A Better You is a Better Dad

A Better You is a Better Dad


FATHER’S DAY – TAKING STOCK

As Father’s Day approaches, it is a natural time to take stock. It can be a day of joy and time with family. For many it can be a time of beautiful memories of one’s own dad. Or, on the other side of that, the day can dredge up past hurts, missed moments, or missed opportunities.

This day, and others, can be especially trying if you have loss due to abortion. Unhealed and unrecovered, the day can bring up memories of what might have been and the pain associated with such a loss.

Whatever emotions and thoughts and memories come to you as a result of Father’s Day, one commonality exists: A Better You is a Better Dad. 

IMPACT OF PAST ABORTION(S) ON FATHERS

See, dad’s matter. Dads play an important role in the lives of their children. This is true whether you are intentional or play life on defense, simply reacting to life as it happens until one day you wonder where the time went. And it’s important to note here that you have dad value whether your kids are small and at home or grown adults living on their own. For men who have abortion(s) in their past, know that unhealed grief can impact how you parent your children. 

It did for me. 12 years after my first abortion loss, I was married and had two small children. It would be another nine years before I entered healing for my past abortions. Through that process, I began to chip away at the grief and pain and loss and shame. In time, I realized how my unhealed abortion losses were impacting my parenting of my three sons. 

Remember the line above about playing life on defense? That was me. Because of the pain and shame from the abortions, I wasn’t the dad I could have been. I was overprotective of my children. There was a deep, almost hidden place inside me that felt tremendous shame because I didn’t protect two children. 

I was also a perfectionist. Not directed at my sons, but at me. In my own eyes, I was never good enough as a dad. People would tell me what a good dad I was, and I’d wince internally. I thought if they knew about the abortions, they wouldn’t think that. And so I parented and lived on defense. I merely reacted to whatever happened. I hadn’t made the connection between my parenting shortcomings, my anxiety, and sometimes despair to the abortions from so long ago. 

The key is to be intentional. 

UGLY MONEY VERSUS PRETTY MONEY

Think for a moment about flipping a house. Even if you’ve never flipped a house yourself, you’ve seen the shows and understand the idea. When I was a contractor and worked with flippers and investors, we spoke often of where to spend the money. Do we spend the ugly money first or just focus on the pretty money?

Ugly money is the work that is essential for the health of the property, but not necessarily seen by potential buyers. Think of things like foundation work, mechanical systems, plumbing, roofing, insulation…you get the idea. We NEED to spend that money first. It truly is a matter of quality and longevity. 

Pretty money is the things that show up in photos online. New flooring (gray vinyl plank, please), Agreeable Gray walls, granite countertops, and new cabinets. I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but I am saying the pretty money shouldn’t be of first importance. 

It’s the same with you, dad. 

You can focus on six-pack abs, $75 haircuts, expensive clothes, and white teeth. Nothing wrong with any of that. But how’s your mental health? How are you doing emotionally? Do you talk to anyone about your problems or feelings? How about your physical health? Do you think about what you eat and getting regular exercise?

If you answered no to the ugly money items, your decisions are impacting your kids. 

MODELING MENTAL HEALTH – OR NOT – IMPACTS YOUR KIDS

To quote Charles Kettering, “Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” 

Said another way, Dr Craig F. Garfield, MD, in an article titled “Modern-Day Fatherhood and the Health of Dads” said, “There’s a small but definitely growing body of literature on fathers that shows that, cognitively, children who have involved fathers have better linguistic abilities, they have higher academic readiness. And, ultimately, higher academic achievement. Socioemotionally, they have better coping, show more maturity and more prosocial behaviors and have secure attachments.” 

Need more proof? In a report released by the National Library of Medicine, they found that children are 2.6 times more likely to have poor mental health if their dads do. They stated that around 16% of all US children are in poor overall health. 

They also noted that 80% of chronic mental health disorders begin in childhood. If you, as a dad, have unhealed wounds, unaddressed grief, or buried trauma, it is absolutely impacting the mental health of your children. And the loss of a child to abortion can, and often does, amplify mental health.

So you’ve read this far. You’re on board. Your eyes are open. You see the value in taking care of yourself, or maybe you always have. But how?

We actually have some information about that.

HOW TO BE A HEALTHY DAD

An article published by Medibank discusses “The Five Keys to Being a Healthy Dad.” The article talks about things like keeping your mind active, keeping your body moving, eating more home cooked meals, being mindful of sleep habits, and a big one for many men: asking for help. 

ASKING FOR HELP

This last item comes up over and over in articles I read, videos I watch, and conversations I have. We’re not going to delve into all of that here. But I will say, it is wildly important to reach out for help. 

I took such an opportunity during my annual fishing trip with three close friends from childhood. I spilled the beans on all I had been dealing with. As I finished and looked around the boat, I saw looks of surprise and shock. No one knew, and they all chastised me for not saying anything. They were right. But I fell into an old pattern of “I can handle it,” which is a lie we tell ourselves. 

So I talked with them, and they with me. When I returned, I reached out to a pastor friend of mine and had coffee. I talked to another friend who is wise and a great listener. No one fixed it. No one had a “you gotta do this” response. I just needed to talk about it openly and honestly. And when I asked for advice, they gave it in a non-judgmental way. 

HEALING IS A  JOURNEY

As I mentioned, it was 21 years after my first abortion loss that I finally started a healing journey. I was in a book group with about 13 other men. I felt compelled one night to share about my abortion loss. I was scared. I knew these guys, and none of them talked about abortion. But when I finally shared, something wild happened. There were three other men who then shared their stories of abortion loss. 

I immediately felt excitement that I wasn’t alone. And I was so ready to start a healing journey. As I began reading books and sorting through my abortion loss, I also thought about my own kids. As I learned about pain and unhealed grief and how both inform decisions and ways of interacting with my children, and I felt an almost panic-like feeling. 

They were getting older and growing up. I thought the problems they had were my fault. I believed I was responsible. It was my fault. And it was too late. There was nothing I could do now. My abortion wound had hurt my sons. (more on anxiety issues later)

SMALL CHANGES MAKE A RADICAL DIFFERENCE

But then I learned that small changes add up to big changes. And I learned that no matter one’s age or the age of one’s children, it’s never too late to change and grow and lead with that example. 

In a book I reread every January, The Compound Effect, author Darren Hardy says, “Small, smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.” So let’s look at how that might begin practically with “The Five Keys to Being a Healthy Dad” from the Medibank article I mentioned earlier. 

You start your first Day of Change by reading just 10 pages in the morning with your coffee or tea. Maybe after work you walk a few blocks around your neighborhood. Let’s just say you walk 20 minutes (around a mile at a slow pace). For dinner, you eat real food you prepared. You end the day by going to bed at a time that gives you the sleep you need. 

Not too radical…right?

But your kids see these changes. And, more importantly, they see the effects over time. In a year, you’ve read 2,500 pages (if you take weekends off). That’s roughly 15-22 books. You’ve walked 255 miles (again, taking weekends off) and saved thousands on food…and eaten better food. And again, your kids will notice. Remember the Kettering quote?

UNRAVELING THE ROOTS BEHIND DAMAGING BEHAVIORS 

So my abortion healing journey began 15 years ago. My sons are all now adults. And I – and they – continue to grow. For me, like many men I’ve worked with over the years, once I found a bit of healing from abortion loss, I began to see other things more clearly. 

I got in touch with my anxiety issues a couple of years into abortion healing. I know men who realized addictions they had never thought about. Others got in touch with childhood abuse or abandonment issues. And that’s what the healing journey looks like. We deal with what’s immediately in front of us and then the next thing and then the next. 

When I first read Unraveled Roots: Exposing the Hidden Causes of Damaging Behaviors, I knew the authors were onto something. There was a simple honesty to the book’s exploration of childhood issues of abandonment, abuse, addiction, and codependency.

It was apparent to many of us at Support After Abortion that a version geared toward men was needed. Thus Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors was born. And in it’s short time in print, it has already started bearing fruit. Why? Because it’s ugly money more men need to spend. 

And men are waking up to the fact that their mental, physical, and emotional health matters. Men are seeing that their feelings about an abortion loss are valid. And men are starting to realize that sometimes we have to deal with the past to create the future we want for ourselves and our families. 

CONCLUSION

The thing is, your self-care matters. It matters to you, your kids, and the generations that follow you. You will be a better dad if you work on these five areas: keeping your mind active and body moving, maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits, and asking for help. Consider putting some ugly money into digging into the roots of your behaviors. You can get help working through that with someone or in a group, or on your own with our self-guided Unraveled Roots for Men options including a video series.You’re needed, dad. Your family needs you, as does the next generation. 

I’ll leave you with one final quote from Charles Budington Kelland. Absorb the truth in it. Let it guide your steps: “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg serves as Men’s Healing Strategist for Support After Abortion and is the author of “Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors” and “Almost Daddy: The Forgotten Story.” Greg’s hands-on expertise as a carpenter and home builder infuses his insights with practicality and groundedness. Drawing on his own battles and three decades of recovery work, he loves walking alongside men to navigate the complex terrains of transformative healing.

© Support After Abortion

UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN

UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN

OVERVIEW

Get an exclusive, first look inside our new book, Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors, along with accompanying videos, facilitators guide, and more! 

Join Support After Abortion’s Men’s Healing Strategist, Greg Mayo and Karin Barbito, Special Projects Manager, to hear directly from the authors on how to tackle abandonment, addiction, abuse, and codependency head-on.

They’ll take you behind the scenes of the video production, share a sneak peek of the final product, and reveal insights into the writing process. Discover where the book is available, its various formats, and how this men’s edition evolved from the original Unraveled Roots. Plus, learn about exciting upcoming opportunities related to the book. 

UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN: 4 CAUSES OF DAMAGING BEHAVIORS

“Today we’re talking about something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Greg said as he introduced the new book produced by Support After Abortion, Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behavior. 

Unraveled Roots for Men: 4 Causes of Damaging Behaviors Book Cover

 

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR UNRAVELED ROOTS?

As background, Karin described the inspiration behind Unraveled Roots. Support After Abortion started as a program in a pregnancy center. At that time Lisa Rowe, our Clinical Strategist, was the Executive Director of the PRC. She previously had worked as a clinical social worker in a high school program for teen moms. Lisa observed that some of the recurring clients the PRC was serving were former students of that high school program. Only these young women were seeking help with second and third pregnancies. And their lives were more chaotic than when she first worked with them in high school. 

Karin shared how a perplexed Lisa questioned the efficacy of how the young women were being served. Karin said, “We were not serving them well, so we started to brainstorm. No one wants to grow up and be a drug addict, but they do. No one wants to grow up and abuse their partner, but they do. No one wants to find themselves pregnant and then choose abortion, but they do.” 

She highlighted how through their brainstorming, they realized that there was something underneath the symptoms that were presenting, root causes contributing to the repeated behavior patterns. 

Karin excitedly declared, “And that’s where the book came from!” She explained that Support After Abortion did all of the production of the original Unraveled Roots client and facilitator video series in house. She enthusiastically shared that the program was then pitched to BrightCourse, a video-streaming curriculum service used by 2,000 social service agencies, counselors, pregnancy centers, and others. They were equally excited and picked it up. “That was one of the first things we got on BrightCourse. And seeing the success of the woman’s book, how different lives have been as a result of that, we just knew that we had to create something for men,” she said.

WHY CREATE A MEN’S VERSION OF UNRAVELED ROOTS?

Karin asked Greg to share a little about why he thinks having a men’s edition is so important. Greg responded, “We have to start with a little bit of the frustration that I experienced, and a lot of men experience.” He explained how, in the past, much of the material related to abortion healing has been geared toward women, highlighting how even material marketed to men was written by women or repackaged for men. 

“There’s nothing wrong with that in this sense, but the idea is that men speak differently and use different phrases. Different ideas and concepts resonate differently with men. And men often find healing in different ways too,” Greg said. 

He explained how the catalyst for developing the men’s book began in a co-ed Unraveled Roots group where he noted the difference in verbiage between the male and female participants. He realized the impact it was already having and strongly believed that more men could be reached with a version specifically for men, written by a man, that touched on the same roots. 

Karin affirmed what Greg shared about the differences between men and women, adding, “When I would ask Greg, how do you feel about that? He would say, Karin, I don’t feel anything about that, but I can tell you what I think,” highlighting it as an example of how they differ. 

HOW IS UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN DIFFERENT?

Greg shared that when the team began developing the book and the accompanying client-facing and facilitator-training video series, there were specific components they knew needed to be included, beginning with being written from a male perspective. Greg acknowledged himself as the author of the book, and shared that it has been a collaborative project involving a Support After Abortion team over the past year. 

He said that two other important components were the inclusion of real stories of men’s experiences, with names changed for privacy, and using examples that resonate with men. He explained how the Support After Abortion and production teams had many conversations during filming about whether the stories were being portrayed in a way that would speak to men to ensure they were staying true to their purpose. 

 

 

Behind the scenes, actors filming real stories from the book

Greg shared how all of the production crew and actors were male, varying in age and backgrounds, which leant itself to having other male voices to consider as they worked through the scenes, affording a greater level of authenticity.

Behind the scenes with all male crew and actors

Greg shared a clip from one of the client-facing videos, highlighting the producer’s narration and actor portrayal of “The Root of Abandonment.”  He emphasized the quality of the production and the resulting companion videos, saying, “It was very important to us to have a high level of quality, because in order for it to be truly effective, it had to be relatable to the men watching the video, and I think we achieved that.”

AVAILABLE FORMATS

Next, Greg discussed the various formats Unraveled Roots for Men is available in: paperback and Kindle on Amazon and digital download, and bulk ordering on Support After Abortion’s estore. He was excited to share that Audible would also be carrying the book in audio format in the next few weeks. 

He emphasized the importance of making an audio format available as men have shared they find the convenience of listening on their commutes beneficial. 

A LOOK INSIDE THE BOOK

Sample pages from Unraveled Roots for Men

Greg showed the audience a few samples taken from the book’s pages. In this example, the subject of the chapter focuses on “The Root of Abandonment.” He explained how the core text centers on the root issue – defining it, talking about it, and going through ways it shows up in real life. From there, he said, you read a Truth Story of one man’s struggle with that chapter’s root issue. Additionally, The Light Through the Branches stories inspire hope through overcoming. 

Karin pointed out that The Light Through the Branches stories are a new feature from the original Unraveled Roots book. She said these secondary stories are also included in the client-facing videos using actor voice overs to B-roll. She felt this addition enriched both the book and the video series. 

Greg concurred, noting that the varied stories allow more men to relate to the content, as issues manifest in different ways. He stated that this approach was aimed at reaching as many men as possible. 

At the end of the chapter, he explained, is the “Digging Deeper” section. This area is meant for thoughtful contemplation and provides space for capturing reflections through writing. Greg recommended that men incorporate journaling into their lives, sharing that he himself journals regularly. 

He noted that in the “Digging Deeper” section, the first step is to acknowledge what happened. Next, it addresses the lies men may have believed about themselves based on the event. Greg explained how it then guides them to recognize the behaviors they chose or engaged in because of those lies. From there, it focuses on finding the truth and changing those behaviors. He highlighted the importance of each of the steps in unraveling the roots of damaging behavior. 

Karin interjected to emphasize the importance of the order of the steps in the “Digging Deeper” section. She explained, “The reason they’re in the order that they are is that awareness is the first step in the change process. If you’re not aware of the roots of the things that happened in your life when you were growing up and how it made you feel about yourself, you can’t change it.” Greg agreed, highlighting that the first step is admitting there’s a problem and acknowledging your current state. 

COMPANION MATERIALS FOR UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN

Companion Journal and Facilitator Guide Covers for Unraveled Roots for Men

JOURNAL 

Greg introduced the addition of a companion journal to the book as well. Available through the Support After Abortion Estore, it can be downloaded and filled in electronically or printed for traditional use. 

Greg reiterated the importance of journaling, especially at the beginning of a recovery process. He said that he believes journaling is crucial for reflecting on thoughts and feelings over time. Greg explained, “When you hit a benchmark, say you go through an Unraveled Roots group, you can look back on what your thoughts and feelings were when you started. That’s part of the reason I think journaling is so important.”

He shared a personal anecdote to illustrate his point: “When I went to my first Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting at 18 years old, I wrote a letter to myself about that first meeting. I found that letter over this past weekend, and that was 36 years ago.” This experience underscored for him the long-term value of journaling in the recovery process. 

FACILITATOR GUIDE

Greg discussed the release of a facilitator guide, which has been in the works for the past several months, describing it as a valuable tool. 

The guide, available through Support After Abortion’s EStore, provides instructions on setting up and managing a group, and includes sample intake forms, welcome email templates, and weekly session guides. It is downloadable and printable right from the website, aiming to ensure facilitators’ success in leading an Unraveled Roots for Men group.

SELF-GUIDED UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN

Karin guided the audience on navigating to Support After Abortion’s “Abortion Healing Center” webpage and the new Unraveled Roots section for both men and women, where users can anonymously access self-guided, self-paced resources. Users can choose to order the book from Amazon or download it from this page.  They can also download the fillable journal and view the videos.

Unraveled Roots for Men, client webpage

RESOURCES & TRAINING FOR PROVIDERS

Karin directed providers to the Provider Training Center, Unraveled Roots section. This area offers both the facilitator-training and client-facing videos, facilitator guide, and options to download or purchase the book and journal. Providers access these resources using a login name and password. 

She highlighted that Unraveled Roots for Men will soon be available on BrightCourse. It will include quizzes on both the facilitator training and the client-facing videos to ensure you “know how to be that client’s advocate.”

Greg thanked Karin for sharing all of the ways to access the content and said, “I’m also thankful that we created so many different things around the book. All the things you just talked about – the videos, the journal and the facilitator guide –  because it really illustrates a commitment to helping men find healing, to helping men find a better path. A path out of their pain, a way to untangle their roots, a way to move forward.”

HOW TO USE UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN

Greg discussed the various ways to use Unraveled Roots for Men. One option, as Karen mentioned earlier, is to do it independently using the book and client videos, which provide direction and bring the content to life. 

He shared that some pregnancy resource centers have success working with clients one-on-one, especially when they may not have enough clients to form a small group. This approach, involving a “mentor” or “coach,” offers focused attention and is a valuable method for going through the material. 

Greg also highlighted the small group option, typically recommended for six weeks, that can be offered virtually or in-person. He reminded the audience how Support After Abortion could be of assistance in setting up virtual groups, which will enable providers to offer flexible options for healing. He stated that this variety in approaches – independent, one-on-one, and small group, both in person or virtually – underscores the commitment to providing multiple pathways to healing. 

FACILITATING AN UNRAVELED ROOTS FOR MEN GROUP

Greg and Karin discussed the structure of each week for small groups. Greg explained that typically, the first week involves introductions and Chapter 1, Why am I here? Greg emphasized the importance of this question, stating, “Each person needs to honestly answer that question because at the end of the group, we’ll revisit those answers.” This reflection allows participants to track their growth and understanding throughout the group. 

Small group weekly structure

He explained that week two focuses on the Root of Abandonment, defining it and exploring its impact through a true story and a series of thought provoking questions. 

Week three, he said, delves into the Root of Addiction, examining its effects from youth into adulthood, and applying the same process as the previous chapter. 

Week four addresses the Root of Abuse. Greg cautioned that while “all of the chapters can be triggering, this chapter can be hard to go through,” especially for those going through the material independently, as different forms of abuse are discussed. As with the previous chapters, the same process is used to guide participants in finding truth and changing behavior. 

In week five, the Root of Codependency is covered. Greg explained how the chapter defines the term in an easy to understand way and uses real life examples to break it down further. 

Karin shared her own experience leading codependency groups, noting how many participants initially deny being codependent, much like she did before her own recovery. She emphasized that almost everyone exhibits some form of codependency and highlighted the importance of recognizing it, allowing participants to decide whether to continue their current behaviors or make changes for personal growth. 

Greg discussed week six, explaining that it was designed to revisit the initial question, Why am I here? He emphasized the importance of reflecting on the reasons for starting the journey, the insights gained, and the behaviors changed through addressing the four different roots. 

Greg noted that this reflection aligns with “finding purpose in your pain,” asking participants to consider their next steps after experiencing healing through the Unraveled Roots process. 

He explained that week one, normally marked by trepidation and anxiety, contrasts with week six, which can be emotionally heavy as participants reflect on their progress and contemplate their future actions. 

Summarizing the six week process, Greg addressed those considering the group, stating, “If you’re thinking this is an entry-level group, it absolutely is by design.” The goal, he explained, is not to delve deeply into each subject but to help participants find some healing, peace, and pathways forward. 

HOW DOES UNRAVELED ROOTS BENEFIT ME OR MY CLIENTS?

Karin highlighted positive outcomes from people who had been through Unraveled Roots. The first was from a group participant who said, ‘Unraveled Roots’ helped put the pieces together as to why I even got to the point where I was facing the abortion decision in the first place. My trauma was so much deeper than I imagined, and just becoming aware of that is just so healing. Karin emphasized that understanding the abortion decision as a symptom of deeper issues was crucial. 

 A 74-year old coaching client said, ‘Unraveled Roots’ has given me a whole new life. Karin noted how remarkable it was that people could experience such profound changes even later in life. 

And a provider who offers Unraveled Roots to their clients said: After going through ‘Unraveled Roots’ myself, I know it can be an essential tool for helping clients break generational cycles and understand themselves and their decision-making. Karin stressed the significance of this feedback, noting that unhealthy behavior patterns often pass from generation to generation, and recognizing these patterns is key to breaking them.   

Greg agreed with Karin, acknowledging the abundance of positive outcomes. He noted that just as unhealthy behavior patterns can be passed down generationally, individuals also have the power to create generational healing. “You can be the catalyst for that, you can be the jumping-off point for generational healing,” he said. Greg emphasized that it all comes down to a decision, stating, “Am I adjusting my sail this way or that?”

HEALING FOR YOURSELF

Greg encouraged viewers to prioritize their own healing, emphasizing the importance of self-care with a quote from Lisa Rowe, LCSW: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” 

He explained that just as you must put on your own oxygen mask first in an airplane emergency, you must also find your own healing before effectively helping others. “It is impossible to truly and effectively help another person on their healing journey until you’ve walked your own,” he stated.

He announced his upcoming Unraveled Roots for Men group starting in July as an opportunity for men who want to lead, to begin their own healing journey. 

Karin emphasized the importance of this opportunity, urging men to sign up quickly for Greg’s group due to its limited capacity of 10 participants. She highlighted that this would be the first Unraveled Roots group exclusively for men – and the fact that it will be led by Greg, the book’s author – and encouraged men to secure a spot. 

CAN I GET TRAINED TO FACILITATE SMALL GROUPS FOR MEN?

Greg shifted the focus to helping clients heal, highlighting the new coaching program for male providers. He noted that Karin has successfully run a one-on-one coaching program for women for nearly a year, and now a similar program is being introduced for men. Greg explained that he would be working with men individually, guiding them through the process of facilitating Unraveled Roots for Men or Keys to Hope and Healing, whether in a group or one-on-one setting. Men can email Greg directly to learn more or to sign up for coaching.

CLOSING

Greg encouraged everyone to “get a copy of the book, read it, and reach out for further discussion.” He invited everyone to contact him or Karin via email, emphasizing the availability of direct communication with the authors, encouraging anyone interested in facilitating to get in touch and seek their assistance.  

Q & A HIGHLIGHTS

At the end of the presentation, addressed questions from the audience. Here are a few highlights related to Unraveled Roots for Men:

Q: Should men do Unraveled Roots for Men first or Keys to Hope and Healing?

A: It depends on the individual. Some men may first need to address childhood issues like abandonment or addiction through Unraveled Roots before tackling abortion-related behaviors with Keys to Hope and Healing. Others may start with Keys to Hope and Healing to clear emotional wreckage from an abortion, which can then reveal deeper issues suitable for  Unraveled Roots. Each healing step can uncover new areas for growth, encouraging ongoing healing efforts. 

Q: What is the sweet spot for Unraveled Roots? Would the 6-7 week group be appropriate for men as a follow-up to an all-day healing retreat?

A:  We have learned that retreats are like drinking from a fire hose. You come out of those on an extreme high note, so a follow-up to that kind of experience is a brilliant idea. At a retreat, you are digging deep for 8-9 hours a day; there isn’t a lot of processing that goes into it. It’s an experience, an encounter, so having it followed by another resource like Unraveled Roots is a really smart idea. 

Q: We are just getting male volunteers into our center and they’ve never facilitated. How do we get them ready to lead Unraveled Roots for Men?

A: The easiest way is to email me and enter them into the male coaching program. Let us walk them through the process of getting ready to facilitate so they can do an impactful job.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to go to the self-guided Unraveled Roots for Men resources

Click here to to to the facilitator Unraveled Roots for Men resources

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

ENGAGING MEN QUICKLY AND EFFECTIVELY

OVERVIEW

Uncover strategies to engage men quickly and effectively and support them with healing options that meet their needs. This webinar offers insights into stigmatization, men’s perceptions of mental health care, and reasons why they may hesitate to seek the support they desire and need. It explains the 4 Questions Deep by 4 Questions Wide conversation method to maximize the impact of brief interactions. And, it provides tips for effective messaging for social media, advertisements, and literature that resonate with men. 

MEN AND MENTAL HEALTH

“A sad soul can be just as lethal as a germ,” Greg Mayo, Men’s Healing Strategist at Support After Abortion, opened with a quote from John Steinbeck and continued, “Many men struggle with a lot of different things that we’re going to talk about, and those lead to their seemingly averse attitude toward  mental health opportunities. So what are we missing?” 

Greg shared a few statistics and information from an article published this year by the Association of American Medical Colleges titled, Men and Mental Health: What are we Missing? According to the article, the suicide rate among men is four times higher than among women. Greg noted that any Google search related to men and mental health will yield results centered around depression and suicide rates.

He mentioned the article’s discussion on how society historically has blamed men for their own issues. It highlighted that modern culture often holds men responsible for their problems, such as feeling depressed or lonely, attributing these issues to personal failings rather than acknowledging external factors. Greg emphasized that this attitude discourages men from seeking help, perpetuating the harmful notion that if a man experiences difficulties, it’s solely his fault. 

Greg highlighted an important statement by the article’s author, Dr. Derek Griffith which states, “Men aren’t the problem. The way that we – society as a whole and health care providers specifically – treat them is.” Greg recalled how that played a role in his own life, saying, “I think back to my early years in therapy. I was encouraged to think and talk in a way that resonates with women, which didn’t work for me.” Greg said that men often feel that providers mislabel and underestimate their needs, appearing to not have a genuine interest in what their real problems are. 

“Confucius once said, Balance is a perfect state of still water. Let that be our model. It remains quiet within and is not disturbed on the surface,” Greg said. He explained that this quote serves as an important personal reminder for him – to be quiet within and not disturbed on the surface. However, he added, “Unfortunately, what a lot of men do is they figure out a way to maintain that still water on the surface, but underneath is a churning mess.”  Reflecting on the quote, Greg emphasized the challenge of achieving balance, noting that for many men, it’s elusive. He remarked that most men have become adept at projecting a facade of composure, masking their inner struggles. 

Greg cited a meta-analysis paper based on nine different studies conducted by The National Institute of Health which found that over 70% of suicide deaths in the U.S. are men. He explained how the disproportionally higher suicide risk for men can be attributed to men being less likely than women to seek help for mental health difficulties, as they hold more negative attitudes toward the use of mental health services and their unwillingness to seek mental health support. Greg validated the study’s findings sharing that in his experience working with men in recovery and healing, the level of despair and depression is substantial. 

He addressed the challenges related to men’s perception of mental health, highlighting their tendency to focus outward and seek solutions. He referenced an article by the Walker Center, titled Why are Men Less Likely to Get Mental Health Help? explaining that women typically focus inward, addressing their emotions and behaviors, while men are inclined to fix external issues. 

Greg also noted that men often act out instead of expressing their emotions directly, resorting to behaviors such as alcoholism, substance abuse, workaholism, and seeking multiple romantic partners. He observed that these behaviors serve to either mask emotional pain or provide a means of feeling something. Ultimately, Greg emphasized that these actions are attempts to address underlying issues without directly confronting them. 

He discussed the stigma surrounding men seeking mental health care, noting society’s expectation for men to be pillars of strength and support for others. He emphasized the importance of men taking care of their own mental health, highlighting the disconnect between societal expectations and men’s needs. Greg shared an experience from earlier in the day from a men’s group he is a part of, where another member discouraged others from discussing their feelings and problems, posting, Why do men come on here and talk about their feelings and problems? Urging them to “man up” instead. Greg pointed out the contradiction in a group designed for support and encouragement dismissing men’s struggles. Greg concluded that the stigma around men seeking mental health care is likely to persist, but optimistically shared that we can do something about it. 

Greg challenged the idea of “toxic masculinity” being the main deterrent to men seeking therapy. He highlighted the lack of substantial research supporting this claim, noting the prevalence of opinion pieces on the topic. Quoting from an article by The Centre for Male Psychology titled, You can’t Help Men by Attacking Masculinity, he emphasized that violence and sexism stem from past trauma rather than masculinity itself. 

Greg then discussed the changing dynamics in today’s society, where a significant percentage of boys are raised by single mothers and taught by female teachers, leading to a lack of male role models. Reflecting on his own journey, Greg underscored the importance of addressing trauma rather than attributing negative behaviors solely to masculinity. 

Greg critiqued the Duluth Model, which attributes domestic violence to patriarchy and toxic masculinity. Greg shared that a meta-analysis found a less than 50% success rate with it and models like it, highlighting its ineffectiveness in addressing underlying trauma and the negative impact on men’s sense of masculinity. 

“Men feel that their masculinity is attacked, they want help, but many believe that nobody cares.” Greg said. he continued, “Men want help, but many men believe that nobody cares.” 

With permission, Greg shared some quotes from men he has worked with to support this idea: 

  • “If a man is suffering, then women will see them as weak, as a weak partner, and avoid him.” 
  • “I’ll never get married if a woman finds out I have pain.”
  • “Help? Who would help? No one gives a (expletive) about what I’m going through. How do I know? Because I’m a man.” 
  • “As long as I’m providing, that’s all that matters. My junk is my own.” 
  • “Seems like every time I try to talk to someone, my feelings end up being my problem, then their response to my feelings ends up being my problem. It’s like, why do that to myself? I’ll just keep quiet.” 

MESSAGING

“We can see by what’s been shared to this point, men want help, but they are told they don’t need help, they shouldn’t want help, but they are crying out,” Greg said. 

As discussed in previous webinars, Greg reminded the audience of the importance of messaging and the necessity to be able to reach men effectively. 

He stressed the need for change in various aspects, including advertisements, social media posts, and literature discussing men’s issues. Greg highlighted how crucial it is to tailor these materials to resonate with men, including the colors, pictures, and verbiage used. He pointed out how Support After Abortion’s media posts, aimed at reaching men, were specifically designed to resonate with men’s issues, reflecting how they talk, think, and receive information. Greg clarified that this approach isn’t to exclude women, but rather to create a separate campaign that is aligned with men’s communication preferences and style. 

The chief executive of The American Psychological Association, Arthur Evans, was quoted as saying, “There is clearly a growing recognition that we have to reframe mental health care in our approach to addressing the mental health needs of men.” Greg emphasized the significance of this statement, highlighting Evans’ suggestion to reframe therapy as an opportunity to become “strong and well,” rather than solely as treatment for mental illness. 

Greg discussed the challenge of engaging men in mental health care, noting that traditional approaches may not resonate with them. He contrasted how men and women typically receive offers of support, saying, “When you go to a man and you say, you seem sad, you lost him. We don’t receive information like that. Whereas, I asked my wife how she would receive that and she said, “If a friend said that to me, I would think she cares and I would most likely open up.” Greg highlighted the importance of this difference and understanding men’s communication preferences. 

Greg introduced the concept of “double jeopardy men,” coined by Dr. Sally Spencer Thomas, president and founder of United Suicide Survivors International, who identified a group of men with multiple risk factors for mental health issues. These men, despite facing a higher likelihood of mental health challenges, paradoxically exhibit a reluctance to seek help. He shared a quote from one of Dr. Thomas’s study participants, who remarked, “You know that message you mental health people put out there? If you’re depressed, seek help. Yeah, that misses on both counts,” illustrating the disconnect between traditional mental health messaging and men’s experiences. 

Greg discussed various online groups he found that cater to men’s mental health, noting their emphasis on providing spaces for connection, healing, and personal growth in a way that appeals to men. These organizations prioritize creating spaces where men feel empowered to confront their challenges and take control of their mental well-being. He mentioned how these organizations advertise nonjudgmental environments where men can feel comfortable opening up and seeking support. 

He said that unlike traditional therapy settings, which often come with various requirements and expectations, these groups offer a more relaxed approach. He said they have minimal requirements to get started, allowing men to engage without feeling overwhelmed by paperwork or rigid structures. 

Their messaging is tailored to resonate with men, employing masculine tones and imagery to inspire them. He noted how one of the groups messaging on their website specifically says, We have no requirements, no creeds, no gurus, and no judgment. He said, “If you get a guy to show up to a group and the first thing you do is hand him a 27-question form on a clipboard, you’ll lose him. He doesn’t need a guru, he doesn’t need somebody telling him what to do. He deals with that in other aspects of his life.” He continued, “He doesn’t need a list of requirements that he has to meet to join the group. And the most important thing is, he doesn’t need judgment.”

Greg said that by embracing masculine-friendly approaches and fostering a sense of empowerment, these organizations effectively engage men in addressing their mental health needs. These methods encourage men to open up and seek support in a way that aligns with their preferences and values.

I’M FINE

Greg shared an exchange with his son from earlier in the day, where his son asked Greg, who is fighting a cold, how he was doing. Greg’s response was the typical, “I’m fine.” Greg described this as a “padded response,” highlighting how men often use phrases like I’m fine, or I’m OK as automatic replies. Greg referenced a video on a men’s mental health page on social media where the presenter emphasized that usually when a man says, I’m fine, he is anything but. 

Greg then directed the discussion to an article by the Jefferson Center titled, I’m Fine: How to Talk to the Men in Your Life About Their Mental Health. The article explores strategies for engaging men who may be reluctant to open up about their struggles, emphasizing the importance of making a meaningful impact within a limited window of opportunity. He said, “When a man comes into your building, we all know that we have a very limited time to get them to talk, a very small window to get them to open up at all.”

Greg elaborated on the article, noting that it outlined five specific steps, beginning with making observations. He illustrated this with a scenario: a man entering a center. While it’s natural to simply ask him how he’s doing upon greeting him, Greg suggested delving deeper to foster openness. 

He emphasized the importance of first observing body language and considering the circumstances that have brought him there, then using these cues to pose thoughtful conversation starters. He said, “Listening and observing with both our eyes and ears, watching, reading body signals, paying attention to their non-verbal communication. Bob, it’s nice to meet you, you seem a little tired today. Are you good?” Greg explained how that observation is not the same as a generic question because it conveys that you are noticing something about him, stating, “Why is it different? Because what you’re telling him is, I see you, I see something in you right now. You look tired, man.” 

Using the same scenario, Greg shared another strategy for creating a space that encourages openness through observation. He said, “Another thing you can say is, Man, that chair doesn’t look real comfortable at all. We can move somewhere else if you want to.” He then explained the significance of this approach, highlighting the importance of considering the environment’s impact on a man’s comfort level. 

Greg stated that when a man finds himself in an unfamiliar public space, his immediate concern is typically locating the exits. Placing yourself between the man and the sole exit, such as when you’re sitting by the door in a conference room, can exacerbate his discomfort. 

Additionally, factors such as what is behind him, like open windows or foot traffic, can contribute to his unease. Greg underscored that men in such situations are already feeling uneasy, as they are not in their own space, but rather in someone else’s domain. The suggestion to adjust seating arrangements aims to alleviate some of this discomfort, providing him with a more conducive environment for openness and conversation.

 “One of the biggest problems for men is they feel alone. Nobody understands what I’m going through, nobody’s been through what I’m going through, nobody can relate to me. That’s what keeps men in isolation. After abortion loss, they feel alone,” Greg said. He shared that the next thing to consider, according to the article, is to share your experience. He explained how saying things like, I get it,  I’ve been there, or I understand grief conveys that someone relates to them and they are not alone. 

“Being able to relate to them through sharing about your own experience is enough to make him feel comfortable to talk about it.” 

Greg touched on the next idea from the article, getting men moving to foster open dialogue or to “Walk and Talk. He explained how this could be as simple as asking if they’d like to take a walk, when possible, to get fresh air. He suggested that this technique is usually successful for two reasons. First, it alleviates their discomfort of being in an unfamiliar place, and second, it capitalizes on the natural bonding tendency of men, who often find it easier to open up shoulder-to-shoulder rather than face-to-face, as women mostly prefer. By getting them moving, he explained, it helps shift their focus away from their immediate surroundings, allowing them to concentrate more on their thoughts without feeling scrutinized. Additionally, he shared that the benefits of exercise and outdoor exposure, such as fresh air and Vitamin D from the sun, further contribute to creating a conducive environment for conversation. Offering to go for a walk can gradually help the man feel more comfortable and inclined to share, thus fostering greater openness in communication. He said, “Offer to go out and walk and talk, and you might see them start to open up a little bit because they’ll feel more comfortable and they’ll start to let their guard down.”

“The other thing is, acknowledge difficult situations. Don’t dance around it. Don’t try to avoid it. They’re there for a purpose. Acknowledge the difficult situations,” Greg advised. He provided examples of saying to someone who has experienced abortion loss, I know it’s difficult to lose a child. Or, to someone considering abortion, I know it’s hard to think about being a parent right now, not being fearful of saying the wrong thing. 

Instead, he said, “Directly addressing the issue may be giving validity to what they are already thinking or feeling.” He continued, “Maybe the only people he’s talked to have said either, Oh man, she’s gotta have an abortion, or You gotta man up. Nobody has acknowledged where he’s at at the moment.” He explained how giving him that validity will encourage him to open up and talk. 

The last recommendation that Greg shared for talking to men about mental health was to ask twice. He explained, “Most men’s knee jerk reaction to how are you doing? is, I’m fine or I’m good, so ask twice.” Greg recounted an old church acquaintance who followed this practice, squeezing every man’s hand and asking, How are you doing? If the response was I’m fine or something similar, he would persist with, No, really though, how are you doing? 

Greg adopted this approach 15 years ago, not limited to recovery situations, but in general interactions. He shared a story that took place at a restaurant recently, where a flustered server responded with I’m fine initially, but upon Greg asking him again, opened up about feeling tired. Greg engaged in a 30-minute conversation with him, demonstrating that sometimes all it takes is a genuine interest and a willingness to ask twice to foster meaningful connections. 

He emphasized the importance of being open, authentic, and understanding that the initial response may not reflect the true feelings of the individual. He said, “It all boils down to something we’ve mentioned many times in this space: be open, be authentic, be honest. Then understand that the first response is that the man doesn’t trust you yet.”

CLOSING

Greg highlighted the “4×4 Method,” a sales technique he adapted for engaging with men. He explained that it involves asking four questions wide and four questions deep to uncover their underlying issues. 

The method hinges on active listening, letting each answer guide the next question. Greg emphasized the need to avoid scripting the conversation, as authenticity is crucial. By employing this approach, Greg discovered that within a few minutes, men often reveal profound struggles, rooted in fear, hidden beneath surface-level emotions like anger. He shared how this deeper understanding enables him to offer more tailored support, emphasizing the importance of avoiding assumptions. He offered a few sample dialogues to illustrate the benefit of using the 4×4 Method.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

SUICIDE INTERVENTION TOOLBOX: CARING FOR CLIENTS WHO MAY BE SUICIDAL – PART 2

SUICIDE INTERVENTION TOOLBOX: CARING FOR CLIENTS WHO MAY BE SUICIDAL – PART 2

INTRO

 

In today’s deep dive webinar, special guest, Amy Vogel, brought us Suicide Intervention Toolbox, Part 2 of Caring for Clients who may be Suicidal

Amy is a licensed Mental Health Counselor, specializing in traumatic grief and disenfranchised bereavement with over 10 years experience in providing crisis counseling and grief support services. Her research and advocacy focus on effective suicide bereavement interventions. Amy has led survivor support groups and serves on boards for Suicide Prevention and Operation Solid 7. She is a certified Clinical Trauma Professional and is certified in Thanatology. She is currently pursuing a PhD in counseling, education, and supervision.

 

SUICIDE INTERVENTION TOOLBOX

 

“As helpers, we all know how challenging and emotionally taxing it can be to work with clients who are in such a vulnerable state. We want to do everything we can to support them, keep them safe, and help them find reasons to keep living. But sometimes, it can feel like we’re not quite sure what to do or say,” Amy said as she introduced the idea of the Suicide Intervention Toolbox. Developed and validated by experts in the field of suicide intervention, it covers a range of practical tools, strategies, and resources that can be used when working with suicidal clients. 

Amy took a moment to acknowledge the profound importance of the work, stating, 

“Suicide is a major public health issue, and it devastates individuals, families, and communities. As helpers, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility to intervene, to help our clients find hope and meaning even in their darkest moments,” she continued, “Throughout this presentation, we’ll be focusing not just on the practical tools, but also on the underlying spirit of compassion and empathy that is so essential to this work. Caring for suicidal clients requires us to bring our full selves to the task – our knowledge, our skills, and our humanity.”

 

ASSESSING SUICIDE RISK

 

When it comes to assessing for suicide, it’s important to understand that traditional methods may not always be the most effective,” Amy said. She explained that in the past, most assessments focused on asking people if they were depressed or thinking about harming themselves, however research has shown that approach may potentially miss some important factors. She stated that instead of just looking at suicidal thoughts as a sign that someone might attempt suicide, the different paths that can lead to suicidal behavior must be considered as well. This involves asking questions that address the emotions and experiences that can make people feel vulnerable, such as the belief that others would be better off without them or the feeling that no one can help them solve their problems. 

Amy also pointed out the importance in recognizing that suicidal behavior can look different among different groups of people. As an example, she said that black teenagers may engage in risky or aggressive behaviors that could lead to harm or death, rather than directly attempting suicide. She stated, “When assessing for suicide risk in these populations, it’s important to ask about these kinds of behaviors and to look for sources of strength and support within their communities.”

She explained that another challenge in assessing suicide risk is that young people might be hesitant to open up about their suicidal feelings because they’re worried about confidentiality. They may fear that helpers will tell their parents about their thoughts without their permission. To address this, helpers should work together with young people to come up with a plan for sharing information with parents when necessary, in a way that makes the teenager feel as comfortable as possible.

Amy highlighted that the way questions are asked about suicide is also important, stating, “If we ask in a way that suggests we expect the answer to be “no,” people might hide their true feelings. Instead, helpers should ask about suicidal thoughts and behaviors in an open, non-judgmental way.”

She reiterated that assessing for suicide risk involves more than just asking about depression and thoughts of self-harm. Amy emphasized the importance of using

evidence-based screening tools and considering the unique factors contributing to suicidal ideation and behaviors in various individuals and communities. She suggested that by adopting a comprehensive and collaborative approach to assessment, those at risk can be more effectively identified and connected with the support they need.

 

ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS

 

“Attitudes and beliefs about suicide are complex and multifaceted, influenced by various factors such as religion, culture, and personal experiences. Financial situations, religious beliefs, and mental health all play a role in shaping our perceptions of suicide,” Amy said. She highlighted the importance of recognizing that different communities and cultures can have vastly different views on the subject. She gave the example of China being a place where, although religion may not be a significant part of life, opinions on suicide can be mixed. For this reason, understanding the diverse attitudes towards suicide is crucial in supporting those affected by suicide and working towards prevention.

Amy stated that research indicates individuals at higher risk of suicide often hold negative views towards those who attempt or die by suicide. She explained that these stigmatizing attitudes can create barriers, making it challenging for people to open up about their struggles and seek help. Furthermore, the fear of judgment or discrimination may influence how they contemplate ending their lives.

She shared that a recent Australian study discovered that individuals who hold negative perceptions of those who die by suicide, such as viewing them as cowardly or immoral, are more inclined to have negative attitudes towards seeking help for their own emotional issues. Additionally, the study revealed that individuals contending with suicidal thoughts or depression tend to harbor more negative attitudes about seeking help and are less inclined to reach out for support compared to others. This underscores the significance of fostering a supportive and empathetic environment where individuals feel encouraged to seek assistance. 

On the flip side, Amy noted that the research revealed that individuals with higher levels of suicide literacy – understanding warning signs, causes, and risk factors for suicide, as well as its preventability and treatability – tend to have more positive attitudes towards seeking help. 

Amy said the study also pointed out that younger people and men tend to have more negative attitudes about getting help compared to older individuals and women. She stated this suggests that public education campaigns aimed at increasing knowledge about suicide and reducing negative attitudes should focus on reaching these groups.

“While there has been progress in how society views suicide over time, a significant amount of stigma still lingers. This stigma can manifest in various forms of discrimination and prejudice, casting a shadow on individuals’ willingness to seek support and talk about their mental health challenges openly. Certain beliefs about suicide, such as the misconception that most individuals who die by suicide are mentally ill, did not show significant variations based on factors like gender or age, suggesting a potential lack of understanding within the general population,” Amy said. She went on to say that in order to address these issues, it’s crucial to focus on increasing suicide literacy and decreasing the stigma associated with suicide, saying, “By fostering a more supportive and understanding environment, we can create space for open conversations and effective support systems for those grappling with suicidal thoughts and mental health challenges. This can be a powerful step in preventing suicide and supporting those who may be struggling.”

 

IDENTIFYING FACTORS

 

“In assessing the risk of suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to consider both risk factors and protective factors,” Amy said. She stated that risk factors are elements that can increase the likelihood of suicide. This includes things such as past trauma, triggering events, and feelings of hopelessness or anger. Amy said it’s important to identify which of these risk factors can be changed to reduce the risk of suicide. 

“On the other hand, protective factors are like shields that can buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” she said. Protective factors include access to support, strong relationships, coping skills, and cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide. Amy stated that by enhancing the protective factors, an individual’s resilience can be strengthened, thereby reducing the risk of suicidal ideation.

Amy shared that through addressing and modifying risk factors while increasing protective factors, we can work towards reducing the risk of suicide and promoting mental well-being. She emphasized the essential nature of considering both aspects when assessing and supporting individuals who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

 

NEUROANATOMY

 

Amy presented a slide with information aimed at understanding the neurological factors that can increase suicidal thoughts. 

 

 

 

She asked the audience to picture the trauma and stress they face over the course of their lives. She stated that those experiences can contribute to suicidal behavior over time. She highlighted how our bodies, when stressed, have a stress response system which involves the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA Axis. The HPA Axis system works in conjunction with serotonin, norepinephrine, and polyamine systems, which are influenced by our genes.  

“So, when we’re under stress, our hypothalamus releases a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH then triggers the pituitary gland to release another hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Researchers have discovered that people who have died by suicide or attempted suicide often have abnormal levels of these hormones,” Amy said. 

She went on to explain how serotonin and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters, also play a role in suicidal behavior, stating, “Studies have found that people who have died by suicide have deficits in serotonin signaling and increased norepinephrine activity.”

Amy further elaborated that suicidal behavior and the development of psychiatric disorders are not solely determined by hormones and neurotransmitters; rather, the expression and function of our genes also play a significant role in contributing to these phenomena. She said, “Here’s where it gets fascinating. Traumatic events can have lifelong effects on our genes through epigenetic changes. These changes can lead to suicidal behavior. For instance, changes in a gene called FKBP5 can make a person more vulnerable to stress.” Amy stated that epigenetic changes can also impact neural plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and change. This happens because epigenetics influence neurotrophic deficiencies.

In summary, Amy explained how researchers have proposed the Life Span model. This model combines the Stress-Diathesis Model and the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide, covered in part 1, and tries to provide a neurobiological explanation for suicidal behavior. However, she emphasized that suicide is a multifaceted issue, underscoring the importance of ongoing research to fully comprehend suicidal behavior. She highlighted that there are many contributing factors, and biology should also be considered one.   

 

COLUMBIA-SUICIDE SEVERITY RATING SCALE

 

Amy reintroduced the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale or C-SSRS, which was previously discussed in the Part 1 webinar. She reminded us that the C-SSRS is a powerful and widely-used tool designed to help identify and assess suicidal thoughts and behaviors in individuals. Developed by leading universities in the United States, including Columbia University, with support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the C-SSRS has been extensively researched for over 20 years and is considered the gold standard in its field.

She stated that one of the key advantages of the C-SSRS is its simplicity and ease of use. The scale features straightforward questions that can be administered by anyone, even those with minimal training. It is available in more than 150 languages and can be easily integrated into electronic medical records, making it accessible and convenient for helpers worldwide.

Amy explained that when administering the C-SSRS, helpers ask a series of questions about the person’s suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The questions are designed to gauge the seriousness of the individual’s risk and determine the urgency of the needed support. The exact questions asked depend on the person’s answers, creating a personalized assessment tailored to their specific situation.

She said the C-SSRS questions cover various aspects of suicidal ideation and behavior, from passive thoughts like wishing to be dead to active thoughts about specific methods of suicide. The scale also asks about any steps taken to prepare for a suicide attempt, such as collecting pills, obtaining a gun, or writing a suicide note. By asking these direct, clear questions, the C-SSRS helps identify individuals at risk of suicide, enabling helpers to connect them with appropriate support and resources.

Amy shared that studies have demonstrated the C-SSRS’s effectiveness in detecting signs of suicidal thinking, with a sensitivity of 67% and a positive predictive value of 14%. This means that the scale can identify a significant portion of at-risk individuals, and when it does, there’s a good chance they truly need help. Amy suggested that organizations using the C-SSRS can establish their own guidelines for action based on individuals’ responses, which may range from immediate hospitalization to referrals for counseling or other support services.

 

C-SSRS QUESTIONS – DEEP DIVE

 

Next, Amy broke down the C-SSRS questions to provide a deeper understanding of how to use the tool. 

She explained that questions one and two are crucial for gauging a person’s suicidal thoughts and the questions are asked in relation to the past month, as recent thoughts and feelings are often the most relevant when assessing someone’s current risk.

The first question is, Have you wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up? This question is designed to identify passive suicidal thoughts. Passive suicidal thoughts are when a person feels like they don’t want to live anymore, but they don’t necessarily have a plan to end their life. They might wish they could just go to sleep and never wake up again. While these thoughts may not indicate an immediate risk of suicide, they’re still concerning and need to be taken seriously.

The second question is, Have you had any actual thoughts of killing yourself? This question goes a step further and asks about active suicidal thoughts. Active suicidal thoughts are when a person is actually considering ending their life. They might be thinking about specific methods or making plans. This is a more serious level of suicidal ideation and indicates a higher risk of suicide.

Amy said that by asking these two questions, we can get a sense of whether a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts and how serious those thoughts are. If someone answers “yes” to either of these questions, it’s a red flag that they may be at risk of suicide and need support.

Amy highlighted the importance of understanding that asking these questions directly doesn’t put the idea of suicide in someone’s head. If a person isn’t having suicidal thoughts, asking them about it won’t make them start. But if they are having these thoughts already, asking directly lets them know it’s okay to talk about it and that help is available.

She stated that if a person answers yes to the second question, then the C-SSRS directs us to ask a series of follow-up questions. These questions – numbers three through five – are designed to gauge the severity and intensity of the person’s suicidal thoughts. 

The third question asks, Have you been thinking about how you might do this?

She stated, “This question is trying to determine if the person has considered specific methods for ending their life. Have they thought about using pills, a gun, or another method? Having a plan indicates a higher level of risk, as it suggests the person has given serious thought to how they would attempt suicide.”

Question four goes a step further, asking, Have you had these thoughts and had some intention of acting on them? This question is assessing whether the person has not only thought about methods, but has also had some intention to follow through with those thoughts. Intention to act is a serious warning sign that the person may be moving closer to attempting suicide.

Amy explained that question five is perhaps the most critical. It asks, Have you started to work out or worked out the details of how to kill yourself? Did you intend to carry out this plan? This question is looking for concrete steps the person may have taken to prepare for a suicide attempt. Have they collected pills, obtained a gun, or written a suicide note? Have they made a specific plan for when, where, and how they would attempt suicide? And most importantly, did they intend to follow through with this plan?

She shared that answering “yes” to any of these questions is a major red flag. It suggests that the person’s suicidal thoughts are serious and that they may be at high risk of attempting suicide in the near future. She said, “The more “yes” answers a person gives, the higher their risk.”

Amy emphasized the importance of remembering that asking these questions is not about judgment or getting someone in trouble. It’s about understanding the severity of their situation in order to provide the right level of support. If someone is having serious suicidal thoughts, with plans and intent, they need immediate help to stay safe.

Amy said the last question, number six, is one that is always asked, regardless of how the person answered the previous questions. Question six asks, Have you done anything, started to do anything, or prepared to do anything to end your life? This question is looking for any actions the person may have taken to prepare for or attempt suicide. This could include things like giving away possessions, writing a suicide note, collecting pills, or obtaining a gun. Amy stated that if the person answers “yes” to this question, we then ask a follow-up question: Was this within the past 3 months? This helps us understand how recent the action was. A recent action is more concerning than something that happened a long time ago, as it suggests the person may be in a current suicidal crisis.

Amy stressed the importance in noting that this question isn’t just asking about suicide attempts. It’s also asking about preparatory behaviors. She said, “Someone might not have actually tried to end their life, but if they’ve started giving away their possessions or have bought a gun with the intention of using it on themselves, that’s a serious warning sign.” She continued, “Answering “yes” to question six is an emergency situation. It means the person has taken steps to end their life and may be in imminent danger. They need immediate support and intervention to ensure their safety.” She explained that this is why question six is always asked, even if the person said “no” to the previous questions about suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, a person might deny having suicidal thoughts but still have taken action towards suicide. Asking this question directly can uncover critical information that might otherwise be missed.

 

STANLEY-BROWN SAFETY PLAN

 

“Depending on the severity and your organization’s protocol, safety planning is essential,” Amy said as she re-introduced The Stanley-Brown Safety Plan she first addressed in the Part 1 webinar. She reminded us that this tool is a widely used, evidence-based tool designed to help individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Developed by Dr. Barbara Stanley and Dr. Gregory Brown, this plan is a practical, step-by-step guide that clients can use to manage their suicidal thoughts and stay safe during a crisis.

Amy highlighted the beauty of the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan, stating, “It’s not just a generic, one-size-fits-all document. Instead, it’s a personalized plan that the client develops in collaboration with their mental health provider. This collaborative approach ensures that the plan is tailored to the individual’s unique needs, circumstances, and preferences.”

She explained that the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan typically includes six key steps:

 

  1. Identifying warning signs: The client learns to recognize the thoughts, images, moods, or behaviors that typically precede a suicidal crisis.
  2. Employing internal coping strategies: The plan lists coping strategies that the individual can use on their own to manage their thoughts and emotions, such as relaxation techniques, physical activity, or positive self-talk.
  3. Utilizing social contacts and social settings for distraction: The client identifies people and places that can provide a healthy distraction from their suicidal thoughts.
  4. Contacting family members or friends who may offer help: The plan lists trusted individuals whom the client can reach out to for support during a crisis.
  5. Contacting mental health professionals or agencies: The client includes the contact information for their therapist, psychiatrist, or local crisis line.
  6. Reducing the potential for use of lethal means: The plan includes steps for making the client’s environment safer, such as removing firearms or stockpiled medications.

 

She said, “What’s powerful about the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan is that it empowers clients to take an active role in managing their own safety. It’s not just about what the helper can do for the client, but what the client can do for themselves.”

Amy stated that research has shown the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan to be a highly effective tool for reducing suicidal behaviors and increasing treatment engagement. She emphasized that when working with clients who are at risk of suicide, incorporating the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan into your organization can be a powerful way to enhance your clients’ safety and wellbeing.

 

SELF-CARE

 

“When working with suicidal clients, it’s crucial for helpers to prioritize self-care. Engaging in regular self-care practices can help prevent burnout, maintain emotional well-being, and ensure that we’re providing the best possible care to our clients,” Amy said. 

She explained that one important aspect of self-care is debriefing. Regularly debriefing and discussing challenging cases and emotions with colleagues can provide invaluable support, perspective, and guidance. These conversations, whether informal or structured, offer an opportunity to process difficult experiences and learn from others.

Amy stated that another key element of self-care is setting boundaries between our work and personal lives. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance involves setting clear boundaries, such as not checking work emails outside of work hours and dedicating time to hobbies and activities unrelated to work. She explained that by creating a clear separation between our professional and personal lives, we can recharge, avoid becoming overwhelmed, and ensure that we have the time and space to take care of ourselves and engage in activities that bring us joy and relaxation.

Lastly, Amy suggested incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into our daily routine as a powerful self-care practice. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help manage stress, promote a sense of calm, and improve overall well-being. Taking even a few minutes each day to focus on our breath or engage in a relaxation exercise can help us stay grounded and better equipped to handle the emotional challenges of our work.

She stressed the importance of prioritizing self-care, saying, “Through practices like debriefing, setting boundaries, and engaging in mindfulness, we as helpers can maintain our own emotional resilience and well-being. This, in turn, allows us to provide the highest quality care to our clients who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

 

CASE STUDY: APPLYING THESE TOOLS IN A REAL-LIFE CRISIS SITUATION

 

Amy shared a case study to demonstrate how the tools and strategies discussed in this presentation, such as the C-SSRS and Stanley-Brown Safety Plan, can be applied in a real-life crisis situation. She said that it also highlights the importance of empathy, active listening, and self-care when working with individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Sarah, a 25-year-old woman, calls a helpline after having an abortion. She’s been feeling overwhelmed with emotions and has been experiencing suicidal thoughts. The call is answered by Emily.

Emily begins by establishing rapport and creating a safe, non-judgmental space for Sarah to share her feelings. She listens actively and validates Sarah’s emotions, acknowledging the complexity of her situation.

Using the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), Emily assesses Sarah’s risk of suicide. She asks the first two questions:

  1. “Have you wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?” 
  2. “Have you had any actual thoughts of killing yourself?”

Sarah responds “yes” to both questions, indicating she has been experiencing suicidal ideation. Emily then proceeds with questions 3, 4, and 5 to gauge the severity of Sarah’s thoughts:

  1. “Have you been thinking about how you might do this?”
  2. “Have you had these thoughts and had some intention of acting on them?”
  3. “Have you started to work out or worked out the details of how to kill yourself? Do you intend to carry out this plan?”

Sarah reveals that she has thought about overdosing on pills but hasn’t made a concrete plan or taken any steps to acquire the means. Emily then asks question 6:

  1. “Have you done anything, started to do anything, or prepared to do anything to end your life?”

Sarah says she hasn’t taken any actions to end her life.

Based on Sarah’s responses, Emily determines that while Sarah is experiencing suicidal thoughts, she doesn’t appear to be at imminent risk. However, she recognizes the seriousness of the situation and the need for ongoing support.

Emily works with Sarah to develop a personalized Stanley-Brown Safety Plan. They identify Sarah’s warning signs, internal coping strategies, social contacts for distraction, family and friends who can offer support, and professional resources. They also discuss steps to make Sarah’s environment safer.

Throughout the conversation, Emily remains compassionate and non-judgmental. She reassures Sarah that her feelings are valid and that help is available. She provides Sarah with resources, including the number for the crisis line, and encourages her to reach out anytime she needs support.

After the call, Emily takes a moment to practice self-care. She takes a few deep breaths, does a brief mindfulness exercise, and then debriefs with a colleague about the emotionally challenging call. This helps her process her own emotions and prepare to continue supporting others.

Through this process, “this person who was suicidal has felt validated, heard, cared for,” Amy said. She talked about the need for, and different ways to achieve, ensuring that at-risk individuals always keep their safety plan with them “because we never know when a crisis might be triggering, and that safety plan is like their light in that dark hole.”

 

HANDOUTS

 

Click here for the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.

Click here for the Stanley Brown Safety Plan.

 

NEXT STEPS

 

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

Mother’s Day After Abortion: 6 Insights for Navigating Emotions & Healing

Mother’s Day After Abortion: 6 Insights for Navigating Emotions & Healing

Mother’s Day can be a holiday fraught with emotion for those who have experienced loss related to motherhood. People may feel stuck in the middle of roses and spa ads while they don’t have their mom with them any longer, or they suffer from infertility and cannot have kids, or have experienced miscarriages. 

Or maybe they have experienced abortion, and Mother’s Day just isn’t something they can or want to handle. Reproductive experiences such as abortion can be very complicated, and it’s not something our society freely discusses. 

Some women are not affected by Mother’s Day, such as one mom of three whose abortion was decades ago and another who had an abortion as a teen. Both said that they don’t relate to struggling with Mother’s Day. 

Other women who have experienced abortion sometimes really dread Mother’s Day, such as these women who posted anonymously in a social media group:

– When people wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, it makes my skin crawl. It isn’t a happy day for me. I have a child who makes me so happy. But part of me won’t ever be complete because of the two children who aren’t with me because of my abortions. Mother’s Day is very uncomfortable.

– My abortion was almost 30 years ago, and I still struggle with the loss on the due date, the abortion date, and especially on Mother’s Day. I was a single mom with four young kids. I had no support and just couldn’t see how I could manage another baby. These anniversary dates can be so hard.

We’ll talk here about some of those emotions and how to navigate Mother’s Day if you’re unsure about how you feel or just want to run and hide that day. We’ll also give you a few tips on how to approach the holiday with someone close to you who is struggling after abortion.

1 – EMOTIONS AROUND MOTHER’S DAY VARY WIDELY 

There are a wide variety of emotions and feelings that can follow abortion experiences. Sometimes these show up right away and other times, they take weeks, months, or years to appear. And for some women, they don’t ever appear. 

These are some common emotions following abortion: 

  • Relief
  • Grief
  • Regret
  • Anger 
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness 
  • Depression

If you’re feeling any of these emotions, it’s normal. Perhaps you feel like some of these clients:

– At first I was fine after my abortion and went back to my everyday life. But then feelings of regret and guilt hit me. I thought I made the best decision I could, so I was surprised and shocked to feel regret. I feel empty and like what’s the point of life now. – Client

– I feel regret, shame, and darkness around me. I put on a happy face, but inside I wanted to cry all day. My friends don’t understand, and I don’t want to tell my family. So I feel alone. I function daily and act like everything’s fine, but I am not okay. – Client

– I’m experiencing major waves of grief over my abortion. It’s affected me so much. I feel so depressed. – Client

– I feel empty, sad, and angry. I was dealing with a divorce, abusive ex, and single parenting two other kids. It broke my heart, but I felt I had no other choice. I still feel so alone. I don’t want to resort to substances to cope. I need to talk to someone. – Client

If you want to talk to someone confidentially about how you’re feeling or just need a listening ear, you can always reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, text, phone, or through Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok messaging.

2 – MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION WITH KIDS AND FAMILY CAN BRING MIXED EMOTIONS

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 60% of women who have an abortion are already mothers with “one or more children.” 

They’ve likely celebrated Mother’s Day at least once, sometimes many more times. They’ve maybe received sentimental gifts from their kids and/or partner. If they are feeling regret, anger, depression, or any other negative emotion after their abortion, celebrating Mother’s Day could end up being truly a dreaded day. 

Mother’s Day, for them, can come with very mixed emotions. They may want to celebrate Mother’s Day with their children, but feel regret about their child(ren) not with them. Whatever they are feeling is valid. Again, after-abortion emotions can vary widely. 

One mom shared:

I don’t know how to manage Mother’s Day this year. I have an older child as well, but I just feel depressed thinking about celebrating. I was going to make a cake, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. 

Another talked about emotionally challenging family events:

– The first Mother’s Day after my abortion was more triggering than I thought it would be. My family supported my decision. But that Mother’s Day, they celebrated together, and my sister announced her pregnancy. While I was happy for her, watching everyone’s excitement for her made me feel sad. I wish I had a support group to talk about how this heavy, life-changing decision stays with us.

3 – MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION AT CHURCH CAN BE CHALLENGING

Many churches have special prayers and acknowledgements for mothers on Mother’s Day, which always falls on a Sunday. One woman shared that for years after her abortion she avoided church on Mother’s Day because the joyfully-spoken request for all mothers to stand and be recognized was too painful. 

For women who practice a faith, they may feel lost when it comes time for that mother’s blessing at church. Do they stand up and be acknowledged as mothers even if they don’t have children with them? Do they want to deal with questions from fellow churchgoers asking where their kids are? 

Or do they feel sorrow about their abortion experience and inwardly cringe when a blessing is given to seemingly happy mothers around them? 

What about when blessings and prayers are given to women who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth, but abortion is never mentioned? 

Mother’s Day can be a minefield for women who have experienced abortion, especially in churches on that Sunday. For women who have experienced abortion, we see you and acknowledge your emotions. They are valid. 

And for those in churches who give blessings on Mother’s Day, offering prayers for all women who have suffered reproductive loss of any kind can go a long way towards offering healing for women who have experienced abortion. They need to be seen and prayed for also. 

4 – AVOIDING MOTHER’S DAY MAY NOT BE THE HEALTHIEST OPTION

Avoiding Mother’s Day altogether may not be a sustainable solution to the complex emotions many individuals face, particularly those who have experienced abortion. While society’s attempts to be sensitive are well-intentioned, they risk perpetuating a culture of avoidance rather than encouraging healthy processing of emotions. An example of this trend is the recent surge in emails offering the option to unsubscribe from Mother’s Day content, effectively allowing people to opt out of acknowledging the holiday altogether. 

However, by offering such opt-out options, we may inadvertently discourage individuals from confronting and processing their feelings surrounding Mother’s Day, including those related to abortion. Perhaps instead of avoiding sensitive topics and times, we should strive to create spaces and conversations where people feel supported in exploring and navigating their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner.

Talking about these feelings more openly can help others realize that they are not alone. The need for such connections is evident in these queries on a chat board:

– Does Mother’s Day make anyone else feel weird after their abortion? I feel sad that I won’t be “celebrating” Mother’s day… ever… because that baby is no longer here and I am no longer going to be his mother. I feel like I don’t have the right to be sad or feel these emotions.

– Is it wrong that I want to celebrate Mother’s Day even though I chose to terminate? I still love my angel baby, but it wasn’t the right time. 

– I didn’t expect Mother’s Day to trigger my feelings about my abortion, but it did. I know I made the best decision I could, but it still hurts. Anyone else feeling a bit triggered?

– I haven’t planned anything for my mom yet and I feel guilty, but I also cry every time I think about Mother’s Day since my abortion. Honestly I just want to spend it crying in bed instead of pretending to be happy. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to cope or what I can do to honor the baby? Should I even try, or will that make it worse?

5 – IDEAS FOR COPING WITH MOTHER’S DAY AFTER ABORTION

If you have experienced abortion, and if you are going through negative emotions about your experience(s), how do you navigate Mother’s Day? 

One of the best ways to handle Mother’s Day if you are approaching that Sunday with trepidation is to get ahead of it. Make an appointment with your mental health provider. Give us a call or text at Support After Abortion. Talk to a trusted family member or friend who can just listen to you. This can all help to put you in a better spot mentally and emotionally as Mother’s Day approaches. 

One woman who experienced abortion and went through one of the healing programs offered by Support After Abortion said, “A part of me would really love to do something to celebrate Mother’s Day, but I don’t know what that would look like exactly. Maybe this year I’ll plant a flower or do something to memorialize my baby in some small way.”

Some suggestions offered in online sharing forums include:

– I spent my first Mother’s Day since my abortion getting a new tattoo in memory of my baby.

– I buy forget-me-not flowers on Mother’s Day.

One woman offered coping tips like relaxing in a bath, enjoying a favorite treat, doing a random act of kindness for someone. She ended with, “No matter what you choose to do, I hope it brings you some joy and peace!”

And this woman’s post illustrates the struggle:

– Does anyone have tips on how to handle Mother’s Day? The first Mother’s Day after my abortion was really bad for me. I went out of town with a friend for the weekend, but it didn’t help. I’m trying to decide how to handle it this year. I’ve decided not to spend it with my mom because I don’t want any reminder that it’s Mother’s Day. Should I just treat it like any other Sunday? Should I turn off my phone and avoid social media? Should I spend it with friends? 

For those who have not experienced abortion but who may be close to someone who has, it’s okay to ask them how they would like the day to be acknowledged. It may be to not acknowledge Mother’s Day at all, which is absolutely fine. Or she may want to talk about her abortion experience or take a walk in the woods. You might consider sending a card. Support After Abortion offers a selection of free, printable cards. Everyone experiences abortion differently and sometimes it’s just really nice to know someone is in your corner and ready to listen. 

6 – HEALING AFTER ABORTION IS EMPOWERING

Support After Abortion offers several free resources for anyone – women, men, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – affected by abortion and looking for help. 

Here is how a few clients described the impact of abortion healing in their lives:

– Reaching out, getting support, and finding healing after my abortions changed my life, saved my life. It was the most important thing I’ve ever done. – Client

– Support After Abortion provided exactly what I needed. They gave me the opportunity to have a safe place where I could share not only what I am struggling with, but also a place to celebrate the hard work I’ve been putting into healing. I finally feel like I am not alone. I am thankful beyond belief. – Client

– I am so grateful for the opportunity to be in the Keys to Hope and Healing group. I have been able to talk about my abortion experience with others who understand me. I was ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I was not ok. Then I found Support After Abortion and called the After Abortion Line. If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure how I would have gotten out of the darkness I was in. They listened and connected me to a virtual group. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity, for this healing journey. – Client

Reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, phone, text, email, or messaging on Facebook or Instagram. We offer free, confidential, compassionate support. We can connect you to the healing resource that best meets your preferences. That may be one-on-one, group, or independent; counseling or peer facilitator; virtual, in person, or self-guided; religious or secular; weekend, weekly, or self-paced, etc. Check out our website for information, videos, self-guided healing, and more for women and men.

Keys to Hope and Healing is an introductory abortion healing resource available for women and men, in English and Spanish, religious and secular versions. Resources include booklets, journals, facilitator’s guide, training videos, and self-guided healing for women and men.

DO YOU – OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO – PROVIDE AFTER-ABORTION SUPPORT?

Explore our Provider Training Center and attend our free monthly Abortion Healing Provider webinars, Men’s Healing Matters webinars, and Quarterly Facilitator Trainings.

© Support After Abortion

 

Facilitator Training: Staying in the Driver’s Seat

Facilitator Training: Staying in the Driver’s Seat

Do you wonder, as a facilitator, how to manage difficult discussions while fostering a supportive environment for your support group participants? Do you want to know how to stay confidently at the helm when navigating the twists and turns of group dynamics? This Quarterly Facilitator Training from Support After Abortion will help you feel more self-assured and equipped as a facilitator to help the women and men in your groups. 

Let’s take a look at ineffective “Wrong Way” and best practice “Right Way” facilitator approaches to three scenarios. You may be surprised to know, as you watch or read the role plays unfold, that all of these “Wrong Way” scenarios actually happened in real life. This is one webinar that you will want to watch in order to really see the interactions at work!

The role plays are acted by hosts Case Manager Heidi Inlow, who role plays the facilitator, and Special Projects Manager Karin Barbito, who role plays a group participant. 

SCENARIO 1: GETTING DERAILED BY PARTICIPANTS 

Facilitator Heidi opens the session asking people to share how they felt after the previous week’s session. Group participant Karin shared that she was “really bummed” because she really wants her partner to do the group with her, but he keeps shutting her out.

Wrong Way

  • When Heidi tried to respond to her comment, Karin continued interrupting.
  • Heidi let the interrupter drive the conversation, especially when she insisted that the facilitator share her own story, “Heidi, do you wish your partner would do healing with you?”
  • This derailed the group and tripped up the facilitator who got trapped in answering the question, which led the participant to jump to an unhealthy conclusion and feel worse than at the start.

Right Way

  • Facilitator Heidi started the session by briefly reviewing the group guidelines.
  • She mirrored Karin’s words in responding to her question.
  • Heidi remained in the driver’s seat by reminding Karin that “we’re focusing on Key 1 right now.” When Karin continued pushing, Heidi calmly restated the guidelines for allowing everyone time to speak. “I want to honor what you want to share, so maybe when we’re done, if we have time you can stay on longer, and you and I can talk through this a little bit. How does that feel for you? Do you want to stay on a little bit longer?” When Karin declined that invitation, Heidi said she would reach out to her after the group.
  • Then Heidi immediately pivoted, saying “Who wants to go next to share what they’re feeling from Key 1?”

Discussion and Q&A 

The mistake was that the facilitator got in the boat with the participant. Heidi shared that it can be uncomfortable and a struggle even for her as a seasoned facilitator to do this. 

Is it more important for each partner to go through healing individually first or together?

Heidi explained that it’s a very individual decision. She shared that she has learned that “my journey is my journey. I can’t make my partner do it with me and I need to honor that. I need to focus on my healing.” She explained the ripple effect of healing – that by going through healing yourself, that will impact the people around you.

What do you do when your partner is willing to go through healing with you?

Talk together, but encourage each partner to do the work themselves, Heidi advised.

Karin agreed, “It’s their healing journey, so however they want to do that, meet them where they are.”

“We can’t guide them in what direction to go,” Heidi said “or force someone who isn’t ready.”

How do you support the “know-it-all”?

The attendee shared the challenge as a facilitator with participants who always have an answer for every question, and might share a 20-minute story. She spoke about clients who chime in saying, Oh, I experienced that too. So, let me give you advice on how I did it and what worked for me. and take over the group time.

Karin pointed out that one of the recommended ground rules is to not give advice. “So, I would nip that in the bud right away.” She advised facilitators to go over the ground rules again explaining that participants can relate to each other, but “there’s no cross talking, no advice giving.” She said, “I have a really firm hand on my groups that way because you have to create a safe place for them so everyone can share, everyone gets their chance.” She continued, “Unasked advice can really ruin the environment.”

Heidi shared that because she likes to talk and give advice, she has learned to take a pause and ask herself questions like, Am I active listening, or am I trying to plan what to say next? and Is this important, or do I just want to be heard?

How would you suggest supporting a participant who keeps bringing up the same thing every time?

Karin suggested that the participant may be repeatedly bringing it up because they don’t feel heard. “I would validate what they’re feeling,” Karin said, “and become curious and ask questions differently to see if that person can see” what is causing them to “think about this over and over again.”

If it keeps happening, then Heidi advised facilitators to validate that this is important to the person, remind the group about the guideline to allow everyone a chance to speak, and offer  to discuss it with that participant outside the group session. 

SCENARIO 2: HANDLING QUESTIONS

Karin role played calling the After Abortion Line saying, “I had an abortion five months ago, I have two kids, and I feel like my mothering instincts are gone. Did you personally experience this, or do you know someone who has?”

Wrong Way

  • Heid: “Wow, golly. Feeling like you’ve lost your mothering instinct. I haven’t experienced this. I haven’t heard this a lot, but it has to be common.
  • Karin starts attacking Heidi because she feels like she can’t relate to her and that what she’s telling her doesn’t make sense.
  • Heidi: “No, no, no settle down…”
  • Karin gets more frustrated and escalates her verbal attacks.
  • Heidi: “No, that’s not what I’m doing. I’m here to help you, okay?”
  • Heidi gets defensive and starts telling the client all the reasons why Heidi’s personally a wonderful helper, ending with “People tell me I’m a great listener. I’m here for you.”
  • Karin says, “Well, you’re not listening to me now.” and hangs up.

Right Way

  • Heidi says, “I’m sorry for what you’re going through.”
  • Heidi mirrors Karin’s language and explains abortion affects people in many different ways. 
  • Heidi asks, “When you say your mothering instincts are gone, what does that mean for you?” which led to a compassionate, productive dialogue with the client.

Q&A 

Shouldn’t we have answered her questions?

Heidi affirmed that she also struggles with whether or not to answer questions clients ask. She explained that on the After Abortion Line, Support After Abortion validates and relates. “We need to learn more about what the client is sharing and stay curious about what she really means,” she said.

In a support group setting (versus the role play scenario of a triage call line), Heidi urged facilitators to remember that in group, they ask the questions. She suggested pulling other participants in by saying, Karin, that’s a great question. How about anyone else here? Is this something anyone else has struggled with?

“A support group is to help clients feel more normal and not alone,” Heidi said, “so let your participants answer the question.”

What should I say when a participant says something that really throws me?

Assuming what they shared was some kind of trauma, Karin encouraged facilitators to “First say, I’m so sorry you went through that. Then if you don’t have an answer, don’t make one up. Let there be silence.”

Heidi conveyed that this happened to her recently on the After Abortion Line when a client shared something, and Heidi just held the silence. After a bit, she said to the client, I don’t even know what to say, I’m so sorry. And, the client received that.

“When we stumble through and make something up,” Heidi said, “We lose that sincerity.”

Heid also urged facilitators to make sure their faces don’t show their shock or surprise. She described a time a group participant shared something and she could only say, I don’t even know how to lead that. Thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry you went through that.

Should we ask what city or state they’re calling from and would they be open to receiving counseling from their nearest PRC?

Heidi explained that the goal is to get clients the support they need, but we need to navigate that with what the client is comfortable with. She described a recent client who she referred for support who didn’t want to share her name or location. She spoke about the value of offering options such as in-person or virtual. Virtual does require that type of info. But, if the client wants in-person, then you might say, That’s great, I want to find the right fit for you. Would you share your zip code? When a client wants in-person, but isn’t comfortable giving their name, we give them the provider’s information so they can contact them directly. “Don’t be alarmed if they don’t want to share their information,” Heid said.

What’s the Best Way to Answer the Phone?

Wrong Way

– Hi, this is the After Abortion Line, how can I help you? 

Right Way

– Hi, this is Heidi with the Support Line, how can I help you? 

Karin explained sharing your name up front can make clients feel more comfortable. Heidi pointed out that, in the “Right Way” scenario, she only said “with the Support Line.” She explained that even saying the word abortion can trigger people and make them feel overwhelmed.

“Every time we lead a group, every time we pick up the phone,” Heidi said, “we often hear from clients that this is their first time talking to someone about their experience.” It’s important to be mindful that, while we have these conversations with people all day, their emotions and experiences are new for them. 

SCENARIO #3 How to Handle Faith Conversations within a Secular Group?

Heidi opens the session and invites participants to share how they were working through anger to forgiveness in Key 3. Karin jumped in and enthusiastically shared about reconnecting with her faith and how meaningful that has been for her.

Wrong Way

  • Heidi gushes with approval and starts talking about God and the joys of faith. She encourages Karin to reconnect with her church and says she would help her with that. Then she asks the group if anyone else has experienced this too.

Right Way

  • Heidi says, “Thank you for trusting the group to share that. I’m happy that you’ve been able to walk through your anger and forgiveness. It took a lot of bravery to share that. How about anyone else? Would anyone else like to share what’s helped you move through anger to forgiveness?”
  • Karin interrupts to share more about her faith experience.
  • Heidi says, “I totally understand you’re on this high, and I want to make sure you can be heard. How about if I reach out and we can schedule some time one-on-one. This will help us honor our secular group that we’re having. Not everybody is on the same boat. So, I’ll reach out after group, and we can talk a little more. Okay?
  • Karin agrees and thanks Heidi.

Discussion

Heidi discussed what a secular group is and how to honor that, and what the facilitator’s role is with that. “It’s not that faith won’t come out, because it can be part of someone’s journey,” Heidi said. “But, in a secular group, the facilitator’s role is to maintain neutrality and keep a secular group secular.”

Q&A

What is the reason that we as facilitators don’t talk about faith or encourage the faith talk?

Karin explained that when people contact the After Abortion Line, we meet them where they are and provide them with options – in-person or virtual, religious or secular, etc. “And if someone doesn’t believe in God and wants a secular program,” Karin said, “for us to send them to a support group where God’s going to be talked about – not only by the participants, but by the facilitator – we’re not honoring them or their preferences. And they’re not going to trust us.”

“We can’t censor what someone is going to say about their own personal walk,” Karin said, “but we can minimize it within the group because it’s violating other people’s boundaries.”

Heidi pointed out the need to be mindful of our facial expressions and asked attendees to recall how she was effusive and matching Karin’s enthusiasm in the Wrong Way role play. Whereas in the Right Way role play, she remained neutral.

She emphasized the need for facilitators to respond the same to all participants, using the example of a participant sharing they were finally able to talk with their partner and get through their anger. “We’re going to respond, Great job, that had to be hard. That’s so brave of you. And, that’s helpful for you to get through your anger and move on to forgiveness.

What’s percentage of women don’t want to talk about God in their healing?

Support After Abortion’s research shows that only 16% of women want to start with a God message. Karin reminded attendees that a person’s desire to not talk about God doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t believe in God. She shared how after her own abortion experience, she believed God would condemn her.

Heidi advised listening and validating what they’re looking for. If they talk a lot about God or their faith, you might say, You’ve talked about God… and discuss secular and religious options and ask their preference.

Have you ever let the participants know that everyone will be honored in the group no matter whether they have a faith or not, atheist, Catholic, that all will be honored as they share? And would you use the word secular with the group?

Karin confirmed that using the word secular is appropriate and intentional. She mentioned the secular Keys to Hope and Healing introductory abortion healing books that Support After Abortion developed in partnership with The Word Among Us. “There’s no God in it,” she said.

“If someone is asking for a secular support group, that’s what we’re going to provide them with,” Karin said. “So, faith is off the table from a facilitator standpoint.” 

She reiterated that people may mention their faith, or that they’re a Catholic, Muslim, atheist, etc, but the facilitator must not allow the conversation about or on religion to continue. “Doing so violates someone’s preferences,” she explained, “such as the participant who said, I want a secular group. I don’t want to talk about religion. Any religion.

“And we developed that [secular Keys to Hope and Healing] resource because so many people are saying that to us,” Karin said.

Heidi encouraged providers who want to offer secular abortion healing groups to set them up for success from the begining with the right group description, registration, guidelines, and introduction. For example you could say, This is our secular abortion healing group. We’re using Keys to Hope and Healing. We’re all coming in here with different backgrounds. As your facilitator, I’m going to honor the secular approach. It doesn’t mean that we can’t share, but just know that we’re going to make sure that everyone feels heard. If there’s ever a time that something feels hard or triggering, when someone talks about this or that, let me know so we can walk through that.

She urged facilitators to invite participants to contact them and explained that God and religion conversations can be very triggering for some people due to their lived experiences and potential traumas connected to God.

CONCLUSION

“Abortion healing work can feel lonely,” Heidi said, “and we don’t every want anyone to feel that way.” She encouraged providers to reach out to her if they have any facilitating questions they would like to discuss further.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

 

CARING FOR CLIENTS WHO MAY BE SUICIDAL

INTRO

Special guest, Amy Vogel led a webinar on Caring for Clients who may be Suicidal. Amy is a licensed Mental Health Counselor, specializing in traumatic grief and disenfranchised bereavement with over 10 years experience in providing crisis counseling and grief support services. Her research and advocacy focus on effective suicide bereavement interventions. Amy has led survivor support groups and serves on boards for Suicide Prevention and Operation Solid 7. She is a certified Clinical Trauma Professional and is certified in Thanatology. She is currently pursuing a PhD in counseling, education, and supervision.

She presented the learning objectives, saying, “Is suicide a problem? How big of a problem is it? We’re going to look at the scope of the problem, the risk factors of suicide, suicide risk in abortion, and assessments in planning to help you really understand: Is suicide involved? How do I ask if suicide is involved? And what do I do if they say yes?”

PREVENTING SUICIDE

“Suicide is a very complex health issue, yet despite it’s complexity, it can be prevented,” Amy said as she introduced the topic of suicide and prevention.  

Amy likened the warning signs and risk factors for suicide to those for other health crises like cardiac arrest, emphasizing their importance in preventing deaths by suicide. She pointed out how similar to other conditions, prevention can occur early or closer to the time of crisis, but stressed how important time itself can be, stating, “Time can be a critical and life saving measure. Typically a life can be saved if you allow time for the person’s suicide risk to subside or to get through that period of distress and get them to help.” She said that help can come in the form of a professional, someone who may know how to do an intervention, or simply listening and connecting. 

Amy said that identifying people who may be suicidal is an integral step in preventing suicide in addition to taking an active role in connecting them to help before they take action to end their lives. 

She discussed how using and modeling appropriate language is important so as to not perpetuate the stigma of suicide or mental health concerns. She recommended avoiding the use of phrases such as, “committed suicide,” or “failed suicide,” as they carry negative connotations. She explained that the term “committed” originated from suicide being a crime until the laws were changed in the mid-20th century, and using words like “failed” can convey ideas like passing or failing a test. 

Amy encouraged use of more appropriate phrases such as, “died by suicide,” “ended their life,” or “attempted suicide” instead. 

Amy highlighted the critical nature of education in regards to suicide to encourage seeking help, raising awareness of risks in vulnerable populations, and advocating for new interventions and prevention strategies for those at risk, stating, “When suicide is talked about safely and accurately, we can reduce the likelihood of its occurrence.” Caring and compassionate language around suicide is important, as highlighted in a Words Matter document from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

HOW BIG OF A PROBLEM IS SUICIDE?

“Currently suicide is the 11th leading cause of death,” Amy said. She explained that prior to 2020, suicide held the 10th spot, but that number lowered in 2020. She stated that each year 700,000 people die by suicide worldwide, and 48,183 in the U.S. She explained that while that number sounds high, suicide deaths are underestimated. She attributed this to overdose deaths where it is unknown whether it was accidental or not and no suicide note was tied to the death. She further broke down the numbers, stating, “That’s 132 suicides per day, and an estimated 1.7 million attempts per year.” She shared that the socioeconomic costs and consequences total $44 billion each year.    

Amy emphasized that suicide rarely occurs outside of mental health disorders. She noted that as a major public health issue, suicide takes more lives than homicide, natural disasters, and car accidents. She said that for every suicide death, it’s estimated that twenty-five others attempt. She shared her concern over this, stating, “We have a lot of people who are attempting suicide that we don’t know about and who could be alone and afraid to talk about their feelings and thoughts about suicide because of the lack of public awareness and stigma.”

RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDE

“Why do people take their own lives?” Amy asked. She then answered, “That is the golden question in suicide research that I’m not sure we will ever answer, as there is no single cause.” However, she explained, there are potential risk factors that fall into three different categories: health, historical, and environmental factors. 

HEALTH FACTORS

The first category Amy presented, health factors, entails elements such as biological and psychological medical conditions, the most significant being mental health. She reiterated that most people who die by suicide have an active mental health problem at the time of their death, whether diagnosed or not. She stated that depression is the most common mental health condition associated with suicide and while bipolar disorder is also a high risk factor, it’s less common than depression. 

Amy highlighted the importance of detecting the presence of a mental health condition through identifying symptoms, stating, “Many people might not even realize that their distress has actually become a health problem. So it’s very important to observe different kinds of things that people might be doing, not just what they’re saying, but how they’re reacting or even dressing, different things, something that’s out of the ordinary of their norm.”

Amy highlighted that individuals with serious or chronic health issues, particularly those with mental health conditions, face an increased risk. Conditions such as chronic pain, head injuries, and traumatic brain injuries also raise the risk. Notably, traumatic brain injuries can alter brain structure, potentially leading to suicidal ideation. Amy referenced studies comparing the brains of individuals who died by suicide with those who died from other causes, revealing distinct physical disparities, specifically in the areas related to stress response and impulse control.  She affirmed the validity of studies such as these by sharing her personal experience with Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist who performs brain scans in the U.S. to identify mental health disorders. She recounted, “Last year, I got my brain scanned to identify what’s going on in there. I attempted suicide 20 years ago, and I’ve had a lot of family members die by suicide. I learned that my brain is highly impulsive, which makes sense that the research is showing that impulsive brains can be a risk for suicide.”

HISTORICAL FACTORS 

The next set of factors Amy presented was historical factors, which includes family history of suicide or mental health conditions, past trauma such as sexual abuse, and combat stress. She noted the crucial research being done in epigenetics, which is the study of how behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way genes work, which ties in to the potential impact of generational trauma on individuals. Additionally, she stated that a history of childhood abuse and previous suicide attempts are also both risk factors, noting the importance of collecting this type of information when meeting with a client to determine their level of risk. 

ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

The last risk factor Amy spoke about was environmental factors. These involve the circumstances of a person’s life that commonly contribute to the overall risk level. This can include having access to “lethal means,” such as firearms, prescription medications, illegal drugs, vehicles, or bridges. She said, “There are many different ways people can think about killing themselves or have killed themselves, so identifying what a suicidal person may have access to is essential in identifying risk.” 

She shared that research has also shown “contagion” to be an environmental factor. This includes exposure to another person’s suicide or to very graphic accounts of suicide especially in those already at high risk. Therefore, it’s important that suicide not be “over-glamorized.” 

Prolonged stress is another environmental factor. This may include harassment, bullying, relationship or legal problems, unemployment, or a stressful life event. She said, “This is what might be coming into your offices – the event itself and anything with trauma. The actual event doesn’t always cause trauma. It’s how we respond to the event and what resources we have to be able to respond to that particular event.” She then shared her own experience about a hurricane that impacted her community and the increase in suicide within the county following the event. She stated that not everyone who went through the hurricane was thinking about suicide or died by suicide. For some, it was an exciting time to help others, supporting the fact that it wasn’t the hurricane itself, but rather the response to the traumatic event. 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

“I’ve had thoughts of suicide. It’s something that doesn’t go away for me. It’s something that I’ve learned to live with,” Amy stated. My husband, who is very supportive, always tells me, I’ve never, ever had that thought. You might be sitting here today thinking, I just can’t even go there, I can never imagine taking my own life.” She explained how the theory may help people to understand how someone can get to the point of considering suicide. 

Amy shared what this has looked like in her own life, noting that while everything appears perfect on the outside — great family, parents who are still together, having everything she needs, college education, and a good career — she has struggled with suicidal thoughts since the age of 15. She explained, “It’s just something in the way my brain thinks, but I’m able to cope.” She likened her ability to manage her thoughts to someone who has to manage a disease like diabetes. She explained diabetics cope by eating right, exercising, and checking insulin levels, while she copes with her suicidal thoughts by doing a puzzle, taking medication, or speaking with her therapist. 

INTERPERSONAL THEORY OF SUICIDE

“Why would someone want to kill themselves?” Amy asked as she introduced the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide

The theory, developed by psychologist and psychology professor, Dr. Thomas Joiner at Florida State University, suggests that two important feelings can make someone more likely to consider suicide. The first is feeling like they don’t belong or fit in anywhere, which is referred to as “thwarted belongingness,” and the second is feeling like they are a burden to others, also known as “perceived burdensomeness.”

The theory also considers another aspect, “acquired capability for suicide.” Amy explained how this involves some individuals becoming more capable of engaging in suicidal behavior over time. “It’s like a combination of feeling disconnected and burdensome, along with the ability to act on those feelings,” Amy said. She suggested that it’s not just about wanting to die, but also having the means and ability to do so. 

“By understanding these factors, we can better identify and help those at risk for suicide. It emphasizes the importance of social connections and support in preventing suicide. So what the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide gives us is a framework to understand why some individuals may be more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. By addressing these feelings of isolation, burdensomeness, and building support systems, we can work toward preventing suicide and supporting those in need.”

Amy went on to share a recent personal experience she had on a girls trip with friends to tie together the information shared thus far. She said that although the location was beautiful and the company was great, she was anxious because something within her was not allowing her to feel like she actually belonged. Her perceived lack of belonging led to thoughts such as, “Do I belong here? Are these people really my friends? Do they like me, and am I weird?” Those thoughts further raised her anxiety and led to her feeling like she was a burden, a pain to deal with and didn’t fit in – perceived burdensomeness. She recognized how her internal dialogue was most likely not true, existing only in her own mind; however, the thoughts were there and she had to intentionally redirect them, or “cope”, which she described as exhausting. 

Through her story, she illustrated how at-risk individuals, such as herself, may find themselves in vulnerable situations as they cope with the daily barrage of intrusive thoughts. “If we add in those who are capable of suicide, who may have previously attempted suicide, who have had a family history of suicide, who have an impulsive brain,” she said, “we’re creating the perfect storm.” Because all of those factors are applicable in her own life, Amy shared that she felt suicidal in that moment, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she was going to kill herself. 

Instead, she was able to pull on her support system, who in turn followed the steps to minimize the risk by first eliminating the means by which Amy could accomplish suicide. In Amy’s case, her family knew that was items like pills and knives. She shared the importance of her support system being familiar with the environmental factors that put her at higher risk, and being able to separate her from them, keeping her safe. She said, “I like to use myself as an example because it keeps it real and I think it helps people understand that individuals who struggle with suicidal ideation can be very successful people.”

Amy described suicidal ideation as being on a spectrum, similar to the autism spectrum, having varying levels. She gave the example of how some people on the autism spectrum may be non-verbal or unable to care for themselves, while others, like Elon Musk, are extremely successful and able to live life well. In the same way, suicide can be viewed on a spectrum of varying degrees. 

She shared how important it is to understand the levels, because when someone says they are thinking about killing themselves, it doesn’t necessarily mean right at that moment. “You have time,” she said. “If you’re talking to them, that is time. Talking to them is just keeping that time away from their means.” 

LEVELS OF SUICIDAL IDEATION

Amy presented a chart demonstrating the various levels of suicidal ideation created by the same people who developed the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, which are discussed next.

Level 1 – Suicidal Thoughts – General desire to not be alive

– May involve thoughts of wanting life to end, but with no specific plan or intent to carry out

Level 2 – Suicidal Thoughts – Stronger desire to end one’s life

– Nonspecific, active suicidal thoughts

– Has thoughts about a plan, but no intent

Level 3 – Suicidal Intent – Suicidal thoughts with methods

– May be considering specific methods

– Intends to attempt, but has no specific plan 

Level 4 – Suicidal with plan and intent – Clear intention or purpose to end their life

– Has a specific plan and intends to carry it out

– Actively planning and preparing to carry out a suicide attempt

Level 5 – Suicide attempt – Intent to die by suicide with a detailed plan of how and when to do it

– Highest risk of attempting suicide with plan or impulse

“At level 5, this is where you would either call 911 or have someone who can do a suicide intervention,” Amy said. She followed by saying, “Not every suicidal person needs 911 called on them, it’s when they’re really not listening or working with you.” She pointed out that if a suicidal person is reaching out, it’s for a reason such as needing validation, and that is a moment to intervene in a safe manner. She also cautioned that if a suicidal person enters your building with intent, a plan, and the means, such as a gun, you should immediately leave the room without further discussion and call 911. 

RISK ASSESSMENTS: WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK SOMEONE IS SUICIDAL?

COLUMBIA SUICIDE SEVERITY RATING SCALE

Amy introduced a widely-used tool called the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale, also known as C-SSRS. It is used at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, in emergency rooms, and by the military, VA, and US government. She likened usage of the scale to a compass, stating, “It guides the helper in understanding the depth of someone’s thoughts and feelings when it comes to suicide.” She highlighted that all of the information shared thus far is the foundation for comprehending the C-SSRS

Amy asked the audience to imagine the scale as a ladder with different rungs, each representing a level of severity in suicidal thoughts. The bottom rung represents a general feeling of not wanting to be alive. She said, “As we climb higher, we encounter non-specific, active suicidal thoughts, where the desire to end one’s life becomes more pronounced. Further up this ladder, we reach suicidal thoughts with methods indicating thoughts about how one could harm themselves. So we’re moving even higher, and we find suicidal intent, where the individual is actively planning to end their life. And at the very top, we have suicidal intent with plan. Again, this is the most critical level where a detailed plan for suicide is in place.”

Amy highlighted the difference between the Levels of Suicidal Ideation Chart and the C-SSRS in that the C-SSRS does not stop there. It also delves into the intensity of the thoughts, how often they occur, how long they last, whether they can be controlled, what might prevent the person from acting on them, and why the thoughts are present. 

She compared the use of the scale to unraveling a person’s story. She said, “By assessing both the severity and the intensity of suicidal ideation, health care providers can offer the right support and intervention to those in need, potentially saving lives and providing hope in those times of darkness. This is not just a tool, think of it as a beacon of light in the journey on suicide prevention. It’s guiding us to a better understanding of individual thoughts and emotions and paving the way for compassionate care and support.”

Amy took the audience through the C-SSRS questions, prefaced by encouraging connection to the suicidal person rather than rote reading, simply ticking boxes off on a checklist. She shared about a time when she went to a crisis center. The woman completing her intake had a checklist and a pencil and didn’t look Amy in the face. Instead she stared at her paper as she asked Amy the questions, just making check marks. Amy recollected how this made her feel unvalidated, unsafe, unheard, and misunderstood. She stated that when a person is suicidal, they are in the worst pain of their life. In conveying how hard it can be for that person to answer these questions, she suggested attendees think about the worst physical pain they have ever had and imagine how difficult it would be to give detailed directions to your house while in such intense pain. Amy shared how the method the woman used felt insincere and judgmental. She emphasized the importance of making this scale a conversation using a caring voice.

She encouraged modeling a calm and relaxed demeanor as you go through the questionnaire to help the person struggling with suicidal ideation to be calm and relaxed as well. She explained how stress responses can be minimized, helping them get out of fight or flight mode. 

Amy recommended identifying personal attitudes and biases about suicide prior to using the scale with anyone. She suggested a method she referred to as a “brain dump” where a timer can be set for three minutes and all the thoughts one has about suicide can be quickly jotted down. This can include thoughts like, ‘It makes me angry,’ ‘Why would people do that?’ and ‘That’s selfish.’ She said, “You can think of the nastiest things, but the important thing is to get it all out. You can burn it, trash it, or shred it when you’re done, but it’s very important to sit in your attitudes and personal biases about suicide because you want to be fully present for this person.” 

Amy reminded us that it’s not necessarily the suicide that is really going on, but how the person is responding to a particular trauma or event. She went back to the example of her girls’ trip and how the Interpersonal Theory of Suicide was at play with the build up of thoughts and historical factors converging, negatively affecting her response to the event itself. This puts into perspective what may be happening with a client seeking help after an abortion or with someone who is fearful of an unintended pregnancy. Keeping in mind, it’s not the actual event, it’s how they are responding to it. Being able to get past our own judgements plays an important role in being able to understand more in order to help people thinking about suicide cope through their responses to the events they are going through. 

STANLEY BROWN SAFETY PLAN

“Whether they are suicidal or not, it’s very important to create a safety plan with a client,” Amy said as she introduced the Stanley Brown Safety Plan

The first step in creating a plan is identifying warning signs. She shared how many times people who are suicidal may not realize what their warning signs are. Being able to identify the warning signs functions as a light bulb. It brings to their awareness things they may do before thinking about suicide, such as cutting or negative self-talk, triggering them to begin working on their coping strategies. She recommended asking them to identify at least three warning signs. 

The next step, she explained, is to identify internal coping strategies. These are things they can do to distract themselves without contacting another person, such as listening to music, playing a game on their phone, completing a puzzle, journaling, or drawing.  

The next component she shared was listing people and social settings that provide distractions. This would not include people you go to for help in a crisis, rather people or places that feel safe and serve as a distraction. They’re not going to do a deep-dive intervention. 

Section four of the plan would be identifying people who can be asked for help during a crisis. For Amy, this includes her mom, husband, and a close friend who is also a counselor. 

Section five is where to include professionals or agencies that can assist during a crisis. She suggested having them write down their resources, and if they don’t have any, provide them referrals to the types of agencies that would best serve them. This is also where you would include emergency contact numbers like a local non-emergency line or emergency department, suicide prevention hotline, or 988 which is the suicide and crisis hotline. 

The final part of the safety plan covers how to make their environment safer. This entails identifying the person’s lethal means and how to keep their means in a safe place that may restrict their access to it. 

CONCLUSION

“I want to emphasize the crucial role that we can all play in suicide prevention,” Amy said. “Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects individuals, families, and communities all across the globe. However, it’s important to remember that suicide can be prevented through awareness, compassion, and timely intervention. Throughout this presentation, we have explored the scope of the problem, the factors that contribute to suicidal desire and capability, and the tools available for assessing and managing suicide risk.”

“We’ve also discussed the significance of using appropriate, non-stigmatizing language when we talk about suicide to create a supportive environment,” Amy said. “One of the most important things we can do to help prevent suicide is to be there for others and actively listen to their concerns. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they might feel isolated, helpless, and alone. By offering a non-judgmental and supportive presence, we can help them feel heard, validated, and connected. Active listening involves giving that person your full attention and asking those important questions, like Are you thinking about suicide? and not being scared if they say yes. It involves showing them empathy and understanding.” 

“In addition to being there for others,” Amy continued, “it is crucial to know the resources available for suicide prevention, including helpline numbers, websites, and local support services. Familiarize yourselves with these resources and provide valuable information and support to people in need.” 

“I want to leave you with a message of hope,” Amy said. “Suicide is preventable, and help is available. By working together, we can create a world where everyone feels supported, valued, and connected. I encourage each of you to continue learning about suicide prevention. Every life is precious and every person deserves the right to be heard and supported. Together we can make that difference in the fight against suicide.”

HANDOUTS

Click here for the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.

Click here for the Stanley Brown Safety Plan.

Click here for the Community Care Card for Clients.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

HAS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SUFFERED AFTER YOUR ABORTION EXPERIENCE(S)?

HAS YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SUFFERED AFTER YOUR ABORTION EXPERIENCE(S)?

 

Did you know that April is Abortion Healing Recovery Month? You may be wondering why a month has been dedicated to healing from a fairly common decision in our country. Or you may be breathing a sigh of relief that you’re not alone in feeling like you need healing from your abortion experience(s). Either way, Support After Abortion can help walk those who desire support through some of the more common emotions following abortion. Let’s discuss why people may need healing and how to go about finding the healing that so many people desire. 

THE NEED FOR HEALING AFTER ABORTION

Thankfully, mental health is taken seriously in our culture and people are often encouraged to get the help they need. 

But sometimes, the grief, anger, regret, or other emotional challenges that follow abortion for some women and men aren’t as easily discussed publicly. This can make people who have gone through those emotions or who are currently battling them, feel alone. We are here for you and you don’t have to go through any of this alone. 

Abortion is experienced by about 25% of women and 20% of men (through a partner’s termination of pregnancy) by the time they reach their 45th birthday. In our research, 34% of women and 71% of men reported negative experiences afterwards like depression, sadness, and grief. Our studies also showed that only 18% of women and men knew where to go for help. Support After Abortion estimates that about 100,000 people, at the most, receive healing worldwide per year. That leaves millions of people desiring after-abortion support but having no idea where to turn. 

There are certainly people who feel fine after their abortion experiences or, if they do experience some negative emotions, they are able to move on with their lives. And others have a harder time doing so. 

COMMON EMOTIONS FOLLOWING ABORTION EXPERIENCES

There are a wide variety of emotions that can follow abortion experiences. Sometimes these show up right away and other times, they take weeks, months, or years to appear. 

Some emotions that our clients and research participants commonly name include grief, depression, regret, anger, sadness, guilt, and loneliness. Sometimes these emotions can lead to damaging behaviors like substance abuse, anger issues, and more severe depression. 

– I’m struggling mentally. I’m so stressed out and feel really depressed. I’m having nightmares, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. I keep getting flashbacks. And I have so much guilt and anger. I would love to get help, someone I could talk to. – Client

– I need emotional support. It’s been really rough since my abortion. I have no motivation to get out of bed. I’m sad, anxious, and cry a lot. – Client

– I don’t regret my decision to terminate. But I’m experiencing guilt, conflicting emotions, and loneliness. And I feel like I can’t talk about it since it was my decision. – Client

– It’s the 20th anniversary of my abortion, and it’s been hard. I feel so sad about it and don’t have anyone to talk to. Everyone says it was the right choice and I should move on. I just wish someone would understand or acknowledge how awful I feel about it. Do others feel this way? Is it common to have these feelings so long afterwards? – Client

Many share that they feel stuck emotionally. This is common, and it’s ok to ask for help. 

OTHERS WHO ARE IMPACTED BY ABORTION

The ripple effect of abortion can extend beyond the woman and man involved. This can impact family and friends, as well. 

GRANDPARENTS AND ABORTION 

Grandparents can also struggle when their son or daughter is impacted by abortion, such as these clients: 

– I’m not sure where to get support. My grandchild was aborted yesterday, and we’re absolutely shattered. My son and we begged to support her and the baby or to raise the child. I don’t know if my son will ever be okay. Please tell me what to do for him and for us. – Grandmother

– My son is suffering from depression and anxiety after his then-girlfriend had an abortion. The decision was mutual, but he’s suffering pretty badly. He asked me to help him find a therapist he can talk to. – Grandfather

– Our whole family has been impacted by this, and it has been very difficult and relationships are very strained. I don’t know how to help my daughter since her abortion or what to do to deal with all this. – Grandmother

Grandparents are often concerned when they see their son or daughter struggling after an abortion and want to know where to go for help. 

HOW TO HEAL EMOTIONALLY AFTER ABORTION

Support After Abortion offers several free resources for anyone – women, men, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends – affected by abortion and desiring support. Reach out to our After Abortion Line by online chat, phone, text, email, or messaging on Facebook or Instagram. We offer free, confidential, compassionate support. We can connect you to the healing resource that best meets your preferences. Check out our website!

Keys to Hope and Healing, which is an introductory abortion healing resource available for women and men, in English and Spanish, religious and secular versions. Resources include booklets, journals, facilitator’s guide, training videos, and self-guided healing for women and men.

DO YOU – OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO – PROVIDE AFTER-ABORTION SUPPORT?

Explore our Provider Training Center and attend our free monthly Abortion Healing Provider webinars, Men’s Healing Matters webinars, and Quarterly Facilitator Trainings.

© Support After Abortion

 

The Male Volunteer

The Male Volunteer

INTRO

In our April 10th, Men’s Healing Matters webinar, Greg Mayo, Men’s Healing Strategist at Support After Abortion, discussed The Male Volunteer and various aspects as it relates to who they are, reasons they don’t volunteer more, and methods for equipping them with the necessary tools for success. 

THE DATA

“In regards to the male volunteer, the first thing we need to do is establish a little bit of context.” Greg shared a study from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which found that women are 30% more likely to volunteer than men. The statistics also showed that volunteering among men spikes right after high school and then picks up again between the ages of 40 and 45. Greg discussed various reasons for why volunteerism is more likely to occur at those times in a man’s life. He suggested that after high school, a man could have more free time or need volunteer experience, and reasoned that between the ages of 40 and 50, household responsibilities could be lessened as children grow and become more autonomous. “What about the gap in the middle?,” Greg asked and continued by stating, “Many are working, raising families, and just busy with life.”

Greg shared the three key areas that men volunteer in. According to the data, 33% serve in religious organizations, where they take on tasks like mowing, facility maintenance, or ushering. 18% volunteer with youth or recreational sport leagues as coaches or referees, and 15% get involved with social or community service organizations such as food pantries or The Boys and Girls Clubs. Greg pointed out that the common thread between these three sectors where men get involved the most is giving their time in areas where they’re actively doing something.  

WHY DON’T MEN VOLUNTEER?

“Why don’t men volunteer? I think that’s the question probably everybody listening right now has,” Greg said. Citing an article titled, Men in Social Service Volunteering, he explained that the first reason they don’t is because they haven’t thought of it, stating, “While it sounds simplistic, men typically just don’t think about volunteering.”  He continued explaining that men are often happy to help, but according to the article, because it may not occur to them, they need to be asked directly. He noted that the article also pointed out that the term volunteering doesn’t resonate with men. 

Greg shared the second reason that men don’t volunteer is because they believe it’s too hard to get started. He stated, “When I say it’s too hard to get started, what I mean is they don’t get a response from organizations that they reach out to and try to volunteer with, or there’s a really high bar for entry into volunteering.” He described how some organizations have lengthy processes that entail assessments and various tests, and while they may be necessary to fully develop a volunteer, looking for ways to shorten the process would be beneficial to getting more men involved. 

He told a story about a man he knew who was volunteering at a pregnancy resource center. Although the man had his own abortion healing story and was passionate about the cause, he had stopped volunteering there. When Greg asked him why, the man said that he had been giving his time for over six months, but had done nothing except take assessments, tests, and classes. The man commented, “I showed up to volunteer, not to take classes.” Greg said, “When we put a lot of spikes in the road on the way to a guy getting started, that’s a barrier.”

Greg went on to say the third reason that men don’t volunteer is they tend to prioritize work. He said, “Part of that is men are taught that a lot of their value is in their work and what they provide.” According to the article, studies suggest that women generally work fewer hours than men which makes women more likely to volunteer. However, “As times have changed, so has this pattern. Make the most of more stay-at-home dads and men with more flexible hours who may work from home.” 

Another reason Greg shared is that men feel they don’t have anything to offer a program. He explained how this idea can be perpetuated when men attempt to volunteer but are met with all-female messaging and marketing, stating, “If a man goes to volunteer anywhere, we already know more women volunteer than men, if all the volunteers are women, all the materials are for women, all the testimonials are from women, it just compounds the message that Hey, you’re a guy, you don’t have anything that we need here.” Greg asserted that if that is not the message we want to convey, then we must look at how we can change it to make men feel welcomed and wanted. 

HOW TO APPEAL TO THE MALE VOLUNTEER

“How do we appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay?” Greg asked. He cited the article Ten Ways to Appeal to Male Volunteers from The Volunteer Management Report, and said that the first way is to specifically ask them. He reiterated how events, marketing, and messaging mostly appeal to women, resulting in men assuming that women will sign-up to help. He explained that men need to know their help is needed, and this can best be done by directly inviting them to come. 

“The second thing is, put them to work. When a man shows up, give him something to do,” Greg said. He explained how this doesn’t mean pushing them into something they aren’t prepared for, such as talking to a male client in the waiting room, but rather giving them something they are capable of doing right away.

Greg said that the third way to appeal to men is to avoid “recruiting guilt trips.” He explained how this is when you try to make people feel bad to get them to volunteer. He went on to say that this will not result in getting the best out of someone, which leads to not serving clients in the best way. “You want to motivate them, not make them feel guilty,” the passage stated.

“Men like to fix things,” Greg said as he introduced the next way to appeal to men. Let them solve problems. “I’m not talking about board-level problems, but give them a problem. Let them find a solution.” When men can solve problems, they feel more involved and needed. 

Another way to appeal to male volunteers is to give clear directions. He stated that most men are goal-oriented and giving them clear direction on what is needed, when it’s needed, and why it’s needed will allow them to complete the task and feel accomplished.   

“The next thing is: use high energy,” Greg said. He explained that energy levels don’t have to be phony or over the top, but they can’t be somber either. He highlighted the energy that comes from sports and action movies that “gets guys riled up.” He stated, “They want to feel that energy, that sort of Braveheart moment where they’re going to go charging off.”

Greg went on to mention that another way to appeal to men is to offer something for free such as a t-shirt. He stated that although it may seem silly, guys like to know what to wear, everyone looks the same, and guys like free stuff.  

Greg stated that giving feedback appeals to men. He shared that men value knowing how they’re doing and that “they’re bringing value.” Explaining to them what needs to be done differently or what they are doing right keeps them from wondering whether they are being impactful and effective. 

Greg shared that another way to appeal to male volunteers is to be honest and authentic. He shared a personal lesson learned from his stepfather about the value of genuine interactions. Greg emphasized how sincerity fosters meaningful connections, echoing insights from previous interactions with other men’s ability to detect authenticity. He advised against pretense, encouraging genuine communication and interactions with volunteers. While promoting positivity, Greg underscored the significance of conveying praise and encouragement sincerely.

The last way Greg mentioned to appeal to male volunteers is to thank them. He pointed out how although it’s a simple thing, many men feel unseen and invisible, and showing gratitude goes a long way. He said, “Whether it’s volunteering or working 14 hours a day on an oil rig, they don’t feel like anybody cares. If you thank somebody, honestly just thank them, that will mean the world to that guy.” It’s important to acknowledge right away that you appreciate their being there and thank them for showing up.

IDEAL QUALITIES FOR A MALE VOLUNTEER

“Finding the right male volunteers is not throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping it sticks,” Greg said. He emphasized the importance of properly vetting volunteers to ensure they are the right fit. He stated, “The male volunteer is not only representing your organization, but he is, for better or worse, for good or bad, impacting the clients that he serves.” Greg outlined seven qualities the ideal male volunteer possesses: consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, curiosity, an ability to connect, commitment to healing, and belief in the mission. 

The first quality Greg introduced was consistency. He highlighted how important it is to find male volunteers who will show up when they are supposed to, saying, “If he doesn’t show up, and you’ve got guys scheduled to come in and talk to him, you’re failing those clients. They’re not getting the help they need, so consistency is hugely important.” 

Next Greg shared that authenticity is another important quality for a male volunteer. He stressed that the ideal person must communicate authentically and be genuinely interested in the people he is serving. 

“The third thing is: He needs to have the ability to listen,” Greg said. He explained that we can learn pretty quickly during the interview process whether he knows how to listen or not. He suggested that there are times when a person could be coached, but for those who can’t, finding things for them to do that aren’t client-facing would be beneficial, emphasizing that the wrong volunteer can do more damage than good. 

Next Greg said that another quality a male volunteer should have is curiosity. “He needs to be naturally curious,” he said and highlighted that this doesn’t just apply to curiosity with clients, but they should be genuinely curious about the organization as well. Greg explained that in addition to being curious relative to clients, a healthy curiosity about what the organization is doing, what opportunities there are for him to serve in, or how he can improve and better himself are all important.  

“He needs to have the ability to connect with the men that he serves,” he continued, “Connection, consistency, authenticity, ability to listen, and curiosity, if he’s got those first four, he’s going to have the ability to connect with men.” Greg stated that the ability to connect is a crucial element in relationship building, especially in abortion healing. He said, “If he can connect with them and gain their trust, then he has a better opportunity of helping them walk the path of healing.”

Greg shared that another important quality for a male volunteer is that he be committed to his own healing. He stated that it doesn’t necessarily have to be abortion related. Everyone, whether they’ve experienced abortion or not, likely has something they can heal from. He said that healing is a necessity for anyone who wants to be an effective volunteer or employee. “It’s a fact that the less healed we are, the less impactful we are at helping other people find healing. It’s also a fact that the more we work on our own healing, the better we can serve others,” Greg said. He cautioned that if a person is trying to work or volunteer in a setting where healing is the intent, and they are not working on themselves, they may have the wrong motives. He emphasized that healing is always ongoing and we should continually look to grow and improve. 

The final quality Greg mentioned was believing in the mission, “They need to believe in what you’re doing and they need to buy into how you’re doing it,” he said. He pointed out that individual organizations may have their own way of accomplishing their missions, but no matter their method, the volunteer must believe in the mission of the organization. He recounted a story from when he coached youth soccer and one of the other coaches was there only because his wife had told him he had to coach. This highlighted to Greg that not everyone volunteers for something because they believe in it. It also demonstrated to him that when motivation is lacking, commitment suffers, leading to a decline in the quality of the time devoted. 

TAILORING A VOLUNTEER PROCESS THAT RESONATES WITH MEN

Greg reiterated how imperative it is to put men to work. He emphasized that it should be one of the first things done in the process, stating, “Put these men to work. Most men are doers. If you give them something to do, they’ll be engaged.” He shared about his experience working at pregnancy centers and hearing complaints from other male volunteers regarding endless classes before getting to do anything. Greg reminded us that volunteerism among men picks up around 40 to 50, which means a lot of the demographic may have extra time to give, and they want to give it somewhere they feel useful. 

“Men need to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it,” Greg said as he discussed the importance of providing clear objectives and directions. He explained how taking the time to explain in a clear and concise manner what the end goal is and any necessary steps to accomplish it will set the male volunteer up for success. He suggested that this could be a part of the training process and will result in more impactful volunteers. He encouraged providers to explain goals and objectives and then train male volunteers to ask themselves, What’s the goal? When a client comes in and he’s considering abortion or has been impacted by abortion, what’s the goal? What’s the objective? I’m going to go talk to this guy. I’m going to be compassionate. I’m going to be a good listener. I’m going to be authentic. Why am I doing that? What am I trying to get to? “And then you work with him on how to get there. When we do that, we see men that are deeply impactful.” 

The last part of the process that Greg touched on was helping the male volunteer to continue in his own healing journey. He recommended using Support After Abortion’s referral directory as an essential resource for connecting men to healing providers that best fit their needs. Greg stated that the more healing that takes place, the more effective and impactful the man will be for the organization and clients. He described this as part of the ripple effect of healing, which creates possibilities much bigger than imaginable. He explained that this is why making healing an on-going part of the process is so imperative. 

CLOSING

In wrapping up the webinar, Greg reminded us:

  • Women are at least 30% more likely to volunteer than men and men’s volunteering spikes following high school and again between 40-50 years old. 
  • Most men volunteer in religious or community organizations, or youth sports. 
  • Reasons men don’t volunteer: they don’t think about it, it’s too hard to get started, they tend to prioritize work, and they think they don’t have anything to offer. 
  • The article Ten Ways to Appeal to the Male Volunteer shows how to appeal to male volunteers and get them to stay. 
  • The ideal qualities for a male volunteer, which includes traits such as consistency, being on time, authenticity, being a good listener, curiosity about the clients and organization, the ability to connect, commitment to their own healing, and belief in the mission. 
  • Tailor your volunteer process to resonate with men:  put them to work; give them clear objectives, directions, and goals; create spaces that allow healing to be a continual process; and validate and thank them for being there.

NEXT STEPS

Click here to watch the video of this webinar.

Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.

Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.

Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.

Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

© Support After Abortion

The Power of Collaboration

The Power of Collaboration

In our March 20 webinar, Support After Abortion Provider Relationship Development Specialist Amanda Hoff dove into the power of collaborating with Support After Abortion, clinicians, intersecting agencies, and pregnancy resource centers. 

She was joined by four guest speakers who shared their stories of successfully collaborating to provide comprehensive support, tailored services, and a nurturing environment for individuals navigating abortion experiences.

INTRO

Amanda is a former director of a pregnancy resource center and understands on a deep level that collaborating with other agencies is a hugely important way to help both women and men in need of help, resources, and healing. 

She also understands that giving clients a massive list of resources without any kind of connections to them can be overwhelming and not helpful. She explains, 

So we had this big list of resources that we would give out to our clients, and it was probably 15 pages with all these different resources and organizations that our clients could connect with to get help. But I found that to be really overwhelming, not just for my clients, but also for myself, because I wasn’t aware of all the different services each one offered. I didn’t know anything about their intake process or the requirements of their programs. And so one of the things that I really sought to do as the director of my center is to reach out to those organizations to build relationships with them, to learn more about the services that they offered and to also share with them and bring awareness of the services that we offered at our center so that we could collaborate and have that relationship.

This is her passion and she brings her knowledge about working closely with other organizations and knowing exactly what they offer to this webinar. 

Collaborating with other abortion healing providers, churches, and community organizations is crucial to helping people who need it. She said that “we know there are possibly 22 million people in the nation that need healing. We cannot possibly help all of them by ourselves. We have to work together to be effective.”

PROMOTING COLLABORATION

There are many paths to one goal but working together is the most efficient way to get there.

Amanda shared an African Proverb that resonates with her: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together

“It speaks so beautifully,” she said, “to the power of collaboration. If we set aside our own individual metrics, agendas, and even our differences, we can work together and bring healing to so many people.”

BENEFITS OF COLLABORATION

There are so many benefits to working together to provide healing resources to those who need it most. Amanda discussed several.

Ability to Offer Options

Amanda explained that by collaborating with Support After Abortion, you can receive training on how to offer options you may not currently be offering. You may even find programs perfect for your clients that you didn’t know existed. Support After Abortion is passionate about options-based healing because we can meet clients where they are at with lots of different options. 

By collaborating with providers , we can serve clients “in a more holistic way that meets them where they are,” she said.

Support After Abortion connects clients to a variety of abortion healing options including in-person, virtual, and self-guided; religious and secular; women’s and men’s programs and resources.

Building Capacity

Collaborating with other providers enables you to refer clients if your own programs are at capacity or if that provider offers a healing option you don’t. You can also receive referrals, which grows the number of clients you’re serving. 

This enables you to be a trusted resource in your community because you are able to help so many more people due to your collaborative efforts. 

Support and Encouragement

Amanda discussed how providers can support and encourage each other through collaboration by building relationships with other providers, both within and outside your local community.  

One thing Amanda has noticed when she is working with providers is that they often tell her they feel alone. 

“A lot of providers say they feel alone or on an island or like they’re not a high priority in their organizations,” Amanda shared. “Or they don’t feel like they have the support and encouragement that they need.”

So many of us who work in this healing space have these same feelings. It’s not easy work – physically, emotionally, spiritually – but by working together, that support and encouragement will shine through. 

“I can be the person who encourages the providers I talk with, but you can be that source of support and encouragement for each other,” Amanda said.

Decrease Burnout

All of these things work together to help decrease burnout. Burnout is a very real and difficult thing in this space. Amanda has seen that by collaborating closely with each other, by supporting and encouraging each other, by receiving referrals, and by helping to build capacity together, it all works to decrease burnout. 

“I know this is not easy work,” Amanda said, “This is a hard space to be in but it’s so needed. We do often see high levels of burnout when we don’t have these benefits of collaboration.”

TYPES ORGANIZATIONS FOR COLLABORATION

There are many types of organizations you can collaborate with. Amanda discusses some of these in the webinar but notes that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Rather, it’s a place to start. 

Support After Abortion

Support After Abortion has a plethora of ways to collaborate with other organizations including: 

  • Webinars (just like this one!)
  • Men’s Healing Webinars 
  • Quarterly Facilitator Training Webinars
  • Individualized coaching program for facilitators
  • Keys to Hope & Healing and Unraveled Roots Facilitator trainings
  • BrightCourse training 
  • Digital resource library 

Clinicians

Amanda highlighted great benefits to partnering with clinicians. 

One example is being able to refer clients who are struggling with issues outside your scope to trusted clinicians due to the relationships you have built with them.

Amanda shared that some clinicians are willing to set up sliding scale fees for clients from partnering organizations. Clinicians may also offer training and resources for your staff and volunteers. This is a great way to help your entire staff learn about what these clinicians offer. 

 Other Abortion Healing Providers

Some pregnancy resource centers have developed great relationships with each other within their city or area. “We’re not in competition,” Amanda said. “There are so many people who need our help and services and we can reach so many more people if we can work together.”

The Support After Abortion Abortion Healing Provider Directory enables providers to connect with other providers both within and outside their local communities.

Support After Abortion also uses this directory to connect clients to the type of healing service and provider that they are looking for. Contact Amanda to discuss joining the directory.

Intersecting Agencies

There are many factors that research has shown increases risk for unplanned pregnancies, which then comes a higher rate for abortions. These factors include things like substance use, homelessness, domestic abuse, codependency, sex trafficking, addiction, unemployment, and financial instability. For abortion healing providers, Intersecting agencies are organizations that serve people with these types of factors, and therefore who may have been impacted by abortion.

By reaching out to these different types of organizations, you can spread awareness to them about the abortion healing programs you offer that might benefit them as resources for their clients who may disclose their abortion experience to them, Amanda explained. 

“Support After Abortion has had a lot of success collaborating with organizations that specialize in addictions, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and mental health,” Amanda said. “It’s a reciprocal relationship and we’ve been able to help each other.” 

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

Leaders from three organizations that have collaborated with Support After Abortion joined Amanda to discuss their specific roles in abortion healing recovery and share examples of how to best promote collaboration in communities. 

RECOVERY CARE COORDINATOR

Marley is the Recovery Care Coordinator for a pregnancy resource center in South Carolina. She previously worked at the same center 12 years ago. She then worked in prison ministry, women’s ministry, and other recovery programs. She went back to the center to work in their Abortion Recovery Care with lots more experience and connections. 

Marley has been instrumental in building bridges between her pregnancy center and addiction recovery programs in her community. These residential-based programs work to provide everything their participants need. Marley’s center has been able to come alongside them, offering classes and other resources to enable them to grow their offerings in after-abortion support.

“For the women especially, it gives them an opportunity to get out, come into the center, to interact with other people, and that has been really successful,” said Marley. 

And how does one make connections within their communities?  Marley suggests getting involved in the chambers of commerce and going to community meetings on topics beyond your center’s issues. “If you want to connect with people, make sure they see your face in the community,” she says. “A lot of times in pregnancy resource ministry, we have a tendency to stay in our office. Open the door, walk outside, and begin to introduce yourself. It really makes a difference.” 

DIRECTORS OF AFTER-ABORTION PROGRAMMING & RELATIONSHIPS

Dietra is the director of an after-abortion support program at a multi-location New York City pregnancy resource center. The director of relationships at the center joined Dietra to weigh in on their collaborations. 

Their organization runs a weekly online meetup where people can just talk and get support. They also have staff advocates who meet with clients one-on-one as many times as they need. They also have a nine-week abortion healing support group for women. They have a men’s after-abortion healing program as well.

Amanda and Dietra briefly discuss some of the ways they have recently worked together, especially in relation to those clients who have been referred to each other for different healing programs. 

Chelsea talked a bit about reciprocal partnerships, specifically with a medical center that does ultrasounds, wellness checks, and after abortion care. “The focus is on their clients’ medical concerns about after abortion care. We are really grateful for that partnership and the ability to offer that to our clients,” she said. Mental health organizations have also been valuable partnerships. We offer subsidized counseling to local approved counseling providers. 

While their center is faith-based, they explained that they work with organizations of any faith or no faith because “it’s about providing the best possible care we can and meeting people where they are for hope,” Dietra said. “We endeavor that no one ever has to walk the after-abortion journey alone, period.”

“We ascribe to the third way, and so we proudly stand in the tension of we just want to be person-centered and trauma-informed, and that’s what we’re here for,” said Dietra. “And so because we sit in that authenticity, it makes it very easy to connect with people that you wouldn’t think we’d connect with.”

HOSPITAL SOCIAL WORKER

A social worker at a major hospital in the Washington, DC metro area described how the hospital staff identified a need after the overturning of Roe v Wade due to a “surge” in the volume of after-abortion patients. She said that “many members of the team felt a sense of distress, uneasiness” that they “didn’t know what to say, what’s appropriate. We don’t know what to do.” 

She shared that their hospital has a “robust perinatal loss program” that she started 16 years ago. “And now here we are developing another program, an after-abortion care program.” 

She said that patients were telling her and other staff that they didn’t receive any kind of after-abortion care information. The hospital’s new aftercare abortion program includes a door card that is placed on a patient’s door that alerts the team to be mindful of the patient’s experience when entering the room. She also created a footprint card for patients who desire footprints as a keepsake, and a healing note card that the team can sign and give to the patient at discharge. They also offer patients preassembled resource folders that include resources from Support After Abortion. 

“We’re so grateful for that, because, again, prior to this collaboration, we didn’t have any materials,” she said. “We find the Keys to Hope and Healing secular booklet, the client healing center card, and the resource card, just to name a few, to be extremely helpful.”

She explained that “Our hospital stands for inclusion, diversity, and equity, where all patients are treated with compassion, regardless of their situation.” 

“When the patient made the challenging decision to terminate the pregnancy,” she said, “she did not believe it would lead to hospitalization.” 

“For us, we looked at it from the perspective of, while this is not in our wheelhouse, it’s important that we collaborate with an organization that can help us in making sure that our patients receive resources that’s tailored to their needs,” she said. 

As part of her team’s efforts to research existing resources, they also reached out to local abortion clinics to see what they offer in terms of after abortion care. One clinic responded with a resource list that combined all types of losses, such as perinatal loss and abortion loss, into one resource basket. “And as you know, perinatal loss, meaning a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, chromosome abnormality, is different from abortion. And so while we again were grateful for that resource list, we knew that it would not be applicable to our patient population,” she said. 

By forming a working group with a couple of her nurses, they are equipping the medical team. For example, they created a nursing checklist for providing supportive and compassionate care, provided resources for the Labor & Delivery staff, and are planning an in-service. 

NEXT STEPS

  • Click here to watch the video of this webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Abortion Healing Provider webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Men’s Healing Matters webinar.
  • Click here to register for the next Quarterly Facilitator Training.
  • Click here to access Support After Abortion’s Resource Library.
  • Click here to explore Support After Abortion’s services, resources, and training for Abortion Healing Providers.

 

© Support After Abortion