As much as the conversation around suicide has been opened significantly in recent years, the public stigma towards persons with suicidal thoughts still persists, especially among celebrities and public figures. On today’s show, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen explore this serious subject matter of suicide. Is it preventable? And will talking about it chase away the thought of committing it? Join Jason and Whitney as they take a deep dive into suicide, depression, suicide ideation, and other mental health issues in this very important discussion. They also provide their perspectives and experiences with the resources they found to be beneficial when it comes to mental health. At the end of the day, the willingness to experiment, to try new things, to adapt certain lifestyles and supplementations is really the key to thriving long-term with mental health.
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Is Suicide Preventable?: Removing The Stigma Around Mental Health Issues
This episode is going to center around a serious subject matter. I don’t want to make light of this at all. I start by saying this because most of our episodes start a little light. We joke around and are playful. Sometimes we start talking about random things that lead to deeper conversations. We’re going to get deep right off the back because we are in the middle of Suicide Prevention Week, which occurs from September 6th to the 12th, 2020. Each year, it’s around this time. People around the country work to spread the message that suicide can be prevented and to help reach as many people as possible with tools and resources to support themselves and those around them.
Oftentimes, this theme of this special week is based around hope, resilience, and recovery. It takes people coming together to make a difference in general, especially when it comes to something like this. This hits close to home for us. As you may know, from reading to previous episodes, Jason has himself considered suicide. We’ve brought this up in a few episodes. If you are brand new to our show or a regular reader who has not visited our website yet, this might be the time to do it because we’re going to include a lot of resources.
One of my aims with this episode is to encourage you to take some action because you can save a life if you take action. It doesn’t have to be limited to this week, but sometimes these weeks or days, when more attention is brought to something, it’s a good opportunity to take action to things that you’re passionate about finally or to find a passion for something important like this. If you visit Wellevatr.com, you type in “suicide” to the search bar and you’ll find this episode and some of the others where we’ve talked about it. There will be resources for you so that you can learn how to get more involved and support other people during this time and beyond. Before we dig deeper into this, Jason, I’m curious how you’re feeling about this focus on suicide prevention.
I feel like I’m hopeful because I have been seeing different aspects of a more mainstream conversation in different industries and different groups of people talking about this. I’ve mentioned this in previous episodes about certain celebrities, public figures, or athletes talking about their struggles with mental illness, depression, and suicidal ideation. One time, I was watching the basketball game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks. They did a post-game interview with a Clippers player named Paul George. He had a good night, a high scoring game. He did well. The Clippers won the game and they asked him what changed for him. In terms of those post-game interviews, it might be the most real open, vulnerable one that I’ve ever seen an athlete give.
He said, “I was in a dark place.” To give some context on how I’m feeling about all the NBA players who are playing in a literal bubble in the Walt Disney Resort down in Orlando, Florida, where everything’s like hyper quarantined and all the players and the staff are down there. He was saying that he was in a dark place and he was feeling massive depression and anxiety. He was struggling with his mental health and that he had a lot of support. People are loving him, giving him direction, and cheering him on to get through that. It was the first time I had ever seen on live TV an athlete when someone’s like, “What was going on with you? Why were you in a slump for so long?” Him saying, “I was in a dark place.’”
I’ve never heard an athlete say that. If we look out on one hand, during the quarantine period, especially with young people between the ages of 14 and 20, suicide rates, statistically are getting high for young people, which is disturbing for a lot of reasons. I am also hopeful Whitney, to take a long answer to your question and seeing things in professional sports, athletes talking openly about being in a dark place, being depressed, being anxious, struggling with mental health. The other thing is I forwarded you this article. Business Insider had a great article talking about how almost half of the entrepreneurs struggle with mental health. It was an article talking about different investors and high-level entrepreneurs, how they struggle with isolation, depression, and pressure. It talks about a 2015 study from the University of San Francisco.
They found in this study that 49% of entrepreneurs surveyed have some mental health conditions. It’s wanting to explore this stigma surrounding mental health and how that discourages entrepreneurs and people that are hustling and working sixteen hours a day and people that are under intense pressure from VC funding that they don’t talk about it. If you’re working 12 to 16 hours a day and you have all this pressure to make a business run, I don’t think in that industry either, there’s a lot of openness about talking about depression and suicidal ideation. This is all of my way of saying, even though there is a higher level of suicide in certain age groups, segments, and ethnicities happening that is heartbreaking, I am glad that people in different industries and high visibility positions are talking about their struggles. That is crucial to normalize this conversation and remove that stigma, shame, and guilt because that’s been way too long. Those are many of the reasons I didn’t talk about it for years. I felt a massive amount of shame. I felt guilty. I felt scared of admitting the truth publicly. I’m glad to see those walls coming down.
I am too. Thank you, Jason, for being open to discussing this because it is interesting for me. Shame, in general, and the things that we hide out of fear of judgment are fascinating because it is getting in our way in many capacities especially when it comes to suicide. What often happens with suicide is that the people who are still alive are wondering why they didn’t know about this. It’s common for people to say, “I didn’t realize that this person was considering this. Is there anything that I could have done to prevent it?” As part of this prevention week, there’s this question of, “Is suicide preventable?” A lot of people ask themselves about this, whether they’ve experienced suicide personally or they’re observing it happening in the world. Maybe a public figure has committed suicide and it’s affected you.
Jason, you have talked about this with several celebrities and public figures that you admired and how much it impacted your life when they passed away or chose to end their lives. Why is it natural? As we know, suicide can’t be attributed to a single thing. That’s why suicide prevention requires sustainable ongoing efforts from many people. Talking about it openly like this is an important element. Through these discussions, raising our awareness, and getting more educated about it, we can see if there are opportunities to intervene early to find ways to support people who have struggled. Jason, I suppose one thing I’m curious about with you, if you want to talk more about how you’ve been affected by suicide outside of yourself.
You told me once that there were some times that you got close to ending your life. What is it that made you decide not to do it? What made you feel comfortable talking to me? How many people did you talk about it with privately before you started opening up about it in such a big way, like on this show and other parts of the web? What was that journey like for you? How did you get over any feelings of shame? I don’t even know if shame is the right word to use for you. Why you didn’t initially talk about it?
There’s a lot to unpack there. I remember the first time that I was seriously considering killing myself was, first of all, it’s this journey of sitting in bed, going throughout your day and randomly thinking of all the ways you want to do it. There’ve been a lot of times where I don’t want to necessarily get graphic, but I suppose we’re going down this road anyway, so why not? It was like, do I want to shoot myself? Do I want to hang myself? Do I want to cut myself? Do I want to lock myself in my garage and pipe the exhaust through the side window and duct tape it? I spent a lot of time thinking about this. I remember one time that I got close.
I was in my kitchen at my old condo. I had my chef’s knife in my hand. I thought it would be an extremely poetic thing for me to stab myself in the stomach and bleed out in my kitchen with my chef’s knife. I thought that would be some poetic ending to my life. I remember I had the knife in my hand and I was asking myself if I had the courage to do it. I had the knife to my stomach. It’s an interesting moment to sit with that and be like, “Do I have the courage to do this? Can I do this?” At that moment, when I was holding the knife to my stomach, I heard a voice that was not my own. Not audibly, but a sense of some things speaking to me that said, “Do you want to die?”
I got clear at that moment after that question arose that it wasn’t my inner voice. I don’t have an explanation for it. It was almost like an instantaneous realization after that question came through and I realized I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to suffer anymore and that’s a huge distinction. It was a massive distinction for me because, in my mind, I thought that killing myself was the best option. I wouldn’t suffer anymore. I wouldn’t be in this pain. I wouldn’t be riving in this mental agony anymore. Ultimately, it would be easier for everyone that if I wasn’t here, it would be easier for me. It will also be easier for everyone else.
It seemed intellectually a good solution, to be honest with you. My mental state was like, “This is a good solution. You’re not going to struggle anymore. You’re not going to feel this pain. You’re not going to feel this absolute sorrow to the depth of your soul. It will be over.” It seemed like a good solution, but I had associated somehow that it was the only way to end my suffering. It was like, “This is the way.” When that question came through, I realized that there was a separation between those two things. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave my body and leave earth and kill myself. I wanted my suffering to end. Those things didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. I thought they were. In my mind, it was like, “This is it. This is the way to end suffering.”
That was a huge point for me. I was realizing those two things were not inextricably linked, that there was a separation. There were other ways but I didn’t know what those ways were. At that point, it was me putting the knife down, sitting with myself, crying, and being like, “What now? If what you want is to end your suffering, you don’t want to die.” That is a huge distinction. How do we go about it? When I say ending suffering, I don’t mean as a magic pill that I will never suffer again. The other thing was like, “If I kill myself, I’ll never suffer again.” We’ve talked about this in previous episodes that suffering is an intrinsic part of existence.
I believe that we will suffer. We will experience pain. There was something about that moment that I was at the end of my rope. I was exhausted with living, suffering and the pain I was experiencing that it was seemed to be the best way. That moment was a jump-off point for me, where I was like, “There’s a different way but I don’t know what it is.” Ultimately, that day is what led me to seek out my therapist, Gary, which I found through my mentor, Michael. It led me to go get my blood test and my neurotransmitters tested from Dr. Green. It led me to take meditation and spirituality and looking at myself and my belief systems more deeply. If I look back on that moment of almost taking my life and seriously considering it, it was a massive blessing. It was a huge redirected in my life.
How were you received when you started talking about it? I imagine that there were some people that have commented on these talks about suicide that you’ve had. Some of them might be public, but I imagine that a lot of them have been private outreach. Without compromising anyone’s privacy, are there any things that you discovered through your communications with other people when you’ve talked about suicide openly?
I want to loop back quickly because I realized I didn’t answer one of your sub-questions, which was, who did I talk to about it first? I’ll then get to the public interactions. I remember speaking to Michael, my mentor about it. I remember working up the courage to talk to my mom about it. I had this shame around it with my mom specifically or people close to me. I was like, “I failed them.” All of the love, support, and everything that people have given to me, given me a leg up in life, supported my career and my creative endeavors. If they were to find out that I’m this depressed, suicidal, full of sadness and suffering that I’ve somehow failed them. That was part of the shame was, “You have all this success. You have a TV show and a cookbook deal. You have this condo and all this external stuff.”
It’s almost like I experienced a micro version of what a lot of public sentiment towards celebrities is. We’ve talked about this previously too, but it bears repeating that. It was like, “You’ve got all this money, fame, influence, and millions of dollars. You’re an athlete, a celebrity, and a singer. How could you be depressed?” It’s again dehumanizing, worshiping of the material side of the existence of, “You’ve got all this stuff. You’ve got all these zeros in your bank account and this big house. You should be happy. What do you mean you’re depressed?” I experienced a micro version of that of like, “If I come out with this, how are people going to respond?” They’ll be like, “How are you depressed? You’ve got this show and the success and this and that.”Sharing is more important than shutting down. Click To Tweet
I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that judgment. That was part of my fear and shame around it. Once I started to realize that if I don’t tell the people that are closest to me, like Michael, my mom, you, some of our other friends, and go to therapy where I have an open container to go deep into this pain, those interactions starting with my inner circle. My therapist is what allowed me the confidence to start to deconstruct the shame and why I felt afraid to talk about it. I had an event in LA in 2015. You were wonderful, Whitney. We did a live stream of it. We had 50 people come. I talked for three hours openly about the chemical side of this, from neurotransmitters and biology. I talked about our belief systems and a lot of the pain and the trauma we carry through life and a lot of the solutions that I was exploring at that point. I wanted to give people the resources they had never considered. I’m looping into the second question you asked about DMS and the messages I received.
What we’re talking about is such a complex puzzle, suicide, depression, and mental health. This is the furthest thing from a one size fits all approach to health and wellness. It’s such a nuanced complex thing because for me and for a lot of people, perhaps, it’s a combination of what is happening biologically and chemically in your body, in terms of your neurotransmitter function, your nutrients, your overall health, any genetic predisposition towards mental health. You have the mental side of it, which is our belief systems, our constructs about who we are. Any unresolved trauma from our past, shame, guilt, or feeling like we don’t belong here. For me, it was abandonment issues, never feeling good enough, feeling like, “I didn’t belong here. I wasn’t worthy of life.”
There’s that mental and belief side of things, but you also have this idea of somatically finding in the body where you’ve stored pain and trauma. There are many layers to this conversation. Also, how we consume media and religious overtones. This whole subject, I’m passionate about it. Whitney and I am glad we’re talking about it because having lived through it and continue to live through it. I’m not going to lie, earlier in quarantine during COVID, there have been moments where I’ve had a couple of days of like, “I think I want to kill myself.” It’s nowhere near the intensity and duration it was years ago where it was like for months, I was thinking about killing myself and wanting to die. Whereas now, it may last a couple of hours or a day or two, but then through the techniques I’ve learned, I can start to unravel it, look at it and let it go. I don’t want to make it sound like I have cured my mental health issues. This is my opinion. I don’t believe that these things need to be looked at as “curable” but we can amass tools, perspectives, support, and resources to manage it well. It’s a question of management.
It’s interesting to learn about your experience with this. It’s often something that human beings consider. I would be curious, is there anybody who hasn’t thought about suicide even on a lighter note? When you know what suicide is, maybe you think like, “Would I ever do that?” Maybe based on how you’ve been raised or conditioned, you would think, “I would never end my life.” To your point, Jason, even I have thought about it. I didn’t necessarily plan it, go down and deeply consider, but I am familiar with that feeling of, “I am in pain. I’m struggling. I don’t feel good. I wish that I could end it all.” That’s why this is important to talk about and taking that stigma away from it because it’s not to give people encouragement.
We’re talking about prevention here, but when you open up about something that you’re experiencing, that’s a huge part of that journey. That leads you to acknowledge that you’ve been thinking about it. Maybe you think about it often and you either think nobody else does. You feel incredibly lonely and considering suicide, or perhaps you think about it often throughout your life that you almost feel like it’s normal. That is dangerous too because if it’s in your head frequently, you could get obsessed with it or you normalize it that maybe it doesn’t even seem like a problem anymore. Raising all that awareness and also knowing that there may be people in your life, chances are, there are people in your life that think about suicide but don’t talk about it.
That first step is noticing and being aware of it. If it’s within yourself at all and taking away that shame, it’s better to acknowledge it than to let it happen. What’s interesting about the shame part of it. It’s strange if you strip it away, that thought of, “I’m thinking about suicide, but I don’t want to tell anybody. I’m embarrassed, ashamed or I feel guilty about it.” I can almost guarantee that that person would rather you tell them than not tell them. If you don’t tell them and then you choose to end your life, they will probably have wished that you had told them. Also, when you speak to other people, you can learn about who is supportive of you and perhaps who isn’t.
There are many different ways to react to that as well. Some people believe that if somebody brought up suicide to them, that you could say, “That’s silly. I can’t believe you are thinking about it. Your life is great.” That’s something, Jason would be interesting to hear from you. What have people said to you that was helpful? What have people said to you that wasn’t helpful when it came to suicide? Were there some people that made light of it or dismissed it? It’s like, “Why would you ever do that? Your life is great.” Is that a common reaction? What things have helped you when you’ve opened up to other people?
It’s been an overwhelmingly positive, receptive, and loving response. I want to say that first and foremost, not only from the people that I’m closest to, the inner circle. The people I deeply consider friends and my family, my therapist, and my mentor. Everyone has been incredibly open and loving. To your point about, “I wish that they had told me,” versus the alternative of taking my life, the only regret I might have around it is by not speaking up sooner. It was that I didn’t know how to unravel the shame, confusion, and fear of being judged, but in this situation, I was able to realize that speaking my truth, speaking from my heart, and sharing my experience was more important than being afraid of being judged. My desire to speak the truth, ask for help, ask for support, share my reality with people, even at the risk of being judged or shamed.
Once I decided that sharing was more important than shutting down, that was a quantum shift for me in terms of opening up to people. There has been pushback and there have been people weighing in when I didn’t necessarily ask for input per se. I went on my own road, getting the blood tests, looking at my nutrient panels, getting my neurotransmitter function and my brain tested and having the eye-opening experience of merging that with mindfulness, meditation, therapy, somatic healing. To take a basketball reference into this, I went hard. It was like, “We want to help with the suffering and the pain. We’re not going to kill ourselves. What do we have to do?” I remember people reacting, Whitney, over the years in ways. One that sticks out is when I was sharing the workshop that I talked about and I was making some videos online and talking more openly on social media about it.
One of the first comments was someone was like, “You’re not clinically depressed. This is situational depression.” Mind you, going to see an integrative and functional medicine doctor and going to see a psychotherapist, they both agreed, “You are clinically depressed. Your neurotransmitter function is suboptimal based on what you’ve told us, on your blood test, and your neurotransmitter levels.” They were both like, “We are diagnosing you with clinical depression.” When someone was trying to negate my reality, “You’re not clinically depressed,” this is situational depression. I’m like, “Who the fuck are you to have you weigh in on my experience of my mental health, my suicide, my depression, what I’ve been struggling with for years of my life?”
I don’t remember how I responded, but my initial reaction was anger toward this person of like, “You have no right to comment on my reality. You have no right to comment on my experience.” That was hard. I didn’t receive a lot of comments. I’ve had a few though that were like, “You’re not depressed.” I’m like, “You are blocked and deleted. Get the fuck off my feed.” It’s endemic of that social media thing that we talked a lot about, especially with Toni Okamoto in that episode. People snap judgments, cowardice, and emboldened attitude to hide behind a keyboard and say whatever the hell they want that they would never say to your face.
When you come out publicly with a challenging health issue, when I opened up online, Whitney, that was scary as hell. When you talk about suicide, depression, mental health issues, and someone are like, “You’re not like that. It’s this.” It has been one of the most challenging things for me to deal with. It hasn’t been a barrage of those comments, but when someone tries to negate your reality and tell you what you’re experiencing, not even knowing you, not looking at your blood work, not looking at any of those things. For me, it has been one of the most challenging things to deal with when I do get those comments.
Those people have good intentions or don’t know how to help. One thing I’ve realized over the past few years is that sometimes I don’t know what to say when somebody is struggling. I want to help somehow. This is something I’ve mentioned a bunch of times where I want to say or do the right thing and I contemplate, like not saying or doing anything because I don’t want to mess up. Perhaps, those people said something in an attempt to help and they messed up because it didn’t land in the way that you wanted it to. It’s not necessarily that they were trying to hurt you, bother you, or anything. Maybe that’s how they know or what they think is helpful. It is such a great opportunity to discuss these things about finding out how to best support somebody and how to best support a movement, which I want to get into as well.When you open up about something that you're experiencing, that leads you to acknowledge that you've been thinking about it. Click To Tweet
Before we dive into some more action steps and information about suicide, Jason, you talked a lot about how going to get your blood work done was a game-changer for you and getting diagnosed and figuring out your imbalances. A lot of this was supported by taking the right supplements for yourself. It’s interesting because I remember there have been times where I’ve come across information that was anti supplements. It was like, “You can get all your nutrients through food.” I know you’ve talked a lot, Jason. You sometimes get triggered by this. Technically, that might not be true for everybody. Everybody is a little bit different. To make this overarching statement and encourage other people not to take supplements can be dangerous. We encourage you to learn more about your body and what’s going on.
There are many amazing tests that you can do them through the mail, but it helps to go to a doctor who you can talk to and get customized like blood panel was done and all of that. Looking into all of these different types of options for yourself is a great thing. I know it was expensive for you so it depends on your insurance coverage. It’s also worth saving up your money and investing in this because of how much of a difference getting your body balance can make on your mental health. It could be a matter of life or death. Some people might not realize that taking a supplement could support them. We’re not saying that supplements are a cure for all. You might want to go on medication or you might need to go on medication.
That’s only something that you can determine when working with a medical professional, which we are not. We are big fans of supplements, each of us. I take them as proactive measures and I found many amazing benefits to them. One that we wanted to talk about in this episode since we’re talking a lot about stress, hardship, and suffering is magnesium. I’m curious, Jason, was that something that you were deficient in or unbalanced? What led you to get more into magnesium? You’ve been pretty into magnesium since I met you, but I don’t know exactly what the timeline was and how you got onto the magnesium track and how it’s affected you.
First of all, to ping-pong back and forth, I do agree with Whitney that every individual has to look at what’s right for them. There’s not a one size fits all approach, especially this conversation of mental health, stress, anxiety, finding our balance in life. For me, getting that blood work done, getting my neurotransmitters tested, and looking at what I was deficient in was huge. I was able to look at, not only what I was deficient in, but specifically what was going to help build those neurotransmitters up and what was going to help mitigate stress in my life. At the time, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I was in the midst of a TV series. I started writing my first cookbook. My work schedule was intense. It was not only what was happening to me internally, but it was the hecticness of my work schedule.
To answer your question, the magnesium was low when the blood work came back. I’ve noticed, even during this quarantine period. We have been putting out three episodes a week and working on a lot of projects. Some are public and private. I’ve noticed I’ve been feeling worn down. I’ve started working out again, doing some PT for my foot, and doing my daily meditations. I’m doing whatever I can to manage those stress levels even now. I still feel stressed. I don’t like feeling stressed out. I know you don’t. When we feel stressed out, I feel like it certainly affects the people closest to us. We have this inside joke about me being a grumble gremlin. I get grumpy when I get stressed, but it’s true.
I’ve been looking at magnesium again and taking it. It’s been helping me to feel great. We have our own versions of what burnout feels like and working too hard burning the candle at both ends as entrepreneurs. I go back to that article about entrepreneurs struggling with mental health and burnout. It’s like, “There’s time off. There are more rests. There are relaxation techniques.” In addition to all those things, we mentioned the meditations and working out, I feel like adding magnesium in which my doctor recommended that I do years ago and I started doing it. It was like, “I’m hooked now. Magnesium is awesome by acknowledging that.” If we look at statistically, most Americans are deficient in magnesium.
I’ve read some stats on that. Apparently, it’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. If we look at magnesium and when I was originally researching it years ago when I was working with Dr. Green. I remember finding out that it’s called the master mineral because it’s responsible for 300 to 600 different biochemical reactions in the body, including your metabolism. When your energy levels dip, it affects your sleep, your energy, your metabolism, your pain, and your stress level. You talked about food, Whitney, and like, “Can we get all our nutrients from food which is a mantra that a lot of people put out there?” You can get magnesium from black beans, nuts, especially sprouted nuts, avocado, spinach, and more. I feel like you want to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium for what your body needs.
I recommend taking a supplement in addition to those healthy plant-based foods. People are like, “What magnesium do I take?” You can go out there and research a bunch of magnesium supplements. I feel like some magnesium supplements that I’ve tried, they have failed with helping to mitigate my stress. It’s for two reasons, one, a lot of those supplements are synthetic. They’re not natural. Your body can’t recognize them. Also, this is a big one. They’re not full spectrum. That means they don’t have all of the seven forms of magnesium you need.
That’s what’s nuts when I started researching magnesium. It’s funny how you might assume that there’s only one type, but there are many different forms of magnesium and they all serve different purposes. Years ago, when I was getting into magnesium, I went and looked up all of the major forms of them and I was amazed. I like the different reasons you would take them, but it’s incredibly confusing and overwhelming too if you’re not used to taking magnesium. You might be like, “Seven different types.” There might be more than that. Maybe those are the major types that can help with stress. Is that right?
Yes. It’s one of those things where you can either feel overwhelmed by it or what I mentioned that proactive approach of like, “What do I do now?” The cool thing is with BiOptimizers, we’ve been working with these guys. They have this amazing magnesium supplement, which from what we’ve researched, it’s the most potent most complete, and also the first full-spectrum magnesium formula we’ve ever seen that ever created. It’s called Magnesium Breakthrough. We’ve talked about BiOptimizers on previous episodes, how much we love their enzymes and their hydrochloric acid. Magnesium Breakthrough is a complete formula. It includes all of these naturally drive forms, the seven forms of the supplemental magnesium, and doesn’t contain any of those junky synthetic additives or preservatives. From what we’ve seen, it’s the most potent oral magnesium that you’ll find.
I noticed that there’s a deeper sense of calm and relaxation with my nervous system. My stress levels are soothed. A big thing for me, too, has been sleep. When I get stressed, anxious, or depressed, my sleep is affected. I’ve noticed that by taking this Magnesium Breakthrough, I am sleeping well. Even within the first week, if I use it daily as instructed, I’m feeling like, “The sleep is amazing.” Most people use Magnesium Breakthrough in the morning. It helps you stay calm and resilient to deal with your stress throughout the day. Within about 3 to 5 weeks, a lot of people will experience a deeper level of peace and serenity that they haven’t felt in a long time. We’re big fans of it.
We recommend trying this Magnesium Breakthrough for at least 30 days. See how it makes you feel, see if it makes a difference in your mood and your stress levels. They’re an amazing sponsor, we get to hook you up. You can get 10% off with our special, This Might Get Uncomfortable coupon code. The URL is www.BiOptimizers.com/wellevatr. When you go there, enter the code WELLEVATR10. I’m a huge fan of this Whitney. As you said, once you go down that rabbit hole of researching the quality difference in supplements, you start to feel a difference. I’ve mentioned this in previous episodes, my body is super sensitive. When I start to use something and I feel a difference, I’m loyal to it, hardcore.
I am too. I am glad that you brought up the sleep side of it because sleep plays such an important role in our nervous system. One of the big things that sleep does is help reduce stress. What’s interesting though, is that sometimes more stress it’s harder to sleep. It becomes this cycle of your stress because you haven’t slept and you’re not sleeping because you’re stressed, you’re having anxiety or depression. Those can interfere with sleep. The two of us have experimented a lot over the years with different supplements to take. Magnesium is the one that I keep going back to because it feels more gentle. I’ve tried CBD. That doesn’t seem to be effective enough, even though I love CBD for other reasons. I’ve also taken melatonin that you will take for sleep.
That is intense for your body. It can affect you. A lot of people don’t feel good when they take melatonin. There’s nothing wrong with that. We encourage you to experiment with these things, but for me, magnesium has this amazing ability to relax me and it’s profound. This is incredibly important too because sleep can be tied into suicide. Jason, you’ve struggled a lot with not being able to sleep. That has heightened your feelings of anxiousness, depression, and struggle overall. Is that right?When you speak to other people, you can learn so much about who is supportive of you and who isn't. Click To Tweet
Absolutely. There have been some interesting studies too. I talked with my naturopathic functional doctor, Dr. Green about this. The link between stress, depression and mineral depletion. I don’t have one off the top of my own mind, but I’ll find some studies. We love to give you many great resources to work on your health, but depression and mental stress can demineralize your body. That’s an important thing to be mindful of when we are stressed out is, we can be negatively affecting our health. The reason supplements come back, not just magnesium, but a lot of supplements, you go and get a blood test, especially if you’re stressed or having mental health issues. You see what vitamins and minerals, Omega fatty acids, hormones that you’re deficient in. It’s a critical thing to do for one’s health.
Going back to this discussion, another thing that I learned through my research is there’s not just Suicide Prevention Week, but there’s a whole day dedicated to it. If you’re reading this on September 9th or 10th, 2020, we would encourage you to do something for World Suicide Prevention Day. I would love to go through some things that you can do to be proactive for yourself and others. One of the things that are coming up a lot is how some people are struggling to find reasons for living during COVID-19. This conversation is incredibly timely. There are people that are fighting a battle in the midst of this pandemic. They’re questioning whether they want to live. Some people might even feel open to exposing themselves to COVID because they’re like, “This is tough anyway. I might as well get it.”
That feeling of being on the fence and ambivalent about life and looking for reasons to find hope and continue that resolve to live. This isn’t limited to now, but it’s important to bring up the role that suicide can play during COVID-19. Let’s talk about what can be done. First of all, if you can stay connected to your loved ones by reaching out and checking them regularly and asking them what support they need as we’ve talked about, that is one of the best and easiest things that you can do. Also, during this time of a lot of isolation because of physical distancing, people may need that anyway. Even if they’re not considering suicide, even if they’re not feeling anxious, depressed, low, or feeling the loss of hope, they might miss hearing from you, seeing you, and touching you.
You can’t go wrong with going out of your way to stay connected. One simple thing that you can do is put it on your calendar. Put it on your to-do list. Make it part of your daily actions to reach out to people. I do that sometimes. There are certain friends who I frankly forget to reach out to them and putting that out there or reaching out to them as soon as I think about them. It could be a simple text message. It could be an Instagram DM. It could be a phone call, a FaceTime. Whatever feels comfortable to you, check them in, and not assuming that they’re doing okay is incredibly important. The next thing you might be wondering is how could you even tell if somebody is having thoughts of suicide? This goes back to what I said. You can’t assume that people aren’t.
There are some signs that are the warning signs. Thinking back with you, Jason, I heard you sounding low. That to me was the warning sign. During those times where I think you were considering it, you felt more disconnected and you sounded like you were struggling. Going back to me not knowing quite what to do, one of the things that I used to try to figure that out was reaching out to other people who knew you and encouraging them to talk to you. I felt like if we collectively, we’re all looking out for you and checking in with you, that would be one of the best things that would help you. You knew that you were cared for. I thought, “If maybe we can keep him alive, if he knows how cared for he is,” but I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. Was that for you, Jason? Did it make you feel better when people reached out to you, connect with you, and let you know that they cared about you and want to spend time with you?
It’s interesting that you bring that up. I also want to thank you for doing that because I remember getting phone calls from Ellie, Michael, and my mom and a few other friends. It was a tight inner circle, the people that are family to me whether we’re blood-related or not we’re family. It’s interesting because, on the one hand, it was helpful to be checked in on by people that I knew deeply loved me and knew me. Also, looking at how those conversations were also showing me where there was more work to be done to heal myself. As an example, getting those phone calls and having someone be like, “I love you. You matter. How can I support you? I want to let you know how cherished you are, how loved you are, how amazing you are. You’re a gift to this world.”
Even receiving that, it’s a dual-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s bolstering to receive that and to feel that from people you care about, but then there’s that part of the mind that’s like, “I don’t matter. They’re saying this to keep me alive. Do they mean it?” There’s almost that part of my psyche at that time that was like, “I don’t believe this.” It’s nice to receive and my heartfelt good receiving it, but my mind was like, “This is bullshit. No, you don’t matter. You could leave tomorrow and they would be fine.” A dangerous position is to start believing the thought, not have the thought. Believing the thought that if I were to not be here tomorrow, everyone would be fine. It’s dangerous because, on one hand, everyone lives would go on, but the emotional devastation would be horrifying. Once I got in that mode of, “No, they do mean it.” This part of your mind that is lying to you and saying, “You don’t matter and they’ll be fine if you kill yourself,” don’t believe that part. Don’t fall into that trap.
I’m looking over some of the signs and thinking about which I noticed within you. Sometimes it’s sudden mood changes. It can be anxiety and agitation. Those things are also common. We have to remember that some of these signs are not of suicide, but it’s better to assume that they are signs of it than not. People talk frequently about being moody, anxious, and agitated. Some of us can be withdrawn. That word, withdrawal, is key because not making that assumption that somebody has withdrawn from your life. Don’t assume you know the reason they’re withdrawing and I’ve done that. I would like to work on this because I often take that personally. During COVID, there are some people that I didn’t hear from as much. I would reach out to them and they wouldn’t respond back right away. I would take it personally, but withdrawal usually isn’t personal unless somebody told you upfront or if there wasn’t some inciting incident. Seeing that word reminds me to check in with people. When people talk about being a burden, that’s key too. Jason, I feel like you use that term before, but I don’t remember for sure. Did you feel like you were a burden?
For sure. That was also a puzzle piece in deconstructing the shame and the guilt that I felt is if I put this on you, Whitney, if I put this on Michael, my mom, Ellie, some of our other close friends, then they’re going to be thinking about me and wondering how I’m doing and worried about me in the course of their day. I don’t want to fuck up their day. They’ve got businesses, lives, families, and their own struggles. Why would I want to layer my struggle, my pain, and my suffering on top of what they’re dealing with? It was giving me pause for a long time because I didn’t want to feel like a burden. We talk with each other and everyone’s got their challenges, their suffering, and their cross to bear proverbially speaking and I didn’t want to layer any more shit on someone else’s life. That’s how I felt about it.
Once I made my desire to speak up and share what I was going through greater than my fear of burdening someone, greater than the fear of the judgment or whatever backlash I would receive, that was the big turning point. I had to look at my fear of being a burden, being an illusion. It wasn’t real. It was the same thing in the category of, “Their lives are going to be better off without you here.” It’s a lie of the mind. I want to speak to something before we continue with some of these things to look for is that this might be controversial or alternative. In my meditation and my mindfulness practices, what I have noticed is I can have these kinds of thoughts of, “It might be better off if you kill yourself. Don’t be a burden to them. Life will be better if you’re not here.”
Those thoughts only gain energy, traction, and movement if I give them energy, traction, and power. I have those thoughts in meditation because I’ll be meditating in my room on my meditation mat, and be like, “You should kill yourself.” It’s not that I don’t take them seriously, but I don’t give them power like I used to. When I was suicidal and attempted suicide at one time. I was like, “I’m going to do this.” I was giving it power. “This is real. It’s better if I’m not here. This is the only way to end my suffering.” I believe those thoughts. Now, when I have those thoughts, “Maybe you should kill yourself.” I take it seriously, but I don’t give it power. That’s a huge distinction that I had to learn over the years.
There’s much to learn from all of this. Part of that process is feeling like you’re saying that power. It also reminds me of that helpless feeling like, “This is happening to me or this is happening to somebody I know. I feel helpless.” There’s a great website called SuicideIsPreventable.org and it’s beautifully laid out and helpful. It makes it easy to figure out what to do. There’s a path you go through. It’s like a start point that it leads you through understanding the signs and then finding the words is the next section, which is helpful for me.
They break it down into four action steps. One is to start the conversation. Two is to listen, express concern, and reassure. Three is to create a safety plan. Four is to get help. They also include a section of what not to say. In that first part about starting the conversation, there is a Reach Out section of their website that has a ton of different national and local resources. There are some talking points such as I’ve noticed that you’ve mentioned feeling hopeless a lot. That’s a great timely phrase to use if somebody is bringing this up during COVID, for example. That conversation may not lead to them talking about suicide. Maybe you will find that they’re not suicidal, but talking to somebody who is feeling hopeless is important. Number two on that list about starting a conversation is saying, “Sometimes when people feel like that they are thinking about suicide, are you thinking about suicide?”Speaking your truth and sharing your experience is more important than being afraid of being judged. Click To Tweet
That might be a tough phrase to send to somebody. If you are seeing all these signs within somebody, it’s worth saying. This is triggering a memory for me. Not too long ago, my sister reached out to me because one of our family members was posting some concerning things on social media. I remember that she was afraid to reach out and she did something unintentionally that I think helped. This whole conversation is a good reminder for me to revisit this with my own family. She saw something on a platform where if you took a screenshot of their posts, it sent them a notification, “This person took a screenshot.” She sent that screenshot to me to show her concern, but it notified my family member that posted. This family member reached out to my sister and was like, “Are you sharing this post with somebody?”
That started a conversation between the two of them. There was that shame. As soon as this family member saw my sister taking that action, they wanted to explain themselves. I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. This whole conversation is helpful for me because it is simply saying, “Are you thinking about suicide? It might be uncomfortable but necessary.” You can also say, “Are you thinking about ending your life?” That’s another phrase they recommend. Number two in this section is to listen, express, concern, and reassure. You can say things like, “I can imagine how tough this might be for you. I understand when you say that you aren’t sure if you want to live or die, but have you always wanted to die? Maybe there’s a chance that you won’t feel this way forever. I can help.”
It’s true that you can help because websites like SuicideIsPreventable.org in this whole week and being that World Prevention Day, there are many things that you can do. Remind yourself that you have that power to help. I’ve often felt helpless, but this whole conversation is reminding me of how much I have access to. You can also express to somebody that you’re deeply concerned and that you want them to know that help is available to get them through this because it is. The third step is creating a safety plan. First, you can check-in and see if they have weapons or prescription medications in the house and you can offer to help them remove it so that you’re taking them out of danger. You certainly don’t want to put yourself in danger so if you’re concerned, you can call 911.
You can create a further safety system. Don’t make assumptions that you know what you’re doing though, especially when it comes to weapons. Another thing you could say to somebody is, “Is there someone you can call if you think you may act on your thoughts of suicide?” There are suicide prevention lines that are free. You can call them up at any point, but maybe there’s somebody else besides yourself that they’ll want to call. For you, Jason, that was perhaps your mom or your mentor or another friend. Maybe I wasn’t the person you wanted to call and that’s okay. I’m not going to take that personally. This website has a few other phrases you can share. The fourth step is to get help. You can give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That number is +1 800-273-8255. You can also call 911. You can walk into a psychiatric crisis clinic. You’ll have to double-check with COVID-19. Those are available and open. You can even take them to a nearby emergency room. Do what you can and what feels like the best course of action for you.
Lastly, there is the section of What Not To Say. There are three main phrases in there that this website encourages not to say. This comes back to things people said to you, Jason was, “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?” That might sound judgy. Our aim here is not to put someone into feelings of shame or, “You’re not thinking about doing something stupid, are you?” That’s judgmental. I also feel like people say these things trying to help, but those could trigger someone. You don’t want to ask in a way that indicates that you want no for an answer. The next phrase is, “Fine. If you want to be selfish and kill yourself, then go right ahead. See if I care.” You’re giving that person permission to do it. That might be coming out of frustration or anger, but this is one of the most dangerous things that you could say. The third one is, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me.”
You don’t want to promise secrecy because that doesn’t help. Reading this, I’m like, “I need to check in on my family member.” Going back to my sister’s experience with this family member, they didn’t want anyone to know. They were afraid that my sister was sharing this. Instead, you can say, “I care about you too much to keep a secret like this. You need help. I’m here to help you get it.” This also depends on what they say to you. That would make sense if they’re telling you that they’re considering suicide. Jason, I don’t remember if you asked me to keep it a secret. I remember feeling nervous about talking to your mom about it and some of the other people you mentioned. Were you trying to keep it a secret?
No, I wasn’t. I didn’t specifically ask anyone to keep it confidential. I trusted that the people in my life would have a level of inherent discretion and they did in terms of not talking about it with any wider concentric circles, friends, acquaintances or sharing it publicly. Everyone was respectful, discreet and loving in that way. You mentioned some of these comments on what not to say and going back to statistically, how young people between the ages of 14 and 20 having a higher suicide rate during the pandemic, quarantine, and COVID. I’ve seen some disturbing and heart-shattering things on social media about DM exchanges and social media exchanges between young people and their friends. Versions of what you express Whitney of like, “Go ahead and do it then.”
The person does end up committing suicide. Sharing these resources, normalizing these conversations and giving suggestions on how to be supportive, this is potentially lifesaving information. Who of us has been trained to talk about this? To piggyback on some of the questions that you were encouraging from this article, as uncomfortable as it might be to reach out and ask someone, “Are you feeling suicidal? Are you thinking of taking your own life? Are you in a dark place now?” To me, as uncomfortable as it might feel to reach out with that communication. When I have been in that place, I would receive those messages in much more depth and gravity to that style of communication versus, “Are you okay?”
That never felt effective and it still doesn’t to me. When I get that text like, “Are you okay?” It’s like, “What do you mean?” If someone goes to that level of deeper and they’re getting uncomfortable to ask a question of like, “Are you suicidal? Are you depressed?” That style of communication to me opens up a deeper dialogue. It’s like immediate vulnerability versus, “Are you okay?” I believe most people have good intentions, but how we communicate in these situations is critical.
There are many more ways beyond what we’ve discussed. That’s why we’re going to give you lots of resources. My favorite resource of the moment is SuicideIsPreventable.org. I love the layout. It’s easy to navigate and find information fast. The other website I found helpful is EachMindMatters.org. They have a suicide week tool kit with lots of information about, not only can you learn and get involved, but how you can encourage other people. There are social media graphics. There are activity sheets that you could do if you’re an educator or if you want to get other groups involved. There are some wonderful things there.
What we typically do at the end of our episodes is to share something called Frequently Asked Queries. These are things that people are sharing online that have led them to our website. There were a few that felt related to this episode. One of them is anxiety relief tactics. We have found this to be such a common topic, whether you’re suicidal or not. Anxiety is something that a lot of people struggle with. We have episodes about this as well as a free resource for you called From Chaos to Calm. That goes through some of our best suggestions for easing anxious feelings, especially during COVID-19. As we said, a few times throughout that PDF eBook, it’s not meant to take the place of a therapist, a medical professional, or a suicide crisis line. Those resources are linked there. They’re meant to be suggestions. Some things that you can experiment with and try for yourself and suggest to other people. If you would like to, you can download that for free at Wellevatr.com. The same place you’ll go for our show notes. There in the Free Resource section. There was another query, Jason, that I thought you could answer well, which is does talking to a therapist help with anxiety?
It does in my experience. Here’s why. I work with a therapist. His name is Gary Glickman. I want everyone to have those direct resources. I’ve sent a lot of friends to Dr. Green and Gary to work with them. In the style of therapy that I’ve been doing with Gary over the years, he specializes in something called somatic experiencing and somatic therapy. This is getting into the areas of the body where we are on a cellular or musculoskeletal sense, storing trauma and pain in our body. For me, I’ve had gut issues. We talked about this in a previous episode to give our sponsor, BiOptimizers a shout out. Enzymes and probiotics have been good for my gut. That anxiety and stress, I tend to store in my gut, my stomach, my intestines. It’s all in that area of my body. Interestingly, working with Gary, not on a psychological level, but a somatic level, I was able to identify that a lot of the stress, the fear, the anxiety that I carry in my body was because as a child, I somehow learned to cope with the stress abandonment and violence that I was experiencing with my dad in the home situation when he was around.There's not a one-size-fits-all approach to this conversation of mental health, stress, anxiety, and finding our balance in life. Click To Tweet
I am internalizing that in my stomach, my gut, and in my heart. When I have physical issues, they tend to manifest in the gut and the heart region. In a long roundabout sense, without getting too deep into the style of somatic therapy, it’s been able to not just address anxiety on a mental level, but get into my tissues and my cells and be like, “When did you first experience that? Why do you think you stored it there? If you do deep belly breathing, how can you relieve that anxiety?” For me, yes. If you were to get into a style of therapy that is somatically based, one could address anxiety and stress and some of these mental health issues, but do it on a physical level as well.
That’s a wonderful perspective, Jason. I’m grateful that you can share that because this is a common thing and remembering that we’re not alone. We can learn, share, inspire, and educate other people is wonderful. I wanted to acknowledge you for doing that. Lastly, as a query, somebody had typed in the phrase, “I feel sad.” I was fascinated when I saw that. When you put something in quotes in Google, for example, you’re looking for an answer or some results based on that exact phrase. I went to see what happens when you type that in, what results do you get? There are numerous depression quizzes that come up that you can take. There are national helplines for treatment referral, and lots of different articles about how dealing with depression and sadness, scientific reasons for being depressed. Why do you feel sad for no reason?
There’s a lot of amazing things, but you might immediately feel overwhelmed by these. If you do type something like that in and feel overwhelmed, I encourage you to reach out to somebody to take things one step at a time. Maybe it’s those two things. What about you, Jason? If you were feeling sad and you type that in and you saw this information, what do you think would be helpful for you? What would you recommend for somebody that’s trying to resolve that feeling of sadness somehow?
It’s a tough one to answer because sadness is inevitable. We’re going to feel sad at times. We’re going to experience pain and suffering. If it’s something that’s unmitigated, if it’s something that lasts for a longer period of time then maybe we expect or feel comfortable with, that’s a potential red flag. For me, this might be a roundabout way of trying to answer this question. When I was feeling depressed, anxious, suicidal, and sad for long periods of time, one of the reasons that I didn’t reach out for help was that I thought I could fix it on my own. There was this entrepreneurial do it yourself, the self-made thing that was creeping into my self-care mentally that was like, “I’ll figure it out. I can go and do a Google search. I can do the online quizzes and I can figure out. I can do it. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
That was a big part of it. I’ve realized though, in humbleness, humility, and gratitude that without the willingness that I had to finally reach out, find the right doctor, find the right therapist for me, talk to my close friends and family, and then discuss this with a level of openness finally, in a public forum. That journey for me made me realize there was no way in hell I could have done it on my own. I don’t think that it’s wise. I don’t think it’s beneficial for someone to have the mentality of if I’m struggling with mental health, depression, suicidal ideation, bipolar, whatever it is that I can “fix it on my own.” I personally don’t believe that. Having the right people surrounding you, the right resources, people who have a different experience in therapy, biomarker testing, blood panel testing. I go back in the combination is looking at this on a biological chemical level, a spiritual mindfulness level, a level of movement, and surrounding yourself with massively loving, supportive people. I think you set yourself up in a good position to be able to handle mental health issues and through them. That’s the combination.
With that dear reader, this has definitely been one of the deepest episodes that we have yet done. We’ve done a lot of deep episodes and have a lot of deep ones to come. We have gone way down the rabbit hole of the heart into wells of conversations and topics with each other, Whitney and myself, and some wonderful upcoming guests. At this moment, I want to thank you for going deep with us and being open to this conversation as we explore a topic of mental illness, mental health, and suicidal ideation and providing our perspectives, our experience and the resources we found beneficial and sharing them with you. For all of the resources that we mentioned, including the doctors, the therapists, the articles, the books, the hotlines, and also our wonderful sponsor, BiOptimizers. As we get close to the end of this episode, go to the website, which is BiOptimizers.com/wellevatr. You can use the code WELLEVATR10 to save 10% on your magnesium. Maybe you add these supplements and go get a blood test, start to go a little bit deeper into your mental health and find the puzzle pieces that work for you.
In summary, this is an individual journey. What works for me, what works for Whitney, what works for some celebrity or athlete online may not be the exact pieces of the puzzle that work for you. The willingness to experiment, the willingness to try new things, the willingness to adapt your eating, your lifestyle, your supplementation, that openness, that willingness is the key to thriving long-term with mental health. We thank you for being on this journey with us. We thank you for getting uncomfortable in this episode. We will be back again with another deep dive. Thanks for being on this journey with us. We love you and appreciate you.
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