Hope & Healing Podcast


Soul Shop’s Michelle Snyder on Hope and Suicide Prevention


Michelle Snyder is the executive director of Soul Shop, an organization that conducts trainings and workshops aimed at suicide prevention for faith community leaders. Michelle has been part of educational residencies all over the country, either conducting them herself or dispatching trained facilitators to address the growing problem of suicide and the ongoing challenge of a society that would often prefer to look the other way. In this honest and moving conversation with Matthew Butte, executive director of Children’s Center, Michelle talks about the hope that she has and the hard work still to be done.

Episode Transcript

Matthew: A note to our listeners. This episode contains discussions about suicide from the Children’s Center in Vancouver, Washington, this is Hope and Healing

Matthew: I’m Matthew Butte, executive director of Children’s Center and your host. We make this podcast in order to bring you hopeful stories us and to introduce you to people who inspire hope. They’ve inspired a lot of hope in me and among people here at Children’s Center and I hope you feel the same. We reached out to Michelle Snyder while she was on the road. She pulled over to a little cafe in Temple, Texas to talk to us. Michelle is the executive director of Soul Shop and she was traveling as part of that organization on her way to a town somewhere in America. As Michelle will explain, Soul Shop conducts training and workshops aimed at suicide prevention for faith community leaders. It’s a tough topic, suicide, and one that a lot of people try to avoid because it is so difficult. But talking about suicide and how to prevent it is vitally important in any larger conversation about mental health. I think what Michelle and her team do offers a great deal of hope and healing. I spoke with Michelle over Zoom. She was on her phone on, the Zoom app and traveling, like I said. So perhaps forgive the occasional background noise.

Matthew: And I’m here, Vancouver, Washington, having my standard British cup of tea. How about you? What are you drinking this afternoon?

Michelle: I’m drinking soda water with lime.

Matthew: How about, as we begin giving us a summary, what is Soul Shop? If you were to give the elevator pitch, what would it be?

Michelle: The elevator pitch. Yeah. So Soul Shop is suicide prevention for faith community leaders. And I would make a pretty, This has to be a long elevator, but I would make a distinction between faith based suicide prevention and suicide prevention for faith community leaders. So what we do is equip faith communities to minister to those among them who are impacted by suicide.

Matthew: How do you do that?

Michelle: Yeah, so there’s a lot of ways to answer question, but one of them is simply to say that we believe that the impacts of suicide are, much broader than we tend to think of in suicide prevention space. So we talk about those who are impacted by suicide and desperation, and, that includes people who are thinking about suicide, which the estimates are kind of staggering. The estimates are that 6% of adults and 19% of adolescents are thinking about suicide at any given time. And so when we think about faith communities of any particular size, that pretty much assumes that anytime a faith community gathers, there are people in that room who are thinking about suicide. Anytime, a group of kids gather, there are people in that room who are thinking about suicide. So it’s thinking about those who are thinking about suicide, those who are worried about someone thinking about suicide, those who, have lost someone to suicide. we call them survivors of suicide loss and those who have lived experience of suicidal thinking, but have never known how to tell their stories. And so when you think about those people, that group of people, you’re probably talking about 50% of a congregation. when you say, how do you do that? One of the things it means is just sort of getting fresh eyes to see what we’re dealing with, which is these people right in front of us, half of our community. And so it’s not like how do we go out in the world and find people who are thinking about suicide? It’s like how do we name the thing that’s right inside of our walls and under our noses? and we adopt something of a culture change model that says, if we’re going to start talking about this, then we need to do an awful lot of things. One of them is start talking about it from the top. Do we preach about it? Do we even know the texts in the Bible that talk about suicide? Because there’s a bunch of them. do we have a framework for understanding that suicidality is often, just, ah, an attempt to get out of the pain that someone’s in, instead of seeing it as a sort of pathologized mental health disorder, seeing it as a desperate cry from a person in so much pain that they can’t imagine living the way that they’re living. we talk with faith communities about how to put templates and resources into people’s hands. What does it look like to train all of your people? does everybody have a safety net where they know who their three people are? Let’s get everybody safe with their own sort of micro communities where they can minister. how do we teach people to talk, to sort of deal with those that disappoint us instead of shunning them? And so there’s a pretty extensive list of things. When you say, how do you do that? The list is pretty extensive, of ways that a faith community can be equipped to minister better to those who are right under their noses.

Matthew: Is it all faith communities that you work within?

Michelle: Yeah, that’s a good question. are you asking if we’re other than Christian?

Matthew: Yeah. what’s the range of churches and, perhaps other faith communities that you work with?

Michelle: We would cover a pretty broad theological base. we actually say that Soul Shop has no official theological position. so we work really hard. I don’t know that neutrality is a possibility ever, but we work really hard to start where people are. when you say, how do you do that? Part of what we’re doing is saying, if you claim to be about the things you claim to be about, and you hold the beliefs that you hold, then let’s talk about what that means in relationship to people who are feeling desperate among you. does your theology offer solace? Does it offer solutions? Does it offer hope? like, are we good at peddling the hope that we claim that we are? yeah, we’ve done this in southern baptist churches in deep South Mississippi, and we’ve done it for, unitarian universalists in the northeast, and we’ve done it for the sort know, post Christendom Oregonians who aren’t sure what they think about God, but they’re pretty sure they want nothing to do with the got. We’ve got a pretty broad range of theological contexts in which we’ve done it. We’ve done it for a lot of faith based counseling centers, which means that they bring in huge ranges. the constituency is huge. In fact, it’s one of the things that I love to do. I remember, I don’t know, a couple of months ago we did a Soul Shop, and in that Soul Shop, one of the things we do in Soul Shop is have a time of prayer where we have the people in the room write either a prayer that they could use in their ministry context, or else a prayer that they wish someone would pray in their ministry context. And then we pray them together, and it’s a really moving time. And in that particular Soul Shop, it was a really broad range of people. And, at the end of the prayer I got up and I said, I think it’s highly possible that nowhere else in America today was there, ah, a, buddhist monk, a catholic priest and a Pentecostal who prayed together around an issue that affects us all. I think it’s very possible that that didn’t happen today, except in this room. so we do have some of that, and we work really hard in Soul Shop to create safe space for everybody. And so there’s a kind of commitment to saying people of good faith live everywhere across the continuum on the issues that divide us. But the one thing we can all agree about is that we don’t want people to die by suicide. So suicide is an easy, convener, to get people of difference together. So across christian traditions, we go pretty far maybe not the extreme edges on either side, but we go pretty far. What we say, though, is that the strength of Soul Shop is also its weakness. so Soul Shop started Christian, and what it means that it’s christian is that we start with the sacred text and see what it has to say to us, and then we’re able to say to people of that faith who work in those traditions. How do we minister in these contexts? And we get really specific. Like, we talk about liturgies, and we talk about, pastoral prayers, and we talk about, sermons, and we talk about eulogies and funerals. And so it’s very contextualized. People in Soul Shop walk out with a great deal, like a lot of tools and ideas, but that makes it hard to generalize. And that means that people will say, well, we’ve got some jewish people in our community. Could they come? And what I always say is, if they know what they’re walking into, usually they love it because it provides a template for any faith tradition, to start with their sacred text and then ask the big questions of themselves. But if they don’t know what they’re walking into and they think they’re walking into an interfaith training, it really isn’t that. we started where we were because we’re christian. and now we have proof of concept. And so we’ve got some inquiries from the Jewish community in Westchester County, New York, that’s asking if we could develop it out for them. across different demographic traditions, we’ve developed Soul Shop for black churches. We are, just approved to develop Soul Shop for hispanic churches. we’ve got a grant out there to see if we can develop it for, Korean American, churches. All of those are Christian. but we’re always interested. I have done one kind of on accident. I was brought in by a bunch of buddhist priests, which went really well, but I had to do a lot of talking and thinking on the fly. So right now we’re Christian.

Matthew: M how do you accidentally find, yourself in a role where you’re providing this training for a group of buddhist monks?

Michelle: Well, part of the reason is, I think, grounded in your question, because we talk about faith communities, and so we make assumptions. We make assumptions that people know what that means. Not near as much anymore. This was very early on in the movement, and we talk about faith communities. And so these faith communities brought us in. And it was about three weeks beforehand when I was asking about the location and where I should show up, that they said, well, we’re going to do this at the buddhist temple. This was in Honolulu. We’re going to do it at the buddhist temple. And I said, buddhist temple? They said, well, yeah, because it’s being sponsored by, the buddhist community there. And I was like, oh, I think we have some conversations to have. So it went really well. It was 50% Buddhist, 50% Christian, and we had a lot of interfaith dialogue around what works in our various traditions. half of Soul Shop’s work is done when faith community leaders come into a room to have conversations about suicide. Soul Shop was originally started, actually by a pastor who was doing suicide prevention in his community, secular suicide prevention. And he said, I would get 100 people in a room time and time and time again to talk about suicide. Parents and teachers and nurses and first responders, and I’d look around and there wouldn’t be a pastor in the room. And I started asking myself, what is it about the way that we’re having this conversation that isn’t capturing theological imagination of the church? And how do we frame the conversation differently so that we do capture their theological imaginations? So once we get the clergy folk and ministers in the room and they know they’re there to talk about, suicide, everything else is gravy.

Matthew: Getting them together is such a crucial part, and we all want to save lives. So that is, as you mentioned, what better convener of people than that very reason? I think you’ve covered this, in many ways already, but I wonder if you could just kind of summarize one or two things that make this program different from any other suicide prevention program.

Michelle: Yeah, I think, my answer has changed about that over the years. I would have said, and I probably would still say, that one of the really key ways is that we talk about desperation and not just suicide. we talk about ministering to those who are impacted by suicidal desperation. I think a lot of suicide prevention is really about saving lives, and I always say we’re about saving lives as a minimum, but it’s almost a minimum assumption. We’re here to talk about. How do you minister to those who are impacted by desperation? Because if 6% of adults and 19% of adolescents are thinking about suicide at any given time, but we only have 48,000 suicides in the United States a year, which means that we have so many people who are walking around the world in so much pain that they’re considering the possibility that death is better than what they’re going through, who are never going to take their lives, and many of them aren’t even going to attempt suicide. And so we’ve got very different questions, which is, how do we minister to those who are hurting? in fact, we teach people, one of the things we teach is how do you ask somebody if they’re thinking about suicide? And one of the questions that we, or one of the ways that we recommend is to say, does it ever get so bad that sometimes you start to think about suicide? And the thing I love about that question is that it’s not actually asking about the suicide, it’s asking about how bad it is, and with the understanding that suicide is a consequence of how bad it is. And so we really shift the conversation in that way to address, the things that create desperation in our lives. Being a suicide loss survivor is one of the most painful things a person can go through, and those people are often right under our noses. we talk about, probably in every faith community, in every church in America, that’s dramatic. But in many churches in America, on every given Sunday, you’ve got people who are thinking about suicide sitting right beside people who have been suicidal in the past and have found ways to live, and they’re not talking to each other. Our questions are different, and our starting points are different. I think the second thing that makes us different is that we take a public health approach to suicide. And I think lots of people say they take a public health approach. I think many, suicide prevention people would say that we all take a public health approach, and that means everybody needs to know what to look for and what to listen for and how to ask the question, all that. it’s kind of a CPR model that would say, everybody needs trained because nobody knows when it’s going to happen and that kind of thing. our public health approach goes a little farther. the founder of Soul Shop has recently started saying, I think we put people in impossible situations. When they start to consider suicide as an option for those situations, we pathologize them, and then when they take their lives, we act confused. And I think our public health approach says, we actually, in Soul Shop, we use the idea of the good, Samaritan, and we like, let’s say we’re traveling on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem every month of the year, and every single time we pass by the same spot, we find another person laying in a ditch. We can help them. We can put them up and clean up their wounds, know, feed them. But at what point do we need to start asking ourselves, what’s wrong with the road and why it is that people keep falling in ditches in the same spot. And so we really are asking big questions of the community. We’re saying that a person who lives in California has half the suicide risk as a person who lives in Nevada, and a person who lives in Massachusetts has half the suicide risk as someone who lives in New Hampshire. Somebody who’s born on a reservation in Montana has double the suicide risk of somebody born in Brooklyn. And so, obviously, communities can make substantive changes that make a real difference in people’s, so we ask faith communities to wrestle with that question, not how do we become a pathway where people can recognize signs and make a referral to a mental health person, but how do we be the kind of place where people who are part of us don’t desire to be dead? And what changes would we need to make as a community to be that kind of a place? So I think those are the two things I would say that make us substantively different than other suicide prevention trainings.

Matthew: As you think about this, what brought you to the work?

Michelle: Depending on your particular worldview, either serendipity or providence, I didn’t actually come at the work, through a suicide lens. I always lead my presentations saying, I’m one of very few people that you’ll ever meet in the world who do suicide prevention that don’t have their own personal experience with it. now I do. Now almost every one of my closest friends is a person with lived experience or a loss survivor. But at the time that I got into it, I didn’t know anything about suicide. I didn’t know anybody who died by suicide. I had no experience of suicidality myself. I actually started as a church consultant. I’m still a church consultant. And so I do both things. And I was working with all of these churches that were struggling to know themselves and what the role is they play in the world and find their mission and vision and all the flip chart paper on the wall with people sitting around tables trying to brainstorm identity and vision. And so I was doing that work. I was also the executive director of a faith based counseling center, and, my colleague, who was the one that developed it, who had done the suicide prevention, in communities and saw that there were no pastors there. He came to me one day. We were colleagues in church consulting work. And he said, I always promised myself that once I retired, I, would throw my retirement into equipping faith communities to do suicide prevention. And I think it could be a real pathway for churches to be about something real. would your counseling center be willing to take it on if I gifted it to you? And so I’m an opportunist and it seemed like a really good match. And so I said yes. And that’s how I got involved. since then, I have learned about suicide in ways that have made me passionate about suicide. But that wasn’t my entry point. My entry point was the church. and my belief that the church. There are places where we’re getting it really wrong, but there are places that we do here and there. Now and again, we get it really right. And if we could be more about the right stuff, we’ve got the capacity to change the world, but it’s all bound up in, I don’t know, indecision and sort of the blinders that we all wear. So anyway, that’s how I got involved.

Matthew: You mentioned some of the, this is not your word, but so correct me if I’m wrong, but really barriers that churches may have, and I’m thinking, as I listen to them thinking, what are some of the barriers that churches might have to talking about mental health, to talking about suicide?

Michelle: I know some of the obvious ones are just the stigma that comes from that nobody’s talking about suicide. It’s a tough thing to talk about. Nobody wants to put their own feet in the fire. And talking about suicide can be painful and brings up stuff for people. And like I said, if 50% of the people in the church are dealing with it invisibly, you scratch the surface and you’re going to start uncovering stories of pain, stories of trauma, suicide. I often say that suicide is. Yeah, it’s a little risky to say it, but I think it’s a useful picture. Suicide is never about suicide. Suicide is almost little more than a number on a pain scale. It’s like a way of asking a person, how much are you hurting? I’m hurting so bad that on a scale of zero to suicide, how bad is it? and so suicide is never its own thing. It’s actually just a gateway to talking about all the things that make us so desperate that death feels like the best option we’ve got. And that means that if a church is going to start talking about suicide, it’s going to have to talk about domestic violence and child abuse and, histories of trauma. It’s going to have to talk about rape, it’s going to have to talk about gender, and sexuality. It’s going to have to talk about eating disorders and body shame. The ocean of things that contribute to suicidality is so big that I think we intuit that. I think that as a society and also in the church, we intuit it. And it feels so insurmountable and so big and so intimidating and so threatening that we don’t talk about it. And so part of it is equipping people to talk about all the things that lead to desperation. part of it is that, I don’t want to be the first one, and nobody else is doing it. So one of our methodologies in Soul Shop is to create soul safe community, even as we’re teaching people about it. And the way that we do that is that the trainer is trained to start a Soul Shop with their own vulnerabilities. When I start a Soul Shop, I talk about a person in my family who has had thoughts of suicide and how hard it is to live with somebody who you don’t always know how to help. I start by talking about being an adult survivor of childhood clergy sexual abuse and how my church didn’t know what to do and how isolating that was for me. And so I model vulnerability because I do think that. I think culture change starts from the top, and I think modeling starts from the top. And I think our faith leaders are often not doing that. And when they’re not doing it, they haven’t created a world in which it’s safe for other people to do it. And so part, of what we do in Soul Shop is step out on the limb first and then invite other people to do it. And I’ve done hundreds of these, and I’ve yet to be at a Soul Shop, where by the end of the day, people aren’t hugging each other, sharing their phone numbers, telling their hard stories, sometimes for the first time ever, comforting each other as they do it. And then we say, like, did you just feel that? Have you experienced what that’s like now? Go out into the world and do the same? so I think the barriers are about how big it is. I think the barriers are about how stigmatized it is. I also think that the barriers are primarily emotional. and I think in the church, my mentor used to say, in the church, we overteach. And we. So Soul Shop’s methodology is designed around. We’re not just going to stand up here and talk at you. We’re going to have you practice. So one of the very first things we do in a Soul Shop day is have everybody at their table turn to the person next to you and use the word suicide in a sentence because we need to be able to talk about this. And so we don’t need you to have hard conversations, just any conversation you want, as long as you use the word suicide. and that’s where we start. And then ask them, how was it? And in every room there are people who say easy and then people who say painful, people who say, I was challenged by how hard I was to get out of sort of to get the words out. I stumbled over them. People who say, it brought up a lot. People who say, I, learned something about somebody that I have been going to church with for 20 years and I didn’t know it. So we do a lot of practice because I think, to answer your question, I think one of the barriers is, the barriers are emotional. And we say, you can’t tackle emotional barriers with information. You’ve got to tackle emotional barriers by facing them. and so that’s what we’re going to do here today.

Matthew: So as I listened to your description of those trainings, you really just jump in right away. I mean, that first activity is around the leader sharing a vulnerability and then you’re asking questions around, or using suicide in a sentence. Are there folks reluctant to, I mean, I’m just curious how, what for those. Or maybe that is just too hard for them to begin that conversation straight away. what for those folks, assuming they’re there? I imagine there would be some in that room.

Michelle: There are probably some late adopters. This is a self selected group of people who have come out to talk about suicide. Right. So we’re not doing it with the general population. But sure there are people in the room who are hesitant and reticent. I mean, I think, honestly, I’m a little biased, but I think that the Soul Shop trainer has to be highly skilled at setting the stage and creating the safe spaces to do that. and so our training for trainers is five days long and we spend a lot of time talking about. When I do my introduction, I pivot back and forth between humor and affability and real intense vulnerability and then back to a little humor and then sort of some benign kind of uninteresting details to give people a little breathing room. We work pretty hard. You’re probably right that they’re in the room. what we talk about, kind of part of our philosophy is that we want people to be in the yellow zone. We want them to spend most of the day in the yellow zone. And so if you leave a Soul Shop and you have not been challenged, then we haven’t done our job. But if you leave a Soul Shop and you’ve been pushed to the red, then we have also not done our job. And so some of it is a dance. Ah. Some of it is art to know at what point the room needs a little break. At what point. we always have a lifeguard in the room. And that lifeguard’s job is to be watching for distress, to be sort of journeying with people who are struggling with it. that kind of thing. We invite people to. Tears are not bad and tears are not hard. And usually in a Soul Shop I cry. but we want to know that you’re safe and we want to make sure there are spaces for you to work through whatever you need to. We do. And it is hard. It’s interesting when we have them turn to the person next to them, use the word suicide in a sentence, and then the next thing we do is ask, so how was that? And the first three people always inevitably say, easy. It was easy. I do that. I talk about it all the time, so it’s easy. And therapist in me always waits. Because it would be really easy to have those three people say, it was easy. And then I can say, like, see, there you go. It was easy. But there’s always 200 times. I’ve done it 200 times with a, ten second pause or a five second pause. Somebody will say, I actually thought it was pretty hard. And then they’re the ones, somebody will say, it was easy. And I say, okay, easy. Somebody else says, easy. I’ll say, okay, easy. So some people found it easy. The one that says, I thought it was really hard, I’ll say, tell me more about that. Let’s talk about that. And I give those people a chance to sort of have some air in the room to say, I don’t know. I grew up in a world where we didn’t talk about this or whatever. So we work pretty hard to create the spaces for people to be okay in all of that.

Matthew: You mentioned about that, creating that space as a soul safe community. And I’m curious, if someone wanted to take that into their home, school, workplace, what would be some of the factors that you would kind of highlight from what you’ve said, we should kind of adopt?

Michelle: So in Soul Shop, we actually define a soul safe community as one that addresses suicidal desperation as a regular aspect of its life and work. and I always immediately follow it. People came to a suicide prevention training and so that’s what they want, that’s what they get. But I always follow it by saying, and the beauty of that sentiment is that if we took the word suicide out of it, it would still be true. A soul safe community is one that addresses desperation as a regular aspect of its life and work together. So it’s a place where we can. Where it’s not a suicide prevention Sunday once a year. It’s not a bracketed off blue Christmas service. It’s a place where on any random Sunday, somebody might preach about Elijah and how he was being bullied by Jezebel and he prayed to die and the value of a snack and a nap. When it comes to the desperation we live with, it might be that I tell a story actually in Soul Shop when I do them. We’ve got 57 trainers and I’m only one of them. But, I tell a story of, having. As a church consultant, I was in Vancouver, Canada. I was doing a church consulting gig. And it was when Bret Kavanaugh was being. He was before Congress, being, what do we call that? Interrogated or, we. The pastor was praying for pizza on the night where we were working on finding his successor. So it was like pastoral transition work in Canada in the food prayer. And he just sort of launched into. And for those among us who are being triggered by what we’re seeing in the American media around their own sexual abuse, we ask for, healing for those people, for the ways the church has been complicit in their suffering. we ask for forgiveness. He just went into this thing, and I tell the story in Soul Shop during the time where we talk about corporate prayer, about how powerful that was for me to recognize that this is a soul safe place. As a survivor of sexual abuse, to have a church randomly name my experience as a regular aspect of their life and work was, so cathartic for me. and so throughout the course of the Soul Shop day, I mean, if Soul Shop has our strengths or our weaknesses, and so I say, I spend all day throwing spaghetti against the wall. I’ve never done the same Soul Shop twice. So I’m always making stuff up, but I spend so much time saying, and what if you did this? And what if you could? And wouldn’t it be interesting if you tried? And there’s no one answer to what it means to create a soul safe community. I think in some ways, the creation of a soul safe community are lenses that we wear as we imagine how to be in the world. so there’s lots of answers to the question and no one. But we start the afternoon of Soul Shop with the challenge to the church. the Soul Shop is actually really kind of designed around a quote from a suicidologist named David Litz, who chaired the surgeon general’s task force on suicide prevention back in the. David said, people die by suicide for all kinds of reasons, but it basically comes down to two, a loss of hope and a loss of social connection. And if the Church of Jesus Christ can’t do something about those two things, then it should probably just close its doors. And so that’s sort of our, I don’t know, flagship sentiment. And so we spend the afternoon talking about vision, all these flip chart papers on the wall, trying to dream up what we’re going to be about. we ask the question, what would it look like if a church adopted a vision that said, we will be the place where no one loses hope and no one is alone, and we really asked them to wrestle with it? What would your church, you, first baptist of, Arkansas, like? What would you need to do differently if you were going to adopt that vision? How would you need to be different in the world and give them some pretty open space to think that through? I think that’s the beginnings of a soul safe community where we’ve examined our infrastructure and our staffing and our own hearts and our ability to wrestle with hard things, and our ability to help people escape impossible situations. And that’s, for me, is what a safe community looks like.

Matthew: Do you ever go back to some of these communities after your training? And if so, do you notice a significant difference?

Michelle: Great question. I think that’s the next phase of our Soul Shop life. we are doing, like, six month follow up evaluations, and that kind of, our funders want to see that stuff. We get lots of notes all the time about people who tell stories. I got a text on Monday from a pastor who said, hey, I just had somebody leave my house who was pretty desperate and thinking about suicide. And I remembered your training and I’m so grateful for. Right. I think, lots of pastors will talk to us about how they’ve preached about suicide and the number of people that started coming out of the woodwork. So what I can give is anecdotal here and there now and again, where the community is courageous or, there’s a church in San Francisco right now that is living out the year where no one loses hope and no one is alone. And so I’m going to want to go to them at the end of the year and see what happened. but when I get asked the question, tell me where I can go find a soul safe community. there’s a part of me that feels like, yeah, we need to get some caricatures of what that looks like. And I probably could muster some. I think there are some places that have been at this long enough, that I probably could go back and look into that. There’s also a part of me that wants to resist the idea of arriving. I think, in fact, the developer of Soul Shop, that pastor, he wants us to certify soul safe communities. He wants us to come up with a list of sort of metrics and something they can put on their door, a sticker they can put on their door that says, we’re soul safe. And that’s not my theology. I guess I’m giving myself away. I don’t know that I believe in total sanctification. I know that I don’t believe in total sanctification, and I don’t believe in total sanctification of systems that are sort of fundamentally of this world and corrupted. So I don’t have that picture. But we are currently internally wrestling with that question. How do we begin to show folks what some models of this look like?

Matthew: and you gave some statistics around suicide earlier. Ah. In light of the growing number of, sadly, those dying by suicide in our country, what gives you hope? In light of those tragic numbers and the tragic numbers of those who are attempting suicide.

Michelle: I have the most hopeful job in the world. Suicide is not a sad topic, for it’s tragic. Suicide is tragic. And my heart breaks for those who have endured loss, and suffering. But people will say that, like, what a depressing job you have, and that is not my life. My life is not depressing. I mean, what gives me hope is that we can get 125 people in Fargo, North Dakota, to come into a room for an entire day to talk about suicide. What gives me hope is that I can show you how the needle has shifted for us culturally in the last decade, where we’re talking about it now. And nine, eight, eight exists. And, there is a definite move in how familiar we are. we didn’t used to have language for talking about people with lived experience, and now lived experience is, a thing that people are increasingly open about. The Suicide Prevention Resource Council has a lived experience task force, and resources are starting to be developed. I think there’s so many reasons to have hope. but also, I hope this is received well. But what gives me hope is that there are only 48,000 suicides a year in America. I mean, that’s a tragic number. Two would be too many, and 48,000 is an obscene number. But when you think about the fact that 6% of adults and 19% of adolescents are thinking about suicide, the fact that only 48,000 people die by suicide a year means that there are some things that are working. and there are communities that are intervening, and there are people who are finding hope. There are places that are soul safe that are stepping in. I mean, that’s what I say when there’s a lot of reasons that people do suicide prevention today. My reason is because of the five closest people to me outside my immediate family, four of them significantly considered suicide as a solution to what they were going through. And every one of them is still here. And so I do it from a place of gratitude. I didn’t know any of them at the time. Well, one of them, one of them was me, but, three of them, I wasn’t even around back then, but somebody was there for them, and I’m so grateful. My life would not be the same without them. And suicide intervention worked. So there’s lots of reasons to be hopeful in this work.

Matthew: You can learn more about Soul Shop@Soul Shopmovement.org. The nine eight eight suicide and crisis lifeline can be reached in the United States by calling or texting nine eight eight. It’s free and available 24/7 Hope and Healing was produced by Jenny Hoheisel and John Moe, music by concert rock violinist Aaron Meyer. This podcast is presented by Children’s center in Vancouver, Washington. Children’s Center’s mission is to serve children, youth, and families through comprehensive community based mental health services. For more information, visit thechildrenscenter.org. I’m Matthew Butte, and thank you for listening.

Podcast host Matthew Butte

Meet the Host

"We make this podcast in order to bring you hopeful stories and to introduce you to people who inspire hope. They’ve inspired a lot of hope in me and among people here at Children’s Center and I hope you feel the same."

Hope & Healing with Children's Center is hosted by Executive Director Matthew Butte, produced by John Moe and Jennie Hoheisel, and features original music by Concert Rock Violinist Aaron Meyer. Our mission is to provide honest and positive stories of hope from the world of mental health.


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