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Suicide and Children: What You Can Do

Children and Suicide: What You Can Do
“I have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” -James Baldwin

​My Little Girl Doesn’t Really Want to Hang Herself, Right?

A friend of mine was tidying up her little girl’s bedroom when she noticed tiny pieces of paper torn and lying in a pile near the top of the trash can. Because she’s a mom who gives a damn, Erin took the time to piece the shredded paper together.

After nearly ten minutes, Erin almost regretted her decision.

Erin’s daughter, who is only nine-years-old, had drawn a self-portrait of herself, hanging from the ceiling, her lifeless body in a noose.

Go back and read that last sentence again.

A nine-year-old little girl drew a picture of her lifeless body, hanging from a rope. Rather than playing with dolls or watching cartoons on the iPad, a precious little girl was daydreaming of dying by suicide.

Our job is not to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. Our job is to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” -L.R. Knost

I nearly died by suicide at the age of twenty-nine, but this little girl is in the fourth grade. A little white girl from suburban Middle America with access to just about anything a child with curly hair and dimpled cheeks could possibly want.

Just three weeks ago, her family returned home from a special birthday trip to Cinderella’s castle at Disney.

So, why did she draw it? Her mama asked the same question.

It turns out, this sweet little girl was being bullied at school.

Think it’s no big deal? I’ll raise you one higher: do you think it’s a big deal that my precious Caroline came home from school one day last year, upset because her pre-school classmates called her “chubby?” My daughter was only three.

“Children are mirrors, they reflect back to us all we say and do.” -Pam Leo

Our world is full of pain, that’s not a surprise to anyone reading this. What I’m learning, is that one of the most accurate ways to check the temperature of a nation is by looking at its children. I’m raising two of my own, and from the stories they bring home, it is more clear than ever that our world is full of fear and pain. The truth is, our children mirror the world around them.

If a child grows up in a world of loving kindness, where diversity is celebrated, and everyone is safe and welcome, they have a higher chance to repeat those healthy patterns. If a child grows up in a world filled with shaming behaviors, judgmental glances, and harsh criticism, they certainly have a greater chance at growing up to be a cold and calloused adult.

More often than not, our children become the people we shape them to be. Maybe that’s why Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”

Call me harsh, but why would we be shocked that Erin’s daughter drew a picture of herself, feet dangling above the ground, neck in a noose? As sad as it is, it makes perfect sense when you realize our children are growing up in a world where they witness bullying at the highest levels of government.

My own daughter lives in a world that idolizes photoshopped, plastic celebrities who do not reflect the real beauty of natural women. My son is being raised in a culture where might makes right, and if someone doesn’t look, dress, or sound like you - they must be the enemy.

“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” -Nelson Mandela

Our children are being raised in a world where it is considered “normal” to have active shooter drills because the politicians their parents keep voting into office offer loads of lip service, but won’t vote to enact real gun control measures that count.

I’m not a politician or a parenting expert, but I am a pretty damn good dad. A dad who cares. A dad who has to brush his fear aside when he drops his son off at school some days.

Here’s what I know: the change is up to us.

The African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it’s true. The responsibility lies in the hands of every man and woman who cares about the next generation. Healing our nation and shifting our dialogue begins at every dinner table from Birmingham to Bloomington.

Healing our children starts with the ways we interact with people around us, and in the words we use when we talk about ourselves. We cannot expect our children not to bully one another, or be surprised by their low self-esteem, when we slander our neighbors and hate ourselves.

The only way we will stop little girls from wanting to die after they get off the bus on Friday afternoons is by raising them in a world that empowers, encourages, and protects them. All of them.

If you want to live in a world where children don’t daydream of dying by suicide, join me in starting to create that reality today.

​FREE Book:

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. For a limited time, you can download my Amazon bestselling book, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, absolutely FREE. Just click here.

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​*Originally published on The Writer's Guild.

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Pastors and Suicide: What Should I Know?

What do I Need to Know about Pastors and Suicide?

California has mourned the deaths by suicide of two beloved pastors in under six months. Although tragic and sad, the deaths of Pastors Jim Howard and Andrew Stoecklein leave many people—especially within the church—wondering what happened.

The recent deaths also point to the need for mental health care within the church. What can the church do to help?

Thankfully, the editor of the SoCal Christian Voice reached out to me for some perspective.

Click here to read my candid responses to these very important questions.

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VIDEO: I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide.

Steve Austin was a pastor when he nearly died by suicide.

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide.

This is my story.

Want more?

To read the original post, just click here.

To view my list of suicide prevention/mental health resources, click here.

To order your copy of From Pastor to a Psych Ward, click here.

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WEBINAR: Answering Your Questions about Holiday Stress

Does holiday stress have you pulling your hair out before Santa even loads the sleigh?

If so, check out this 45-minute webinar I hosted recently, responding to listener questions about holiday stress.

The questions fall into 4 categories:

  1. Faith

  2. Family

  3. Finances

  4. Funk

Here are a few of the questions:

  1. I’m going to be around my dad, stepmom, and my stepsister this Christmas. They are all very fundamental, charistmatic Christians. I haven’t been around these people in years. I do have an escape plan, but I’m afraid they’re going to try and pressure me into going back to church. Do you have any advice to keeping your cool?

  2. Do you have any tips for dealing with dysfunctional family members?

  3. Many foster kids are usually stressed out by the holidays. So by proxy we are stressed out when our kids are dysregulated. How do we handle this before it ruins the holidays for everyone?

  4. I’ve got a lot going on this season. Kids! Parties! Church programs! Shopping! Wrapping! How do I find time for me?

  5. How do I get my child through the holidays? This is a hard time of year for him, and I feel like I fail to get him through it. He sees his therapist and I try to make sure we get extra quality time together, but he still struggles. The thoughts of not having a dad increase this time of year, triggering his sadness as well.

Check out the full list of questions, plus my responses by watching the video below:

Need more help with how to handle holiday stress?

Sign up for my FREE 10-day e-course, “How to Keep the CrayCray Outta Your Christmas.” Click here to join.


Rather listen? Click below to get all this content via podcast!

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Is Your Life in Chaos? Introducing: 90 Days of Calm

Every day, I get asked about shame, self-care, and self-compassion. I even surveyed my Tribe a couple of weeks ago, and those three topics were at the top of the list for courses they want to take in 2019.

As a result, I’m thrilled to announce 90 Days of Calm.

As most of you know, I nearly died by suicide in 2012. I was overwhelmed and full of fear, shame, and guilt. I was desperate for a life of love, light, and inner peace, but I felt hopeless.

Thankfully, a suicide attempt wasn’t the end of my story.

Since recovering from the worst day of my life, I’ve mapped out the exact methods I’ve used to create lasting change in my own life. I’d love to share those methods with you.

My goal is to fill 90 Days of Calm with people who feel the gentle nudge toward this sacred journey.

Over the past 6 years, I have begun to experience new levels of freedom, strength, healing, and energy. I am continuing to transition from a life of constant chaos to a life of continual, intentional calm.

It hasn’t been easy – nothing worth doing is ever that easy. But learning to silence my inner-critic, practice self-care, and cultivate a courageous life of vulnerability has been transformative. The ripple effects have impacted my marriage, the way I parent, and all those in my inner circle.

Too many people are stressed out and overwhelmed. They’re holding onto deep suffering, unable to catch their breath in a world that tells them to fake it till they make it. As the pressure of fear, pain, anxiety, and anger build, sooner or later these individuals are going to explode—just like I nearly did.

I’ve created 90 Days of Calm because I know without a doubt these methods work in creating a life of substance and depth, peace and intention. Most important – learning to cultivate calm in your everyday life can empower you to live the life you’ve always dreamt of.

This is the very foundation of the Membership: calm is waiting on the other side of chaos.

You can do practical, actionable things to create a life of calm right now. It’s not just a dream – you can map it out and quickly begin to feel the waters of inner peace wash over your soul.

The life you’ve imagined really is possible. If you want to be a part of a community of people who are not only dreaming of a better way, but are committed to creating a peace-filled life, then join us.

It’s simple. But not always easy. That’s why I’ve created this course and community. All you have to do is follow each step along the sacred journey.

CONTENT + COMMUNITY + COACHING

There’s no shortcut. It’s one little step after another. As you begin to connect each stone along the path: compassion, understanding, daily practice, and most of all – community – you will see that you are moving forward more quickly and with more intention than you ever dreamed. Our energy multiplies when we work together toward the common goal of inner peace.

I believe you can do everything I’ve just mentioned while having a fantastic (and dare I say, “fun”) time in the process! That’s why I’ve created a sacred space where all of these elements can be housed together.

This is a safe, affirming community, and I’d love for you to join me. There is a method to this, and if you join, it is going to change your life forever.

Whatever it is that pushed you toward the sacred journey from chaos to calm, I think life (or God, or the Universe) brings us exactly where we need to be, at the precise time we need to be there.

BIG NEWS: 90 Days of Calm begins February 18, 2019.

Here’s just a sample of what you’ll learn in 90 Days of Calm:

  • Reducing clutter (physical & mental) that causes stress

  • Creating inner calm through meditation & mindfulness

  • Simple ways to stay calm when chaos erupts

  • A critical look at the media you’re consuming

  • How to makeover your morning routine

  • Cutting out distractions (the dangers of multitasking)

  • Forming good habits

  • Getting over guilt/Moving past regrets

  • Dealing with good stress & bad stress

All this and SO much more!

Steve Austin speaks from his own experiences of trauma, abuse, depression, attempted suicide, the deconstruction of his faith, and the reconstruction of something more beautiful than he could have ever expected. Suitable for the Christian, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, and many more. If you find yourself suffocating from the pain of depression, faith deconstruction, or traumatic suffering: this book can help you catch your breath again and maybe even restore your hope for life.

— David Quaid Melton, Amazon review

This book is much needed since more people are having issues with stress and anxiety. Steve does a brilliant job. He’s so honest and vulnerable, while at the same time, not ending with his story. He genuinely wants to help others not be where he was and offers encouragement, not being fluffy or giving false hope. I’m personally thankful for Steve and this book! You won’t be disappointed.

— Casey, Amazon review

Every pastor should read this book. Especially if you are recovering from burnout. I gave it a five star rating because Steve doesn’t disappoint. He presents metaphor after metaphor that gives permission for self care. He gives practical exercises that are healing. After years of listening to sermons about total depravity, I needed this.

— Belinda McDaniel, Amazon review

Steve Austin is an empathetic mastermind. He uses his personal story to relate to the reader and isn’t afraid to be truly genuine and honest in order to help others. This book is a must read for anyone that deals with anxiety or wants to learn more about self care and managing stress. You won’t regret this buy.

— Jessica Gabel, Amazon review

90 Days of Calm: Basic

97.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Lifetime access to all content

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

90 Days of Calm: Advanced

197.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Exclusive Facebook group

    • 4 Facebook live webinars

  • Plus BONUS content & surprise guests

  • Lifetime access to all content & community

    *Only 48 spots available!

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

90 Days of Calm: Premium

397.00

Includes:

  • All Emails & Lessons

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident e-book

  • Cool, Calm, & Confident Journal

  • Exclusive Facebook group

    • 4 Facebook live webinars

  • 6 group coaching sessions (via Zoom)

  • 1 private 30-minute coaching session

  • 4-part guided meditation series (.mp3)

  • Plus BONUS content & surprise guests

  • Lifetime access to all content & community

  • 10% discount on future coaching sessions

*Only 24 spots available!

Flexible Payment Plan Available! (Just click here.)

Quantity:

Add to Cart

 

If you’d like to gain more clarity and inner peace than you ever thought possible, join 90 Days of Calm today.

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions:

Questions #1: How many emails/articles will I receive?

Answer: You’ll receive 2 e-books & a journal, plus new articles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for the full 90 Days.

Question #2: What’s your refund policy?

Answer: I’m so confident this course is going to transform your life, that I’ll give you a full refund, up to 7 days from your date of purchase.

Question #3: How long will I have access to the material?

Answer: As with all my programs, you will have lifetime access. I want this training to be something that you can reference whenever you need it and something that can serve you over and over again as you feel the waters of chaos start to lap against your feet.

Question #4: I’m brand-new to the online world. Is this going to be tech-heavy, and complicated?

Answer: Not at all! If you can operate your email and Facebook, you’ll have no problem.

Question #5: I’m not sure I have the time to dedicate to this program right now. How much time will it take for me to be successful?

Answer: We all lead demanding, crazy, busy lives. Trust me, I know as an entrepreneur and dad of two! That is why I have broken up the training into 12 weeks. You’ll be receiving an email/article every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The lessons are only about 400 words each.

If you sign up for the Advanced or Premium level, you’ll also have access to the exclusive Facebook group, where you can find support from other members. We’ll be doing group coaching calls every other week, and Premium members will schedule one private session with me. In short, this will take an average of an hour per week (2 hours on group coaching weeks).

I strongly believe you’ll be able to do this course without having to sacrifice family time or feel like you’re falling behind. Of course, you are welcome to work ahead too if you find yourself having a free day or maybe you learn better by consuming everything marathon style. In fact, it might not be such a bad idea to binge on something other than Netflix — something that might actually help you create more sanity and serenity in your personal life. Just a thought 😉

Question #6: What exactly do I get with this program?

Answer: Great question. There are 3 levels, depending on your budget and desired level of involvement. Each tier is laid out clearly on the site. Here’s everything you’ll be getting with the Premium Membership:

Question #7: Can I afford this right now?

Answer: At the end of the day that’s a question you have to answer. However, I have created 3 Membership Tiers, to try and accommodate every budget and interest level. The other BIG NEWS is that there’s a flexible payment plan for every single tier. What that means is, you pay a reasonable down payment when you sign up, and split the remaining balance into 2 monthly payments. Easy and affordable!

I would challenge you to ask another question, “Can you afford to pass this up?”

90 Days of Calm begins February 18, 2019.

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The Top 3 Mistakes People Make When Stressed

You’re stressed, and you want relief. Maybe you’ve thought things like:

  • I feel like I can’t catch a break!

  • This day is going to be a total waste.

  • Go ahead, kick me while I’m down.

  • I cannot handle another thing. And another thing just keeps happening.

In fact, I know you’ve said things like this. You have either posted it on social media, told me in a coaching session, confessed it at the end of one of my workshops, or emailed me.

The good news? This 4-minute crash course will help you identify common mistakes people make when stressed. It will also give you three better choices for those times when you’re having a case of the Mondays. At the end of this article, you can sign up for my new FREE stress management e-course: 6 Proven Ways to Calm Down.

What makes me the expert?

I’m glad you asked. The truth is: life is a hell of a teacher. Suffering and stress nearly destroyed me, but self-compassion, self-care, and professional help have changed my life. So, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way, in hopes that you save yourself some trouble.

If you heed this advice, you’ll quickly be able to avoid compounding your stress. You might even be able to help those you care about, too!

The top 3 mistakes people make when stressed:

1. Commiserate with other stressed out people

When we’re stressed to the max, it’s easy to find other stressed out people. Like attracts like, right? However, when is the last time you left a grip session with another miserable person and felt better about it? When did it change your situation or improve your outlook?

Probably never.

Like it or not, the best thing you can do for yourself when you’re stressed is to avoid other stressed people, who are operating in a negative headspace.

Instead, surround yourself with people who seem to be in a good place.

Can’t handle the super optimistic, always-bubbly personality? Fine – read a book. Alternatively, listen to a podcast. Chill out with some music. Or make an appointment with a counselor or life coach. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re filling yourself up with useful, positive, helpful information.

Otherwise, it’s all garbage in/garbage out, and you’ll never get better that way.

Here’s a great article from HuffPost: 5 Ways Commiserating Keeps You from Moving Forward

2. Engage in numbing behaviors

When I’m stressed and not dealing with it healthily, I want one of two things: ice cream or alcohol. No, really.

The sugar gives me that temporary rush (and who doesn’t love some Ben and Jerry’s?), and the beer (or maybe the whiskey) helps my shoulders lower. But it doesn’t fix anything. After the sugar or the buzz wears off, I’m still dealing with whatever stressors put me there in the first place. And now I’m dealing with all those extra calories, plus the guilt from binging.

What is it for you?

Netflix? Zoning out on your phone? Smoking a cigar on the back patio?

Look, I’m not anti any of the things listed above; the problem is the heart behind it.

Instead of engaging in numbing behaviors, why not deal with the stress in healthy, productive ways, and then reward yourself with a treat or your favorite show? See the difference?

Instead of the ice cream or the booze, why not take a walk when you’re stressed? Rather than Netflix or Facebook for two hours (I’m guilty, too), why not get together with a friend who always seems to listen without judgment? Or have that stogie while you make a phone call to your life coach.

Read this from Psychology Today: Stop Numbing Out and Awake To Your Life

3. Push it down & ignore it.

I was reeling from panic attacks brought on by my childhood sexual abuse. I tried to cover it up in the following ways:

  • Making the rest of my life seem perfect.

  • Becoming involved in every church activity possible.

  • Masking the pain by being the life of the party.

Eventually, it all came tumbling down, and I had to face myself for the first time in 29 years.

A shame-based culture tells us to discount our pain and avoid seeming weak at all costs. We try to Botox our flaws away, and we wish life came with an Instagram filter. But perfection is a big nasty lie. And the only way to move forward when it feels like you’re drowning is to find the courage to tell the truth and ask for help.

You have to start telling the truth.

Stress is a serial killer. Shame is, too. And the only way to combat the two is by speaking your pain and triggers aloud. Who can you trust when it feels like your life is coming apart at the seams? A parent? Your partner? That mental health professional you’ve been meaning to re-schedule with for six months? Your best friend?

Brene’ Brown says, “Shame can’t survive being spoken.” She’s right. (Hint: she’s always right.)

So find the courage to tell the truth. Admit that you’re not okay. Tell someone you’re stressed out. And ask for help.

Think you can’t afford help? Think again. Check out lowcosthelp.com today. Low-Cost Help is a national directory of affordable and sliding scale counseling services. Access to affordable mental health care should never be limited by your ability to pay.


As of 2017, 18% of adults reported feeling stressed “often,” including nights and weekends. If that sounds like you, sign up for my FREE e-course: 11 Ways to Move from Chaos to Calm.

It’s simple, practical, and the results will give you the ability to slow down and catch your breath.

Sign up today. IT’S FREE! Just click here.

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When Your Brain is Lying to You, Read This.

Each year, as the calendar flips from August to September, I have some wrestling to do.

For some, September marks the time of year when the air begins to turn crisp, and the leaves slowly shift from vibrant greens to muted yellows.

September reminds me of the birth of my son – one of the best days of my life.

And sadly, September is my reminder that brains can break, the same as bones. Just like wet hands on slippery dishes, in an instant, a brain can shatter too. I know this unfortunate fact because I’ve lived through a couple of terrible Septembers.

September is when my wife spent nearly two weeks in the hospital for postpartum depression.

And I nearly died by suicide six Septembers ago; exactly one year after my little boy was born.

It would be easy to view September as a time when it felt like God abandoned my family and me. Shame sings her siren song, wooing my heart to live in constant dread, wondering when the darkness will return. Fear of what I cannot control and the guilt from past I am no longer subject to would love to prevent me from embracing the present day, but I refuse to buy their lies.

September is my yearly reminder that all of life is an ebb and flow. The sacred journey from chaos to calm is universal. Life is full of ups and downs. Good times, and excruciatingly painful seasons. Precious memories and horrific traumas. September gently nudges me to notice that life is always changing.

If you’re in a rough patch and it feels like nothing is working, remember this: hard times come and go, just like the tides. Sometimes shitty days turn into shitty weeks and months, but they don’t last forever. When bad news arrives, take a deep breath and look back on all the bad news you’ve already lived through.

You are stronger than you think.

So keep hoping. Keep holding on when life serves up a shit sandwich. Keep trusting that better days are coming. Keep looking for goodness and beauty. Keep your eyes peeled for Love to show up. Sooner or later, it will. Eventually, the tide will recede, the waters will calm, and you will have gained new strength and new wisdom for the journey.

Life isn’t always comfortable, but you have the tools to get through the pain.

Much like the love notes taped along my wife’s bathroom mirror, September reminds me to hold the ones I love most a little bit closer. I hope it reminds you to do the same thing.

September urges me not to become so consumed with busyness that I forget to slow down and allow myself space to breathe and just be. To treat everyone I meet with patience and grace, especially myself. To tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, and ask for help.

And celebrate every single victory.

The human experience is rarely ever comfortable, but it is definitely worth living. If you are reading this when your brain is lying to you, listen to me: I understand, and it’s okay. It’s okay to not always be okay. You are not alone. Keep on walking. One step at a time. Crawl if you have to. Because just around the bend, if you remain patient and determined, you’ll notice the air is turning clear and crisp again.

I am grateful for every September.

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