Youth & Suicide Series Part 3- Moving beyond prevention into creating lives of hope and connection

Join Cassie, Chris, & Ellen as they close this series by discussing how to support youth beyond crisis response and foster lives worth living. Listen to Part 1 & Part 2 for information on universal screening and how to respond when youth screen positive.

Guest Info: 

Ellen Arrowsmith, LICSW (she/her) is a Liaison Coordinator with the Vermont Child Psychiatry Access program which provides free, immediate consultation and support to pediatric primary care providers in Vermont. Ellen is a graduate of the University of Vermont’s MSW program, and she brings over a decade of experience in serving children, youth, and families in Vermont. Ellen has worked within a Designated Agency as a school social worker and in private practice; she has worked with children from kindergarten through high school, in mainstream and “alternative” settings, with youth in foster care, and with families impacted by domestic violence. Ellen is a “systems thinker” and is passionate about working to improve access to high quality mental health care for families in Vermont.

Chris Allen (he, him) is a survivor of suicide loss and is the Director of Suicide Prevention for the State of Vermont. Since losing Jordan Porco, a friend and classmate at Saint Michael’s College (SMC) in 2011, he has embarked on a journey to explore, uncover, and better understand ways to assist people in times of vulnerability and while experiencing of suicidality. Along the journey, he has established an Active Minds Chapter at SMC and served in various leaderships roles for the Vermont Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Prior to becoming the Director of Suicide Prevention, he was employed as a Psychiatric Social Worker at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital working with adults involuntarily hospitalized. While in this setting, he immersed himself in humanistic, dialogical, and person-centered approaches. As a licensed independent clinical social worker, he has a small private practice in Burlington, VT, where he believes everyone is on a journey of discovery to create meaning within their life.

Host Info: 

Cassie Gillespie, LICSW is a full-time faculty member in the University of Vermont’s Social Work Department, and the host of the SOCIAL WORK LENS podcast. Cassie is a former child welfare worker, and training team lead at the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership (VT-CWTP) with over 15 year’s experience serving children, youth, families, and helping professionals.

Show Notes and Resources:

If you or someone you know is in crisis or having thoughts of suicide call or text 988 or chat online at 988lifeline.org, for confidential support available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Transcript:

Chris Allen (00:00):

The thing about broken hearts is that they have a habit of healing. And I think when we get to that place of healing and that we recognize that there is a broken heart or there’s a broken situation, that we don’t just look at that. That we look at ways that we can help the healing.

Cassie Gillespie (00:23):

Hi, this is Cassie Gillespie and you’re listening to the Social Work Lens. The Social Work Lens is made possible by a collaboration between the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership, and the State of Vermont’s Family Services Division. Today we have Ellen Arrowsmith and Chris Allen joining us again for our third episode in our series on youth and suicide. If you haven’t listened to the first two episodes, it’s probably a good idea to go back and give them a listen. So you’re all caught up for our conversation today. Today we’ll be jumping in to the most important part of the conversation, moving beyond prevention into creating lives of hope and connection lives worth living. One last reminder, gentle note, is that this topic can be hard and we wanna ensure that you’re doing all you can to take care of yourself. So if as you’re listening you need to take a break and then come back or take a break and not come back, that’s okay. And as always, there’s all sorts of resources and additional information in the show notes linked to this episode. Okay, here we go. Welcome back Ellen. Welcome back Chris.

Ellen Arrowsmith (01:29):

Thanks, Cassie.

Chris Allen (01:30):

Thank you. Happy to be here.

Cassie Gillespie (01:32):

We’re so happy to have you. So, I know we wanted to talk about that we wanna talk a little bit more globally than just restraining people from harming or killing themselves. We want people to want to live. So what are your thoughts about how we foster lives worth living?

Ellen Arrowsmith (01:48):

Yeah, I think so many of us who work in this field really can’t think beyond that crisis moment, right? Like, there’s so much intensity of, of feeling and energy around that one crisis moment of like, I just need to keep this person safe tonight or tomorrow. Or like, you know, you desperately don’t want anything bad to happen on your watch. And then I, I think that we then kind of forget about the, the bigger picture of like, we don’t just want people not to kill themselves tonight or tomorrow, but we want them, you know, just like you said, to, to want to live, to have a meaningful life that is, you know, feels worthwhile to continue to, to live. And that’s a bigger conversation. So there’s the like, how do we immediately keep you safe, which we’ve kind of tried to cover. And then like, how do we move beyond that that we’re kind of diving into today?

Chris Allen (02:39):

Yeah, and I think a, a critical part of this conversation too is moving beyond being fear-based as well. We need to really look at how we can engage kids in developing and engaging in their life and what provides them, meaning, what provides them connection? How are they connecting with people and really giving them the agency and autonomy to make decisions about their life too. Because over time that agency autonomy will be developed more and more and they’ll be able to see all the things that they can accomplish as well.

Ellen Arrowsmith (03:24):

Yeah. Yep. And I think, you know, something that we talked about I think in both previous episodes, was just really asking and attending to with care the why, the why of someone someone is suffering, or having those thoughts and really listening deeply and trying to understand. ’cause Sometimes there’s something that we can do about that. Why, right? Like, you know, maybe it’s just this one really distressing situation at home or at school and maybe we have some, some power to make a change there that feels good and, and that instills a sense of hope ’cause it’s something we can do something about. And I think the more complex or challenging situations is when the why is something that’s harder to, for us as maybe providers and mental health providers to manage or to do something about. Or maybe even I think the more challenging situation is when we’re kind of part of the why Like I’ve been you know, even working at schools when a, when a kid is really struggling at school and you’re doing the best that you can to be supportive and caring and there for them in that situation.

Ellen Arrowsmith (04:26):

But it’s, it’s like that the being there or some of the relationships there that are just like really tricky. And I can imagine a situation in which you know, DCF workers might have some of those similar feelings of like, maybe one of the factors for why a kid is really struggling is that, you know, they just had to leave their home.

Cassie Gillespie (04:44):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (04:44):

And it was really painful. Or they had to leave their school or their community and you’re showing up and you’re caring for this kid, but you’re grappling with some factors that are kind of beyond both of your control in a certain way. And that can feel like morally really challenging. And we have to look for those ways, as Chris mentioned, to still carve out spaces for voice and choice and agency even within those restrictive contexts that we’re operating in.

Ellen Arrowsmith (05:14):

‘Cause There always is something <laugh>, you know, that you can kind of find and, and work with, but within more rigid structures it is more difficult, I think. Because if a kid says, well, my why is I miss my parents and I wanna go home, but you don’t have the power to send that kid home, that’s a hard starting point for a conversation. But one you still need to have.

Cassie Gillespie (05:35):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (05:35):

And to find out how really to dive into that and find where there is space for validation of the feelings, even if you can’t do something about it. And finding that space for what, what can we do and what do we have power and control over in this situation? Because powerlessness is, is really you know, know kind of one of those big, I I, I guess I worry more, I was just listening to a podcast the other day that said, we think of the opposite of hope as being despair, right?

Ellen Arrowsmith (06:09):

That’s, if someone asked me like, what’s the opposite of hope as dep, that’s what I would’ve said. But they were saying it’s actually apathy. Right? It’s when you stopped caring is that we are really worried about. And so I think that’s, when we’re thinking about these kids, what we wanna really think about and pay attention to is not necessarily like if they’re still pissed or having big feelings, like that’s good, right?

Cassie Gillespie (06:29):

Right.

Ellen Arrowsmith (06:29):

Like, they’re still having big feelings about something and we can kind of work with and leverage that. But when someone has stopped caring, it’s because, you know, for some of them they can’t see the future anymore or any point to struggle or trying. And I think that’s where we need to, to, to step in and to help as well.

Chris Allen (06:47):

Yeah. And really just, I’m picking up on a theme that Ellen mentioned about the moral injury and the impact of being a part of the why like why someone is having these really big emotions. And I think about questions of like, how do we as the social worker or case manager, how do we sit with this being part of that why? And how can we genuinely acknowledge that pain that I, as the social worker am having and experiencing, but also how can I acknowledge the pain of the person, of the kid going through the situation? And also, what are the things that we can do that’s within our power? Well, we can seek out peer supervision so we can talk to our colleagues and maybe just grab coffee for a couple of minutes and talk about these situations and discuss them. And, or we can also bring up to our supervisor what these, these really challenging, difficult questions are. And really centering yourself in that conversation too, because you yourself might feel powerless to make wider systematic change.

Cassie Gillespie (08:07):

Yeah.

Chris Allen (08:07):

But really systematic change has started with a conversation and really bringing that, that discussion point or that challenging situation to a supervisor can have its ripple effects and make for a better system that’s more supportive for you as the worker, but also as the person providing services to youth.

Cassie Gillespie (08:32):

To a young person. Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (08:34):

Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (08:34):

We, we talk a lot about or I do, I guess in some of my work around this idea that sometimes as a social worker, you are both an agent and a recipient of the suffering in the world. So you, you’re receiving it because you’re sitting with people who are suffering. Sometimes you’re the agent, you’re the person saying, I’m sorry, we have to pack up and move again. Or I’m sorry, you know, you’re not eligible for this program or whatever it is in your role where you have to not engage in a way that you would prefer to. And the toll that takes can be, can be really hard for people, I think, to, to stay engaged in. You know, it’s easy to kind of wanna pull back. So I appreciate the taking the time to talk through the, the why for, for a kiddo could be really complicated. It might include you.

Ellen Arrowsmith (09:19):

Yep.

Cassie Gillespie (09:19):

Can I ask you a follow up question about the why?

Ellen Arrowsmith (09:21):

Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Cassie Gillespie (09:22):

So I think at times, and I was, I was pausing before I asked this ’cause I wanted to think like, where is this example I have in my brain? I can’t think of a concrete one more of kind of an implicit norm that you see that sometimes youth don’t really know their why.

Ellen Arrowsmith (09:37):

Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (09:37):

Or that whatever <laugh>, you can’t see me listeners, but I’m air quoting the why. Or that sometimes what they say might not really be the why. Right?

Ellen Arrowsmith (09:46):

Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (09:46):

So like, I’m upset because I failed the test, but the adult is like, it has to be bigger than the test.

Ellen Arrowsmith (09:52):

Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (09:53):

What are your thoughts about sort of like, I guess this would fall under the umbrella of believing the why or or accepting the why that’s, that’s offered to you.

Ellen Arrowsmith (10:02):

I I’m thinking back to that example maybe that I gave in, I think it was episode two about needing to help kids with their emotional vocabulary, right? Like, I think sometimes they just don’t quite have a sense of you’re right. Like that sometimes, even as an adult, I have a feeling and I don’t really know where it came from or why or how to articulate it. So that’s not just kids, right? We all have that. And I think for kids it can be like modeling or reflecting back to them or wondering like the, I wonder if you might be really upset about this. Like some of those I wonder kind of statements, but I always, I I try to take a both and perspective.

Cassie Gillespie (10:39):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (10:39):

I always believe what the kid says to me. I always believe that I’m never gonna argue with them about that. I, I always like, yeah, that’s, you know, that’s really hard that you fail the test. And I wonder too if, you know another thing too, and sometimes it just takes a while and some modeling and some teaching about how to recognize feelings in yourself and the vocabulary to talk about them. So generally it’s not like from any bad intentions from, I mean, I, when I worked at schools, there was this like, these kids are lying sometimes this idea.

Cassie Gillespie (11:10):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (11:10):

And it’s like.

Cassie Gillespie (11:10):

Or they’re saying this to get a reaction outta me.

Ellen Arrowsmith (11:13):

Right.

Cassie Gillespie (11:13):

You hear that.

Ellen Arrowsmith (11:13):

And it’s like, no, I, I really think for most kids, most of the time they’re telling you the truth to the best of their ability, of their experience. And we are well positioned to help them develop deeper and deeper skills of reflection and being able to describe their emotional states and experiences. So sometimes it’s about the test and also like an ocean of other things.

Cassie Gillespie (11:35):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (11:35):

That they are gonna be for like, probably their whole lives learning how to understand.

Cassie Gillespie (11:40):

That’s super helpful.

Chris Allen (11:42):

And one other thing to think about too, in terms of communication is that these kids don’t necessarily have that vocabulary, but they also might be able to draw it or communicate it in a different way than just verbally.

Cassie Gillespie (11:57):

I love that.

Chris Allen (11:58):

‘Cause They’ve seen pictures their whole life and they might not necessarily know the words to describe what that picture is, but they know how to draw it. And I think that’s just another tool that can be used to elicit more information and ask for more detail. And maybe how they’re drawing it too might tell you more about what’s going on for them. Are they drawing it really slowly? Are they drawing it really furiously? Are they clenching a colored pencil, really like, are they gripping it really hard.

Cassie Gillespie (12:32):

<laugh>.

Chris Allen (12:32):

And you can see their white knuckles. Like.

Cassie Gillespie (12:33):

Yeah.

Chris Allen (12:34):

All these sensory things are telling us more information about the situation.

Cassie Gillespie (12:39):

And I guess I, I also just wanna name, I’m cognizant that the three of us probably, you know, following my lead, so I’m the guiltiest, have been talking about kiddos. Like they’re a monolith, right?

Ellen Arrowsmith (12:49):

Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>,

Cassie Gillespie (12:49):

Like they’re all the same.

Chris Allen (12:49):

Mm-Hmm hmm.

Cassie Gillespie (12:50):

And of course there’s like a chronological spectrum, a developmental spectrum, and individual differences too. So, you know, I don’t know what more there is to say about that other than to name it <laugh>.

Ellen Arrowsmith (13:00):

Yeah absolutely. But I, I mean, I think that gets back to what we’ve been saying over and over again, which is your best tools, your relationship.

Cassie Gillespie (13:05):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (13:05):

So if you know you’re talking to a 5-year-old or someone who has a developmental delay or is maybe on the autism spectrum or something, obviously you need to tailor your approach and your response to them to be appropriate so that you can get accurate and meaningful information in a way that they can convey to you whatever that is. And I think a lot of kids you know, doing body work or movement based work can be really helpful. ’cause They can’t tell you, but they can show you <laugh>.

Cassie Gillespie (13:30):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (13:31):

I know my own kid, like you know, sometimes has feelings or sensations in her body or can, can show you in their body in different ways than they can tell you. So I, I like the idea again, that we take kids at their word for what they tell us. And we know for all of us, not just kids, that there’s often way more going on than sometimes we’re aware of or ourselves or, and we just continually you know, another theme of our podcast is create openness. Yeah. Like, we’re, we’re open and we’re ready and we’re we’re available to, to hold that. And when they’re in whatever way they can articulate it to us.

Cassie Gillespie (14:06):

Yeah. And I think a theme, you know, you’ve both touched on repeatedly is to tailor your responses or tailor your connection with each individual for their needs, for their age, for whatever’s going on.

Ellen Arrowsmith (14:22):

Yeah. And that kind of gets to like, I know that we talked about risk factors in the previous episode but I think a good transition for us here is thinking about protective factors. And we’ve been talking maybe ad nauseum to your listeners about relationships, but that is your best tool and a be the like the most predictive protective factor for kids is, is who are the folks that they’re connected with? Even if they just have one or two, like really strong, safe connections that can make all the difference in the world. In terms of helping to, to keep kids safe. Chris, what are some other, the protective factors?

Chris Allen (14:59):

Yeah, so there’s numerous protective factors, but I just want to stick with this one for a moment and, and really think about the, there’s a certain power of listening and validating when a person is sharing their lived experience. And in those situations, we might want to just jump to problem solving, right?

Cassie Gillespie (15:22):

Oh yes.

Chris Allen (15:23):

Like they, you, you say that you want a colored pencil, I’ll go get you a colored pencil. Well, there might be something more there. And so really sitting with them and really validating what they’re going through and maybe not jumping to, to problem solving immediately. There’s a time and place, and that might come later, but really kind of teasing out what, what is it that’s coming up for them? And acknowledging that their lived experience is valid, it’s true, it’s authentic to them. And giving voice to that is really, really powerful.

Chris Allen (16:05):

So modeling that is a great way to model communication skills and good relationships and positive relationships, which is another protective factor, loving and secure relationships. So this might be multiple people. It could be just one person that they feel connected to and really know how to reach that person what that person can offer and feel the safety and security of that relationship, knowing that they can count on that person no matter what is going on, that that person can handle whatever is coming up for them. Another protective factor would be a sense of belonging. And that can look many different ways. It could be a club that they participate in, like chess club or a drawing club, or I know fiber arts is really big and knitting and crocheting. So, so that might be another way that they find that sense of belonging and really just encouraging them to explore that as well.

Chris Allen (17:15):

Can, can be really helpful. Some others would be safety. So making, ensuring that that person lives in a safe environment and how that can look differently for, for children in DCF custody or coming out of a residential treatment facility or a hospital and, or maybe they’re, they might be living in a, in a family shelter where people are experiencing homelessness. Like, there’s so many different stories that our children have in school. And so really talking to them about safety and and cultivating that. Ellen, would you wanna talk a little bit more about the, the other protective factors?

Ellen Arrowsmith (17:59):

Sure. Yeah. I think a feeling of success or achievement, I think all of us can relate to that of like, just like feeling good at something.

Cassie Gillespie (18:08):

Yes.

Ellen Arrowsmith (18:08):

Like if you’re a kid of like, here’s my thing, here’s my one thing I’m good at. Like, I, you know, I think that can be really important. Having a sense of purpose or goals or future orientation. When I was screening kids, when I worked with kids, I was always listening for, are they going to dance class next week? Do they have a sleepover? Are they seeing grandma? Like if they’re telling me these things in their brain, they have a future orientation, they have plans that they plan to be at. And that’s really important and powerful, both in terms of listening for risk and for thinking of things that are gonna be protective if they really wanna make it to that dance recital or sleepover or family vacation or something.

Ellen Arrowsmith (18:46):

That’s something that you can, can work with to create some meaning and hope and planning and future orientation that’s really meaningful. You know, we’ve said this a million times in a million ways, but relationships and connections are so powerful. Both as a protective factor, but also just in terms of creating hope and meaningful relationships. I think all of us have probably been in situations where we felt kind of lonely or isolated, and that’s really hard. But if we have a sense of friendships or belonging in a community that can really change, I think the overall trajectory and feeling of our experience. And, you know, for youth, we have to give our obligatory, like, these should be in real life and not on social media message. Right.

Cassie Gillespie (19:34):

Well, adults do now.

Ellen Arrowsmith (19:35):

Yeah. I mean, like social media and online relationships have their time and place.

Ellen Arrowsmith (19:39):

Like, I won’t give a blanket, like everything is terrible. Although there is some very problematic and concerning research for our adolescents. But I think, and especially for our DCF workers, when we’re thinking about making a plan for these kids, we really need to do everything possible to protect and to prioritize these relationships that they have that they’re telling you about. If they like cannot bear to leave a best friend or a grandma or a neighbor, like maybe we don’t have a choice about where they’re gonna be placed, but we will do everything we can to make sure they can call that person or see that person, or that we treat those as, as really, really important to their sense of, of connection that’s gonna be a lifeline for them.

Ellen Arrowsmith (20:24):

And I think that gets us to our bigger theme, kind of, of like hope. Like what is hope? I think hope is like a big ambiguous word. Right? And it can feel kind of wishy-washy or pie in the sky or.

Cassie Gillespie (20:38):

Yeah. Far away.

Ellen Arrowsmith (20:39):

Yeah. but I, I, for me, when I think about this, I think about it as being something that’s actually really rooted and grounded and action oriented. Like wishing, I think is passive. It’s just like, oh, I, I wish I would win the lottery, but there’s like nothing I can do to make myself win the lottery. It’s just like, I wish I win the lottery.

Cassie Gillespie (21:01):

Yeah. Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (21:01):

But like, I hope that I, I don’t know, I don’t actually hope I run a marathon, but if I did, if I was the type of person who hope, but I would have steps and I could make a plan. And that’s something that I can do something about.

Cassie Gillespie (21:14):

Actualize.

Ellen Arrowsmith (21:14):

Actualize, right?

Cassie Gillespie (21:15):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (21:16):

And I think that’s the difference. And there’s a lot of research that hope is something that we can teach and model and cultivate for people. And I think that that really is the answer to how we make lives worth living is like, all of us need hope. Right? Like, what does it even mean to live a life without to void of hope? Right? Chris, what would you say about hope, just in general, big strokes?

Chris Allen (21:40):

Yeah, so I’m glad that you brought up the example of marathon running because.

Cassie Gillespie (21:45):

<laugh>,

Chris Allen (21:45):

If you all of a sudden wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn’t likely start with a marathon if you had never run before. Right? So you would make concrete goals that help you achieve that outcome. And there’s a plan along the way. There’s a process that you’re following to build up towards the achievement of running a marathon.

Ellen Arrowsmith (22:12):

Incremental success.

Chris Allen (22:14):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And each of those steps is important to that process and that hope is really the process. And it’s not the outcome. The outcome is just the cherry on top. Yeah. And it makes you feel good about yourself, like you accomplish this and that you can continue building off of it. But we really need to focus also on the process because if we just focus on the outcome without any plans, hope is useless.

Cassie Gillespie (22:44):

Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (22:44):

Mm-Hmm. <Affirmative>.

Chris Allen (22:44):

That goes back to wishing that something happens, right?

Ellen Arrowsmith (22:48):

Right.

Chris Allen (22:48):

And so in that process, we need to define our goals. We need to find support, we need to look at plans and figure out, well, when’s the time that if I’m trying to run a marathon, when do I wanna run a half marathon? Or when do I run, wanna run a 5K? And what are those steps that will make me feel ready to run that marathon? And visioning what that future looks like is also really important because that provides you with that future orientation that we talked about earlier. That’s a protective factor. And ensuring that you’re looking into the future have something to look forward to, is really, really a critical piece of, of hope and, and cultivating hope.

Ellen Arrowsmith (23:41):

And I think kids are, have, most kids have kind of a built superpower. Like I think imagination is something that’s so underrated, but anyone who knows me is probably annoyed that I talk about this all the time. I think imagination is gonna be like the only thing that saves us from all the existential things that we’re contending with right now. But it’s so powerful ’cause it, it recognizes what is and it sees what could be.

Cassie Gillespie (24:04):

Yeah. Yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (24:04):

And that’s so powerful. And kids are so good imagination.

Cassie Gillespie (24:07):

Oh yeah.

Ellen Arrowsmith (24:07):

And we’re often really dismissive of that and, and with their goal setting and stuff. But it’s so powerful and it’s really something I think to lean into. And as Chris mentioned, like hope builds on hope so you have this tiny little moment of success or connection or something that just felt good and it opens up like a teeny crack of that doorway to thinking, well, maybe this next thing would be okay, or maybe I could take that tiny little risk.

Ellen Arrowsmith (24:32):

Or like, it allows you to just entertain that idea of the next step or something bigger. And I, I wanna just be really clear I think this can tend towards some like bootstrappy kind of mentality that’s really important to me to clarify that that’s not what I’m saying at all. Like, I think that this sees the reality for what it is, including all of the pain and some of these structures that are really set up in ways that are unfair and oppressive and damaging and harmful. It sees that for what it is and it still sees what could be. And sometimes we can’t see that for ourselves. Yeah. Like all of us have had probably situations where we’re so down, beat down, we can’t see it for ourselves, but we have someone who comes up next to us and says, you could do that.

Ellen Arrowsmith (25:17):

Yeah, you should do that. I see that in you. And sometimes we need to be that for that other person. And so when we’re talking about these kids in our lives, sometimes we need to like bring them along or show them that that agency like that that’s not inherent. Like they just don’t feel or know that they could do that on their own. But we say, I, I see that in you. I believe in you. Let me walk alongside with you to help us get there and to be with them along the way. So I think it’s really important to say that this is not a wishy-washy or bootstrappy, like just hope your way out of this really hard situation. But it, it is, it is the, the recipe for having a life that feels better and that feels connected is having a sense of what you’re working towards or what you want or what you can envision for yourself. And having people alongside you who believe, who believe in and champion you for that, that you’re not doing it by yourself.

Cassie Gillespie (26:09):

Yeah one of my mentors early on in social work talked about the idea of hope is something you pass back and forth and sometimes you lend it and sometimes you borrow it, but that, you know, it’s not like a finite thing that lives inside you, but that we, we share with our loved ones that we give each other.

Ellen Arrowsmith (26:22):

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s really interesting too. I think about, like, I think it’s important for the DCF workers or folks who are in the mental health world, not just to think about like, how can I help this client or kid or person in front of me be more hopeful, but like, how are we bringing hope to this work and how are we showing up with hope for ourselves and our organizations and this world in general? You know? ’cause We, like, like we said in an earlier episode, kids especially are so smart and intuitive, and if they’ll sniff out, sniff you out a mile away, if they can tell you you don’t have it’s phony or if it’s phony. Right. So I I think it’s important that it’s genuine in what you’re bringing in your work with this, this population.

Chris Allen (27:02):

Yeah. And one thing to keep in mind too is that as a social worker or a case manager, the you’re part of a larger system at, at hand, and those, the kids that you’re working with or the people that you’re working with or the families, they’ll know when you don’t have hope. And that hope that you might not have might be because you’re, you’ve worked in the system for many years and you’re kind of cynical about the system and what it can offer, what it can’t offer, and how it’s broken. And it will always be broken, kind of this doomsday thinking that, that it will never get better. And I firmly believe that there, there is always hope for a better situation. And that situation is personal to that kid or that family. But there’s also a better situation for the system. The system can always improve. It’s never gonna be perfect. But in order to move the system forward, being a participant and generating hope within that system is just as critical to hope lending itself more and more to hope. And when you’re hopeful, there’s other individuals that will recognize that attitude and that hopefulness and that things can get better and improve, and that they might join you in on that effort. And then that, that hope is shared and spreads further.

Cassie Gillespie (28:33):

Wow, that’s beautifully stated. Thank you. So, you know, it comes too fast, but we’re, we’re about out of time here, so I’m gonna, I’m gonna come to each of you and ask you for kind of a closing statement, not just for this episode, but for all three, you know, the way we’ve been talking about this issue over the last couple weeks. Ellen, we’ll start with you. What do you want folks to take away?

Ellen Arrowsmith (28:52):

Sure. So I think throughout the podcast we’ve wanted to help folks get more comfortable and feeling confident in their ability to ask questions and to use tools to understand what to do next when someone is having suicidal ideation. And that’s really important. But I think beyond that and what’s really important and where we’re ending today is that it’s not enough just to prevent people from harming themselves or killing themselves. We really like us in this field, in this work and large larger, I think societally we have a collective responsibility to think about how are we cultivating meaningful lives of connection and hope. And that needs to be a really important part of this work is how we help to give kids choice and agency connection, all of these pieces that we’ve just been talking about that can lend themselves to hope that that is really important beyond the acute moment of crisis going forward to living healthy, connected lives.

Chris Allen (29:53):

Yeah. And one takeaway that I’d like to share is that just recently, I, I saw this on a postcard and I think it’s really important to remember when we’re working in a system that may feel broken and that it’s not working for anyone. And what I really like about this, this quote is that it centers the person in it and it strips away anything that, that the system has done to them. But so I’ll share it, and I might not have it exactly, but it says that the thing about broken hearts is that they have a habit of healing. And I think when we get to that place of healing and that we recognize that there is a broken heart or there’s a broken situation, that we don’t just look at that, that we look at ways that we can help the healing because people can get better. They do get better. And that the situation that that individual is in right now, whether that is really good or really bad or negative or positive, that that situation is not gonna last a lifetime and that healing is possible.

Cassie Gillespie (31:16):

I think that’s the best possible note to end on. Thank you both so much for coming today.

Chris Allen (31:21):

Thank you. It was a pleasure.

Ellen Arrowsmith (31:22):

Thank you so much. Yeah.

Cassie Gillespie (31:23):

Yeah. And again, if you’re looking for more resources or you wanna find more on Ellen or Chris, you can check the webpage. We have all sorts of information for you there. Thank you so much. Till next time. The Social Work Lens is produced by the University of Vermont’s Child Welfare Training Partnership and the State of Vermont. Our theme music is composed and performed by local band Brick Drop, and our sound production and engineering has been brought to you by Egan Media Productions. We’d also like to give a special thank you to our in-House administrative production assistant Emma Baird. For the Social Work Lens, I’m Cassie Gillespie, and we’ll see you next time.

 

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