Understand Suicide is a space to talk openly about self-inflicted death with respect and no judgment. In each episode, I interview specialists, survivors, grievers, and individuals who have a story to tell in a variety of related themes: grief, mental health, warning signs, risk factors, youth, and most importantly, what can be done to prevent suicide.
If you have a story to share or want to contact me, please send me a message through the contact page and I will get in touch with you.
You can find my podcast in all major apps, just type the title "Understand Suicide" or my name "Paula Fontenelle."
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Ep. 1 - My Story: In this episode, I tell the story of my father's suicide and how it changed my life.
Ep. 2 - Losing a daughter to suicide, interview Mindy: Mindy lost her daughter to suicide in 2017. She shares her grief process, what has helped her, rituals that keep her daughter present, and how her other kids have each dealt differently with the loss.
Ep. 3 - Religion and suicide, interview with Dr. Rand Michael: Dr. Rand Michael is a clergy person, a counselor, and was a professor for twenty-six years. In this interview, he talks about the importance of listening to someone's pain without judgment, regardless of one's religion or spiritual view on suicide.
Ep. 4 - Losing a husband to suicide, interview with Leslie Storm part 1: Leslie Storm knows suicide from both personal and professional viewpoints. After losing her husband to self-inflicted death, she became a grief counselor and a facilitator of suicide support groups in Portland, Oregon. She talks from the perspective of a survivor, highlighting the events that led to her husband's death to how friends and family reacted to it.
Ep. 5 - Grief counseling and support groups, Leslie Storm part 2: In this episode, Leslie Storm talks about grief counseling and support groups. She also shares the story of her own loss as a counselor, when one of her patients took her own life.
Ep. 6 - Struggling with mental illness, interview with Doree D'Angelo: Doree talks about her life with mental illness and how it led her to suicide attempts. In the midst of her struggle, she found people who were understanding of her condition and willing to help. Doree brings a message of hope to those who are at risk for suicide.
Ep. 7 - My interview to Cynthia Boyd: In this interview, we covered quite a range of topics. Cynthia Boyd asked me about youth suicide: its causes, the impact of social media, and why it has been rising in the United States. We also talked about warning signs and what to do if you know someone at risk for suicide, especially how to listen to them.
Ep. 8 - Suicide in schools, interview with Marti Diaz Domm - Marti worked in the Oregon educational system for more than two decades. She describes how mental health issues are handled within the schools, the changes that need to be made so that educators are better prepared to deal with them, and she shares with us her own story involving a loss of a dear student by suicide.
Ep. 9 - Suicide warning signs: Knowing how to identify warning signs is the first step to save a life. In this episode, I give many examples of the verbal and non-verbal warning signs given by those who are contemplating self-inflicted death. After detailing them, I give suggestions on what can be done in case you believe a loved one is at risk for suicide, as well as the common mistakes that should be avoided so that such actions can lead to saving lives.
Ep. 10 - Helping suicidal people, interview with Khara Croswaite: Most of us have encountered a person who is contemplating suicide, but very few of us know that. In this interview, counselor Khara Croswaite Brindle talks about the common traits shared by those who are suicidal, how to approach them and build effective safety plans, and how suicidality shows up in the younger generations. Khara works in Denver, Colorado.
Ep. 11 - Relationships and suicide, interview with Peter Lovenheim: Also, knowing you have someone to turn to in times of pain can be a healing experience. In this interview, the award-winning journalist Peter Lovenheim, author of "The Attachment Effect" talks about how early childhood bonds shape the way we relate to others. If you want to learn more about attachment theory, click here for resources.
Ep. 12 - Is it Grief or PTSD? Losing someone to suicide is a traumatic event, and trauma can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, but how can one know the difference? In this episode, therapist Casey VanHoutan explains how PTSD affects people, its symptoms, the various types of treatment available for patients, and how to address it without judgment in a society that tends to rush through trauma as a way to avoid pain.
Ep. 13 - The Us Military, PTSD and Suicide - There are many misconceptions regarding the US Military, PTSD, and suicide. In this episode, Timothy Wienecke - who was in the Air Force for five years and now works as a counselor - talks about the struggles surrounding the military community, how they deal with mental health, myths that need to be combatted, and how to support this population.
Ep. 14 - Trauma and the body - We tend to believe that trauma is a "thing of the mind," but part of this experience is stored in the body. In this interview, I talked to author Danielle Rousseau, who teaches at Boston University and works as a counselor and a certified yoga teacher. She discusses the many ways in which trauma expresses itself in the body, how to treat it, and the benefits of adopting a holistic approach to trauma-informed care. Click here for more resources on yoga, including online classes.
Ep. 15 - He had given up - Steven Webb has lived a life of adversity. Some of the struggles he deals with on a daily basis would make most of us question the meaning of life, including being paralyzed from the neck down, having experienced a painful divorce, and bankruptcy. In this interview, we talk about the day he planned to take his life, and what made him change his mind. You can watch this interview HERE.
Ep. 16 - She lost her brother to suicide, then turned pain into healing others - Mariangela Abeo attempted suicide at the age of 17. Her brother helped her then. Years later, he took his own life. In this interview, she shares what led her to a suicide attempt, the need we survivors have to break the silence surrounding this theme, and how her initiative has helped bring healing to those touched by voluntary death. You can watch this interview HERE.
Ep. 17 - Struggling with suicidal thoughts - Heidi Lindman has struggled with suicidal ideation since her teenage years, but she has found a compassionate way to deal with them. In this interview, we talk about when these thoughts first came up, their impact on her life, and how she has developed a relationship with them. You can watch this interview HERE.
Ep. 18 - Grieving a loved one / A conversation with clinical psychologist Brian Goff - In this interview, Brian talks about the natural responses we experience when grieving, particularly when the death is by suicide. We discuss emotions, society's expectations of what is "healthy," what differentiates suicide grief from other types of death, and ways to go through it in a more compassionate manner. Brian is a clinical psychologist in Portland/OR. Watch this interview on my YouTube Channel.
Ep. 19 - Talking to my sister about dad's suicide - Suicide has a devastating impact on families, especially if blaming is present and the individual ways of grieving are not respected. In this conversation, I talk to my older sister Renata about the ways we see dad's suicide and our personal grieving processes. We go through some of the emotions both of us experienced (or not), such as sadness, anger, guilt, memory loss, and mental confusion, as well as the differences in our views. Watch this interview on my YouTube Channel.
Ep. 20 - Youth suicide: helping parents take action / Interview Norine Vanderhooven - For the past 3 years, Norine Vanderhooven has been the Chair of the Youth Suicide Prevention Committee of the American Association of Suicidology. As a clinical social worker, she has vast experience in treating trauma and suicide-related issues. In this interview, she helps parents understand the main factors associated with youth suicide, identify signs, and take action to protect their kids. Watch this interview on my YouTube Channel.
Ep. 21 - Childhood grief: how to tell kids about death / Interview Donna Schuurman - In this interview, Donna Schuurman talks about how to open up a dialogue about grief with children. She gives valuable tips on finding appropriate language, how kids express emotions, what to avoid, and ways in which families can come together after the loss of a loved one. Watch this interview on my YouTube Channel.
Ep. 22 - Stigma, mental illness, and suicide: education is not enough! - Psychologist Dr. Patrick Corrigan has struggled with mental illness all his life and has dedicated his profession to fighting the discrimination experienced by those with psychiatric conditions. In this eye-opening interview, I asked him what we can do to help society fight the stigma associated with mental illnesses, which leads so many people to suicide. He said that contrary to general belief, education is just a small step; sometimes, it can make matter worse. The most effective way is to connect with others who have lived experience with mental illness. This interview can be watched on my YouTube channel.
Ep. 23 - The masks we wear when in pain: he attempted suicide but all everyone saw was a perfect life - John Nieuwenburg is an award-winning business coach from Canada with a supportive family and wife, but this is only one side of his story. For years, he hid from everyone his feelings of hopelessness, until his depression took its toll and he attempted suicide. Watch this interview on my YouTube channel.
Ep. 24 - She reinvented her life after losing her brother to suicide - Spencer-Thomas is an award-winning speaker in mental health. After losing her brother Carson to suicide, in 2004, she focused her work as a psychologist to fighting the stigma surrounding suicide. In this interview, she tells her Carson's story, how she dealt with her own mental illness, how suicide affects first-responders and sends a powerful message to religious leaders regarding their approach to suicide. Watch this interview on my YouTube channel.
Ep. 25 - The pandemic and its toll on mental health - Interview Jonathan Singer - Dr. Singer is a clinical social worker and the president of the American Association of Suicidology. In this interview, we discuss how the pandemic has impacted individuals, families, work relations, and communities. He talks about the challenges we all face to maintain a healthy routine, how mental health workers are dealing with the demand, the effect of losing social connection with others, and how to deal with anxiety and loneliness during the quarantine.
Ep. 26 - How can schools be prepared to address suicide? Interview Jonathan Singer - Dr. Singer is a clinical social worker, the president of the American Association of Suicidology, and co-author of the book “Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multi-level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention.” In this interview, he explains how schools can be ready to address suicide in a holistic and effective way.
My interview to the Social Witnessing Podcast - Their notes: Brazilian psychotherapist, author and suicide prevention advocate Paula Fontenelle joins the podcast to discuss how her father’s suicide changed the course of her life as well as share news about the desperate pandemic situation in Brazil, offer advice for those struggling in isolation, and educate us on the warning signs to look out for - and ways to help - the loved ones in our lives.
Ep. 27 - A victim of sexual abuse talks about her ongoing recovery - Catherine is a victim of child sex abuse, and as it often happens with children, she grew up believing it was her fault. There were times when she tried to warn her parents about her contact with pornography but they often dismissed her claims. Later, as an adolescent, her internalized shame and distorted self-image - one that shouted ‘you are ugly, dirty, and chronically bad,’ - pushed her towards self-harming behavior. Catherine talks about how she went from wanting to end it all, including a recent attempt after being sexually assaulted in 2018, to becoming a counselor who helps others process their traumas and find healing.
Ep. 28 - Phases of grief? - Jill Johnson-Young (part 1) knows grief profoundly and from many perspectives. She was widowed twice before the age of fifty; as a medical social worker, she has worked with dying patients; she has run grief support groups; she has created the Your Path Through Grief program, and she is married to a funeral director. In this first part of our conversation, she gave us an insightful view on Dr. Kübler-Ross's popularized 'phases of grief'. Jill also walked us through the need to address emotions after the loss of a loved one, the differences between depression and grief, and her experience with the dying and their families.
Ep. 29 - Suicide grief and how COVID-19 has impacted bereavement - In part 2 of my conversation with Jill Johnson-Young, she focuses on the peculiarities of suicide grief. One of the topics we covered was how to respond to those we love but make us uncomfortable with our own pain. The impact of COVID-19 on bereavement is also explored.
Ep. 30 - What to say to a suicidal person / Interview Stacey Freedenthal - Knowing how to help a suicidal person is difficult for most of us. We are afraid to “do the wrong thing” and stimulate their resolve. In order to help with this issue, the clinical social worker Stacey Freedenthal wrote the book “Helping the suicidal person,” with eighty-nine tips on how to approach someone who is contemplating suicide.
Ep. 31 - Are clinicians afraid to treat suicidal patients? Interview Dr. Steven Reisner (Part 1) - American clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Steven Reisner has fought tirelessly to improve the ethics of his profession. During more than a decade, he denounced the participation of psychologists in designing programs of torture for the US government, which resulted in a shift in the policies of the American Psychological Association, APA. He is also critical of his colleagues for the way they often treat suicidal patients, which is the main topic of Part 1 of our conversation.