me un•derstand what you are dealing with?

These are all great conversation starters and take the guilt and shame off of them and show you are trying to help. Walking the dog, shooting hoops, having a day together is a great way to begin the process in a less intensive way.

Once you have begun to gain their trust and they open up, then you can bring up finding someone to help. Avoid using the words a therapist, a psychologist, a doctor. Simply say let’s find someone that could help us and then research some options together. Layout some timelines to finding the right one. Creating this structure to become healthy allows them to organize it in a way that they can stay focused and positive throughout the process. 

Exploration: The Underrated Self Care Method

Post credit – Mandie

When we say the word exploration, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you picture a vast Canyon with an open sky? A lake so vast you can’t see the end? Or a field with nothing but flowers and sun. 

Whichever you imagine, how do those places make you feel? Does it bring happiness or comfort? Excitement or Danger? Exploring a new place can be all of those emotions and feelings, and it can be important to put yourself out into the world.

Why should I explore new places? You might be asking yourself this question, and you might say “What’s the point?” Oh my friend, there are many opportunities from the exploration of new places and removing ourselves from the chaos that is everyday life, the monotony of it all can be so oppressive that most of us don’t even realize it.

Stress Relief

Do you ever feel yourself overwhelmed or run down? Then I have great news. Traveling and the exploration of new places is an amazing stress reducer and happiness booster. You may feel your mind clouded by worries and we all know how much social media wears on our consciousness. 

There is also a science behind why exploration is a viable option for stress relief.

Exploration promotes happiness which leads to lower cortisol levels making us feel more calm and content. According to a 2013 study 80% of Americans who were surveyed noticed a drop of stress levels just after a day or two of traveling. When we explore safely, it can be one of the greatest self care acts out there.

Creativity Boost 

If you’re an esteemed artist or just a casual one, exploration can exponentially increase your creativity. Visiting an environment with some sort of local culture can bring new ideas, philosophies, and cognitive flexibility. 

We know it sucks to stare at a blank piece of paper and think “Why am I so blocked…” and that’s exactly why we should go to a new place or take a walk to reset our train of thought and inspire new ideas to come forth from visual stimulation.

Even Ernest Hemingway, for example, drew inspiration for much of his work from his time in Spain and France. Now I know not everyone can afford to travel across the world, but even going to a new remote hiking location or new town can promote health and creativity.

It Brings You Out of Your Comfort Zone

A lot of people in modern society have trouble with going out of their comfort zone, especially if it has to do with doing something new. Facing difficulties in an unfamiliar environment, among new people, forces you to learn and adapt to a life that’s out of your comfort zone. 

This makes you more flexible, patient and emotionally strong. Exploration of new places can be especially tricky for people who have social anxiety, or people who have agoraphobia or have agoraphobic tendencies. 

We’ve personally dealt with having that anxiety of leaving our house and going to a new place…your mind races and you might think “What if I die…What if I get lost…What if I witness something horrible? The number one thing we can tell you is, just do it.

We know how hard it can be, trust us, but every time we’ve left the house and went somewhere new, we’ve enjoyed it and learned many new things, not only about ourselves but about the world. We KNOW you can do it too, but here are some tips to help make you feel more secure when visiting a new place.

Helpful Tips

  • NEVER go alone in a new busy city, or dangerous area if you choose to go to places like that. Make sure you bring someone you trust with you to keep you safe, or know who to call if you’re ever in trouble. It also doesn’t hurt to learn basic self defense moves
  • If you have social anxiety, try going to a more remote, nature based location to ease your mind.
  • Keep a positive attitude and open mind. It’s so important for your self care and health in general to think on the bright side and be an open person. This helps expose yourself to new things and cultures. 

If something or someone seems a little weird or different from yourself, think of how they got that way or why they do what they do. Cultures can differ from place to place so you always want to be aware.

  • Be respectful. Like I said above, being in a new place can bring new things, so make sure when you do visit a new place, to try and be respectful of their cultures and traditions. 

In general, just follow the rules they have set there and you should be fine. Ex. In Japan people almost never wear shoes inside, and have personal indoor slippers for you to use. It’s not illegal to wear shoes inside, but people will consider it very rude and will most likely not let you enter the establishment without taking them off.

  • Let go and have fun! Exploring new places should be looked at with a sense of wonder and excitement. Make sure you do what you want to do while you’re in a new place and just have fun. It can hinder all the health benefits included by not letting yourself just be selfish and enjoy it.

Live Freely

Now that you’ve read this, pick a new destination twice a week for 2 weeks and go forth! Life is about freedom and adventure. Be okay with bracing the unknown and think about your health first. Get in touch with the world around us and be safe.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
– Andre Gide

Mandie