[Podcast] Alive, Running, and Advocating

“Hope just shows up! Life is so messed up… this world is tough… I want my goal to be nice to everybody; I can bring them kindness.” —Ryan Nesbit shares his inpiring story of overcoming unthinkable tragedy and personal struggle to help others as a respected suicide prevention advocate and presenter of evidence-based training programs QPR and ASIST.

Our episode today is all about HOPE. I encourage all of you right now to put this podcast on pause to take a moment and program the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number into your phone so that you can be the one to provide HOPE to yourself or someone in need, 800-273-TALK(8255), along with the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

For resources available regarding suicide prevention and suicide loss, please visit our resource page and our extensive book list available at Facing Tomorrow.

I recently had the honor of taking part in an event run by the Utah chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention World Suicide Prevention Day Virtual Candle Lighting. As I listened to all the powerful speakers and a beautiful rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, I was flooded with emotions of those we’ve lost. However, I was also reminded of why this podcast—Facing Tomorrow—was created and of one of the influencers for sharing my voice and the voices of others experiencing moments of change—those who are the change agents working hard to positively impact the lives of others.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and September 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most challenging we have seen in many years. As the pandemic continues to spread and uncertainty reigns supreme, concerns regarding mental health and suicide have grown exponentially. As American Association of Suicidology President Jonathan Singer shares: “Everyone is weathering the same storm in different boats… and some of those boats are going to sink” unless we take action. Sandhya Raman of Roll Call notes that “The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine has seen a 65 percent increase in calls and emails since March.” More alarming, an April ABCNews article by Mike Levine stated that “the ‘Disaster Distress Helpline’ at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (better known as SAMHSA) saw an 891% increase in call volume compared with March 2019”. Now is our time to act and to come together. What can be done?

I am so thankful to have met our guest, Ryan Nesbit, just two short years ago. Ryan is a respected and well-known suicide prevention advocate in the state of Iowa. We had crossed paths at a few mental health conferences but I had never said hello until a conference at a school in Ames, Iowa, in 2018. What started simply as a high-five and thank you grew into a call for assistance and action after we said goodbye to our brother to suicide two weeks later. I owe so much to Ryan and am thankful for his expertise and guidance. I hope that through his story, you can also be uplifted and eager to take action. As I learned during the recording of this episode, Ryan and I were both introduced to the topic of suicide through loss at the age of 15. However, that’s where the similarities stop.

What is absolutely astounding about Ryan’s story is the recognition of how impulsive suicidal thoughts and actions can be and why we have to be incredibly vigilant with one another. Recent research has focused on this very topic of impulsivity and its relationship to suicide. In a 2018 USCNews article by Maya Meinart covering the work of clinical social worker Susan Lindau, Ms. Lindau shares that while suicide is often planned out, “Research shows that when individuals make the decision to attempt suicide, nearly half of people will attempt it within 20 minutes. That’s why I begin many of my coaching phone calls with clients by saying, ‘What actions can we take to get through the next 20 minutes?’” As we will hear later in this episode, Ryan facilitates several suicide prevention trainings which are evidence-based and focus on exactly that - the momentary decisions we can choose to make that will allow us to stay that much longer. Unfortunately, these trainings were not readily available in 1991.

Ryan’s experience is echoed Brett Brinkmeyer’s experience in our previous episode titled “Finding a Life to be Happy With - Overcoming Mental Illness” - a young man bouncing throughout mental hospitals. While they were not ideal situations, Brett credited these moments with keeping him alive and moving forward until finding his strength in Iowa City. Also, much like Brett’s story, Ryan credits these moments with the classes he facilitates today including QPR which can be performed in just a couple hours, and ASIST.

Australia-based BeyondBlue describes the creation of a safety plan in the following manner:

  • Recognizing your warning signs
  • Making your surroundings are safe
  • Writing reminders of reasons to live
  • Writing things that can make you feel strong
  • Documenting people and places to connect with
  • Family and friends you can talk with
  • Professional support you can connect to

BeyondBlue has also created an app called BeyondNow. This research-based app allows users to fully develop their safety plans and also has immediate connections to emergency numbers in Australia such as the Hotline, similar to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the US. If you are listening in the US, you can use the web-based version of this app at beyondblue.org.au. The mobile app is not available in the US, but if you are listening outside the US, it is available through Google Play, the Apple App store. In the research for this episode, I attempted to locate a similar app in the US but did not have positive results. If you know of something available in the US and have had success using it, please comment below!

Ryan's turnaround happened nearly two decades after the moment his life was forever altered, further reminding us of what we heard in our first episode from Nicole, grief is not linear. Everyone’s grief journey is different and it does not follow a normal set structure. As we learn, Ryan’s turning point took a few years. And that change often requires a few catalysts for change. Ryan’s first efforts were centered around his first child. But often what we truly need is the knowledge that we are not alone in our grief and struggle… the foundation of Facing Tomorrow. Ryan found his community in Support Groups. If you are in need of a support group, AFSP has a searchable list so you can find the closest to you.

What has always amazed me most about Ryan is how loving he is and how much he cares about others. The Rule of 5 shows exactly that—ensuring everyone maintains as many outlets as possible so that they can feel loved and supported. Through one of Ryan’s non-profits, Alive and Running Iowa, demonstrates his love of running. Ryan went beyond anything he had imagined recently and hit an important milestone—a 50k—which he of course added as a fundraiser and utilizes as a metaphor for mental health and suicide prevention.

Hope just shows up. We certainly hope that this episode brought you hope and provided you with helpful tips and strategies. We also want you to have the opportunity to hear Ryan’s story and receive the training for QPR and ASIST. Thankfully, Ryan is available for bookings and is always available to chat. As he’s said throughout, we need more humans helping humans. The finish line is so good—and you can’t skip. Don’t cheat yourself. Reach out to Ryan at 641-990-4957, aliveandrunningiowa.com, their Facebook Alive and Running page, and at ryan.r.nesbit@gmail.com.

Always remember you are loved, you are needed, you are appreciated, and you should never feel like you have to walk this journey alone. Thank you very much for taking the time to listen.