FAQ’s with LDC Wellbeing

Kandy Hirsch, Licensed Professional Counselor Laura DeCook, Founder of LDC Wellbeing

How can we effectively communicate to our employees that it's acceptable to reach out for support if they're feeling emotionally or mentally unwell?

Kandy – First, sharing your own experiences of struggles. This sets a tone of permission to speak about these things. If someone knows you understand and will not shame them, they will feel safe enough to open up to speak with you.

Laura –  Creating a psychologically safe workplace is paramount. Employees need to feel like they can be open about their struggles without fear of retaliation. If leaders are open about their own mental health challenges, employees will be more comfortable sharing their own.

What are the crucial indicators to watch out for as red flags in the conduct of our team and other individuals?

Kandy – Noticing if someone isn’t taking care of themselves physically (looking disheveled, smelling, losing or gaining weight) and also if they are no longer doing the things that they used to enjoy. Its okay to ask if they are feeling sad and or anxious.

Laura – It’s important to recognize if an employee’s behavior is out of the ordinary, if they are not participating like they used to, are irritable, look tired or disheveled, or are using negative coping mechanisms (alcohol/drugs). Like Kandy said, it is okay (and important) to ask someone how they are doing if you recognize these warning signs and help them get appropriate help if they are not doing well.

What are the indications to observe as potential warning signs of suicide?

Laura: A person often gives many warning signs that they are considering suicide. Some of them could include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly

  • Sleeping too little or too much

  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

  • Displaying extreme mood swings

  • Giving away possessions

Despite having a fulfilling career, a supportive family, stable finances, a wonderful circle of friends, and strong religious convictions, why do thoughts about death and the end of life arise multiple times a week?

Kandy – In our culture, we don’t often speak of death and yet, I like to say, no one is getting out of here alive (meant humorously here). Because of this, it’s a mystery that leaves us to wonder what happens and creates fear & sadness. It’s never easy to sit with those feelings by yourself.

There is a movement of people who are making it “normal” to have the conversation in public. You can find options in your community if you want to explore death and talk about all aspects of death & dying. These are called Death Cafe’s – google it to find one close to you. The people hosting these sessions are Death Doulas. These are professionals who help someone prepare for a death (financial paperwork, wishes, etc), assist someone through the death process and help the family during and after the death. You will find your feelings are quite common.

What is your suggestion for the most effective approach to communicate to employees that they have a reliable source to seek support within their organization?

Laura – This needs to come from leadership to be most effective so employees understand that if they need help, they will not be punished or looked down upon. When leaders create a culture of care, employees will not only open up, they will feel valued. Happy and healthy employees are the most productive so it’s a win-win situation.

What strategies can be used to silence the inner voice despite being aware that it's incorrect?

Kandy – Our minds and and our thoughts are not always right, as you say. Yet it’s our minds’ job to think. The most effective antidote to negative and habitual thinking is to focus attention in the body. There are many practices that do just this, yoga, exercise, breathing progressive relaxation, and many more. The best way to practice when your mind is ruminating is to ask yourself “where do I feel that in my body”? Then focus all your attention there. Don’t think! If you do start to think, bring your attention back to your body. Our thoughts get us in trouble here. Thoughts can create feelings (or an outside incident can create feelings) and then we tell ourselves a story about what that means, which creates more of the feelings which create more stories and we are caught in a loop. SIMPLE AWARENESS, WITHOUT JUDGEMENT is the practice. Easy to say, harder to do! That’s why we have to practice daily or multiple times a day, when things are going well, so when the stuff hits the fan, we have a practice.

A really interesting book is Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. He has a program of practice that is app based that helps you work with your mind!

Where is the most suitable place to locate a qualified psychologist who specializes in addressing insecurities in teenagers, including issues such as self-hatred?

Kandy – www.psychologytoday.com – and please know that not every therapist is a good fit for you. It’s like dating! If it’s not the right fit, try someone else. Also, when you call to make an appointment, ask the therapist a few questions. If they are not willing to answer them, you have your answer. As a therapist I want to know (and I say readers digest version), “what do you want to work on in therapy?” before I make an appointment, to be sure it’s a good fit. It may take 5 minutes to figure that out. As a client I’d ask, do you have 5 minutes to talk & see if you are the right person for me to talk to? Then listen to your gut!

How does financial pressure play a role in contributing to suicide risk?

Kandy – Our culture values financial success. Many of us judge ourselves based on our financial situation. Yet, this is not who we are. We as humans need to break out of that mode, understand more of what gives us meaning in our lives & what our gifts are to contribute to the world. This usually has less to do with money and more to do with inner personal contribution & happiness.  This requires us to break out of our habitual mindset and cultural default mode. It’s a scary thing to do and may require the help of a therapist. It’s hard to ask for help if you think you have to do it all yourself. Do it anyway! You’ll be glad you did.

What are some appropriate actions and words to offer support to someone experiencing a situation like this, especially if one lacks training in psychology and empathy? What is the recommended response or reaction when receiving a call that a loved one, friend, or stranger is contemplating suicide?

Kandy – I am so sorry you are feeling like this. Do you want to talk about it? Is there someone you feel comfortable talking to (if not me)? Then, just LISTEN!! You can acknowledge & normalize their feelings so they feel understood. If you know they are thinking of suicide, you never want to leave the person alone. In our MHFA class we teach you to ask if you are thinking of killing yourself (directly) and if so, we ask “Do you have a plan?” “How would you do it? Do you have the means to carry out the plan?” If answers are yes, you MUST call the crisis line (988) for help. Never leave the person alone.   PS Take our MHFA class for more info and to help generate empathy!

What approach should be taken when assisting individuals who do not hold belief in God?

Laura – A. It is important to be culturally aware when you are speaking to someone and not to let your belief system interfere with the mental health of someone who does not share similar beliefs. Let them open up without fear of judgment and maintain neutral facial expressions even if they are saying something you do not agree with. Oftentimes a person just needs to be heard without fear of being criticized. Let the person know that there are professionals out there that they can speak to and also encourage them to practice self care, whether that is getting out into nature, getting exercise, or reading a good book.