Tragic Loss By Suicide and the Question “Why?”

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

shutterstock_148518026For every suicide there is an estimated six or more “suicide survivors,” people who are left behind trying to cope with this traumatic loss. They include spouses, parents, siblings, friends and relatives.

When the person lost is Robin Williams, a famous comedian and actor whose creativity and art brought laughs to millions, it illuminates the pain, confusion, shock, and even guilt suffered by others who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The Question WHY?

One of the haunting thoughts that survivors carry in the aftermath of suicide is “ WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?”

As Bev Feigelman, one of the authors of Devastating Losses, and the mother of a young filmmaker who died by suicide describes, “ The question mark stays in the forefront of your mind haunting you and only with time starts to slowly move toward the back.”

Depression, often unrecognized and untreated is considered the major cause of suicide. What complicates this finding is that those suffering often struggle with the fear that they will not find the proper treatment.

In her important book, Depression and Your Child, one of the contributions of author Deborah Serani, is a listing of over 300 names of famous people from athletes, actors to writers who have suffered with depression.

Suicide as “ Psychache”

In work with suicide survivors – be they family members, siblings or cops, the consideration of suicide as “ psychache” has been considered helpful.

Essentially it comes from the work of suicide expert, Edwin …



In a Relationship-Love Means Being Able to Say “NO”

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Can you say NO to your partner?

Can you tolerate hearing NO?

In a relationship, the freedom to say NO may be one of the most important dynamics your share. If there is no space for NO, there really is no space for an authentic relationship. Partners believe in the “ I do” because it is a choice of Yes over NO.couple on the bench



Non-Medication Strategies for Reducing Chronic Pain: Use and Effectiveness

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Lasting longer than six months, such pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, inconvenient or totally incapacitating.

For too many, chronic pain is an invisible and debilitating condition. Often employers and even spouses can’t quite appreciate the impact of a migraine or the limitations imposed by back pain. As such, those who suffer often report feeling isolated in addition to feeling depressed, worried about levels of medication and anxious about a future of no relief from pain.file0001875581713

Scientifically Proven Non-Medication Strategies

The good news is that in addition to ever expanding medication options, there are an increasing number of scientifically proven non-medication approaches to reduce chronic pain, increase the effectiveness of medication, address flare-ups, and in some cases reduce need for medication.



Understanding and Using the Thoughts and Feelings After Divorce

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Divorce statistics tend to obscure the emotional impact of divorce. Whether a divorce is chosen, imposed, contested, litigated or mediated, divorce is difficult.

What often adds to the difficulty even after a divorce is finalized are lingering thoughts and feelings that bewilder, disturb, preoccupy and interfere with moving forward in a self-productive way.



Dissatisfied With Your Appearance? Re-set The Criteria of Beauty

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

How satisfied are you with your appearance?

Across the ages, norms of beauty have been set by cultures and passed down in the context of family, close community and friends. With time and technology, however, the setting of norms has changed and so has their impact.looking in the mirror gown



Illusions of Self-Knowledge: Findings and Benefits

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

How well do you really know yourself?

Have you ever discovered with surprise that the type of movie you hate was actually interesting; the sushi you would never try was delicious; or the cruise you resisted was really a blast?

Have you ever thought that if anyone had told you what you had to face yesterday, last month or this whole year, you would have said, “No Way, I can’t do that.”girl on the train

You are not alone.



Look Who’s Laughing: Similarities and Differences in Men and Women

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Laughing is a wonderful human trait that we all share. It is something we do from earliest childhood and something that benefits us in many ways.

  • Physically, laughter relaxes skeletal and cardiovascular muscles. The rapid breathing associated with laughter increases oxygen level and improves respiratory function.
  • Psychologically, laughter has been associated with reduction of stress and anxiety as well as improvement in mood, self-esteem and coping skills.
  • Cognitively, neuroscientist, Scott Weems tells us that humor is like exercise for the brain. It necessitates insight and flexibility because it involves following the thread of the story and then enjoying the surprise, the pun or the unexpected. It is delightful when you realize from a child’s giggle that they “ get the joke” and heartwarming when the elderly are still “getting it” and laughing.
  • Socially we know that laughter invites connection and is contagious. If you enter a room where everyone is laughing, before long there is a good chance you will be laughing even without knowing why. Some feel that the purpose of laughter is to strengthen human bonds.

Whereas men and women both enjoy humor and benefit from laughing, there are some interesting gender differences.



Superstitions: Coping with Uncertainty

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

black catAre you superstitious? Do you knock on wood? Wear a lucky jersey when your favorite team plays? Believe deaths occur in three’s or use your horoscope as a life guide?

If so, you are not alone. It may surprise you to know that according to a 2012 CBS News poll, 51% of Americans endorse “knocking on wood” to insure good luck or ward off adversity, and 17% of Americans believe in the power of sports superstitions, like fans wearing lucky hats, to determine the outcome of a game!



Reducing Procrastination By Addressing The Role of Anxiety

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Most of us procrastinate about doing some things, some of the time. I may put off folding clothes and you may find yourself avoiding the mail, the boxes in the garage or the report due next week.  For 20% of men and women in the US, procrastination becomes a pervasive life style pattern that impairs quality of life by limiting success, compromising relationships and lowering self-esteem.boy sitting with dog

Procrastination and Anxiety

While there are many different reasons offered for procrastination, one dynamic that underscores many of them and much of the delaying or postponement of responsibilities is the difficulty regulating anxiety. In a sense, procrastination becomes a default position which offers a temporary fix but ultimately adds more anxiety.



Collateral Damage: What Children Say About Domestic Violence

By Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP

Domestic Violence persists as a complicated and serious problem across geography, age, income, race, gender, religion and ethnicities. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women.girl domestic violence

Children have no control over domestic violence. In fact, they are the collateral damage of the unregulated verbal and physical abuse of the adults in their lives. Michael Paymar, author of Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse, reports that children are present during 80% of the assaults against their mothers.

A newly published nationwide study of 517 children who had witnessed domestic violence, including beating, hitting or kicking of a parent or caregiver, is one of the first studies that actually asks what children have to say about domestic violence.



 
Healing Together

Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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