What to Say to a Suicidal Person | Lessons from a Crisis Support Worker

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I know, suicide is a heavy topic that evokes different emotions in people. As someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts for years (though this was a long time ago), I care deeply about this topic and the importance of raising awareness for suicide prevention.

It happens far more often than it should, and it leaves those who lose a loved one with many questions, confusion, guilt, and regrets.

Every year, 703,000 people take their own lives. That is far too many. In many countries, suicide is a leading cause of death among young people, a fact that is profoundly troubling.

So, yes, awareness is lacking, but so is education on how to support someone who is suicidal. This interview with Rebecca Hooke, a crisis support worker on the suicide hotline at Lifeline Australia, addresses this crucial issue. Rebecca draws from her extensive experience to provide practical advice, compassionate insights, and valuable strategies for listeners who may find themselves in this delicate situation and know someone personally who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings.

If you are here to educate yourself more about suicide and to learn what to say to a suicidal person, thank you sincerely, from someone who used to struggle with these thoughts. Awareness is one thing, but knowing how to have such a conversation is knowledge that is still largely missing.

However, by having people like Rebecca share such knowledge and people like you who care enough to listen to such interviews, I believe these staggering numbers can slowly decrease.

Websites:

  • Lifeline Australia (Lifeline exists to ensure that no person in Australia has to face their darkest moments alone. Our experience has shown us that it is through connection that we can find hope. We are available 24 hours a day to listen, without judgement to any person in Australia who is feeling overwhelmed, experiencing crisis or longs to be hea)
  • Key Facts About Suicide (WHO)
  • International Suicide Hotlines


Tools:

  • Safety Plan (Lifeline) (Use the Beyond Now web app to create a safety plan to help you cope when you’re feeling unsafe or suicidal. You can create your plan using the form on this page. You can also use the mobile app if you want to be able to save it to your phone and update it whenever you need to.)
  • TOOL KIT Helping someone at risk of suicide (Unless someone tells you, the only way to know if a person is thinking of suicide is to ask. Asking can sometimes be very hard but it shows that you have.)


Books:

  • Man’s Search for Meaning (A prominent Viennese psychiatrist before the war, Viktor Frankl was uniquely able to observe the way that he and other inmates coped with the experience of being in Auschwitz. He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest – and who offered proof that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances.)


Episodes:

  • Coping With Suicidal Thoughts | Mark Henick – Mental Health Advocate (When you feel suicidal, darkness surrounds you. In this episode, Mark Henick, a renowned mental health expert, sheds some light.)
  • What to Do When Dark Thoughts Consume You (Learn step-by-step how to use a practical tool to help you be there for yourself when dark thoughts consume you.)


People Mentioned:

  • Viktor Frankl (Viktor Emil Frankl (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997) was an Austrian neurologist, psychologist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor, who founded logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for a life’s meaning as the central human motivational force)
  • Mark Henick (Mark Henick dedicated his life from an early age to opening minds and creating change. Now he regularly speaks to diverse audiences about mental health, mental illness, suicide, advocacy, recovery, and hope. Mark’s TEDx talk on suicide is among the most watched in the world.)

The transcription is, for the most part, AI-transcribed and is currently 85% accurate. We are still weeding out some minor errors.

Jellis Vaes
Hey, what’s up there, everyone? Jellis here, the founder of The IPS Project, and your host here on the show. The topic that we’re going to talk about in this interview is one that evokes a lot of questions, a lot of confusion, and it’s quite a heavy topic in general. Yet that does not mean that we shouldn’t talk about it. We definitely should talk about it. It happens way more than it should, as I also said or will say in the interview. But we’ll say again here, because it’s true, it happens way too much, and it should not happen so much. So one way to slightly reduce those numbers and the suffering around suicides or these thoughts is by talking about it, by having an open dialog about it, by learning more about it. And that’s my intent here with this interview. To to talk about this topic, went out to search for someone who worked at the Crisis Hotline. I was super interested to have someone with that experience here on the show. Through a lot of searching, I stumbled upon Rebecca Hooke, who has worked for more than 14 years at Lifeline Australia as a Crisis supporter.

She’s done, or she does, because she still works there, a lot more there. She has done over the years so many incredible things around mental health. She has a lot of knowledge on this topic. She shared a lot of great insights and brought, I think, a lot of good understanding about suicide and how to help someone who might be struggling with these thoughts. Because in general, the main aim of this interview is learning more about suicide, but also how to be there for someone who might be having these thoughts. It’s not so much focused on what if you have these thoughts and how to cope with that. Not to say that there will not be something for you to learn in this interview If you might be struggling with that as well. But I will say or I will direct you more to the interview that I did with Mark Henning some years ago, who is a mental health advocate, but also someone who dealt with this thoughts for many years and who also attempted suicide. In that interview, we talk more about the part of what if you have suicidal thoughts. In the show notes, I will link up that interview. In addition with anything else that Rebecca mentioned in this interview and some extra resources around suicide. So the show notes can be found in the description of this episode, or you can also go directly to theipsproject.com/podcast and search for Rebecca to find the show notes. Now, I hope that you will gain something out of this episode. More knowledge, more insights around suicide and how to be there for someone. Again, if you struggle, I hope that you might gain some hope out of this interview.

Jellis Vaes
Rebecca, a warm welcome here to the podcast, to The IPS Podcast. It’s a real pleasure to finally have you on the show and to talk about a topic that I find very important, that I think you find very important too, and that I think the world could have more knowledge about. Thank you for being here.

Rebecca Hooke
Thank you very much for having me. This was quite a surprise, but I’m glad to be here.

Jellis Vaes
Suicides, because that’s the topic that we’re going to talk about, right? It’s a heavy topic. It happens more than it should. I sent you a little bit about it, too, but I have personal experience, actually. I’ve struggled with those thoughts and those feelings for a lot of years, but many years ago. It’s also quite a personal topic, actually, that I care about a lot. I thought before diving into some of the questions around suicide to maybe do a bit of an introduction about who you are, for people to know why I have you on the show, where you gained all this knowledge from, and why I think you’re a perfect person to talk about suicide. This might sound a bit like a segue, but I think it might be fun before you do that to just explain what is the medal of the Order of Australia.

Rebecca Hooke
The Order of Australia medal, of which I’ve been a recipient, is the cause of a lot of imposter syndrome that I feel, to be honest with you. Okay. It’s an honor that’s bestowed to some very lucky Australians, very few. I have an Order of Australia medal.

Jellis Vaes
Amazing.

Rebecca Hooke
I think I was one of the last batch I actually get it from the Lake Queens, so I feel a little bit special in that way. Wow. Honestly, it’s a bit of bling that I wear, which I feel very unworthy of, but which I’m constantly trying to feel like I’ve earned. Since receiving it, I’ve taken on more volunteer work, and I’ve tried to just up everything, basically. You can receive them in multiple categories. Mine was received for services to, I think the category was community health, but it was basically for just volunteering in a bunch of different areas. Most people, I’m a little bit unusual in mine in that I’ve received mine quite young in life. Generally, they tend to be given when someone is retired or maybe It’s really half a foot in the grave thing. I go to the conferences and a lot of the other people are retirees, and we’re trying to encourage more young people receiving them. But at the moment, I’m flying the flag for young people that have one. It’s purely like it’s a really hard nomination process, and I was just fortunate enough to have somebody that persevered through all the paperwork.

Jellis Vaes
I found actually online the article where you were mentioned, and you received this in I think, 2022, right? So two years ago.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah.

Jellis Vaes
What were some of the things… Because you work at Lifeline Australia. What were some of those things that you were talking about, like the volunteering things or the things that you do at Lifeline Australia that led to How did you set up to receiving this award?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. I think primarily I did receive it for the work I’ve done with Lifeline. So I’ve been with Lifeline for, I think, about 15 years, maybe give or take a year, so maybe 14, 15 years. So I’ve been on the phones, and I’m still on the phones as a volunteer. And then I also am a shift supervisor. I work in the digital space, so managing our online chats, the team that does that. I also do centralized in shift support, which is supporting the crisis team all around Australia. I’ve been in a documentary. I’ve gone to Papua New Guinea and done the Lakota track. I’ve done a bit of media things. I’ve done training, I’ve done mentoring. I obviously have an inability to say no. I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked to do, basically, and I’ve loved it all. I’ve grown from it all. That would probably be the lifeline side of things. In terms of the rest of what led me to receive the Order of Australia, it would be I’m quite a prolific donor of blood and plasma. I’ve given, I think, 174 donations to date of blood and plasma. I had to take a pause briefly when I had my daughter.

She’s four now. During that time, I lost myself a little bit. I discovered you can actually donate breast milk. I ended up donating 13 liters of breast milk to save premature babies. I’m also bone marrow registry and things like that. I’ve volunteered with homeless charities. I’ve invited homeless people to live in my house, three of which have accepted. I’ve done… I put my hand for anything that comes along. Since receiving the Order of Australia medal, I’ve also started volunteering with the SCS, which is a first response emergency service in Australia for floods and rescues and things like that.

Jellis Vaes
Wow. Well, It sounds like it’s well deserved. You did a lot of amazing things. What got you interested, actually, to become a part of Lifeline Australia and to do all these things? What was the first I know, start of the story for you, if there is something significant there?

Rebecca Hooke
I’m not 100% sure. The best that I can work out would be in high school days and things, which is when people start generally having bigger life problems. I had some friends that were struggling maybe with their mental health, with self-harm, with things like that. I tended to be the person that they’d come to speak about it with. That was obviously a great honor because they trusted me and they were comfortable talking with me, but I felt horribly ill-equipped, and I didn’t quite know what to do with it. I muddled through, and I was always worried that if I put a foot wrong and something happened to them, their responsibility would somehow fall to me, which isn’t correct, but it was how I felt at the time. That was always weighing on me, the fact that I tended to be the confidante of my friends. Then I went on to university and I did study psychology. I had some friends that went on to do Lifeline because it helped their resumes and things like that. I thought, Oh, I’ll give that a go, too. That might help me. I only really intended actually to join Lifeline to get me a foot in the door career-wise.

But it actually ended up becoming a lot more than that because I pursued after university, a completely different career, but I kept going with the Lifeline volunteering. I was working full-time, and then I’d work nights at Lifeline, overnights and things. Then eventually, I was looking at my day life and my night life, and they just weren’t aligning. I thought, You know what? I’m just going to go all in and do lifeline and do work like that. I haven’t looked back since.

Jellis Vaes
Now, 14 years later, you still work there.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah.

Jellis Vaes
Let’s dive into some of the questions that I have about suicides. I think maybe let’s first start with some just maybe general misunderstandings about it because there are quite a lot, I think, around suicides, and just some general insights around the topic. What is a misunderstanding about suicide that you hear all the time, or at least very often, that you want to clear once and for all here?

Rebecca Hooke
I’ll go with two. The big two that bother me are people saying that it’s either it’s a brave thing or it’s a weak thing, and it’s not brave to take your life, and it’s not weak to take your life. It’s simply an act of desperation by somebody that feels that they have no hope left. I don’t like either of those ends of the spectrum. That would be one. The other big one would be, it’s just around language. I don’t like it when… It’s a thing that we all do, but often people say, It’s suicide. It’s a callback to back in the day when it used to be either considered a sin or it was against the law to take your life. It’s in the back of your head that it’s judgmental language, and I don’t feel that’s appropriate to apply.

Jellis Vaes
To commit suicide, you don’t feel like that’s appropriate?

Rebecca Hooke
I think the language carries with it a lot of weight that adds to the guilt and the shame of suicide, and that’s not helpful for somebody that’s struggling with those It’s true.

Jellis Vaes
Do you feel like there’s actually any misunderstandings around people who work at the suicide line or at the crisis line?

Rebecca Hooke
Misunderstandings of what kind?

Jellis Vaes
I don’t know, for the people who work there or any misunderstandings about the suicide line in general that people have or that you’ve heard people have.

Rebecca Hooke
When I tend to tell people what I do for work, They go, Oh, that’s so hard. I could never do that. It’s not for everybody. That’s very much true. But they just think, Oh, my goodness, the weight. I could never possibly bear it. But it’s actually really an honor to hear people share their pain with you and to be so raw and so open and so honest. It’s a privilege. I’m just so lucky to be in that position, I think.

Jellis Vaes
It’s quite a unique position, actually. It’s true.

Rebecca Hooke
As I see it, the people that ring are in pain often 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They don’t get an escape from it. If I can be on the phone with them for 20 minutes, half an hour, an hour, whatever it ends up being, and give them some relief for that brief period of time, then that’s fine. It costs me very little compared to what it might gain them. I’m more than happy to do that because I can go back to my life, which is relatively a lot easier than perhaps what they’re living with. It’s not so hard as people might imagine.

Jellis Vaes
Don’t you find it hard, though, to end the call, to do not know? Because it’s anonymous, right? Do not know what will happen with them?

Rebecca Hooke
It can be difficult in some ways. Yes, you’re right. All of our callers are anonymous, and we very much protect their anonymity and also ours. It’s a safe place for both parties that way. It makes it easier for people to open up if they never have to speak to me again, they don’t have to see me in the street. A lot of the people that call us might actually have people that love them and that care for them in their life that they could open up to. But what holds them back is the fact that, I have to see you again tomorrow. We’ve just had this really heavy conversation that’s so daunting. It’s easier, often at least as a first step, to open up to a stranger Yeah. So yes, it’s anonymous. I forgot the second part of your question. I’m sorry.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, sure. When you’re on a call with them and you end the call and you don’t know, how are they going to be, isn’t that a hard thing, the not knowing parts of how they are?

Rebecca Hooke
It can be, and it’s something that we need to overcome. Sometimes we do know. Sometimes we will get somebody to the where they’ve come up with their own plan that’s going to keep them safe. They’ve decided who they’re going to tell, they’ve decided what they’re going to do. They’ve gotten rid of their means of ending their life or whatever it might be, or they’ve said, Yeah, okay, I do actually needs some help. Can you get an ambulance here? That thing, and we’ve heard them arrive. Sometimes we do actually get a pretty clear outcome that they’re safe. Sometimes we don’t. But at the end of the day, we know that we’ve done the best that we can, and We also know, I think that ultimately it’s not up to us. If somebody wants to take their life, they’re going to do it anyway. A lot of the people that call us, there is at least a small part of them that wants to stay safe. That’s what we’ve got to work with. As I see it, and this is what I tell our students too, you really can’t leave somebody in a worse position than when they call.

They’re calling when they’re pretty much at rock bottom, and we can talk to them, and we can hope that by talking to them, they end up feeling a little bit better, or maybe they have some hope, or they have some steps, or they’ve got a bit of an idea of what to do next, or at least we’ve killed some time, if nothing else. It’s going to be very It’s very difficult for us to actually make them worse off by speaking to us. I don’t really see how that could possibly happen. Just by calling, we’ve either done nothing, which is unlikely, or we’ve at least made it a little bit better for them. Yeah, that’s right. That’s a win.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. I did also a volunteering at the suicide line here in Belgium. It did not work as long as you did at it, But I do know also it’s about… The goal should be about giving them another day to go on, right? Knowing that you made their day at least a little bit better and that they might at at least be here another day longer. That’s a bit of the goal and the thing to focus on, or that’s at least what I have been told there.

Rebecca Hooke
Because being in crisis, it tends to be temporary. When you’re in the thick of it, it can feel all-consuming and you can’t possibly see beyond the blackness that you’re feeling in the moment. But these moments pass and all we can do, or I think the most effective thing we can do is just be there with them and buy them a little bit of time and a little bit of time. Maybe sometimes the safe plan that we come up with for somebody is, Ring us back in an hour. That’s fine. Ring us back in the morning. Go and get some sleep, go and have a shower, go and have something to eat, go for a walk. Ring us back. That time can often get them just little steps, can get them through the really awful parts.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, and knowing that they’re at least not alone and that there is someone out there that they can call to.

Rebecca Hooke
I don’t know what it’s like in Belgium. In Australia, it’s 24/7, so they’ve always got that. Yeah, that’s good.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, it should be, right? It should be. Now, of course, suicide, it happens to everyone. I mean, it happens to any ages, right? Any skin color, any background that you have. It can happen to anyone.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, it doesn’t discriminate.

Jellis Vaes
No. Yeah. But of course, there is always… It does happen to some more than others, right?

Rebecca Hooke
Mm-hmm.

Jellis Vaes
Could you maybe provide some insights into who calls the most to the suicide line? Which age, which gender, which ethnicity? Who is at the highest at risk?

Rebecca Hooke
I think the thing to remember is that no one is immune, so Again, it can happen to anybody, but you’re right, there are trends. I think at the moment, it’s that about 75% of the people that will complete suicide in Australia, and that’s not who feels suicidal, that’s who actually ends their life, are men. In Australia, at least, I don’t know international statistics, I apologize, but it’s the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 44, which is my cohort. It’s astronomical to think that if you’re going to die in that age group, it’s most likely going to be suicide than anything else. There’s also a trend that’s been happening where older people Suicide rates have actually spiked, at least in my country, in older groups. So 85 years plus, particularly men, tends to be a big killer lately. I think that’s driven by loneliness.

Jellis Vaes
I just wanted I was going to ask, can you see why it’s increasing besides loneliness? Is there any other components of the increase of that?

Rebecca Hooke
I don’t have facts to back me up. If I had to guess just by the people that I’ve spoken to on the phones, I’d say loneliness would be a big thing. Quality of life declining would be a big thing. Although we’re living longer, it’s not necessarily a great quality of life. Isolation, financial pressures, that thing I would say would probably be big driving forces, but I’m not going to say that with confidence.

Jellis Vaes
For the people who are 85 plus, I can 100% see how loneliness is a reason why they might develop these thoughts. But for the people who are 15 up to 44, is it also mostly loneliness or what are the reasons why they mostly call to you?

Rebecca Hooke
I think relationships tend to be a big core reason for everybody, whether it’s feeling disconnected, feeling misunderstood, feeling like you’re lacking closeness in your relationships. That’s definitely a big thing. It’s very different because who you are at 15 and who you are at 44 is a very different person. They’ll all have different challenges along the age span. Sometimes, I’d say at the younger side, it could be just that lack of maybe life experience. You haven’t gone through many hardships as such. You might not realize the resilience that you do actually have within you. That can be something, just not realizing you’re 15, you’re going through your first heartbreak. It It feels like your world’s ending. You can’t see beyond that pain, that thing. We’re all a bit older. We’ve had breakups and things happen. It sucks, but you get through it. I’d say getting towards the older age, it could be family breakdown, it could be financial pressures. We’ve just come out of COVID. That’s caused some problems. It’s going to be different for everyone, and I don’t really like to generalize too much. Sure. I will add, though, that There was a report in Australia that said one in three people are feeling lonely, and that does definitely drive thoughts of suicide.

Rebecca Hooke
Being lonely doesn’t mean you don’t have friends or family. It just means that you feel lonely. It means you don’t feel comfortable opening up to them. It means you’re holding back. You’re in your own inner world, even though you’re surrounded by people.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. You can be You can be not alone and not feel lonely, but you can be not alone and feel lonely.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, precisely.

Jellis Vaes
Was there actually during Corona? It’s past us now, but it still has maybe some effects on people for sure. But was there an increase in amount of calls to the suicide line?

Rebecca Hooke
I’m not so up to date with the statistics. Being on the phones, it certainly felt like If not, it was… I feel there was an increase in calls. I believe there was. But certainly a lot more call is even if it wasn’t their primary reason for calling, now I’m mentioning it. Whatever problems they already had, it was adding to them. I mean, it was a big thing. It took over everyone’s life. It was all anyone was talking about for a good two years or so. Whatever you were going through, it just added to it and made it worse.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. It was driving the isolation and with that It made your loneliness more, right?

Rebecca Hooke
It was not the best thing. It made so many things worse. It made domestic violence worse because you might be stuck in a house with your abuser. It made substance use worse. It made financial pressures worse. It made the stresses of parenting worse. It’s just everything. Everything hard got worse, I think.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, I think most people are quite happy that it’s over now, right? Yeah. I You recall, because it’s been years ago that I did the training at the suicide line, but that… I mean, the most people who struggle or who take their own life are men, but most women do call to the suicide line. The least people who call are men. Is that true? Do you notice that from your own experience?

Rebecca Hooke
Again, I’m not very au fait with stats. I know how it feels. Yeah, sure. And that can be… Some shifts have themes, almost. It’s like, Oh, I had all men tonight, or I had all breakups, or all health issues. From walking away from it, I’d say actually it feels like a relatively even split. I do know that women find it a lot easier to reach out to help. It tends to be pretty much a universal fact. But I think in Australia, Lifeline is really, really well known. Men are as aware of it as women are, and it’s pretty well known as a safe place to call, so anonymous. Anyone that needs to talk to somebody that feels like they can’t speak to people in their life might be more willing to ring. I think we talk to the men that wouldn’t talk to anybody else, and we talk to the women that are probably talking to everybody else as well. We get a bit of both.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, okay, good. That’s good to hear, actually, because I do feel like I recall something, but at least here in Belgium, that That it was way more women calling them men.

Rebecca Hooke
That may well be true. Again, I work mostly nights, and so that changes who I’m speaking to as well versus people that work in the morning or in the afternoon or on weekends. It’s all going to be sharing different demographics.

Jellis Vaes
When I was actually dealing with these thoughts and these feelings, the hardest thing, looking back now is to explain to people how these thoughts slipped into my head. It’s very hard for people who never had these feelings, never struggled with these thoughts, to understand how someone could ever end up taking their own life. Very hard. Is there anything that you could share, maybe of some insights that you’ve learned from your training for people to understand or listening how these thoughts could develop? I could share my own thoughts on this as well, but I’ll let you go first.

Rebecca Hooke
I think your insights would be very valuable. But I think, going back to what I was saying before, no one’s immune, and all it takes is the right circumstance for anyone to be susceptible to those thoughts creeping in and taking potentially a really, really strong hold. I think at Lifeline, it might be a little bit different than in Belgium, but at Lifeline, what we do is we speak to everybody. We’re speaking to people that are homeless. We’re speaking to very rich celebrities. We’re speaking to people all around the country. We’re speaking to people that are of every different ethnic background, every different walk of life, that thing. We get such a different perspective on who rings. Really, I’ve heard from everybody. In terms of what gets people to that point, though, I think it’s just when you lose hope, when that dark curtain comes down and you can’t see beyond it, and that’s really, really tough. Sorry, I lost my place.

Jellis Vaes
I’m not sure what to say. No, it’s okay. Let me add just my own thoughts a bit on this because I feel confused sometimes just thinking back about that time. Because now I’m in a really good place. It’s really hard for me to feel like, Oh, yeah, I could just so easily develop these thoughts again. But it’s really like you said, the part where you just lose hope, where you don’t see the end of the tunnel anymore. Often it is, or at least in my experience, a combination of multiple ingredients that lead to the development of these thoughts. It’s something that develops over a prolonged amount of time. It’s not just you don’t wake up the next day and say, I have suicidal thoughts now. It’s something that slowly builds up more and more.

Rebecca Hooke
And you don’t notice it.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. Yeah. Until you’re like, Oh, wow, maybe I shouldn’t in my life. Maybe I don’t belong here, or maybe people are better off without me or the world without me.

Rebecca Hooke
Can I jump on what you said there, if that’s okay? Yeah, sure. Because I hear that sentence so much, and that’s probably one of the other things that bothers me. So many people say, Everyone will be better off without me. I’m a problem. I’m a burden. My partner, my children, my family, my friends, my boss, they’d all be better off without me. All I am is a problem. And that is so untrue. I think what sticks with me is that I’ve spoken over 14-ish years. I’ve spoken to a lot of people that are suicidal, I hear that so often. But on the flip side, I’ve spoken to a lot of people that have lost somebody from suicide, that have been bereaved by suicide. And not a single person that I’ve spoken to on that side of the coin has ever said, Gee, I’m glad mom killed herself, or life’s so much easier now that my daughter’s dead. Nobody has ever said that. They were all left with questions and pain and wanting to know if they could have done anything. Just a lifetime of just wondering and what ifs and looking and constantly analyzing. Then those thoughts entering their own minds.

Rebecca Hooke
If it was, if she couldn’t cope, how could I possibly? That everyone’s better off without me is something I really want to push back on. Because it’s such an easy thing to think. Somebody does a big sigh or they’re like, Oh, my God, you’re too much today, or whatever. It’s easy to get into that mindset, but it’s so untrue.

Jellis Vaes
You’re right. It is untrue. Now, being where I am today, I can totally see that it’s very untrue. But when you’re in that place, I don’t know, it’s hard to say that that’s not true.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, it feels real to you.

Jellis Vaes
I do like what you shared that no one is immune, and that’s That is really something that is really brand new in my head, too, from my training, because the teacher also told us that no one is immune. It was also someone who was also at the training who shared She shared a story that she heard someone who was a volunteer at the suicide line actually committing suicide himself. The teacher responded on that, that no one is immune. You can have all the knowledge about it. Life still hits you sometimes so hard that you don’t know how to handle it. Really, no one is immune.

Rebecca Hooke
Thank you for sharing that. It sounds like it was a very heavy experience that you went through.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, it’s Brandon in my head because everyone in the group was so surprised by that story. But it, again, highlights that we’re all humans, no one is immune. Life controls so many things that are so hard to deal with.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah.

Jellis Vaes
When you are on a call with someone and you end the call, how is it actually for you? After 14 years talking with people who have these thoughts and these feelings, what thoughts and feelings does this evoke in you?

Rebecca Hooke
I think if you’re doing it well and you’re handling it well, it’s a knife-edge balance between… In order to be effective, you need to connect with the caller, and that means giving a bit of yourself to them, at least during the call. And so heavy calls will impact you, but you also need to be functioning, to take the next call, to go off after your shift and live the rest of your life. So you have to keep a bit of yourself outside of it and have a little protective bubble. So it does impact you. We’re really lucky, at least where I work. We have great debriefing. We have great supervisors. I’m I’m actually a supervisor, so I have to say that. But we have great supervisors to debrief with and to speak with after the call. Fantastic support. We’re encouraged to take breaks, do a lot of self-care at the end of every shift. We do a big talk about what we’re going to do to look after ourselves and keep a buffer between the work and the rest of our life. Occasionally, there will be a call that will stay with you, and it might stay with you because it was a little too close to home or it was a topic that that you’re particularly sensitive about, or you were just in a more fragile place that day and it just got through the chinks in your armor.

For whatever reason, there will be some calls that will stay with you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as long as You cultivate self-awareness around it and it’s not having a detrimental impact on you. I think if we took the calls that we took all day, every day, and nothing got through to us, that would be a pretty clear sign that we were burnt out and that we shouldn’t be taking calls. It’s that very fine balance.

Jellis Vaes
A bit like what you said in the beginning that when you tell people what you do, that most are like, Oh, I could never do that. It’s the ability to, once you end the call in your home, to let go a bit of those things, right?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. Usually, we try to keep a buffer between work and home. It used to be that it could be commuting or going for a walk or listening to a song or driving in the car or going out for a coffee or whatever, just some little space.

The IPS Academy
Hey, sorry to interrupt the interview here with Rebecca and me. If you want to learn more about mental health, about relationships, about the mind, body and brain, then I could recommend you to have at least a look at the courses that we offer at The IPS Academy because the courses there are made with the guests that I’ve had here on the show. There are many more courses in the making. There are quite some more exciting courses on the horizon that I can’t wait to release in the near future. My intent is to make them, well, of course, insightful and practical that you could actually do something with once you took the course, but also to make them fun and entertaining. I work with each course with an animator to make lots of animations in them, lots of illustrations. It’s also fun and engaging to actually take these courses. Besides them being very practical, they are also fun and engaging to watch. So check The IPS Academy. I will put in the description a link to the academy, but you can also go directly to theipsproject.com/academy to find the courses that we offer so far.

Jellis Vaes
They’re all made with guests that I’ve had here on the show. So if you want to learn more in-depth things from them, spend quality one-on-one time with them virtually, then the courses are a great That’s a great thing to check out. All right, let’s return back now to the interview with Rebecca. Let’s learn a bit more about suicides and how to help someone who has these thoughts, or if you assume that they have these thoughts. What I feel what you learn at the suicide line are, I mean, personally, I think life skills that I feel everyone should have. It’s a bit like first aid, right? I personally feel like everyone should learn.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s mental health, first aid.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, exactly, right? Yet that doesn’t exist. There’s no emotional first aid class like you have for first aid, which is ridiculous if you think Where I work, we actually run courses.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s called the Accidental counselor, and it’s the people who find themselves in the role of counselor who aren’t counselors. It’s teachers or it’s hairdressers or it’s train drivers, people like that who end up talking to these people in huge amounts of distress, but are like, I’m not a mental health professional. What am I doing? It’s a crash course, and I think that’s really useful. Something like that to be taught to everybody would just be so valuable.

Jellis Vaes
That’s amazing. Okay. I don’t know if we actually have that in Belgium.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s a good thing. It’s like you can do it for a few hours or a half day or something like that, and it just makes you feel a little bit less like, What do I do? Someone’s in a crisis and has reached out to me.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, truly. That’s amazing. Even if it does exist in Belgium, it’s not so well promoted then compared to first aid. I feel like these things should be equally promoted because these wounds both got very Deep, right? Physical wounds and emotional wounds got both very, very deep.

Rebecca Hooke
I imagine in your life, a lot of the people that know… I know a little bit about your story. A lot of the people that know you would probably… Your story might have prompted them to go out and renew their CPR certificate or their first aid thing. You’re like, Oh, my goodness, what if I’m with him and something happens? I might need to do something. But by the flip side, somebody that’s had a history of, say, depression or self-harmed or something like that. I don’t know if people then go out and be like, Oh, how do I have a conversation around someone that’s struggling?

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, maybe. You’re talking about my cardiac arrest, right? Yes. You’re actually right. My girlfriend learned how to drive a car because of it, because she didn’t have a license yet. A friend also had CPR training because of what happened to me. But I guess you’re right, maybe if you know someone is-But when you were feeling suicidal, How did people go out and learn how to talk to somebody in a mental health crisis? Way less. I’m sure there’s some, but way less. But maybe that’s not because they don’t want to, but just because they don’t know where to do that or where to learn that.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, that’s a good point. There’s a big gap there.

Jellis Vaes
When you are at the line, someone calls to you, how does such a When the conversation start?

Rebecca Hooke
They’ve called us, so it starts how they’re ready to start it. We’re very patient. Some people might ring, and they might just cry for the first few minutes. That’s okay. We’ll check, are you safe? That thing. Then we’ll just say, Okay, you take your time. We’re here when you’re ready. Or it could be that they need to get a lot of anger out of the start, or they might just need to blurt their entire story out and we don’t get a word in for 20 minutes or whatever it might be. Or it could be that they say hi, and then nothing really happens, and it’s blood from a stone, and we can see they’re hurting, but they’re not quite ready yet to open up. We need to build their trust and build that connection first. Really, how it starts is entirely dependent upon them because it’s whatever they’re ready for. They’ve reached out. But the very first thing, and this is on the phones, this is in day-to-day life, would just be listening. Listening is far more important than anything you say.

Jellis Vaes
What if they started talking a bit? How do you start talking about the actual suicidal thoughts that they have? How do you assess how deep these thoughts might go? Aims maybe at someone listening right now who wants to learn how to do this in life as well. It’s not at the line, but just in real life. How do you start to talk about suicide with someone if you assume that they might have these thoughts? How do you assess how far it goes?

Rebecca Hooke
I think being straightforward is important. So not beating around the bush. We don’t want to saying things like, You’re not going to do anything stupid, are you? ‘ is ambiguous and it’s unhelpful and it shuts down a conversation. So trying to avoid that. Worst way to start. Also, though, I think even if you completely botch what you say, as long as you say it with With kindness and with trying to help, the actual words themselves don’t have to be perfect. There’s no perfect magic formula. The big tips, I’d say, would be making it safe for them to speak, so not shutting down, not acting in shock. Inside, you might be panicking a little bit, but right now you are their rock, so be their rock. What else? Letting them know that you care that you’re there for them, that you’re a safe person to talk to, especially if this is their first time reaching out. It’s really, really hard. You’re their first experience, maybe, of asking for help. That first experience they have will then determine how easy it is for them to go on and ask for help in other places later on. It’s quite important that you’re just open and accepting and you’re like, Okay, you’re struggling.

If you’re worried about someone for suicide or for their safety, I think just being really straightforward and really frank is important. You can tell them what you’re noticing. Hey, you haven’t been at our weekly dinner for the last couple of months, or you’re not going to mom’s group, or I haven’t seen you at netball, and whatever it might be that you’re noticing that’s got you concerns, just mention it. Just say, Hey, is everything okay? If If you continue to be worried, just say, You can ask, Are you feeling suicidal? Are you having thoughts about wanting to die? If you ask it unambiguously and really clearly, you’ll generally get a straightforward answer. People will be honest with you because you’ve been brave enough to ask. Then you know what you’re dealing with and they’ll say, Oh, no, things are really hard, but it’s not that bad. I’m just going through a funk, blah, blah, blah. You’re like, Okay, cool. No worries. Or they might say, Yeah, I am. Then you go, Okay, Let’s deal with it. But you know which camp you’re in when you ask and you don’t know otherwise.

Jellis Vaes
This is something that I also learned, and I think everyone there was also being trained, was surprised by Or at least here in Belgium, that’s the case, that someone is at the line, that you drop the words actually as soon as you can, in a way, that you drop the word suicide, because then we all can talk about it. The word is said.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s out. It’s It’s not taboo. Once you’ve said it, it’s on the table. You can talk about it.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. I do guess that if you want to talk with someone, not at the line, but just in life, just saying the word, saying if they have these thoughts, if they think about it, that’s the best way to start with the conversation and to really know what they’re thinking and feeling. If let’s say, that they are thinking about it, do you have any more tips to know how deep these thoughts might go? Any questions that you could ask to get a better idea what’s playing in their head?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. A lot of these might be situational or context cues, but just generally, I’d say you want to… Let’s say they are suicidal and they’ve been honest about it and say, Okay, that’s what you’re dealing with. It’d be good assess their safety. Let’s say it’s a phone conversation with a friend, you’re not face-to-face with them, and they’re obviously visibly upset, and they’ve said, Yes, they are suicidal. You want to find out, have they done anything already to hurt themselves, to endanger their life or if they have a plan to. Okay, you’re having thoughts. There’s a part of you that’s feeling like it wants to die. Do you have an intention to follow through on that? Do you have a plan? Where are you at? Again, that’s just drilling down on exactly how much risk you’re dealing with in the moment and working it out so you can figure out where to go from there. It’s like a choose your adventure.

Jellis Vaes
I guess, yeah. The part that you said about trust and feeling safe, which are key, right? How do you do that actually when you talk to a stranger who has no idea who you are? How do you build that trust and make them feel safe, that maybe listeners could also have a stakeways to use in their life. Is there anything that you see what you do on such moments to create that?

Rebecca Hooke
I think avoiding anything that might make them feel ashamed because these feelings are there for them. These feelings are very painful. The last thing they need is to add to their pain by feeling ashamed of them or like they can’t talk about them. Just being accepting of where they’re at and not saying, Why would you want to kill yourself? You’ve got an amazing job. You’ve got this holiday. You’ve got this fantastic house. That’s not helpful. Then they go like, Okay, I guess you’re right. Yeah, all good. They won’t talk to you again. Then they might not talk to somebody else again because I think that’s what people are going to think of me if I tell them.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, you’re inflicting guilt on them, right?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. Anything that avoids imparting shame or judgment upon them. Really just letting them know you care, letting them know that you’re there. Just even the words, I’m here for you. What do you need? What’s going to be helpful for you right now? Or take your time. Tell me. Just talk to me. Or we’ll figure this out. Just something. Let them know that they’re not in this alone, that they’ve got support, and that they don’t have to be feeling so isolated anymore. This is something they can talk about and they can reach out to help reach out for help with.

Jellis Vaes
Are there any other don’ts that you think about right now? Like the not inflicting guilt is a big one, right? Yeah. But any other really clear don’ts that you could share? Or maybe do’s if any of them come up.

Rebecca Hooke
I think, again, going back to the don’ts, I don’t want to impart too many don’ts because it’s hard when you’re thrust into this position to have a thousand different things going your mind, I must do this, I mustn’t do this. As long as you do it with kindness, it’ll be received okay. I think we can completely put our foot in the mouth and bumble the words. But as long as we’re doing our best and we’re showing that we care and we’re showing that we’re there for somebody, it doesn’t matter too much whether you get the words wrong. Just through your body language, through the kindness in your voice, you could say something really unfortunate or the It’s the wrong thing to say completely, but as long as you’re doing it in a nice way, it’s not going to do any real harm. Avoiding anything that makes them feel guilty or shame again.

Jellis Vaes
Minimizing is also a big one, right?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. Oh, it’s not that bad. Oh, you’re just having a rough day. What would you do that? Yeah, definitely. Because that, again, it shuts somebody down, and they’re not going to open up if they’re shut down.

Jellis Vaes
Exactly. Just listening with the intent to understand, I think, even if you don’t… You don’t have to agree, I guess, with what people say, but at least trying to understand why they’re saying this. That’s showing love in the end, right? Yeah. Understandment.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s making them feel less alone. People that are struggling with suicide often feel that they’re so alone in that struggle. Just sharing Sharing it with somebody and sharing it with somebody that’s accepting of them and their feelings can just be such a relief. There’s nothing in their whole situation that’s led them to the point of suicide could have changed, but just having shared that can make it a lot easier to deal with.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. Let’s say that you are on a call with someone because not every conversation on the suicide line or in real life, when you sit down ask how someone is, will go as you planned in your head, right? Yeah. Someone might become very angry, start shouting at you, have a panic attack, start crying. A lot of things can happen. How do you handle difficult conversations like that or challenging conversations like that? How do you handle those moments? Is there anything that you do?

Rebecca Hooke
I think just being patient and not taking things personally. If someone’s angry, they’re allowed to be angry. As long as they’re not directing abuse to me personally, they can rant and rave, and that’s fine. That’s them getting it out. If somebody just wants to cry, if somebody is shutting down, I think just recognizing that that’s them and their pain, and I just need to sit here and wait for them to be ready, that helps.

Jellis Vaes
How do you stay calm, actually, when someone is being extremely angry and just shouting words to you? How do you not take that personal? Maybe that’s how you stay calm by not taking it personal. But is there anything else that you do?

Rebecca Hooke
That’s a little bit of a gray zone. Okay. On the line, I have a pretty thick skin, so you can rant and rave and say everything under the me, and it’s not really going to faz me. Whereas other people that might be taking calls might be very sensitive, and they might not be able to handle hearing foul language, and that’s their boundary, and that’s just a personal boundary. We tend to encourage people to hold their personal boundaries. Also, we’re a service here. We’re primarily volunteers. We’re not here to be abused. We’ll give people warnings like, Hey, you’re going to need to rein that language in so I can keep supporting you. Just letting them know, Look, I can see you’re angry. That’s okay. Can you just not use those words? Then we can talk about all the things that are making you angry. Setting boundaries in a way. Let them know, give them a couple of warnings. Yeah, exactly. But again, just not taking it personally. People express their pain in so many different ways, and I’m just there being a witness to it, offering whatever might be useful to them.

Jellis Vaes
When the conversation comes When it comes to an end at the suicide line, you’re rounding it up, what is something maybe that you could give to someone listening when they are in a conversation with someone? To end that conversation and to know that they might be safe or to know that they might not slip deeper into these thoughts. Is there anything that you do at the suicide line to ensure their safety that you could share with anyone listening?

Rebecca Hooke
If someone’s been disclosed that they’re at some risk, like they’re struggling with some thoughts of suicide or they’ve had a plan and we’ve been able to disable it for the call or whatever it might be, ideally before the call ends, we want to have a backup for when those thoughts return because in all likelihood, they’re probably going to return. Somebody struggling with pain that’s been building and building and building in their life for usually a long period of time. One phone call is very unlikely to fix it. Sometimes we get lucky, but usually it’ll bring them some relief. It’ll buy them some time. But those thoughts are in all likelihood going to return. We want to have a plan. When you’re next in this spot, what can you do? Or to prevent yourself getting to this spot, what can you do? We like to put the responsibility It’s a possibility, ideally on the caller that’s seeking the help to come up with that because it’s going to be a lot more meaningful if they say, Yeah, okay, here’s what I could do, or Here’s someone I could reach out to, rather than us saying, Do this, do this, do this.

We’re not an expert in their life. They are. We can work with them and we can suggest some things. If they’re completely at a loss for ideas, we’ll come up with… We’ll be like, What about your GP? What about your mom? What about whoever it might be. But we try to encourage them to come up with a safe plan to either prevent them getting to this point again or to figure out what to do when they’re at this point so that they’re not in danger. Sometimes that might be… In Australia, we have apps on phones. There’s a safety planning app for people that have recurrent suicidal thoughts or that struggle with self-harm or whatever it might be. There’s apps for everything, I’m sure you’re aware. But it could also just be having a list of people that you call or just recognizing, You know what? When I’m overwhelmed, I find it really helpful to watch YouTube or to listen to some music or to go for a walk or to eat a tub of ice cream, whatever it might be. That’s something that makes me feel better in the moment. Then once I finish doing that activity, I check in with myself and, You know what?

I’m feeling a bit better, so okay. Or it could just be calling back, and that’s fine. People can call back as much as they need to. We would much, much rather going Back to our service, I guess. Sorry. Lifeline, our service is suicide prevention and crisis support. Primarily, I guess we’re suicide prevention, but a big part of that which people tend to miss is the crisis support. I think most people that work on the line would agree with this. I would much rather that people ring us when they’re in crisis before it gets to the point of suicide. Because there’s no need to go through that extra pain. If you can nip it in the bud in the early stages, fantastic. There’s no medal for going through more suffering than you need to.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, you’re right. What if actually someone doesn’t want to accept help or doesn’t want to refuse this support? How do you deal with that actually? Or what do you do?

Rebecca Hooke
I would say we’re unlikely to speak to that person because the people that have picked up the phone and reached out, there’s at least a very small fraction of them that does want help. That’s the part that we’re appealing to. That’s the part that we’re working with. Even if most of them is like, nothing’s going to work. I’ve tried everything. It’s hopeless. I’m really determined I’m going to go through with it. At the end of the day, they did pick up the phone. We’re working with that.

Jellis Vaes
Or maybe if they’re uncomfortable to accept help outside of the suicide line, what would you say to someone who might be having these thoughts and who just is really uncomfortable or not sure to reach out to someone close by them?

Rebecca Hooke
I think a lot of times people do feel uncomfortable reaching out, which is why our service is quite good in that it’s easier to reach out over the phone or over text message or over online chat because they can disconnect it. They never have to talk to us again. They never have to see us again. That’s where their first impression often for reaching out for help. That’s why we determine whether they then go on and feel comfortable to try other people. If they’re not comfortable reaching out to other people, you’d want to explore, I suppose, why? What’s stopping them? What makes it so hard? Is there something that would make it easier? Maybe sitting down with your spouse or your lecturer or whatever and having that conversation is really, really daunting and you don’t think you can do it. Write them a letter. They can read it in their own time. You don’t have to see their reactions. Just trying to break down the barriers of why it would be hard and what might make it more manageable for them.

Jellis Vaes
I remember because I had these thoughts when I was in high school. This is quite common, I guess, too, that I thought I was the only one who was feeling this way and that no one would understand me if I would share it to them. I do also remember that I tried a desperate attempt to share it with a teacher that I was not doing okay or not feeling okay. But I feel like, yeah.

Rebecca Hooke
How was it received, if I can ask?

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, a bit neutral, I think. I think She cared, I guess. But I know that she didn’t actually really pick up on that and talk more about or dive more deeper into my feelings and thoughts, but that at some point, Just, I don’t know, some days or weeks later, they picked me out of the class, some person, which, if I look back now, was quite a red flag because, of course, everyone asked me afterwards why I was I was taking out of the class, and I was super uncomfortable to share anything about this. I was just taken by some guy to a room who asked me if I wanted to share anything, which it was a strange room. Didn’t know it, didn’t feel safe, didn’t feel safe with that person. So of course, I just said, Yeah, I’m okay. I don’t know. I’m not really thinking about it.

Rebecca Hooke
It wasn’t handled very sensitively by the sounds of it.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, no. I’m sure all of them cared and all of them wanted to do the best. But what are maybe things that frustrate you that school do, that schools do or that parents do or anything else in society that could have been handled differently to make talking about suicides easier and better to do?

Rebecca Hooke
I think that’s a really big question, and I’m not… Actually, I had a really powerful experience just a few days ago. Where I work at Lifeline, we have a support group, an in-person support group for people that have survived suicide attempts. They’re people that have actively tried to take their life and who’ve come out the other side, and they meet. We had a professional development, actually, with, I think, six of them that came came in and told us about their experiences. They all had such very different experiences, like different things that led them to help, different things that they’d received from people in their own life, varying levels of support, different experiences in the hospital system, whatever else. They all spoke about that. I think just hearing that diversity was so powerful and their honesty was so powerful. I think lived experience, hearing about it helps. You sharing story there so candidly and so honestly, there’ll be so many listeners that you’ll have that will relate to that. They’ll be like, Oh, I thought I was the only one, just like how you thought you were the only one. Hearing other people’s stories, I think, is such a powerful thing.

It’s not me sitting here anecdotally saying things. It’s actually someone that’s been through it on the other side said, No, I was here. This is what happened. I think that’s really powerful. That’s probably the most powerful thing. People just being honest about their experiences and sharing it. And that gives hope as well.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, it’s true. That those people ended up surviving and doing good in life and feeling okay. Is there anything that you think schools could do differently or better around mental health, maybe in general? Of course, around suicide, too. And I don’t know how it is in Australia, right?

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. I I feel like we’ve got so much more focus on mental health these days compared to even 10, 20 years ago.

Jellis Vaes
Definitely, yeah.

Rebecca Hooke
But I do feel we haven’t actually seen necessarily an improvement in mental health as a result of that. That’s a little bit perplexing in some ways. I think we’ve got more visibility than ever, but we haven’t dealt with, I guess, the preventative steps, so building resilience and coping skills. We know how to recognize when someone’s in really poor mental health and struggling with their mental health, but we don’t know how to prevent them getting to that point. I think there’s a lot of focus now on the visibility on mental health when it’s deteriorated, but not about preventing it. I’d say earlier intervention and a focus on how to create good mental health rather than how to deal with bad mental health is equally important, if not more.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, I think you’re right. Focusing more on how to build resilience and how that looks like. Because trauma, for example, is a word that’s been thrown everywhere.

Rebecca Hooke
Everyone has trauma.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, exactly.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s lost all meaning sometimes, I feel. But yeah.

Jellis Vaes
No, you’re right. I mean, no one. Yeah. Not to say for someone listening, if they have gone through something that it might definitely not have been very traumatic, but not- That’s the point I’ll jump on, too, because I’ve got this from the What is a crisis to one person is not a crisis to everybody.

Rebecca Hooke
We’re not here to judge the level of somebody’s crisis. Someone can go through the most horrific situation I could possibly imagine in the world, and they’re dealing with it quite well. They’re dealing with it better than I’m dealing with for getting my shopping list at the grocery store, whatever it might be. They’re just handling it like a trooper versus somebody else that’s dealing with what I would consider a minor inconvenience, and they’re ready to take their life over it. We’re not here to judge either end of the spectrum because everyone’s an individual. Everyone has different levels of coping. What’s a crisis to one person isn’t going to be a crisis to everybody. That is what it is. I think going back to that, too. A lot of people that are in very, very dire need of support feel either they don’t reach out or they’re very, very reluctant and guilty about reaching out because they think, Oh, I shouldn’t be asking for help because so many people have it worse off than me. So many people have it harder, and I don’t want to use the resources. We get a lot of callers that ring up, and it tends to be the callers that need support the most.

They say, Look, I won’t take much of your time, and I’m sure you’ve got more important people to speak to. It’s just that… Then they’ll tell us the most heartbreaking story. I think I’d like to get the message out there that you don’t have to wait until you’re the person in the world that is suffering the most before you feel like you’re worthy for asking for support. There’s no reason to go through that. Let’s get help to you while you’re suffering because you’re just as worthy. Maybe we can prevent some extra suffering, and that’s a good thing.

Jellis Vaes
Yes, you’re so right. These are quite destructive thoughts, actually, to have. Yeah, and it’s really. I guess in a way, it’s good to have perspective, to be like, Oh, well, I could have it worse. But I also think there is a A negative side to doing that, or some people certainly always try to say, Oh, people could have it worse. But you’re not being there for yourself when you do that.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, it’s your perspective. You could look at somebody in a much worse situation and see them as an inspiration. I’m having a really tough time right now, but look at this person. They’ve gone through such hardships and they’re absolutely killing it in life. Wow, I’m going to look up to them and be like, If they can do it, I can do it. That’s a really positive way of it. Or you could be like, Oh, they have it so much harder, so I can’t ask for help, so I just have to suffer here alone and not share my burdens and get worse and worse and worse progressively. It’s whether it helps you or hinders you, I think.

Jellis Vaes
Let me ask first how much time you still have. Because I’m not going to keep you here. It’s the middle of the night here.

Rebecca Hooke
My four-year-old doesn’t wake up for five hours.

Jellis Vaes
I forgot to ask in the beginning what time it was there. But yes, it’s dark. I see now. Okay, Okay. Well, I’m not going to keep you here the whole night, but I just have a few more questions. I did, I mean, some years ago, an interview here with Mark Henning, who is quite a known person advocating for mental health. He used to struggle with suicidal thoughts. He actually attempted suicide at some point. I made from that interview a couple of small clips and placed it on YouTube, and they received a lot of comments. I just want to read a couple of comments to you to just hear your thoughts on how you would respond to them if there would be someone calling to you. There are two comments that are, I guess, around the same team, and I would say they’re self-hate and self-blame. I think maybe in the beginning, we talked a bit about this already, but let me just read them. This is from one comment from someone, If I only had the courage, if I only wasn’t a coward. And this is another comment, a bit more extensive, a bit longer.

Nobody cares, nobody’s interested. It’s all my fault. They always want to tell me how bad I am, that I’m a failure. They only want to blame me. I am always a bad person, and I’m tired of being the bad one. I’m not bad. I promise. It’s just that I’m nobody. I’m a failure. I hate it here. I hate it, hate it. I know the world would be okay without me. If you would have someone like this calling to you, how would you just… I don’t know. What would you say to that person?

Rebecca Hooke
I’d start by listening, so trying to understand why that’s their perspective in the first place, because I can jump in and say, No, that’s not true. Everyone loves you. You’re worthy. That’s not going to be particularly helpful, and they’re not going to hear it, and they’re certainly not going to take it in.

Jellis Vaes
They’re not going to believe that.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, just approaching with curiosity about, Wow, that’s really dark. It seems like you feel like you’ve been rejected by a lot of people in your life. What’s caused you to feel that way? Just hearing them, I think, is a good opening point. And then taking it from there.

Jellis Vaes
I have two more comments. Also just going to read them out to you and let’s see what you will say to them or just your thoughts or opinion about them. Everyone loves you once you’re gone. Another comment. If people tried to get help before, they call them attention seekers. If an attempt fails, they call themselves harmers. When they succeed, they say, Why didn’t they reach out? I do also personally know from my own experience that when I was having these thoughts, a bit the story that I shared, that I felt like no one cared about my thoughts and feelings. Looking back now, I think because they didn’t know that I was actually having these thoughts. Not because they didn’t care, probably, but just they didn’t know. But that is, I think, quite a common feeling that people have with these thoughts. Yeah, I agree. Is there anything that you want to share? Any thoughts that came in when you heard those from from those two people.

Rebecca Hooke
I think you’re right with what you said there. That is their really common viewpoints. That’s why at the very, very start, what I said was it’s not brave, it’s not cowardly, it’s It’s an act of desperation from someone that’s lost hope. People do say those things, and I think it’s not necessarily that it’s what they actually believe. It’s just a shorthand of expressing something that’s really, really complex, those feelings. Sometimes we get lazy with our communication and we say things, and then we don’t realize how it’s being perceived by other people. That’s the message that they’re taking away from what we’ve said. That’s the good message.

Jellis Vaes
How could you actually give hope back to these people, though? Is it by just being there and letting them know that you are there for them? Or is there something more? Or is it something that’s up to them?

Rebecca Hooke
I’m not there to give anyone hope. Their reason for living isn’t going to be me at the end of the phone. I’m there to bear a witness and to maybe hold their hand for part of the journey, but I’m not going to be what saved somebody’s life. It ultimately it’s their choice. What gives people hope is going to be different for everybody. I find responsibility of some kind can people. Whether it’s, I’m feeling really suicidal, but my boss is relying on me and I’ve got to be at work on Monday, so I’m going to have to call for the… Or I really want to die, but who’s going to feed the dog? Or what would my kids do? They’d be left with their grandparents and they’re useless or whatever it might be. Responsibility helps, even if I have this particular faith and that would look down upon suicide, so I couldn’t possibly bring shame. It works. It keeps It’s not the best reason. So responsibility helps. Obviously, the better version of that would be having some meaning to your life. I think we’re going back to Victor Frankl thing that no matter what you’re suffering through.

If you can see some purpose or some reason for it that drives you, then you can bear any situation.

Jellis Vaes
I guess responsibility could be a first thing to go for, and then the next level would be to aim for meaning.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. Meaning is great.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah.

Rebecca Hooke
You can go through the most tremendous pain if you have a reason behind it. Not that you want to go through pain. Suffering isn’t the goal, but suffering is going to happen.

Jellis Vaes
But it will happen. Yeah, exactly. Life will throw random things at you or just events that will cause suffering.

Rebecca Hooke
Nobody’s life is going to turn out the way that they plan it because we all have big dreams for our career for our family, for our leisure activities, our accomplishments. In our dreams, we never factor in all of the hurdles and the obstacles and things that will happen, but they’ll happen, and we have to have a way of dealing with them.

Jellis Vaes
The book that you You mentioned Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Franklin, is there any other resources just that you think of that could be like any other books, for example, or anything else for someone who would want to help someone who might be having these thoughts, or also for someone who might be listening who has these thoughts?

Rebecca Hooke
I might not be the best person to ask. I hate self-help books. They really get under my skin and I can’t stand them. They promote this aggression.

Jellis Vaes
Can I ask why? I’m just curious.

Rebecca Hooke
I find them really… I probably haven’t read the right ones, and that’s what people will tell me, but I find them really patronizing in some ways. They simplify things too much, and it’s like, Well, that’s just not realistic. I do love Man’s Search for Man, though. I find that one a really meaty one. I think I just haven’t received the right books, but I love reading. Anything that’s an escape, anything that helps you is good. I know a lot of us on the phones at the helpline, we avoid the news. A lot of people are going to say, Oh, you need to know what’s going on in the around you and you can’t put your head in the sand. I agree with that, but you find out the important things anyway. I think just having some filter where you’re not exposing yourself to the negativity 24/7, you’re not missing much apart from just being constantly dragged down. So choosing what you expose yourself to.

Jellis Vaes
Having a little bit of protection. You’re so right on that. I think if people would cut away the news and News is also on social media, right? You also get a lot of news feed on there. I think also cutting that away intentionally, that could be really great for a lot of people, I think.

Rebecca Hooke
If you’re saying the world is a very dark place just in yourself, and then you switch on the news and there’s a war here, there’s a murder here, there’s violence here, there’s unrest here, there’s everything going on, you’re like, Wow, it is terrible. It doesn’t really help.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah, it confirms what you already believe. But the thing is, and maybe this is also good for people to know, that that is just a selected amount of truth that is not the whole truth. Maybe just a really small percentage of the truth. Which is right. Most things in the world go right, not wrong.

Rebecca Hooke
It’s just… There’s a lot of good in the world. We get to hear that, too, which is lovely.

Jellis Vaes
For people listening listening who might just want to help someone or get better at that or learn more about that, is there any resource that you would have for them?

Rebecca Hooke
I would say you can Google. If you want to know how to have the conversation, have difficult conversations, there’s so many free resources just to Google tips and strategies and things like that. I’d also encourage people, perhaps, to just do a check-in with themselves to know if they’re ready for that because they might get really inspired and decide to go out there. Sometimes you can take on too much and it’s not helpful. If someone’s going through a dark time, you want to throw them a life preserver, you don’t want to get in the water and drown with them because that doesn’t help them. It just means you’re in a dark place as well. I think having that self-awareness is good. Looking after yourself so that you can then look after the people around you. Yeah.

Jellis Vaes
To check in with yourself if you might actually be ready to take all that info in.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. In terms of like, if you want to go out and do something nice, just go be kind. Just go be kind to somebody or be generous in your assumptions of other people. Someone cuts you off in traffic, they’re not a jerk. Maybe they’re racing their sick child to hospital. That may or may not be true. Maybe they are a jerk, but why would we presume? Why would we presume the worst? Because I think just go out and be kind to people. Be generous in your assumptions.

Jellis Vaes
It’s changing the story in your head a little bit, like with the traffic thing. I think having the story first like, Oh, maybe they’re in an emergency. It could be a better story there first than, Oh, they’re a jerk.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah, exactly. Everyone has struggles. Everyone’s had bad days. On our worst days, we wish that the people around us would extend us some kindness and give us a little bit more leniency or whatever. Let’s just presume that somebody around us that’s being difficult, maybe they’re having the worst day of their life. And so don’t make it worse for them. It doesn’t hurt you. Just be nice.

Jellis Vaes
How do you actually see, as last question, the future of Lifeline or of the crisis hotline? How do you see the future of that evolving? Is there anything that you’re aware of that they’re doing that will be excited for the future or something that you would love to see maybe in the future?

Rebecca Hooke
Just in the years that I’ve been there, it’s growing so much, like astronomically. Now we’ve got digital services. People are reaching out to us on text and online. They’re people that would never pick up the phone, like younger generation people. They’d never pick up the phone, but they’ll happily pick up their mobile and type a message. That’s changed. I think we get, I think it’s more calls than any other helpline in Australia, all of them combined, which is just crazy. We get, I think it’s a call every 28 seconds or something. Wow. Yeah, it’s a lot. That is a lot. But we have 10,000 volunteers, so there’s a lot of people. That’s not all on the phone. Some are in stores and doing different things. But how How it’s going to grow, I think it’s probably going to be more online. Maybe eventually there’ll be a video component. I could see that happening. There could be more work from home, more I think just growing more support, more calls, answered more quickly, more of everything. We’ve already got a lot of visibility, which I think is great. Anytime there’s anything distressing in the news or in an article in the newspaper or whatever, the lifeline number is always flashed up.

We’ve got great brand awareness and recognition, which is fantastic.

Jellis Vaes
That’s true. That’s good. Maybe as a last question, is there any last thing that you still would like to share for someone listening who would want to help someone or for someone listening who is struggling with these thoughts or just anything more?

Rebecca Hooke
I think I was probably remiss earlier by not mentioning, If you’re reaching out, sorry, if you have a friend that’s reaching out to you for support, and I said, Tell them that you’re there, tell them that you’re listening, make it safe for them to talk to, I think another really important thing on that is know your limitations. You can’t be their only support, and you can’t be there 24/7 for them because that’s unsafe for them because you’re not going to be there all the time. You’ve got other things going on in your own life, and it’s only going to do harm to So part of being there for them will be helping them find a network of other people to reach out to so that it’s not all on you because, like I said before, you don’t want to drown alongside them. That’s not helpful. You want to throw them a life raft, give them some help.

Jellis Vaes
The safety plan that you mentioned, it’s quite a concrete card. It has steps, doesn’t it? And isn’t one of them- The way we do it on the phone.

Rebecca Hooke
We go through certain steps, yeah.

Jellis Vaes
And isn’t one step to also add three contact persons that you could reach out to?

Rebecca Hooke
Yes. Identifying your support network, whoever that might be, or coming up with a support network. Who do you think would be helpful? Who do you want to talk to? Let’s go find those people.

Jellis Vaes
I guess it is good for people, like you said, to have more people in their environment to add to that list.

Rebecca Hooke
It can be common sometimes. You see a friend that’s struggling, you get the courage to say, Hey, how are you going? They’re suicidal. You say, Okay, I’m here for you. Then suddenly you’re inundated with their needs all the time, and you can’t handle that. It’s too much. They need mental health, like a professional of some kind as well. You can’t be Everything to everybody. Sometimes knowing the limitations and making sure that the love is shared. It would be helpful.

Jellis Vaes
Yeah. Rebecca, I could throw endless amount of more questions at you. But thank you already now for taking the time, for answering questions, for giving great answers, and also for being the person who you are. I mean, truly, I have so much respect for people like you, so You more than deserve that medal from the Order of Australia. I would give you another one. So thanks again for being here. Oh, my goodness.

Thank you so much. It was lovely speaking with you, and you’re doing a wonderful service, too, and having amazing conversations and entertaining me on my walks. I appreciate it, which is my self-care.Thank you.Thank you.

Jellis Vaes
One more thing. There’s a final end question that I ask all my guests that I would love to ask you, too. But before I do that, is there any websites or any place that you would love to point people to? Maybe Lifeland Australia or just, I don’t know, or any place that people could get in contact with you or something? Is there any websites?

Rebecca Hooke
I know a lot of your other guests are their gurus, and they run workshops and things like that. I’m not. I’m just me doing my thing, so I have nothing personally to promote.

Jellis Vaes
Still doing amazing things.

Rebecca Hooke
Thank you. I’m not very interesting online, but I think the Lifeline website, even though we’re an Australian organization, we support Australians, it still has good information for anyone around the world that speaks English, I guess. You’d need to I’m not speaking English to read the website. But it’s lifeline. Org. Au. There’s a lot of different toolkits and resources and things like that to read whether you’re struggling yourself with various issues. It doesn’t have to necessarily be suicidal. It could be anything, or whether you’re trying to support somebody else, it can just be a good starting point or find your country’s specific leading organization and use that as a starting point and reach out.

Jellis Vaes
For people listening, I will add that in the show notes, as I agree. It’s a great place just for resources and to learn more about the topic. The final end question that I have for you, and it doesn’t have to do per se something with suicidal mental It’s just you can answer to it whatever you want, and you can make it as shorter as long as you want. I ignore my dog in the back. Walking away from this. All right. From everything that you’ve When you’ve been experienced, lived and learned in your life, what is the one thing that you know to be true?

Rebecca Hooke
I think that you can handle a lot more than you think you can. If you’ve got the right reasons and you’ve got the right people around you, that would be a big takeaway. And that everyone has struggles because when you’re in your own struggles, sorry, this is going to be two things. When you’re in your own struggles, you think everyone else has got it easier. No one else could be possibly suffering like this. Just realizing that a lot of other people are also in pain. Try not to add to their pain. Try to make it better if you can. Try not to add to your own pain. A lot of the times when We’re going through struggles, we can’t necessarily fix them. Someone you love has died or something dreadful has happened. That can’t be undone. You can’t fix that. But what you can do is perhaps try not to make it worse. If you neglect basic things like you’re not eating well, you’re not getting out in the sun each day, you’re not getting exercise, you’re not sleeping, not doing those things is going to make it so much harder. Doing them isn’t It’s not going to remove the pain, but it makes it better to cope with.

I think try not to make other people’s problems worse, try not to make your own harder, try and go out and be kind. You’re right.

Jellis Vaes
It helps.

Rebecca Hooke
Yeah. Keep it simple.

Jellis Vaes
Rebecca, thank you truly, once again, so much for being here.

Rebecca Hooke
Thank you. It was lovely speaking with you, Yellis.

Jellis Vaes
All right, that concludes this episode with Rebecca Hook. I really hope that you learned more about suicide, that you, if you want to be there for someone, learn more ways on how to approach such a conversation. And if you struggle, the primary focus of the conversation of this interview was on how to be there for someone and more insights on the topic of suicide. Not so much about what to do if you struggle with these thoughts. But still, if you struggle with these thoughts, I do hope that you still gained something out this interview with Rebecca and from things that she shared or things that I shared, some parts of my story that I shared. It can be different, and it is super hard to believe that. I honestly would not believe that myself if, I don’t know, 14-year or 15-year-old Yelius will be listening to this interview. But it can be different. There will be actions required from your part, of course, to make that difference. And one of them is reaching out to people, to a crisis support line like Lifeline Australia or any other ones. Every country has one, or I would assume almost every country has one.

In the show notes, I will put any resources that Rebecca mentioned. I will also add a couple more myself that I think could be really helpful if you want to learn more about the topic and how to be there for someone, or if you struggle with these thoughts. Thank you, really, for being here and for spending some time with Rebecca and me and for learning more about this truly, truly important topic. We all should learn more about this topic. Don’t underestimate the importance of truly just listening to someone with the intent to understand and the power behind that, because that can be the start of healing wounds and suffering in the world and in someone’s life. Thank you again for being here. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and to leave a rating. That would mean so much to me. On whichever podcast app that you use to listen to this, almost all of them, you can leave a rating or if you want also a review. It would greatly help me to find more incredible guests like Rebecca. That’s it for this episode. I hope that I might have the chance to welcome you again on another episode. Until then, this is Jellis Vaes signing off. Bye.

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