Suicide prevention: Fire the critic, hire the coach – simple steps for wellness
Special to the Bonanza
Warning signs of suicide*
• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings
*The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
What to do
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
• Do not leave the person alone.
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
• Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Words are powerful and impactful. Whether they are coming from others or our own self-talk, words have the power to control how we feel about ourselves.
Our Inner Coach, fueled by positive self-talk, has the power to propel us toward success and fuel us with enthusiasm. When we say to ourselves “Good Job” or “I knew I could figure this out,” we are fueling positive self-esteem.
On the other hand, our Inner Critic, which is fueled by negative thoughts, can create tsunami waves of stress, anxiety and despair. Things like “I can’t believe I made this mistake again!” or “I’m so stupid” can quickly tear our self-esteem down.
From a very young age, this inner dialogue helps us determine if we see mistakes as opportunities to grow or roadblocks to be avoided.
READ MORE: To adults, childhood can seem like a carefree time, but youth still experience stress.
Our brains are great supercomputers. Have you ever noticed that when you start to type something into a search window, the computer tracks whether it has seen that word or phrase in recent use and places it in the box for us to consider?
Our brains do the same thing, which is why we often have the same thoughts over and over and over again, whether it’s from our Inner Critic or our Inner Coach. Some would consider this a habit of thought.
FAILURE A PART OF LIFE’S JOURNEY
Some studies estimate we have upwards of 70,000 thoughts a day. Our minds are often on autopilot and they are just chattering away. However, just because we have a thought does not mean we need to believe it. Just as our brains think these thoughts, we have this remarkable ability to observe and then question the thoughts we are feeding ourselves.
For example, if someone walks by and doesn’t return our smile, our first patterned thought or Inner Critic, might be saying, “they don’t like me” or “what’s wrong with them?” If we observe our Inner Critic talking, we can engage our Inner Coach and replace that thought with “they must be having a hard day” or “they seem distracted.”
READ MORE: Even with friends and family around, someone experiencing emotional pain or suicidal thoughts can feel isolated.
Just these simple shifts in how our mind talks to us can have a huge impact and change how we feel about ourselves.
The same is true when we make mistakes, which we are bound to do over and over again. The key is using our Inner Coach to remind us that failure and mistakes are a natural part of our life’s journey. Many really great successes began with great failures.
Our failures act as compasses that recalibrate and point us closer to the direction of success. A simple example of this is when we were learning to walk as a toddler; our failures in steps led to success in walking.
The best way to recalibrate is by engaging your Inner Coach through positive self-talk. Believe in yourself and believe you can do it. Positive self-talk is a powerful way to encourage healthy mental-wellness both within our children and within ourselves.
PRACTICE THE POWER OF YET
By modeling this behavior we likewise encourage our youth to develop healthy self-perception.
How to Engage your Inner Coach:
1. First, notice if your Coach or Critic is talking.
2. Turn the Inner Critic into an Inner Coach and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Ask yourself, what would a positive coach say here instead.
3. Share your struggles between your Inner Critic and Coach with your family. If you have kids, be willing to be vulnerable and talk about noticing your own habits around how you talk about yourself as well as the failures you have had to overcome.
4. Our Inner Critic may say, “I can’t do this,” but our Inner Coach says, “I can’t do this YET.” Practice the Power of Yet.
READ MORE: Please visit suicideispreventable.org to learn more about the signs, find the words, and how to reach out.
Developing a positive Inner Coach is one of the most powerful tools we can use to persevere and achieve happiness and success. Creating this takes time, but as we lay down new go-to scripts in our minds, or neural pathways, we slowly and powerfully begin to believe them.
As one new thought leads to another, until our Inner Coach is consistently rooting us on with positive self-talk. The result is our mood and resilience improves day by day.
Alaina Reichwald, LMFT, is a school counseler at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. She wrote this article on behalf of the Tahoe Truckee Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition.