Liv-a-cide: Discovering Preventative Measures for Suicide

Let me start with an explanation of the experience I had writing the information below. When I set out to understand, solve, or explain something better, I usually ask myself three questions about the problem: “What is it?”, “How is it?”, “Why is it?”. This method of learning has produced some extraordinary results through out my life. As you read you will see this is how I treated the problem of suicide. Understand that I am pulling from my own internal thoughts, values, and beliefs as well as in-person interventions and experiences I have had over the years as a psychotherapist.

What is suicide?

When a person takes their own life. Death of a person by that person. Killing of the self. When a person destroys their own thinking and feeling centers.

How is suicide completed?

Obviously, it would be inappropriate and insensitive to completely answer this question. Let it suffice me to say that suicide can be completed in the same ways homicides are. Some are planned, others are more impulsive. Some are the result of drug use or other forms of rational disengagement and relinquishing of agency.

Why do people commit suicide?

Several factors play into this. I will list some that I have come across:

  • Lack of or non-existent social supports
  • Self-induced isolation
  • Environmentally induced isolation
  • Unresolved grieving from loss/trauma
  • Unresolved attachment injuries
  • Unresolved childhood abuse/neglect
  • Low psychological resiliency
  • Low emotional awareness
  • Accidental [overdosing]
  • Perception of no end of suffering/pain or actual chronic pain [emotional or physical]
  • Bullying
  • Realization of inability to change the unchangeable facts of their story

One positive way to look at this list is that if we are able to provide or facilitate the opposite of the above statements, we may be able to prevent some from completing suicide.

How to prevent suicide?

Ultimately, there is a universal and divine law that governs all of us – agency, or the ability to choose for ourselves what we will do with our lives. We do not hold power to control all our circumstances, but we are allowed to answer the question “what do I do now?”. Whether it is your life or the life of another, it is a power and responsibility that is not to be taken lightly. You are given a life to live and no one else is responsible for what you do with it.

Suicide can be prevented.

*Here are ways to increase a person’s resiliencies so that they will be less likely to conclude suicide as their only option.


Love and actively listen to them.

  1. Live your life in a way that promotes others seeking you out as someone who is full  of love, acceptance, and forgiveness so they can escape from feelings of loneliness, rejection, and shame.
  2. Be a beacon of acceptance through active listening. Not the kind where you are watching your favorite show and occasionally perform a nod of affirmation in the person’s general direction. The kind where you find yourself lost in the eyes and tears of another human being; engaged in a silent embrace while another weeps; at the bedside of a distressed child.

Engage them in your community.

  1. Belonging is a survival need. Some time ago there was an experiment on monkeys performed by Harry Harlow. Among many other things, this study concluded that monkeys who are socially isolated develop critical psychological impairment. One monkey after being brought back from isolation into society of other monkeys, isolated itself to the extent of starvation and died. Responsibility, belonging, community, family…these are underestimated resources of suicide prevention.
  2. Include others who are alone into your friend groups. Be patient and forgiving of them or guide them to someone who can be patient and forgiving of them.

Give them responsibilities/stewardship over another living thing [plant, animal, person]. Get them a pet.

  1. Even if a person feels unworthy of living, they can still appreciate discovering their ability to care for another living thing — a pet. This can be deeply therapeutic for those who have been taught by their traumas that human beings are not to be trusted or attached to. Animals or plants can offer the person an opportunity to attach to a living thing. This is partly why I believe Equine therapy is so incredibly effective for those suffering from childhood traumas.
  2. There was a wise person who once explained this principle simply — that every person needs three things, “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’”. The people I have provided therapy for who are resilient against thoughts of suicide share these in common. They have at least one friend, a responsibility and drive to serve another human being, and some kind of spiritual nourishment built into their daily schedule. I understand many I work with are not into religion, but I speak of nurturing the core un-observable parts of your person, this is spirituality. Nourishing that identity is vital to survival as well. Some find it more helpful to view spirituality in terms of self esteem or self worth, and that this attribute is made better through adherence to ethical or moral codes of conduct.

Help them overcome barriers to getting psychological treatment.

  1. Some are afraid to address or face the facts of their story. Some facts are indeed terrifying to harrow up into our mind’s eye. Help them understand that as they work with a skilled therapist, they will be taken care of. You, as a client, can determine/control the speed, length, and intensity of treatment. [insurance companies are less understanding of these time frames due to the primary motivation being that they go out of business if they reimburse too much – just one of the reasons I do not accept insurance].
  2. While a therapist holds no power to change the facts of your story — a limitation we all share —  they can be very skilled at helping you discover the healing power of your story.

Ask them what part of their story they want to kill.

  1. If people had complete control over their story, they would not choose to die.
  2. People want to kill a part of their story– a fact(s) in their story line — not themselves.
  3. This is why I ask people what part of their story they want to get rid of, rather than why do you want to kill yourself. It gets them thinking about the possibility that they are recoverable, even if they have experienced significant unrecoverable loss as a part of their story.

Where there is life, there is hope!

The title of this article is discovering preventative measures. One of those measures not mentioned was the power of community and spirituality that music can bring.

“Liv-a-cide” is a song I wrote after years of seeing how rampant suicide is in our society. It is about the suicidal person who makes the most difficult choice they have had to make yet: choosing each day to live. Many people feel lost or alone. My message is that being lost or alone is always temporary. Finding belonging is just on the other side of courageously committing liv-a-cide!

Take courage and commit “liv-a-cide”!


Tonight I’m sneakin’ those pills back to the bottle // Tonight I’m spittin’ out that liquor burnin’ throat // Tonight I’m stepping off that ledge onto a platform // With people all around // cause I’m choosin’ to be found…

Tonight I’m throwin’ those razors to the trash can // Tonight my arms and legs aren’t waitin’ to be hurt // Tonight I’m findin’ the strength to face my demons // with no hope to be found // cause I’m gonna stick around…

Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight

Tonight I’m takin’ down that noose from off the rafters // Tonight I’m swingin’ to the beat of my own drum // Tonight I’m finding my purpose as I make it // Just because I’m feelin’ down // doesn’t mean I won’t be found…

Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight // Liv-a-cide // Choose to live tonight.


Additional Video!

Trauma: The Signs and Symptoms


I wanted to write this post to help aid parents in seeing some of the signs/symptoms of trauma in their children.

Trauma symptoms can be sneaky and hide very well behind what most think are normal adolescent behaviors. The phrase “normal adolescent behavior” can at times be laughable, because not much of the transitional adolescent years feels or looks “normal” to the parent or teen. However, there are a few signs to be wary of.


  • Isolation and Silence [that signifies a change in their typical state; “out of the norm” for the child]
  • Anger Outbursts and Irritability
  • Tearfulness or Uncontrollable Sobbing
  • Nightmares [frequent or recurring]
  • Inattentiveness/Difficulty concentrating
  • Paranoia [hypervigiliance in protective factors]
  • Rarely if ever feeling safe [sometimes engaging in compulsive behaviors to ensure safety]
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Self-Harming
  • Falling behind in schoolwork
  • Intense resentment or reluctance to attend school
  • Significant change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Lack of motivation
  • Recurring physical illnesses [low immune system functionality etc. brought about by high levels of cortisol from behind-the-scenes stress]
  • Refusing or inability to engage emotionally [numbing, blunting, over-intellectualizing/rationalizing]
  • Digestive problems
  • Physical illness symptoms without physical evidences

This list is not exhaustive and all symptoms need not be present for trauma to have been experienced. This list is also not intended to allow parents to read late at night and have them spiraling into the depths of worry and concern. However, if that is your response, know there is hope for you and your child. This list is intended to increase your awareness of your child’s behaviors, so you will consider intervening earlier rather than later. I wrote this to let you know there is hope for helping early on, rather than years down the line after they try using all the unhelpful options out there for silencing pain…I know this from professional and personal experience.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “I wonder if that’s what’s going on”, it would probably be best to bring them in. Even if only to communicate to your child that you are listening to the words they may not be speaking, and are willing to get them help. That message alone can bring you and your child emotional security.

We will work together to ensure that you and your child are emotionally supported, so your family can gain resiliencies to free you up to face your future with confidence!

Adolescence is Explore-essence

Having the emotions of an adult without the rationality of one… Does this sound like a problem? It tends to be for parents of teenagers.

Here’s some important questions for you to consider before moving on with therapy for your teen:

  • What is your approach when you come up against a problem?
  • What is your teen’s approach when they come up against a problem?
  • Who’s responsible for your teen’s emotions?
  • If you’re responsible for your teen’s emotions and your teen doesn’t get better, where does that leave you? Where does that leave your teen?

Let me tell you a little secret. Your teen doesn’t need to be “fixed”. They need support. Adolescence is explorescence. Exploration requires fluidity or flexibility for the necessary pains and bumps we make and experience as we discover. Teens sometimes find out who they are by being who they are not. Support, teaching, and loving correction is a more suitable and sustainable role for parents of teens. “Fixing” assumes the parent can obtain super human abilities to: right the wrongs the teen has experienced, control the environment, social climate, or the way the teen perceives those things; “fixing” may even assume that the parent has some ability to prevent future pain from occurring. In short, “fixing” assumes parents have a control that they simply do not have.

However, parents of teens do have influence.

Sometimes teens will choose to follow the influence of their parent, and in doing so, they are able to avoid pain. They own this accomplishment because they chose it. Other times the influence of the parent is ignored and the teen suffers. The teen owns this too. This is how we grow. Under the weight of our own accomplishments and failures, not the accomplishments and failures of another who seeks to control us; no matter the motive.

We parents are powerful, but not powerful enough to control the emotional experience of another person. And because our power is limited by another’s ability to choose, our role as a parent changes from “fixing” to coaching.

Watch this video for a shortened version of a more healthy role and approach to parenting a teenager:

How Porn Affects Teens

A teen [or child] who views porn and makes internal assumptions about the purposes, motivations, bodily requirements, etiquette [and so forth] of sexual acts without the guidance, education, and wise filtering explanations of an adult [making the gross assumption that the adult has a mature understanding of sexual intimacy] could be in danger of becoming a perpetrator and/or victim of some of the most heinous sexual acts without even recognizing them as wrong or out of place.

There are countless articles about porn addiction’s effects on the brain and perceptual shifts from seeing people as living breathing thinking opinionated beings into objects for our sexual gratification and explorative fantasy. What porn addiction actually does to the brain is in line with what drugs and alcohol do to the brain. The dopamine released when viewing manufactured and synthetic pleasure [porn] overwhelms the neurocircuitry of the brain to the point of exhaustion. Processes of addiction’s roots are explained by Dr. Robert Navarra, a Master Addiction Counselor and Gottman-certified therapist based in San Carlos, California:

  • Phase 1: The brain’s reward pathways are flooded with high levels of dopamine. Over time, the constant dopamine high raises the bar on the level of excitement needed to actually feel pleasure.
  • Phase 2: The frontal lobes, which are involved in decision making, judgment, and impulse control, experience structural and functional changes. The effect: bad decision making, like browsing porn at work or school — or seeking increasingly kinky porn content in order to feel that next big dopamine rush.
From <>

The consequences [a.k.a. LOSSES] of porn/sex addiction that I could think of are laid out below and are informed by clinical experience and insight. The italicized portions are examples of the changes in belief and value structures that develop as a teen views pornography.

LOSS OF: Identity

  • “I am supposed to think of myself and view others as I am thinking and viewing others right now while watching these consensual or non-consensual sexual acts. I used to be a thinking, opinionated, emotionally adjusted, spiritual, musically talented person, but if I am ever to have someone ‘love’ me, I should drop those parts of my identity and focus on getting abs, shaving my body, etc. This is what sex is supposed to be — no other versions of sex are as readily viewable to me at least; this is what I am supposed to be — sexual. An object for giving and receiving sexual acts.”

LOSS OF: Self-confidence

  • “I am not as good looking as them, nor can I sexually perform like them, and I should be able to.”

LOSS OF: Self-esteem / Self-worth

  • “Because of the above statement, other people are likely to think of me in that way — sexually lacking. I am worth less to others because of my inabilities to sexually perform, which, according to the reality that porn sells, is my primary function/identity — a performer and recipient of sexual acts; to give and get sexual gratification objectively to and from others.”

LOSS OF: Feelings of belonging and ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships

  • “I am not one of them, and I never can be. The people I watch do not respond to me. What I think/feel doesn’t matter to them because they don’t really know me and I don’t really know them, and yet I am seeing them naked.”

[you can only imagine how this might influence a person’s ability to healthily interact with people in real time situations…dating would be difficult, getting to know a person is not a pre-requisite to having sex with them, engaging in small talk might be arduous or pointless, or an unnecessary formality etc. Not to mention the habitual training of unhealthy boundaries this may promote — seeing another naked before getting to know them; Porn culture strengthens rape culture because of this objectification of sexuality.]

LOSS OF: Resiliency in handling rejection

  • “The people I watch performing sexual acts do not tell me mean things; they don’t reject me. They never tell me to stop watching. They can’t tell me. I am safe from rejection when I am viewing porn. I am safe while viewing porn. Porn feels safe. Relationships with others doesn’t feel safe.”

The brain circuits of the porn addict can be reset. As the previously cited article mentioned, the brain circuitry can be “rebooted” through abstinence and re-engagement of other parts of who we are. After a sufficient reset has occurred, healthy re-engagement of sexuality is practiced; the brain reconnects to more healthy and natural pathways of pleasure response. Pleasure returns as a response to the “natural” stimuli of human relationships instead of the synthetic digital ones. A person eventually responds in attractions with another person as they get to know each other.

Another, more hopeful way, of interpreting this article is by swapping word “LOSS” with “GAINS”. For this is what people stand to gain when recovering from viewing porn.

The paramount function of healing from any addiction is the rediscovery of a psychological and spiritual need: establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. Establishing and maintaining the most powerful unit of society…”us”.

5 Reasons to Talk to Your Teen About Porn

REASON #1: It can be psychologically traumatizing and is often associated with symptoms listed under several diagnosable mental disorders. 

Please do not misunderstand this section. The equation I’m proposing is that these diagnoses can be symptoms of an underlying porn addiction, but that not every person with a mental health diagnosis is a porn addict.

When a teen stops viewing porn and is in counseling, the following symptoms could potentially be alleviated.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Distractibility
  • Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors
  • Eating Disorders
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Low-Self Esteem
  • Isolation
  • Irritability

REASON #2: Not talking about porn might leave the teen more susceptible to becoming addicted to it or have misinformed expectations about sexual intimacy.

Secrecy is the primary source of nourishment that any parasitic addiction needs to thrive. Avoidance of approaching this topic feeds the secrecy through decreasing personal accountability. Thus by not talking about it, you may be inadvertently strengthening the landscape for becoming addicted to it.

REASON #3: Porn is an awkward thing to talk about, and having a person who is willing to talk about awkward things is very helpful.

Building a trusting relationship with your child is of utmost importance for their physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological well being. Trust is safety, and being able to talk about awkward things increases feelings of safety for your child. However, just as it is with other threats to a teens safety, we parents cannot control their exposure to dangers completelyBUT we can let them know: 1) where danger exists, 2) where they can turn when feeling in danger, and 3) where they can go if they get damaged by that which is dangerous. Unprocessed emotional reactions to porn are dangerous.

REASON #4: Talking about sex and expectations regarding intimacy will increase the likelihood of them having healthy relationships in the future.

Having curious and compassionate conversations which allow your child to explore the emotional impact of any event, including watching porn, can provide your child with an opportunity to understand the emotional impact for themselves. Some helpful pursuits for your child could be: What did you see? Is that what you expected to see? What did you notice about the people? How did you feel while watching it? How did you feel afterward/now? Did you have any further questions about what you saw?…etc. These types of discussions: where a person is able to process the emotional impact of a situation or event for themselves — with your curiosity and compassion to securely contain their emotional space — allows a person to identify what is happening for themselves [outside of your personal reactions or judgements]. If they can understand for themselves how they are emotionally reacting to an experience, they will be more likely to make informed decisions, maintain a sense of integrated self, and respond adequately to their situaiton.

REASON #5: Talking about sex can help bring to your awareness any insecurities or unprocessed emotional experiences you have with the topic of sexuality. This could result in you becoming a better person than you already are.

Often times parents will avoid conversations on topics that are particularly uncomfortable to them for one reason or another. Just reading this article could make some readers nervous or uncomfortable. If this is you, you may want to look into counseling for some help in navigating this discussion for yourself before you counsel or try to console your child.

I have been a part of too many classes as a youth and an adult that suggest to me that the taboo topics [the one’s we don’t like to talk about] are typically the ones that hold the greatest potential to both hurt and heal us. Hurt, if left unprocessed. Heal, if processed.


(…the average age of porn exposure is about 10yrs old these days…)

If you believe your child has a problem with porn or other behaviors mentioned in reason number one (depression, anxiety, isolation, etc) seek professional help. Depression, anxiety, and addiction are all treatable with licensed professionals.


The healthy and natural progression of sexual intimacy starts long before sex is the focus of pursuit. However, depending on the first exposure or repeated exposures to pornographic materials, that equation can be flipped upside down and really mess up a teen’s (and later adult’s) ability to establish and maintain meaningful casual and intimate relationships.

Help them understand that sex is more than just an event but an expression and expansion of other prerequisite forms of love [like friendship, courting, and, depending on your religious backgrounds, marriage]. Without some kind of a system of ethics backing it, sex can be dull or meaningless, and ultimately it is missing its highest potential for connecting people. The system of ethics that guides healthy intimacy starts with understanding your preferences, comfort levels, willingness to accept another’s preferences and comfort levels, and then mutual exploration under a guided system of care and respect for the other. These systems are either not present, or simply too subtle within pornographic materials and thus leads the consumer into very poorly defined systems of hurt, disrespect, objectification, demoralization, disappointment, and disillusionment.

Take this conversation as an opportunity to first explain about how the teen can explore healthy sexual intimacy rather than just explaining the dangers of viewing porn or participating in objectified sexual acts. Both sides of this conversation need to happen for healthy sexual intimacy to be understood by your child. The conversation of how they are allowed to explore sex needs to be present before or at least as you teach them the disallowed ways.

Medical texts which explain the body parts and functions can be helpful in this process.

For more information about conversational tools visit RAINN:

Trauma, Loss, and Grief

Defining Trauma

The definition for trauma is kind of brief for me. What is traumatic for us is defined by our expectations [conscious or subconscious/assumed]. In other words: The root of trauma is when our expectations are unmet.

Because there are no objective rule outs for what is trauma, the experience of trauma and the fall out of post-traumatic stress varies widely. Trauma for you may be when your parent told you, either directly or perceived indirectly [assumed/interpreted], you are worthless. Trauma for another may be witnessing or experiencing rape or some life or death situation. There are just enough differences between each human being and their life experiences that allow each of these people to be validated in their experience of pain.

The resulting shame, depression, anxiety, and other difficulties are defined as emotional fallout that the trauma survivor must now face. There are no pills to take away our history or how a trauma can impact, alter, or potentially limit our future. That is the loss. That is the part we, who have experienced trauma, must grieve.

Defining Loss and Grieving

When speaking about trauma, loss, and grief, Viktor Frankl, once said something along the lines of “an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal”.

Loss can be understood in the line: “what once was, cannot now be.”

Grief can be understood as whatever our manifestation of pain from a loss is. Sometimes this is sorrow, or deep emotional unsettlement. Other times is manifests itself in anger, resentment, or giving up. It could be as complicated as clinical diagnoses — generalized anxiety, major depressive disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. Sometimes grief affects us physically through a myriad of illnesses.

Pain is pain. No need to compare.

Often times when people are in the same room talking about pain, comparisons seem to arise. We tend to compare for various reasons. Many of which we are not consciously aware of. Sometimes we compare in order to receive external feedback, validation, affirmation, and connection. Other times we compare to understand what is good or normal; to understand how to belong or fit within our community during times where we feel lost, empty, different, or damaged. In our desperation we may wonder if we are feeling a pain that is worthy of being suffered from, or a pain that is less worthy to suffer from.

Comparison is ultimately unhelpful for us. Your pain is pain. My pain is pain. And the moment we let another decide what hurts us, we give up our sacred right to be human, to feel and move through our own pain in our own way. We forfeit part of what makes us ourselves. Loss, if combined with comparisons, can evaporate your sense of self. The answer of what is a normal, appropriate, or a correct way to grieve is the way you are grieving. Grief is an emotional response to loss, not a prescribed or voluntary method of managing pain. Grief is a form of pain; “loss pain”; it is a manifestation of our pain; an inward or outward sign of our loss.

Getting Help

If you are suffering from pain of loss; from trauma, seek help. If that comes from me, wonderful! If it comes from your friends and family, or a grocery bagger, wonderful! [A combination of all the above works too!]

Take Away: you are not alone… at least you don’t have to be. If it feels abnormal, it likely matches the abnormality of the loss. If a positive relationship interfered in your life in a pleasurable or preferred way, it will likely interfere in a painful way when its gone. If your pain and grief at the loss of someone important to you burdens you and those around you, you’re probably human.