Unfiltered Conversations: A New Mental Health Group

LIU-Brooklyn’s ministry services, in tandem with Cru, present “Unfiltered Conversations” – a 4-week, discussion-driven series exploring life, mental health struggles, and Jesus through a combination of practices based on the themes of connection, reflection, and action.

The goal of Unfiltered Conversations is to invite and encourage honest feelings and thoughts in the safety of a community setting. Participants will share their stories, engage with different practices (such as silence, mindfulness, and understanding and naming emotions), and learning about tapping into the power of faith in the midst of anxiety.

Unfiltered Conversations is open to all students, whether or not they identify as Christian, who are interested in exploring Jesus’ story as a template for further growth.

Students can sign up for the group at https://www.crumanhattan.org/unfilteredspace.html

What It’s Like to Talk to a Therapist About Suicidal Thoughts

(Note: This post contains mentions of suicide and suicidal thoughts. Please read with caution if this content may be triggering.)

Scheduling an appointment and coming into the therapy room for the first time is super daunting. Sitting down in the chair and opening up to a stranger you met only five minutes ago also takes a lot of courage. While you’re in therapy, there may come a moment where you wonder, “How open can I be with my therapist? What am I allowed to tell them?”

It is best for both you and your therapist if you are as open and honest as possible with what you are sharing. But some things may be more difficult to share than others.

Your therapist may ask you questions such as:

“How has your sleep been?”

“Have you noticed any changes in your appetite?”

“How would you describe your mood from day to day?”  

But once your therapist asks you: “Have you ever wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?” You freeze.

Your mind may be full of worry and thoughts such as:

  • What will they think of me?
  • Should I tell them? Or should I just say no?
  • Will they call the police? What if they send me to the hospital?
  • What will they ask me next if I say yes?

These thoughts are normal. And pausing and not responding immediately to this question is also normal. It is normal to feel worried about how honest you can be with your therapist. You just met them not too long ago after all.

What will they think of me?

Your therapist is not there to judge you, but rather, to work together with you to figure out what type of support you need. Your therapist is there to listen and be on your side as you heal, grow, and work through your problems. If you share that you have had suicidal thoughts, your therapist will probably just think, “How can I help this person heal and be safe?”

It might feel shameful or embarrassing to tell someone that you’ve had thoughts about suicide. What if they think I am weak? What if they think I’m being dramatic? It is best to be honest with your therapist and being honest about suicidal thoughts takes a lot of courage. One of the common myths about suicide is that talking about suicidal thoughts will lead to more thoughts and encourage suicide. Talking about suicidal thoughts not only helps you and your therapist understand your experiences, but also helps eliminate stigmas and to find resources to best support you.

Should I tell them? Or should I just say no?

It may also be scary to admit to ourselves and to say out loud that we have had suicidal thoughts. We might think we’re weird or strange for having these thoughts, but actually, suicidal thoughts are more common than we think. In 2019, 12 million adults in the US have had serious thoughts about suicide.

During this initial conversation about suicidal thoughts, most likely, your therapist will ask you a yes or no question like, “Have you ever wished you were dead?” Answering with just ‘yes’ may take a lot of effort and bravery, but that one-word answer can help you take the first step to get the help and support you need from your therapist.

Will they call the police? What if they send me to the hospital?

You might also worry about your therapist’s response to you sharing. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and it is something that you would expect people, especially your therapist, to take seriously. However, instead of immediately calling the police and admitting you into a hospital, your therapist will first ask you more questions to understand your suicidal thoughts more. Your therapist is on your side and wants to work together with you to figure out the best way to support you.

What will they ask me next if I say yes?

After you respond and say that yes, you have had suicidal thoughts, your therapist will ask you more questions to understand your experience. How frequently do you have these thoughts? How intense are these thoughts? Do you have a plan about how you would hurt yourself? Did you ever think about acting on these thoughts? What usually happens before you have these thoughts? Your therapist will not be judging your answers, but will be curious and compassionate to try to understand what types of difficulties you’re facing.

What you share with your therapist won’t scare them away but will help them better understand your difficulties to form a safety plan together. What will you do the next time you have these suicidal thoughts? What will you do when you feel the urge to act on those thoughts? What can we do to make you feel safe? It’s scary to have these thoughts and you may feel helpless and lost. Sharing these thoughts with your therapist and exploring them together will help you heal, recover, and live a meaningful life.

 ——- 

Talking to your therapist about suicide is hard. But taking the first step and saying ‘yes’ to that first question can create a big difference in how you and your therapist can work together to keep you safe and help your healing. No one should have to suffer alone, and working together with your therapist means you aren’t alone and are supported in your struggles.

Resources

Two Girls Who Suck At Self-Care Try Ten Common Self-Care Tips (and see which ones actually work)

Hi, our names are Sarah and Rebecca, and we’re workaholics.  Between school, work, and having a social life (or something to that effect), we know as well as anybody how impossible it can be at times to find time to relax. 

When we set out to write a post on self-care during COVID, we realized how hypocritical it would be to just list a bunch of tips that we’ve never actually done ourselves.  So, instead, we decided to try ten common self-care activities and give the real rundown on how well – or if – they actually worked for us. 

For the purposes of this experiment, we will separately rate each self-care tip out of 5 stars: 2 for viability (convenience, time, etc.), 2 for Refresh Factor, and 1 star for other benefits/overall quality of life improvement. Our scores will then be combined for the overall rating out of 10.

Spa day

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

-Painted my nails  in a yin yang to remind me that life is about balance. There is always good in the bad, and bad in the good.

-used a jasmine and lavender smelling candle during a very hot shower . -did a hydro moisturizing mask 

-Finally took the time after a long, stressful, and emotional week. Felt that it was a “Restart” and I felt more confident after. Something so small as to painting my nails really made me feel a lot better and i felt that i could focus on just one thing rather than a million things 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

  • After working a long day at a hospital and walking home in the rain, I was cold, wet, and sweaty all at once, so having a long shower while burning a scented candle was kind of a religious experience. 
  • I have a really hard time finding time for self care – before this, I’d never used the scented candle or even opened the charcoal face mask – but this fit well into my crazy schedule. It also made me feel genuinely refreshed and cared-for. The candle (“linen & liquor” scent) was a gift from a close friend, which made it especially nice. 
  • Added benefit: I saw some friends afterward who couldn’t get over my amazing “perfume” 🙂

Overall score: 10 stars

Take a power nap (~20 min)

Sarah: ⭐⭐1/2 

-Took a short 20 min nap after walking roundtrip an hour to staples and back. It was raining and when I heard the “ping” of my alarm I literally woke up soooo angry. Nothing worse than the apple iphone alarm sound jerking you out of a sleep… I thought this nap would be refreshing, but….it just made me moody and even more tired. 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • I forgot to set my alarm, so instead of sleeping for 20 minutes, I passed out for almost two hours… whoops. I did feel really relaxed and refreshed when I woke up, but sleeping for 2 hours in the middle of the day isn’t normally viable for me (nor is it technically true to the prompt!), so that knocked off a star. 

Overall score: 6.5 stars

Socialize with friends (however you can)

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I went to an outdoor flea market with some friends and we got enchiladas afterwards from this delicious food truck outside of the market. I bought a new ring and it was all an all a fun experience. Guess I still have some social skills even though being in quarantine for so long? 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Got together with a close friend for a very belated birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant (Peacefood at 11th & Union Sq), which has outdoor seating. It was so nice to see her in person after seven months on zoom!
  • This was top-tier self-care for me, partly because while I was out with her, I wasn’t checking my email or worrying about work. It was viable, it was refreshing, AND our waiter treated us to mint hot cocoas after our meal – easily a 5-star evening. 

Overall score: 10 stars

Exercise

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2 

  • I turned on a 30-min cardio pilates/yoga workout on YouTube. Over quarantine I really enjoyed and looked forward to exercising because it gave my day some structure. However, being in NYC now, and having to exercise in my small apartment bedroom made it less than ideal especially since I feel uncomfortable going to gyms still. However, I still felt good when I finished (even though it was terrible in the moment!). I try to do a Daily Walk everyday and I absolutely love my walks. For me having a daily walk really gives me time to wind down, have time for just myself, and enjoy my Greenpoint neighborhood. Exercise does not have to be so intensive all the time–i have to remember that it just means some sort of physical activity!

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐

  • I did a 30-min youtube cardio workout with my roommate, and my overall feedback is that exercise is hard!!! Boo, hiss 😦 
  • In all seriousness, I procrastinated on this for so long – which I think makes it a bit less viable for me. I also didn’t feel especially refreshed or cared-for afterward. That said, there was a definite sense of accomplishment, and I slept really well that night. So… a solid three stars!

Overall score: 7.5 stars

Sleep for 8 hours on a school night

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • If I could give this a 100/5 I really would. As a graduate student I am lucky to get 6 hours of sleep. Eight hours felt like an eternity. I made sure to do this self care exercise after one of the hardest assignments I had. I specifically told myself I will not be doing anything that night and instead watched a movie and slept a glorious 8 hours. I did feel guilty in the morning, in such a way I almost felt lazy? What a world we live in where taking care of your basic needs is deemed lazy…. I feel like I will try to implement this in my life at least once a week. It’s ok to prioritize yourself. 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • I basically never sleep for 8 hours on a school night so this was an experience! Even though I felt pretty exhausted the next day (I think my body was like, obviously something is WRONG if she’s SLEEPING), it felt really nice to take care of myself in a basic but important way that I rarely do. I’m giving it full points except one star, for not always being viable. 

Overall score: 9 stars

Drink 8 cups of water

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐

  • I know I should give this one 5-stars, but for some reason, I really don’t enjoy drinking “plain” water haha. I usually hydrate myself with something that has a flavor but also I never drink enough water to begin with. Does coffee count…its…bean water? Anyways, I felt that I was more energetic and less lethargic at the end of the day. I bought a new water bottle, I hope that it will encourage me to keep this up! 

Rebecca: ⭐

  • Wow, finally — a self-care tip that makes NO difference in my overall energy/wellbeing and ALSO requires bi-hourly trips to the bathroom. Truly a unique experience. 

Overall score: 4 stars

Mindful eating

Sarah:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  •  I love to practice Mindful Eating. I think it is such a good way to ground you when you are feeling especially anxious. Most of the time we eat super fast and really ge to ennnjjoooyyy all the flavors. I love chipotle, and I got my usual bowl but when i really slowed down and felt every bite, I especially enjoyed my meal. I did not watch TV or play a youtube video during eating either. I just got to enjoy my meal 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • As revenge for yesterday’s self-care tip, I mindfully did not drink a single drop of water… take THAT, digestive system.
  • In all seriousness, I did not expect to like this activity as much as I did. I got myself a big fancy latte with whipped cream and focused on enjoying every bit of it. It was cool how just the difference in awareness made food feel like a deliberate act of self-care rather than a robotic chore. I also found myself eating healthier because I was thinking more about what I was putting in my mouth. I hope to do more of this in the future!

Overall score: 10 stars

Yoga

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

I used to be so into yoga especially during the early quarantine days and before. But since starting my PhD my yoga practice was the first thing that left my life. Rebecca and I did yoga together after a very stressful conversation I had with my family. It was just a 20 minute Yoga with Adrian video on youtube and I just felt so much better after. I was able to simply just focus on my body movements…I felt that I could be in the moment. 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • Two of my most hated things are (a) movement, and (b) non-movement. So I kind of assumed that yoga – which involves both exercise and stillness – would be the worst of all possible worlds for me. And I will admit, I spent a good third of the time falling over and another third trying not to fall over, but the rest of the time was actually quite relaxing. I’m not a particularly mystical *spooky ghost noises* kind of person, but it was nice to spend twenty minutes with a friend focusing on my breathing and getting in touch with my inner experience.

Overall score: 8.5 stars

  • Go for a walk/to a park

Sarah: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

It was a BEAUTIFUL day today. Perfect fall weather—it was 60 degrees and sunny. I walked to McCarren Park where there were so many cute dogs and stopped to get a bagel on the way. I felt so relaxed and it was nice to sit in the sun a little. I had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed just getting away from everything. I would give this a 6/5 stars! 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐

  • I don’t know, I just don’t like taking walks to nowhere! Residential Brooklyn is not the most relaxing of places, and wandering with no endpoint in mind just makes me anxious. I need to be walking toward something, okay??
  • On the plus side, It was nice to get outside and breathe in some fresh air, especially around sunset. Also I met an extremely cute pomeranian, who is personally responsible for at least 2 of those 2 stars. 

Overall score: 7 stars

Tech detox + do a hobby that you like

Sarah: ⭐ 

  • Um I hated this so much. LIKEEE….I had to be alone with my thoughts for once! I love Tik Tok and I am not ashamed to say that. I spend hours and hours mindlessly scrolling. It was difficult for me to simply turn my phone off and put it away. It actually made me even more anxious! Technology is such a huge part of our lives that its essentially ingrained in our day to day lives. I ended up journaling because I did not know what else to do with my pent up anxiety. Maybe if I continued this long term this would be beneficial, but for just a one time session it was extremely anxiety inducing. 

Rebecca: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  • I spent a long time procrastinating on this one, but once I got started – man it was great. I love writing fiction and haven’t had the chance to do any since starting school. It took me a while to put my phone away, but I think using pen and paper actually helped get into the writing groove after a 2.5 year hiatus. This activity probably took me more time than any of the others, but it came with such a great emotional payoff – I’m definitely going to have to do this more often. 

Overall score: 5 stars

All said and done, it seemed that, for us, spa day, socializing with friends, and mindfully eating were the most successful tips, while drinking water made the least impact. Going for a walk and taking a tech detox were different for each of us based on our personalities and circumstances.

What are your favorite self-care activities? Feel free to try the tips above, or drop your own ideas in our Suggestion Box. Whatever you do, do something to care for yourself this holiday season. Remember, it’s not how you self-care but that you self-care that makes the difference.

— Sarah & Rebecca

Self-Help Resources

1.  The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer
An Acceptance & Commitment Therapy-based guide to self-compassion
“I look at it this way: the instinctive response to danger—the stress response—consists of fight, flight, or freeze. These three strategies help us survive physically, but when they’re applied to our mental and emotional functioning, we get into trouble. When there’s no enemy to defend against, we turn on ourselves. ‘Fight’ becomes self-criticism, ‘flight’ becomes self-isolation, and ‘freeze’ becomes self-absorption, getting locked into our own thoughts.”


2. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression By Andrew Solomon
An exploration of depression, anchored in both research and the author’s personal experience
“One aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better.”


3.  The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, Fourth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne
An excellent, practical resource for people struggling with anxiety, and panic attacks in particular
“An anxious mind cannot exist in a relaxed body; body and mind are inextricably related in anxiety.”


4. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
A groundbreaking book highlighting trauma’s effects on both body and mind
“Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.”


5. The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris
A light-hearted, down-to-earth guide to managing worry, sadness, and disappointment
“Thus, evolution has shaped our brains so that we are hardwired to suffer psychologically: to compare, evaluate, and criticize ourselves, to focus on what we’re lacking, to rapidly become dissatisfied with what we have, and to imagine all sorts of frightening scenarios, most of which will never happen. No wonder humans find it hard to be happy!”


6. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem
A book on the physical and psychological effects of systemic racism, police brutality, and fear of blackness
“In today’s America, we tend to think of healing as something binary: either we’re broken or we’re healed from that brokenness. But that’s not how healing operates, and it’s almost never how human growth works. More often, healing and growth take place on a continuum, with innumerable points between utter brokenness and total health. If this book moves you even a step or two in the direction of healing, it will make an important difference.”


7. Empowered Boundaries: Speaking Truth, Setting Boundaries, and Inspiring Social Change by Cristien Storm
A guide to boundary setting rooted in the current climate of gender-based oppression and violence
“We depend on one another in very deep and complex ways, yet most boundary discussions are focused on how to cut off or distance ourselves from unwanted behaviors or people. … Boundary work is just as much about negotiating and asking for what we want and need as what we don’t want and don’t need. To this end, if we are working towards not just our own individual safety but towards changing the conditions in which people are not safe or are harmed, boundaries are about imagining radical possibilities as much as responding to events in the present.”


8. The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
A book on the lasting repercussions of childhood messages that one’s feelings must take a backseat to others’ wishes
“Many people suffer all their lives from this oppressive feeling of guilt, the sense of not having lived up to their parents’ expectations. This feeling is stronger than any intellectual insight they might have, that it is not a child’s task or duty to satisfy his parents needs. No argument can overcome these guilt feelings, for they have their beginnings in life’s earliest periods, and from that they derive their intensity and obduracy.”


9. Modern Man in Search of a Soul by C. G. Jung
A collection of essays by psychoanalyst Carl Jung on faith, spirituality, and innovation in psychotherapy
“What is illusion? By what criterion do we judge something to be an illusion? Does there exist for the psyche anything which we may call ‘illusion’? What we are pleased to call such may be for the psyche a most important factor of life—something as indispensable as oxygen for the organism—a psychic actuality of prime importance. Presumably the psyche does not trouble itself about our categories of reality, and it would therefore be the better part of wisdom for us to say: everything that acts is actual.”


10. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
An engaging social psychology-based handbook for creating realistic life change
“Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

Participate in Paid Psychology Research

LIU-Brooklyn’s Psychology department is currently offering the chance to be part of a paid study exploring important mental health topics. If you are working with the Psychological Services Center, you may be an especially good fit for this opportunity.

We appreciate your participation and welcome any questions you may have. For more information, please download the file below.

Depression/Suicide Awareness and Prevention

Depression is a very common difficulty that many people will face at some point in their lives, but talking about it can be difficult, not only for those who are experiencing it but also their concerned friends and family. Fortunately, depression can be treated in a variety of ways, and learning to recognize its signs and symptoms as well as ways to talk to people about it can help those people suffering with it find their way to treatment.

When you hear the word “depression,” an image may come to mind of someone moping around at home, likely in their pajamas, with a downcast attitude and little energy, spending most of their time not doing much of anything. While depression can look like this, it can also take many other forms. For example, someone may become more irritable or angry than usual, snapping at those around them and being easy to “set off.” There can also be physical symptoms present, such as aches and pains, digestive problems, or sexual dysfunctions. Knowing how to recognize depression, either in yourself or someone close to you, is very important—and potentially lifesaving. Common symptoms include:

·       Feeling down and/or irritable for most of the day, nearly every day

·       No longer seeming interested in things that used to be enjoyable, such as sports or hobbies

·       Suddenly eating a lot more or a lot less, which may lead to a noticeable change in weight

·       Sleeping a lot more or a lot less

·       A change in activity level: feeling either slowed down or jumpy

·       Fatigue and low energy that isn’t helped by sleeping

·       Feeling guilty or worthless

·       Difficulties concentrating or making decisions

·       Physical problems such as headaches, sexual dysfunction, digestive problems

·       Anger, irritability, and increased sensitivity to criticism

·       An increase in reckless or risky behavior, such as unsafe sex, too much use of drugs and/or alcohol, gambling, etc.

·       Thoughts of death or suicide

If you feel that you recognize these symptoms either in yourself or someone close to you, there are options for seeking help. At the LIU Brooklyn Psychological Services Center, we offer free and confidential counseling services that can help to alleviate the difficulties described above. We also offer referrals to other forms of treatment, as well as a range of assessments that can help to more fully understand a person experiencing these (and other) difficulties.

If you feel that a friend or someone close to you is experiencing these symptoms, it is also important to know how to talk to them. It can be very hard to know what to say, especially if you are worried that you may come across as critical or judgmental. Starting with simple observations can be helpful, by saying something such as “I’ve noticed you seem a little more tired these days. Is everything okay?” Remember that your job is not to diagnose your friend, but to be there for them as an empathetic, receptive, and supportive peer. If they seem receptive to suggestions, let them know that the Psych Services Center is always willing to talk to them. For more resources on how to talk to a friend about depression, you are welcome to schedule an appointment yourself at the PSC, or see https://headsupguys.org/for-supporters/provide-support/ for more information. This resource is specifically tailored towards men who are experiencing depression, as part of Theta Chi fraternity’s efforts toward suicide/depression awareness in men, but the support and tips can be applied to anyone. Don’t ever hesitate to contact the Psychological Services Center with any questions or if you would like more information. We are here for you. 

(Please email PSC2021@liupsc.com for service requests. If this is an emergency, or you are feeling unsafe, please contact campus security at x1078 or call 911.)