Richard Stride Commentary: This Suicide Prevention Month, Be ‘The One’ to Help Others

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The book “I’m OK — You’re OK” by psychiatrist Thomas Harris published in 1969 is a self-help book and guide to using Dr. Eric Berne’s theory of “Transactional Analysis,” or “TA” for short, in everyday life. 

If you don’t know what TA is, Google it.

It’s a cool therapeutic model I have used a lot. Harris simplifies TA as “life positions.” It’s a great book if you have never read it. The “life positions” are: 

1. I’m not OK, you’re OK (feeling helpless)

2. I’m not OK, you’re not OK (feeling hopeless)

3. I’m OK, you’re not OK (feeling angry)

4. I’m OK, you’re OK (feeling happy).

Permit me to explain — and hang with me here because this is a little long. Harris goes on to explain that these “life positions” can lead to either a sense of happiness or hopelessness. The life positions are centered around three ego states: the parent, the child and the adult.

The parent ego state is an exact copy of our own parents (the things our parents said to us both good and bad); therefore, this ego state is taught. The parent ego state can also be punitive or nurturing. 

The child ego, which naturally occurs, can be spontaneous, fun loving or may represent the selfish part of us. It is often described as a felt concept.

The adult ego state is the rational ego state. It is often called the learned concept. The adult will try to come up with a compromise between the parent and child. An example of an internal conversation would be: you see something you want to buy for no other reason than you want it (that’s the child ego state).

The parent ego state may say to the child, “you're being selfish, you have more important things to purchase.” The adult steps in and says, “maybe we can put some money down on it or save on other things and then buy it.”

Because of these ongoing conversations a person’s psychological state changes in response to changing situations, hence the “life positions.” These life positions may change due to a loss or an illness or some sort of life event. 

Life positions are both positive and negative.         

With September being national suicide prevention month, I’d like to talk about the life position “I’m not OK, you’re OK” and the subsequent feelings this life position leads to. Feeling you are not OK and others are OK is a state in which a person may feel helpless or hopeless.

Because of COVID-19, some have been feeling lost, alone, afraid, hurt, angry, stressed or even depressed. COVID-19 has challenged us all in mind, body and spirit. When people are in the “I’m not OK” mindset, they tend to blame themselves.

People need to hear the message that they matter. They need to understand they are OK with all their human frailties. They are OK with all their past mistakes. They are OK in all their perceived shortcomings. They need to hear the message — they are OK and valued just as they are.    

Hope becomes real when it’s brought to another person in a genuine spirit of love and caring.  When hope becomes real to someone, the clouds of depression begin to lift. Bringing hope to another person should be a primary mission for all of us.

People can move from the “I’m not OK, you’re OK” life position to the “I’m OK, you’re OK” life position. Is there someone you need to reach out to? Have they been on your mind and heart?  Then reach out. Let them know you care.         

Always remember, please, suicide is preventable. Research shows that the more supported an individual feels, the less likely they are to contemplate suicide. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs and risk factors.

The hashtag theme for this year’s Suicide Prevention Month is “#BeThe1To.” That means be the one to ask, to be there, to keep them safe and to help them connect. For more information on ways to help, go to BeThe1To.com.

If you have thoughts of harming yourself, please reach out.

You are not alone. Call the Lewis County Crisis Line at 1-800-803-8833 or Cascade Community Healthcare 1-360-330-9044 and ask to speak with a clinician or someone from the Mobile Crisis Team. You can also call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-230-8255.

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Richard Stride has been a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at drstride@icloud.com.

 

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