If we are serious about suicide prevention… what about this conversation?

I find myself constantly despairing about the missed opportunities to change our ways of thinking in order to prevent mental illness and suicide.

I’m worried we are taking a less than optimally effective approach to suicide prevention.

I was reading about Australia’s  “you can talk about suicide” launch.

I found no reference to shame in the document and that concerns me, as shame, I think, isn’t far from self-loathing if it’s not talked about, shared and normalised.

What about “How to have conversations which disclose and normalise the experience of shame, and self shaming internal dialogue?”

I don’t believe we can have an effective conversation about suicide until we are skilled up in having this conversation. 

I think it’s not that hard, but the principles of the conversation are counter-cultural.. let’s start on that project ASAP rather than conversations which assume that depression or anxiety have an internal locus (diagnostic model) with a biochemical basis, on top of causal genetics and experiences and therefore respond to fortification or medication.

The diagnostic model is struggling to achieve great results in primary prevention. It’s had an OK effect on secondary prevention but I strongly believe that looking at the social construction of mental illness might be more fruitful. 

Let’s start the conversation with the question “We all suffer from shame in some form or another. What would I need to do differently so that you and I/we all can talk about our shame and work together against its effects?”

What do you think?

“Mental Illness” and medical students with Anxiety/Depression

So today I heard on the radio that 3 point something percent of medical students are suffering from a severe form or mental illness, which was described as anxiety or depression. A brave young doctor spoke out about her own experience. You can find the information here .

What I want to say about this is simple, and I believe vital.

That we regard “anxiety/depression” as “mental illness” is part of the problem.

Continue reading “Mental Illness” and medical students with Anxiety/Depression

Do you do an emotional workout?

It’s 11am and I’ve already (unintentionally) done my emotional workout for the day. It started with a phone call where I learned about a senior doctor (supported by two colleagues) bullying medical students. (not in my town fortunately!)  They berated the students, accusing them of arrogance, stupidity and weakness. The students were told “Know your place!” all because the students asked to be excused from an activity so they could study for their upcoming exams. Haven’t these doctors been reading the news?

ANGER– Which I have re-narrated as “passion for justice”. When will we turn our medical culture around? I felt ashamed of and angry with some members of my profession.

Then I read about the outpouring of generosity for the homeless student who wants to be a criminologist and is living in a tent under a bridge (It must be SOOO cold!) I shed a tear or two.

THANKFULNESS TO OTHERS for being so compassionate. I felt good to be a human.

Then I remembered all the work I had to do today! I had a little panic.

FEAR- I had a little chat with fear, thanking it for reminding me not to waste the whole day, and re-examined my expectations. I wouldn’t try to do so much. The panic was a little less overwhelming

Then I decided to head down to the local coffee shop for coffee and a croissant (yes I know it’s pro-inflammatory! and yes it might have been avoidance!) The new Florence and the Machine album was playing, the sun was streaming in, and some kind patrons were rescuing a terrified wandering little dog outside. I read a funny clip in the Herald Sun from a lavatory in Japan

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That’s it. Workout over. On with the working day!

Must get a physical workout in later!


My friends are all heading overseas, or are already there. Well, not all, but many. I’m envious, but have decided to turn this into a positive. What if….. I was a tourist here, in Geelong? What would I notice? How would I experience life differently. I was pondering this, when I saw this…

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What a beautiful eucalypt! Subtle sunset colours in its upper branches at the end of a wonderful crisp wintry day. I was biking home from work. What a privilege to live as an unpersecuted person in Australia. Tomorrow I hope to catch up with some friends who are still here. I’m not envious any more, and I’ll do some more of the “What if…..?” technique, as today it seems to have put me in touch with the simple things I might have missed.

Airport ponderings re: friendship

I’m sitting in an airport with an hour or so to kill. (How fortunate and environmentally irresponsible are we in Australia that jet travel is available to the masses- $38 to travel 900km!)

Nevertheless, putting aside my greenie guilt factor, I’m contemplating friendship, and the dynamic exchange of values. Rather like a tide washing back and forth. There’s a bit of intercontinental drift too.. Some of my friendships have just drifted away, without any active encouragement or discouragement- “that’s just the way it is”. Others are consolidating and as this happens it helps me to contemplate love. There’s much to love. I don’t understand it, but I’m enjoying learning more about it and myself.

So I’ve just had a few days with a dear friend whom I love. He’s a pretty chilled out guy. Quite different to me, so I learn a lot from him. And we have our differences which we exchange. Somehow I feel that if we were partners we’d get to a base level disagreement that would deconstruct or self-destruct our friendship, but the luxury of friendship is that you can actively make decisions to ignore, or tolerate, or learn from the differences. Why is this so much harder in our chosen relationships (which are often formalised by marriage, defacto agreement, whatever)?

Coincidentally, while spending time with my friend, I received a belated invitation from an another (“old”) friend to an event. He’s very like my current friend in a way, but it’s complicated. We spent a lot of time together in our formative years and we have so many of these experiences to reminisce about, but I feel I failed in my part of the friendship. There were some differences that I wanted to explore, and his “model” of friendship meant NOT exploring these. “You just tolerate these things quietly in friendships” (Not his exact words: I can’t remember them, but that the message was explicit). I miss this friend and I grieve not knowing what is going on in his life, but I haven’t made the steps to bridge the gap of time, and it’s widening. I haven’t had a meaningful conversation with him for many years now, so what to do?

Expediently I could say “We’ve just drifted apart”, but what is that? I’m a very social person, and I’ve “moved on”- I hate that expression.. look at the offence Julie Bishop has caused with invoking the good old “let’s look forward” after the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and I totally see why. Its reminiscent of John Howard not getting why an apology to our indigenous population was needed- when you are “moving on” you lose an opportunity to reflect and learn from the past.

So what have I learnt? Not sure, but I know I value my friendships deeply, and I feel that I’m too fickle- I love my friends, but I know that some of the “special” friendships have changed. Making someone special has huge spiritual benefits, but can also generate expectations and raise the risk of letting them down. (My greatest fear!) Then there’s the complex ingredient of their life choices of friends and partners- what to do with all the factors there? Loyalty, politeness, tolerance, jealousy, anger, bemusement, amazement and shock and awe are some of the experiences I’ve had watching my loved ones in their relationships. One thing I know about committed friendship is that the commitment process is wonderful self learning.. if painful. Makes me humbly ponder, and often overthink (more about overthinking soon). I wish I could just package it as “That’s just the way it is”. I’d be much more “chilled”.