Author Archives: Allison Peet

Discover Your Why!

Throughout much of our lives we struggle with “what” we should do and “how” we should do it.  “What will I be when I grow up?” “How will I earn a living?” “What do I do now?”  

“How will I go on now that this change has happened in my life?” In this workshop, participants will work together to ask and answer a different question.  “Why?” Discovering your personal “why” will bring clarity and impact to everything you do because it will enable you to walk in and toward your purpose.  

Adapting the Simon Sinek process called Find Your Why, participants will take the journey to discover what makes them feel fulfilled and what drives their behavior when at our natural best.  

Date:  Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Time:   9:00AM – 5:00PM (8:30AM Registration)

Location:  Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center Conference Room

Fee: $149 (Lunch included)

Facilitators:

Carla Cain

Carla is a pastor and trained End-of-Life Doula. Her current work is consulting with congregations on strategic planning, conflict transformation, church leadership and a focus on working with the dying. Carla discerned her call to ministry after spending 30 years in the corporate world where she was involved in business development, human resources and cultural transformation work. Carla has an expertise and passion for personal mastery that leads to living well and dying well.

 

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is a spiritual director, clergy coach, church consultant and conflict mediator. Her interest is in providing spiritual and educational programs and consultation to assist spiritual leaders and their congregations to meet the needs of their communities.

Mastery or Misery: Dealing Effectively with Conflict in Congregations

About the Course

Conflict is a natural phenomenon when people come together.  Conflict can divide a congregation; it can be hurtful to individuals and stifle congregational operations if left unresolved.  Yet, there are ways to utilize conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow as in community. Resolved conflict provides a path toward a shared mission and purpose. 

Why not address the specific nature of the conflict?  Why not learn and utilize specific skills to move beyond the conflict and towards conciliation?  All of this to achieve a more thriving and productive congregation and enriched, healthier relationships. Our individual relationship with conflict can determine how we react to conflict and how we lead others through conflict. 

This class involves three different phases over a six month period.  The first phase is in a classroom setting. The second phase is a monthly peer group facilitated call and the third phase is another classroom setting.  All of this to learn, practice and incorporate new skills into our daily lives. 

Audience:  Clergy of all traditions

Why Take the Class

Conflict can deter productivity and derail the mission of the congregation.  Finding ways, developing skills and being engaged with a peer group can provide the means to a healthier congregation.  This class is education, skill building and experiential. You will be supported over the six month class by trained and experienced conflict transformational professionals. 

Course Objectives

  • The course is designed to understand how leading self is an important element to leading others that improves the opportunity for healthier congregations and more productive relationships.
  • We will learn about our own relationship with conflict and how this contributes to conflict in the congregation.
  • We will learn how to recognize the power involved in conflict and how it is counter-productive.
  • We will learn how to work with others in the congregation using more courage and compassion.
  • Peer groups will be established following the first class session to create continuity and be a resource for situations as we incorporate new skills into our daily practice.

Class Schedule

Phase 1: Thursday, October 24, 9:00AM-5:00PM and Friday, October 25, 9:00AM-4:00PM

Phase 2:  Monthly peer group video calls of 4-5 peers and a facilitator.

Phase 3:  Thursday, April 23, 2020, 9:00AM-5:00PM

Location:  TBA

Tuition:  $450

CEUs: Available upon request. Please email Diane McClanahan: dmcclanahan@dmpcc.org

Facilitators:

Carla Cain

Carla is a pastor and trained End-of-Life Doula. Her current work is consulting with congregations on strategic planning, conflict transformation, church leadership and a focus on working with the dying. Carla discerned her call to ministry after spending 30 years in the corporate world where she was involved in business development, human resources and cultural transformation work. Carla has an expertise and passion for personal mastery that leads to living well and dying well.

 

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is a spiritual director, clergy coach, church consultant and conflict mediator. Her interest is in providing spiritual and educational programs and consultation to assist spiritual leaders and their congregations to meet the needs of their communities.

On the Brink: A Group for Ordained Religious Professionals Transitioning into Retirement

 

PROGRAM

 

 

Retiring from active religious and spiritual leadership evokes many emotions–dread, joy, fear, anxiety, excitement…Questions arise: “How will I find meaning and purpose?” “What is my call now?” “How do I adapt to all of the changes that aging brings?” “How do I share my spiritual gifts while maintaining healthy boundaries?”

Utilizing Parker Palmer’s book, “On the Brink of Everything:  Grace, Gravity and Getting Old”, clergy approaching retirement, or recently retired, will gather four times to support one another by exploring the existential challenges retirement brings.

AUDIENCE

 

Ordained religious professionals including rabbis, pastors, priests, imams and others who are considering their next stage of life
DATE / TIME

 

Wednesdays from 1:00-3:30PM  / Sept 25, 2019, Nov 13, 2019, March 11, 2020, April 29, 2020
COST

 

$200 for the full series of four sessions
LOCATION

 

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center Conference Room

FACILITATORS

Diane McClanahan, M.Div., B.S.N.

Diane McClanahan, Director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, holds a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Duke University and a master of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, she has served congregations in Connecticut and Iowa. Diane is a spiritual director, clergy coach, church consultant and conflict mediator. Her interest is in providing spiritual and educational programs and consultation to assist spiritual leaders and their congregations to meet the needs of their communities.

Mark Minear, Ph.D.

Mark MinearMark Minear is a licensed psychologist. He is also a recorded minister with the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker). He received his B.A. in Religion and English from William Penn College, an M.A. in Church History from the Earlham School of Religion, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University.  Mark works with adults on a wide variety of issues: depression, anxiety including trauma, loss and grief, transitions and adjustments, and spiritual concerns. Theoretical approaches include logotherapy (meaning-making), cognitive-behavioral, family systems, and mindfulness therapies.  He also has background in working with a variety of churches, denominations, and faith traditions, as well as with individual clergy in need of support.

C.O.O.L. Volunteer Day!

  • Thursday, June 27, 2019
  • 9 – 11 a.m.
  • Coordinator: Dr. Shannon Welch-Groves, licensed psychologist
We are seeking five (or so) volunteers to help us shine up our C.O.O.L. therapeutic supplies.
Duties will include:
1. cleaning cupboards in waiting room and play room
2. cleaning, disinenfecting and sorting toys
4. making lists to order new toys to replace old broken toys
5. hand sewing DIY sandbox cover
6. organizing art supplies and making lists on needs
7. assembling toy hospital and organizing new Play Mobile items

Men and Mental Health

Mark: “The most notable bridge on the entire transcontinental Lincoln Highway is found in Tama!

Mark Minear, Ph.D., a psychologist at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, went on sabbatical in the Spring of 2016. He wanted to walk the Old Lincoln Highway from river to river across the State of Iowa. His initial reasons included to fulfill a dream, get some exercise, contemplate, and experience a bit of Iowa history. Along the way, he met a lot of local people who shared food and stories. Family, friends, and others joined him on his walk. He communed with nature in ways not possible when driving. Local radio and television stations interviewed him and followed his progress. He had meaningful conversations with his walking stick. You can read his blog posts documenting his epic fourteen-day walk at www.dmpcc.org/walkwithmark.

Dr. Minear, inspired by Ellery Duke, the Center’s executive director at the time, and his bicycle ride across the U.S., decided to use his walk as a platform to increase awareness about mental health services for men and boys and to raise money for the Center’s Client Assistance Fund with an emphasis on uninsured and underinsured men and boys. He shared that 17% of men seek mental health services while 29% of women do so. In 2018 the Center’s clientele was 37.5%, 3/8, men and boys. So far in 2019, the demographic is 36% men and boys.

Dr. Minear originally became aware of and interested in the gender differences in mental health issues when he was in graduate school. He cited strong influence by the work of the late Royda Crose who wrote Why Women Live Longer Than Men and what men can learn from them. Dr. Crose divided the sections in her book to include aging, biology, health and wellness, physical health, mental health, social health, occupational health, spiritual and environmental health, and longevity. There are life choices men can make in taking care of themselves. When the book was published in 1997, men lived an average of approximately 73 years and women 79 years. Current life expectancy is 76.1 years for men and 81.1 years for women

In his blog post on April 24, 2016, Dr. Minear wrote “over six million men in the U.S. suffer from depression with, perhaps, half of these going undiagnosed.” Dr. Minear reported that, while more women attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to complete suicide. He stated that men at mid-life comprise the highest suicide rate. A 2016 report by the American Association of Suicidology indicated “in 2014, 2,421 African Americans died by suicide in the US. Of these, 1,946 were male (80.38%). The overall suicide rate per 100,000 was 5.46. … This was the first national study to show observe higher suicide rates for African Americans than for Caucasians in any age group.”

The well-known mid-life crisis can shatter a man’s life. Men evaluate their life and find their present circumstances deficient. They may have all the trappings of a successful life and still feel life or personal inadequacy. Some men in mid-life crisis end significant relationships, quit their job, relocate, or have illicit extramarital relationships. These abrupt life changes only add to the stress.

Men may mask the signs of depression with anger and aggression. Life stressors such as financial strain, grief in all areas of life, and loss of employment contribute to depression. Men with genetic predisposition toward depression or who have a major illness may be at a greater risk for developing depression. Chronic depression in all people can result from low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, necessitating the need for antidepressant medication. Men may shy away from medication because they fear being judged by pharmacy staff. So, they may self-medicate with alcohol or illicit drugs.

Dr. Minear stated that women pay more attention to their bodies than men. However, eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating affect men as well. Men may become obsessed with calorie counting or working out at a gym. One report stated that men may obsess about “their muscles, skin, genitals, nose, or hair.”

Dr. Minear said men have fewer social supports than women. Boys are socialized to withhold tears, suppress most emotions, ignore their bodies, and rely on fortitude to get through problems. There is social stigma against men seeking mental health services which is viewed as a sign of weakness. While men and boys are discouraged against the display of most emotions, they are encouraged to express frustration, anger, and rage either explicitly or implicitly through stoic silence or making excuses for them when they are angry. He stated men’s anger can be intense and there’s a need to help them find healthy expression.

Royce White

Out of Dr. Minear’s raising awareness about men and boys and mental health, a group of colleagues formed and meets monthly. ”When Life Gives You a Full Court Press” was born out of those meetings. The 2019 two-day event, sponsored by The Center and Des Moines University (DMU) takes place Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12 at DMU. The speaker for Thursday’s free event, “Rebound with courage,” is former NBA player and Iowa State basketball star Royce White. White has been open about Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and how it derailed his life. He has become an advocate for mental health treatment. Friday’s event, “Pivot to health,” features four break-out sessions, two facilitated by mental health professionals and two by medical professionals. Headliners Dr. David Vogel and Patrick Heath, MS, will discuss their research into mental health treatment for men and boys which keenly interests Dr. Minear. CMEs and CEUs are available for Friday’s workshops. Information about both segments of the event can be found at www.dmpcc.org/MEN.

GAD generally begins in adolescence or young adulthood. It is less common in men than in women. Estimates indicate approximately four million people suffer annually. It often travels with depression.

GAD is diagnosed by using blood and urine tests to rule out medical conditions. Trained professionals also use psychological assessments. The list of possible symptoms is long. They include excessive worry and anxiousness, easily startled, headaches and fatigue, and problems with concentration. For years, my experience with GAD went untreated. I often felt as though I would have a psychotic break. Two psychiatrists diagnosed me with and treated me for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). My current psychiatrist accurately diagnosed the GAD. Medication, counseling, and journaling are very effective in keeping me balanced.

GAD cannot be cured, and there are no quick fixes, but a number of treatment options may be used to mitigate symptoms. Any one of a variety of medications, taken orally, may be prescribed. Medications take several weeks to notice efficacy and your primary care physician or psychiatrist may need to try different ones to find the one that works best. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy that helps build and strengthen coping skills. Lifestyle changes that may help are regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating, and the avoidance of alcohol, recreational drugs, nicotine, and caffeine.

Dr. Minear hopes to open a pathway of communication between the medical and mental health communities. Greater awareness by the medical community of the need for mental health services for men and boys could lead to earlier detection and referrals.

We all can play a role in addressing the mental health needs of men and boys. Dr. Minear shared some tips:

  • Talk more openly and candidly about mental health and mental health treatment.
  • Erase stigma by treating mental illness as a viable topic rather than taboo.
  • Educate and engage medical providers.
  • Equip the medical community to make referrals.

Dr. Minear added that mental health should not be gender specific. Mental illness affects men, women, boys, and girls. We can learn as much as possible about men and mental health. We can be attentive to the signs of depression and anxiety shown by the men in our lives. We can be supportive and encouraging by listening. We can all benefit by showing sensitivity and compassion. The state of mental health services for men and boys is vital to stronger, healthier, and more resilient relationships which contributes to the well-being of everyone.

For more information about “When Life Gives You a Full Court Press,” visit the Center’s website at www.dmpcc.org/MEN or call Terri Speirs, 515-251-6670.

African Americans and Mental Health

Billie Wade, writer

Dysthymic Disorder (depression) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have affected my life since adolescence. Counseling has been an integral part of my life since my mid-twenties. I have always believed in the power of talking about issues and problems and can attest to the value of counseling. For the first time, I have a relationship with a counselor, here at Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, who walks with me as I explore the experiences and meanings of living as a black woman in a predominantly white world. Racism, external and internalized; discrimination; profiling; and, the residue of slavery compound daily in the lives of black people. Many black people disagree with my decision to receive counseling, based on a host of very real reasons.

Black people are under constant scrutiny and judgment by the majority culture—clothing, hair, the car we drive, where we live, our personality, our religion and spirituality, our employment or lack thereof. Our cultural climate is measured against that of the majority and usually found wanting. Dichotomous messages and double standards are applied arbitrarily. For instance, we are told that we must be employed and self-sufficient, but we are profiled if we dress too well or the car we drive is too nice. Moving about in the world is a matter of safety. Because of the factors listed above, I am always a target, emotionally as well as physically.

In my years of counseling, my issues and problems as a black woman went unaddressed. They were not so much discounted or ignored as they were not considered. They were not on anyone’s radar, including mine. I was treated as a white woman with black skin. The discrimination and oppression to which I was subjected “could happen to anybody.” It was years before I recognized the mistreatment and exploitation for what they were. The ebony ceiling is much lower and much thicker than the glass ceiling.

Virtually all of my counselors have been white males. I did have one Native American Indian female counselor and one black male counselor. When I began working with my counselor, here at the Center, in January 2013, I became comfortable enough, after a few months, to explore the painful topic of race relations. We discuss ways in which racial tension and strife contributed to the trauma in my life and continue to do so. I am subjected to all the issues and problems experienced by white women, compounded by race.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Common mental health disorders among African Americans include major depression; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); suicide, among African American men; and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Additionally, African Americans are more likely to be exposed to violence and “make up about 40% of the homeless population. African American children are more likely to be exposed to violence than other children.” Clinicians often receive little or no training in cultural competency as a matter of course. Because of either conscious or unconscious provider biases, black people are often misdiagnosed or receive a poor quality of care. Providers not trained in cultural competence may not recognize mental health symptoms. NAMI also reported that “men are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.”

In the chemical dependency treatment field, the desire of a client to confront racial issues is discounted as an excuse, an avoidance strategy to skirt the fact that the individual is drinking and using drugs to her or his detriment. For all clients, substance use is treated as a causality rather than an outcome, seen as primary rather than a stress response and coping strategy. Psychological factors are not considered.

“Only about one-quarter of African American people seek mental health services, compared to 40% of whites,” reports NAMI. The 25% rate surprised me as I thought the percentage was much lower. Many barriers impede access to mental health services for black people, among them:

  • Location of services/lack of transportation
  • Lack of childcare
  • Lack of complete information
  • Fear of being committed to a hospital psychological unit
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Lack of insurance
  • Fear of ridicule by family and friends
  • Perception of counselors as mind-reading psychics
  • Told by clergy, family members, and peers that their life would improve if they attend church and believe in Jesus.
  • Distrust of mental health professionals, medical professionals, and white people
  • Fear of lack of confidentiality, that what they discuss will be used against them
  • Fear of incarceration
  • Fear of appearing weak and unable to control themselves or manage their lives or to control those around them. For instance, “I’d be alright if my kids would stop driving me crazy.”
  • The perception that they are emotionally healthy and stable and that everyone else needs to change.
  • Like many non-minority people, they know they need to change which seems daunting.

Out of necessity, the black community has formed some social supports that sustain them in times of stress and emotional upheaval, such as:

  • Religious faith
  • Close-knit family networks; extended family; there are few secrets in the black community
  • Racial pride
  • Emotional strength and resilience which can sometimes lead to discounting of their emotional pain as they are told they have little or no reason to “complain.”

Finding a compatible counselor can be a discouraging process, and some people give up. NAMI suggests asking prospective counselors the following questions:

  1. Have you treated other African Americans?
  2. Have you received training in cultural competence or on African American mental health?
  3. How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
  4. How do you plan to integrate my beliefs and practices in my treatment?

Will family members be involved in my treatment? What if I do not want my family members involved?

Engaging the black community takes time and effort. The Center has taken a step in the right direction to encourage black people to enlist mental health services with the satellite office in the Drake University area. Further efforts could include using black people in marketing and advertising and recruiting black counselors and staff.

I encourage black people to seek mental health services as an essential addition to the social supports already in place. I truly believe that, with earnest effort, virtually everyone can benefit from counseling. To schedule an appointment or for more information about the services offered at the Center, call 515-274-4006.

Warm regards.

Billie

To read more of Billie’s blogs, click here.

Addressing stigma around help-seeking for men and boys

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who came out to hear Royce White! To view a video recording of his presentation: https://youtu.be/hsx6hzzc0Zc

 

Rebound with Courage – An Evening With RoyThce White

  • Free and open to the public
  • Walk-ins welcome – RSVPs appreciated
  • Thursday, July 11, 2019 – 7 p.m. – at Des Moines University
  • Royce White bio and photo

POSTPONED – Pivot to Health – Professional Development for Health Care Providers 

 

Meet Rachel Hollingsworth, Student Intern

Hello, I’m Rachel Hollingsworth. I am a senior at Simpson College majoring in psychology and religion, and I have been interning at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center for the past few months. After I graduate in May 2019, I plan to head to seminary to pursue a dual degree in divinity and social work. I will begin my graduate studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary this fall. My plan for the future is to work in a ministry setting, such as parish ministry, counseling, or something
else. I like to try new things, so who knows where I might end up? During my internship at the Center, I am learning more about what makes pastoral counseling different from other types of counseling and spiritual direction. To help me understand different sides of working in a counseling center, I have been able to interview multiple staff members here. All of the individuals I spoke with had different positions and expertise, so I have explored many of the different moving parts of the Center. Each person has something different to teach me. I not only learned about their vocational path and job duties, but also the wisdom and advice they have to pass on.
One of my favorite learnings so far was from Ramona, a previous student in the graduate
training program at the Center. She told me that one of the biggest problems with our world is that we don’t listen to each other. One hour a week where someone else is listening, even if they are paid to do it, can make the world of difference for someone. Another person I interviewed was Ellery Duke, a licensed psychologist and also the previous executive director at the Center. This interview gave me some more in-depth knowledge about the world of pastoral counseling. One thing in particular I learned from this conversation was his perspective on therapy, which is that each person coming into therapy is simply a fellow human just trying to survive and live their life. Every person is on a journey, and pastoral counseling helps us address whatever is limiting us from becoming who we want to be. These are just a few of the things I have learned during my time here, and all of the individuals I interviewed offered valuable bits of wisdom and advice.
The Center has given me several different opportunities to explore my own vocation,
develop professional skills, and dip my toes into the counseling field. I look forward to learning
and experiencing more as I finish out the semester.

  • Rachel

Women Helping Women 2019

Friday, May 17, 2019, is a special day for Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center as the Center hosts the 21st annual Women Helping Women Luncheon at Embassy Suites. The luncheon raises funds to provide counseling and education for underinsured and uninsured women and girls. Five hundred eighty people attended the 2018 event which raised $204,000. In its twenty-one-year history the fund has raised over one million dollars. This year’s theme focuses on suicide loss and prevention. This year’s keynote speaker is Gina Skinner-Thebo, and the honoree is Susan Voss.

Suicide is an important topic to me as I am among those impacted. I attempted suicide at the age of twenty-one. I was married, employed, outwardly happy, and miserable. No one detected any signs. I behaved in predictable ways. The truth was my life was falling apart. I suffered from undiagnosed depression and anxiety, and low self-esteem. My husband found me and took me to the emergency room where the doctor told me not to do it again and sent me home. My husband ridiculed me. I had no social supports, no spiritual foundation, no mental health or medical services, and no effective coping skills. I was alone. To this day, I feel frightened when I think about that time and how close I came to ending my life. While the statistics show lower rates of suicide for African American females, suicides do happen. I nearly became one of them.

The life of Gina Skinner-Thebo changed forever on July 22, 2014. Her close friend, Rachel Atwood committed suicide. The loss led Gina to reevaluate her interactions with women. She is conscious about maintaining her relationships with transparency and authenticity. She founded The Atwood Center for Women to honor her friend and to provide a space for women to express themselves and to explore issues important to them.

Susan Voss has served on the Center’s Board of Directors more than ten years, including serving as Board president. She emceed the 2017 Women Helping Women Luncheon. She has participated on the Women Helping Women planning committee and introduced others to the initiative. She believes in the Center’s whole-person approach to mental health services. She described the Center’s staff as “amazing” and “truly gifted.” I agree.

Sadly, suicide statistics tell their own story of loss and grief.

In Iowa, 451 people died by suicide in 2016, ranking the state 29th in the country. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that “On average, one person dies by suicide every nineteen hours in [Iowa]. The rate of suicide deaths in Iowa in 2016 was 14.55 per 100,000 population compared to the national rate of 13.42.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that for the years 2000 through 2016, the suicide rate for males increased 21% while the rate for females during the same period increased 50%. The ratio of male-to-female suicide rate was 4.4 in 2000 and 3.6 in 2016. The narrowing in the ratio of male-to-female suicide rates reflects the accelerated increase in female suicide rates beginning in 2007. “In 2016, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.” More women attempt suicide while more men die by suicide. Suicide rates for females were highest in the 45-64-year-old age bracket. The rates were 6.2 per 100,000 females in 2000 and 9.9 in 2016.

A fact sheet by American Association for Suicidology reports that African Americans have a lower suicide rate than other ethnicities, based on 2014 data. Of the 2,421 suicides committed by African Americans, 475 were female. “The suicide rate for African American females was the lowest among men and women of all ethnicities.” Distinctive risk factors include “access to lethal means,” “exposure to violence,” and “exposure to racial inequality.” Barriers to mental health services include limited access due to transportation, child care, and insurance; the stigma of mental health; and distrust of mental health and medical professionals. Elements that help protect African Americans against suicide are religious faith, familial ties, community networks, and “ethnic pride.”

Suicide is a complex phenomenon that contains many variables and reasons. Pin-pointing a single cause leading to a suicide is to chase an elusive, ever-transmuting target. Individuals may experience a single event in a cluster or line of events leading up to the suicide. Chronic and long-term stress take a devastating toll that increases exponentially with time, until the person can no longer endure the onslaught and sees no alternatives. Signs and symptoms, particularly changes in an individual’s habits, demeanor, or behavior, may alert family, friends, and colleagues that something is amiss.

While many sources of stress affect women and men, women and girls experience unique adversities:

  • Hormonal and body changes at puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • Depression during pregnancy and post-partum depression.
  • Raising families, sometimes singlehandedly.
  • Caring for aging parents, often while raising families.
  • Job or career pressures that do not apply equally to men.
  • Loss of identity when care-giving is no longer necessary, whether children no longer need emotional or financial support, or when aging parents are settled into long-term care or die.
  • Relief from family responsibilities, so the woman is now free to end her life.

Included in the stellar array of counseling and educational services offered by the Center, two services specifically address suicide loss and prevention. ASIST™ (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) teaches participants how to recognize signs and symptoms of someone contemplating suicide and where to get help. The two-day intensive is facilitated by Diane McClanahan, BSN, M. Div, and Beverly C. Butler. Diane is director of Leadership and Spiritual Life at the Center. Beverly is an ordained United Methodist clergy. Diane and Beverly both are registered ASIST™ trainers. Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group meets the third Tuesday evening every month at the Center. The group is facilitated by Andrea Severson, LMHC, M. Div, who is a counselor at the Center, and Diane McClanahan. Diane also is trained as a Survivor of Suicide Loss Support Group facilitator. More information about these programs can be found on the Center’s website, www.dmpcc.org, and click on “Classes and Events “or by contacting Diane McClanahan at 515-251-6667 or dmcclanahan@dmpcc.org.  The national suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and website: suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The lifeline is free, confidential, and always available.

As mentioned earlier, the suicide rate for females is increasing faster than the rate for males. You can support the Center’s intention to provide counseling and education and other services to women and girls in need. Visit the Center’s website and click on 2019 Women Helping Women Luncheon for more information about the initiative and ways you can participate. You also may contact Women Helping Women Luncheon organizer Terri Speirs at 515-251-6670.

Warm regards.

Billie Wade, writer

For more of Billie’s blogs, click here.

Express Yourself

Self-expression is innate in every human being. Self-expression is the way we do things, whether we are conscious of it. Through self-expression we say, “This is who I am.” We share our authenticity.

We self-express in myriad ways through our hairstyle and our clothing, the way we talk and use words, body language, writing, art, music, our lifestyle, avocations and career. One person may self-express through beautiful and bountiful flower and vegetable gardens. Another person may self-express through the restoration of classic or damaged automobiles. Someone else may self-express through her or his skills as a surgeon. And yet another may self-express through her or his skills as a counselor or spiritual director. On and on the list goes. One of the many ways I self-express is through my writing, but I also use my organizational skills, my use of technology, my sense of fascination and curiosity, and my imagination.

Because self-expression reveals authenticity, it also means saying, “No,” or “Yes,” depending on our need at the time, the situation, or the people involved. Our ability to say “No” or “Yes” or to speak out is tied to our ability to self-express. Self-expression is about self-permission. We allow ourselves to say what we mean. We express our thoughts and emotions clearly with our words and actions. We let other people know they have violated our boundaries, and their actions are not okay.

Growing up and throughout most of my adult life, I did not speak up. I did not have opinions. I did not know that “No” was an option as well as a complete sentence. The same applied to “Yes.” I let other people talk me out of things I really wanted to do. Or worse, other people made decisions for me and I did not speak up in self-defense. Other people took credit for my work, sometimes with the full knowledge of those in charge. I endured the exploitation in stoic silence. When I did speak up my voice was often weak and ineffective. Very few people listened to what I had to say. Now, I am conscious of my values, my self-worth, my heart’s desires, and my freedom to speak. When I am hesitant, I search within and arrive at a decision that serves me. When I say “No” or “Yes” with conviction, I am also taking responsibility for my decisions. I take credit for my skills and accomplishments. I take ownership of things I do well. I acknowledge the Divine Presence that guides my life.

Self-expression can challenge us to be our best selves regardless of the judgment of others. Some people may deem our activities as silly or a waste of time or wrong. We may have to persevere against ridicule and criticism to let our heart’s passion express. I grew up in an alcoholic home. My father disapproved of my career choice when I earned my bachelor’s degree and became a substance abuse counselor.

Self-expression respects other people, opinions, beliefs, and ideas. Using it to hurt others also hurts the giver. Self-expression is a gift to share. We cultivate meaningful relationships. We look for solutions that benefit everyone concerned. We share our gift of individuality in ways that enrich our life and the lives of those we encounter.

Here are seven ways to self-express:

  • Saying “Thank you” is a simple form of self-expression when someone treats us with compassion, kindness, and grace.
  • Displaying a calming presence in the midst of dissention and chaos can deescalate a tense situation.
  • Making amends and apologies can become a vehicle for our self-expression.
  • Showing compassion and kindness benefits the giver as well as the receiver.
  • Asking for what we want, and need, means others are in a better position to support us.
  • Extending empathy and a generosity of spirit can lift someone’s mood for the rest of the day, fostering a sense of connection and rapport.
  • Complimenting someone can elevate her or his spirits by sharing in their self-expression.

Be conscious of the ways you self-express. Are you sending the message you want to convey about who you are and what you are about? I invite you to spend some time celebrating your unique attributes. What life changes do you need to make to express your true Self and live with authenticity?

Conscious self-expression means allowing our true Self to shine. We temper our behavior in ways that promote amicable relationships and win-win outcomes. We express our emotions in a conscious, full, and open manner. We live our lives as art. Enjoy.

Billie Wade, writer

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