Emotional Regulation as Treatment for Suicidal Behavior: Training and Discussion

September 11, 2020

New Vitae Wellness Foundation was honored to commemorate World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2020, by hosting a no-cost training for our community.  Guest speakers Jordan Burnham and Brandon Everett, RN, BSN, CMT, spoke about emotional regulation, mindfulness meditation, and their personal experiences to further support recovery and emphasize suicide prevention.

Following a brief introduction to the speakers by Judith Yanacek, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery’s President and CEO, Everett initiated the conversation by defining mindfulness as the ability of each person to bring a clear, relaxed attention to a moment in time.  Each person has a natural ability to utilize mindfulness, but practice tends to strengthen and refine this ability.  Likened to a karaoke singer vs. a trained opera performer, Everett suggested that we can grow our ability to utilize mindfulness techniques to manage challenging emotions. 

Everett assisted training participants with practicing three mindfulness exercises during the span of the conversation.  Using both top-down and bottom-up strategies, Everett walked the group through the processes associated with mindfulness, emphasizing a mind-body connection that focused attention on various muscle groups to encourage relaxation.  Once in a more peaceful state, Everett reminded the audience to check in with their emotions.  In focusing more on the resulting feelings of serenity and calm, each person can find solace in their days, despite personal and social stressors.  

Everett also reviewed the connection between emotions and attention, stating that the neurological experience of an emotion is limited to the 90 seconds associated with our neurons firing – but they frequently stretch for a much longer period of time due to a person’s focus on negative energies.  The benefits of mindfulness, including the development of personal agency, improved health and sleep habits, and strengthening attentiveness were each explored.    

Jordan Burnham followed the initial conversation with his personal story of emotional and personal challenges that culminated with a suicide attempt during his senior year of high school.  After growing up in Pittsburgh with his mother, father, and sister, he moved to the outskirts of Philadelphia just prior to seventh grade.  Finding early challenges with bullying and a depressed mood, Burnham ultimately began using alcohol in high school as a negative coping mechanism and watched his grades slip.  He encountered a variety of scholastic and personal pressures that highlighted his feelings of grief, guilt, and sadness.  

By 12th grade, Burnham acknowledged routine suicidal thinking that resulted in an impulsive act and serious physical injury, including a fractured skull and multiple broken bones.  He soon learned that by sharing his story and listening to others, he could create meaning in his own life.  He began a process of physical and emotional recovery.  He now focuses on helping others through sharing his story and by advocating for individuals who experience mental health diagnoses.  He identified his wife, cats, and the rest of his family as major sources of inspiration to this day.

The training session ended with Everett reviewing ways to incorporate mindfulness meditation into a daily routine.  He suggested practicing in the same location and at the same times each day for short periods.  He encouraged everyone in attendance to be kind with ourselves and to practice with a group in order to find effective support.

Everett and Burnham ended the training by answering several questions from the audience.  Overall, it was an incredible opportunity to learn about mindfulness as a means to manage emotions.  New Vitae wishes to thank Mind Your Mind, Jordan Burnham, and Brandon Everett for their time, talent, and support!

 

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- Peter H. (parent)