Guest Post: What to do if someone is thinking about Suicide.

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Hello everyone! Today Paula Stokes has come on on blog to talk about what to do for someone if they are considering suicide. Hope you all enjoy this post! 

Trigger warning: Suicide discussed heavily. 

What to do if you’re worried that someone is thinking about suicide.

Hi everyone 🙂 I’m honored to be here on Fafa’s Book Corner to talk about a really serious subject: What to do if you’re worried that someone is thinking about suicide. I’m American, so I’ll be using terminology and websites for the United States in this post, but similar sites exist in most countries and many of these tips should be applicable worldwide. All the graphics and statistics are from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

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I suggested this topic because I’ve been volunteering on a crisis hotline for ten months and this is one of the most common types of calls, I get. I’m going to share some of the same strategies that I typically share with callers, but please note that this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive source of information about what to do. Every person is different, and every crisis comes with its own set of circumstances that are impossible to predict ahead of time, so when in doubt call your local or national mental health/suicide hotline for additional information or 911 for immediate assistance in life-threatening situations.

How to best respond to someone else’s mental health crisis is going to depend on several factors, including whether the situation is a life-threatening emergency, whether the person is willing to seek treatment, and what you can do to assist the person in need.

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EMERGENCIES:

If the person is in imminent danger, for example, on the edge of a building or a bridge, or alone with a firearm or other means of self-harm, and they tell you they’re going to act on their thoughts of suicide, that’s a life-threatening emergency. The recommended course of action for life-threatening emergencies is to immediately call 911. When calling 911, be prepared to give the dispatcher the person’s name, age, location, psychiatric diagnoses (if they have any), and whether they have access to weapons. It’s fine if you don’t know all of that, but the more info you can provide the better. The makeup of professionals who will respond to a welfare check/possible suicide call is going to depend on where you live and the specific situation, but you should be prepared for at least one police officer, and probably more than one. Other types of professionals who might be part of the team include paramedics, firefighters, and mental health professionals.

I recognize that asking cops to respond to mental health emergencies sometimes leads to bad outcomes, especially when it comes to certain marginalized groups. I completely understand people being hesitant to involve the police, but before you opt not to call 911, consider whether you have any other realistic options and how much risk the person might be in if you don’t send someone to intervene. Here’s a short post from NAMI about calling 911 and dealing with police in mental health emergencies.

If the person is someone you feel comfortable with and they are willing to seek treatment, an alternative to calling 911 would be for you to transport them directly to a psychiatric facility or the emergency department of any hospital, where they can then receive an assessment from a mental health professional. Note that doing this might reduce certain risks but increase others. (There are cases on record where suicidal people have jumped out of cars and ran into traffic on the way to treatment).

The best thing you can do is talk clearly and directly to the suicidal person so you can try to gauge how much risk they are in. It’s fine to ask directly if they’re thinking about suicide, if they have a plan to hurt themselves today, if they have the means to hurt themselves today, whether they have a psychiatrist or therapist they see that you could reach out to on their behalf. It’s also best to involve the suicidal person in any intervention—if you’re going to drop by their apartment or call 911 and request a welfare check, tell them so they don’t get surprised by someone showing up to their home unannounced. When in doubt, trust your gut. If your gut isn’t sure, you can call 1-800-273-TALK in the U.S. or the local or national suicide prevention in your country to get additional advice from a trained staffer or volunteer. If you’re not sure whether a situation is an emergency, treat it like it is.

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URGENT SITUATIONS:

Let’s say you’re really worried about someone, but you know they’re safe for the time being. There are several different options you can take in these situations, and again it depends on whether the person is willing to seek treatment. If they’re not, you can call your local (usually county in the U.S.) mental health hotline and ask about the possibility of a visit from a mobile crisis team. Mobile crisis teams are equipped to do assessments, safety planning, and referrals in neutral settings or private residences. A team will generally include at least one trained counselor or social worker but is likely to also have a police presence. Mobile crisis teams don’t operate 24-7 and take longer to respond than 911, so if you call and ask for a mobile crisis team and the dispatcher thinks it’s an emergency situation, they’re probably going to send a team of first responders.

If the person is willing to seek treatment, consider taking them to a walk-in clinic. In the U.S., most counties have walk-in mental health clinics where a person in distress can go without an appointment and without having to worry about payment. These clinics are usually not 24-7, so you could also consider taking someone to a regular urgent care clinic, a psychiatric hospital, or an emergency room for an assessment if a walk-in clinic isn’t available.

You might also want to get another family member or friend involved. Supporting a suicidal person can be physically and emotionally difficult, and you should never feel like you must figure things out all by yourself. Again, it’s best to include the person-at-risk in all the decisions, so that way you don’t end up involving someone who might make things worse. At the nonprofit where I volunteer, call workers will reach out to people-at-risk on behalf of friends and family members, but due to privacy issues, we’re not able to leave messages if the person doesn’t answer and we’re not able to update you if we do get a hold of them. Still, that’s one more option you can consider if you don’t feel comfortable talking to the person directly, but you think they might be willing to talk to an anonymous stranger.

PASSIVE SUICIDAL IDEATION:

Suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously, but there are differences between a person who is actively suicidal and one who sometimes wishes they were dead but has no plans to end their life. As this excellent article points out, passively suicidal people can live for months to years with recurrent thoughts of suicide. Supporting them is often more about listening and offering to help find resources.

The best thing you can do for anyone who is emotionally struggling, whether they’re suicidal or not, is to LISTEN. Don’t take my word for it—watch this four-minute animated video that explains it more eloquently than I could ever dream of. Not only does listening help a person-at-risk process their emotions safely, if you do a good job of it, you’ll make them feel less alone, which can have a huge impact on their current mental state. If you can do nothing else but listen—without trying to fix the problem or cheer the person up, two well-meaning strategies that often backfire—you’ve actually done a lot.

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In addition to be a supportive listener, you can also encourage the person to reach out to their primary care doctor, psychiatrist, or counselor if they have one to let them know how they’re feeling. Sometimes all it takes is a dosage adjustment or a new medication to make someone who has been struggling feel better. Other times all they need are a couple extra counselor visits to get them through a disruption in their life.

If they’re not currently seeing a mental health professional, encourage them to seek one out in a supportive, nonjudgmental way. Example: “Hey, I’m here to listen and support you, but what you’re dealing with is really hard. How do you feel about reaching out to a professional who is trained to assist in these situations? I can help you look for someone.” The Psychology Today website has search functions for finding therapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups. You can search by city or zip code and scroll through the providers to find ones who accept insurance or take sliding scale fees for the uninsured. (A sliding scale means that the cost of the appointment depends on the client’s income. Unemployed people might pay just a few dollars. Low-income people might pay something like $20). You can also search “low-cost therapy [city]” for options. And if the person-at-risk is a student, they should be able to access free therapy via the school counselor or student services department of their college or university.

**NOTE: It is neither safe nor appropriate for a friend or family member to expect you to serve in the role of counselor for them. If someone is leaning heavily on you but is resistant to talk to a counselor or crisis line, the right thing to do is to tell them kindly that you want to support them but you’re not a trained mental health professional and you’re not able to provide the level of assistance they need. You could mention that you’re struggling with issues of your own or that worrying you won’t be able to meet their needs is causing you some anxiety. A line I like to suggest is “What you’re going through seems really difficult. You deserve someone to help you who is trained in handling these situations.” Never feel guilty for not being able to be a person’s entire support network. That’s too much to ask of anyone.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

If the person you’re worried about is a stranger on social media, you can reach out to them directly if you feel comfortable. If you do that, you might want to tell them you can see that they’re really struggling, and you want them to know they’re not alone. Offer to listen (if you feel comfortable and have the time) or send them the number for a crisis hotline in their country. If you’re not comfortable reaching out, you can report the post to the site and/or call a crisis hotline yourself and let them know about the post. A lot of nonprofits have staffers who man social media accounts and reach out to strangers who appear to be in crisis.

SELF CARE:

As mentioned above, supporting a person with suicidal thoughts can be difficult. I’m always buoyed by the number of people who call the crisis lines because they want to help others. It renews my faith in humanity. At the same time, I always make sure to check in with the callers to see how they’re doing. If you’ve been supporting someone in crisis, be sure to check in with yourself and gauge how it’s affecting you. If you’re feeling a lot of sadness or anxiety, you might want to also reach out to a crisis line or mental health professional to talk through some of your feelings. If nothing else, be sure to engage in some self-care activities to reduce your stress level.

IN CONCLUSION:

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for handling mental health emergencies, but I hope this post has given you some new information and resources to use when it comes to helping people in crisis. If you are struggling yourself, you can find treatment options on the AFSP website, NAMI.org, or Psychology Today. In the U.S., you can call 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 for immediate assistance. In Canada you can find help on the CASP website or call 1-833-456-4566 to talk to a crisis worker. Reaching out for help is a hard thing to do, but it’s also very brave.

BIO:

Paula Stokes is an author, editor, mental health nurse, and crisis hotline volunteer. Her novels include Hidden Pieces, Girl Against the Universe, and Liars Inc. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on Twitter and Instagram as @pstokesbooks

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Guest Post: Storytelling

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Hello everyone! As apart of #TheCandleAndTheFlame street team Nafiza has come on my blog to talk about storytelling. Hope you all enjoy this post!

On Storytelling, the City of Noor, and Points of View

This post is in part a response to the reviews of The Candle and the Flame that do not understand the many points of view utilized to tell the story of Noor and in part an exploration into the politics of storytelling and their function apart from the obvious.

As I said on Twitter, I am from a culture that places primary importance on the collective compared to the importance of the individual as pervasive in Western culture. It may surprise you but until I moved to Canada when I was seventeen, I hadn’t thought that I could have a favourite colour, or food, or anything that pointed to my existence as an individual. While growing up, it was always what we liked. You understand the emphasis.

The Candle and the Flame is the story of the City of Noor. While Fatima is the protagonist, she is but one person who lives in the city. You cannot tell the story of the sky from the perspective of one star. Similarly, I couldn’t tell Noor’s story without using multiple POVS. 

For example, Fatima and her sister, Sunaina, speak lovingly of the apartment building they call home but when Bhavya visits the place she is horrified at its dilapidated condition. Multiple points of view, for me, create a richness and texture in the narrative that I wanted to impart in Candle.

As diverse stories become more common in YA literature, I believe we will find that diverse ways of storytelling will also become more popular. Maybe it is because I was raised to value the collective over the individual that I tend towards multiple POVs versus one. Or maybe it is because the story I wanted to tell demands multiple POVs. It also behooves us to beware of the rich tradition of cultures other than our own. Stories are more than an escape, especially for kids. People have written multiple papers on the subject.

Storytelling and stories are also a way to connect the old to the new. They are a way for people to find and celebrate their stories. In difficult times, stories are hope and in happy times stories are a caution not to take the happiness for granted. The Candle and the Flame is a celebration of people and their differences; it is also an ode to a city that is possible in real life. It is also a love letter to my readers from me.

Thank you so much to Nafiza and the street team for this wonderful opportunity!

   

Guest Post: The Challenge of Writing a Mystery

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Hello everyone! How are you all? Today as a part of the Sunday Street Team I am featuring Danika Stone! The topic is The Challenge of Writing a Mystery. Enjoy her post!

 

The Challenge of Writing a Mystery

I love well-written mysteries, especially those that include unexpected twists and turns along the way. (Tana French has a special place on my bookshelf.) But having an idea and bringing it to fruition are two different things and there are some very specific challenges to the mystery genre. These are the ones that post unique challenges to writing.
1. Your setting is MORE than a setting. Having spent much of my childhood in Waterton, I know the landscape inside and out. It’s gorgeous, but eerily remote. When I started thinking about writing a mystery, it became the obvious location for The Dark Divide. Your mystery setting needs to invoke mood. It needs to provide challenges. (Waterton has dubious cell phone coverage, and there are plenty of areas where even an experienced hiker can be lost.) By considering setting, a writer creates a mood that pervades a novel.
2. You need to trick your readers. One of the things that many other genres DON’T require is a specific plan to confuse and confound your audience. Mystery novels do! To create this, the writer must follow a careful approach to laying out the pieces of the plot. Scene by scene they must dole out enough information to weave a realistic story, all the while providing enough out-of-context clues that lead, like a maze, to dead ends. The best way to do this? Have a good mystery editor to help you on the way. My editor, Dinah Forbes, spent her entire career at McClelland & Stewart, editing (you guessed it) mysteries. She gave me the insights on how to tweak the plot so it was both confusing AND satisfying to readers.
3. You need to spread the blame around. One way to keep your readers guessing is to include enough characters and to make each one of them seem somewhat guilty. This way, the readers don’t know and can’t guess (right away) who the killer is. For me, this complex planning was the biggest difference between writing a mystery and other genres. The Dark Divide has a character list at the beginning so that people who’ve jumped into book 2 (and have not read Edge of Wild) can keep up with all the different people in the story.
4. Your readers have to CARE. The level of tension you must build in a mystery novel is unique to the genre. They must be invested in what happens to the characters, and they need to want to know they’ll be okay. To do this, the plot must unravel at exactly the right pace. You also have to keep the stakes high! One trick to doing this is to list all the terrible things you intend to do to your protagonist, then organize them in order from least troublesome (losing a job) to most serious (death). It keeps your plot moving, too!
5. The plot must move like a well-oiled machine. I’m admittedly better at writing first drafts than at editing. (And that’s why it’s good I’ve worked with excellent editors!) Writing a mystery requires a very careful approach to laying out the pieces of the plot and including enough red herrings to confuse the reader. Each edit requires a recalibrating of ALL the other parts. Where a regular YA novel usually takes me a couple rounds of edits to get “right”, a mystery takes twice that. For me, this complex planning is by far the biggest challenge between writing a mystery and other genres, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Guest Post: Brooding YA Hero

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Hello everyone! Today I am participating with the Sunday Street Team and the illustrator Linnea Gear! Below is the guest post.

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How do you come up with character designs? Do the designs match the character’s personality? 

Designing characters is my favorite thing to do because you can literally incorporate anything you want. The designs always match the characters personality and that’s what makes it so amazing! It’s why I love drawing people in general, because every person is so different. They can be tall or short, big or thin.

Do they have tattoos, piercings, scars, or a disability? What does their hair look like, what is their background, do they have gap teeth? It is all so much fun to do! Pinterest is also great place to get character design ideas. Here are some of my favorite:

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Guest Post: Gray Wolf Island

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Hello everyone! Today I am participating with the Sunday Street Team and Tracey Neithercott to bring you a guest post! Below is the Tracey’s answer to my question. 

Guest Post:

What’s you’re writing process as an author?

I love reading about other authors’ writing processes because in the back of my mind I think, “That’s how
I’m going to do things from now on!”

I’m going to write 5,000 words a day.

I’m going to ignore my inner editor.

I’m going to do it all with shiny, Pantene-perfect hair.

Let’s face it: I never, ever have shiny, Pantene-perfect hair. And my process is much less glamorous. It starts with a lot of staring miserably at a blank screen and gradually progresses to grumblings about the pure pain of writing a first draft.

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: I’m not the sort of writer who sees double rainbows and snuggly puppy dogs while drafting. Actually, that’s a lie. I do see those things, but only because I’m procrastinating by scrolling through Tumblr.

So I do everything I can to get myself into the writing headspace. I make a latte or three meant to energize me and/or allow me to procrastinate writing for two more minutes. I put on a sheet mask, because if I can’t have bouncy, shampoo-commercial hair, I can at least try for glowing skin.

As you can see, much writing is happening. To make it go faster, I’ll turn on my Brainwaves app, plug in my earbuds, and let the sound induce the right Brainwaves for a creative state of mind. This is something I used to roll my eyes at before returning to my hard work of staring at the blank screen. Now, though, I’m pretty convinced it helps me get into the writing mode.

I let my brain waves do their syncing thing, pull off the sheet mask, and marvel at my glowy skin. Then I take a sip of latte and start writing.

I do a lot of preplanning, mostly because I enjoy outlining but also because I’m a type A writer who needs to be in control. By the time I start writing, I have a roadmap for the story, including major story points—the inciting incident, midpoint, plot points, climax, and so on—plus the main scenes that connect them.

But sometimes it’s hard (or always it’s hard), so I’ll make another latte and stare at the screen and wonder whether I can shake the story from my brain like water from my ear. (I can’t.)

When the words really won’t come, I create a scene sketch: major events, character arc, setting, and bits of dialogue. It’s enough direction to get me going.

It goes on and on like that for weeks and months and what feels like centuries until, blessedly, I peel off a sheet mask and get to revise.

Now I really do see double rainbows and snuggly puppy dogs.

I don’t need sheet masks or glowing skin because I am on fire. And people on fire don’t waste time lining up mask eye holes.

Instead, I sit down at my computer and make a list of everything wrong with my book. This isn’t hard to do. I’ve been keeping the list in my head since page one.

And that’s how it goes: Working from biggest changes to sentence-level edits, I move through the manuscript until it’s polished. This is fueled by lattes, yes, but also decaf green tea because it’s less expensive and also more practical for nighttime writing.

Sometimes, I’m happy for my process. Like during revisions, when I’m tidying things up and finally seeing the book I imagined in the beginning. Other times I hate it—during those days words won’t come or when they’re the wrong words, or when I feel like the vision in my head doesn’t match the story on the page. But it’s like my critique partner jokes: “Get used to it. We can’t change our process.”

Guest Post: Danika Stone

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Hello everyone! How are you all doing? Today I am participating in the Sunday Street Team to promote Danika’s lastest book Internet Famous. Below is the guest post, info about the book, and some info about the author!

Guest Post: 

 

  • Playlist for the book:

 

  1. “First”, Cold War Kids
  2. “Gold Guns Girls”, Metric
  3. “Here”, Alessia Cara
  4. “Settle Down”, Kimbra
  5. “Goodnight and Go”, Imogen Heap
  6. “Feel Good Inc.”, Gorrillaz
  7. “Dreams”, Beck
  8. “Spirits”, The Strumbellas
  9. “Genghis Khan”, Miike Snow
  10. “How Do You Feel Now”, Joywave

 

About the book:

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High school senior and internet sensation Madison Nakama seems to have it all: a happy family, good grades, and a massive online following for her pop-culture blog. But when her mother suddenly abandons the family, Madi finds herself struggling to keep up with all of her commitments.

Fandom to the rescue! As her online fans band together to help, an online/offline flirtation sparks with Laurent, a French exchange student. Their internet romance—played out in the comments section of her MadLibs blog—attracts the attention of an internet troll who threatens the separation of Madi’s real and online personas. With her carefully constructed life unraveling, Madi must uncover the hacker’s identity before he can do any more damage, or risk losing the people she loves the most… Laurent included.

About the author:

Danika Stone

Danika Stone is an author, artist, and educator who discovered a passion for writing fiction while in the throes of her Masters thesis. A self-declared bibliophile, Danika now writes novels for both teens (All the Feels and Internet Famous) adults (Edge of Wild and Intaglio). When not writing, Danika can be found hiking in the Rockies, planning grand adventures, and spending far too much time online. She lives with her husband, three sons, and a houseful of imaginary characters in a windy corner of Alberta, Canada.
Ms. Stone is represented by Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency.

Guest Post: Plotting a Mystery

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Hello everyone! Today is a very special day because Danika Stone author of Edge of Wild (May 2016) and All the Feels (June 2016) is featuring a guest post for the Sunday Street Team on my blog! Without further ado the guest post!

Guest Post: Plotting a Mystery

There are many ways to plot a book. For some authors, the process is like gardening: Plant the seeds of an idea, tend them, and see what grows. For others, it’s architecture: Create a structure and assemble the plot by following that plan. I’m probably a little of both, but when it came to writing my mystery / thriller Edge of Wild (Stonehouse, 2016), I found I needed far more of a plan than I’d expected. Looking back, these are some key elements which kept my plot rolling.

1.Start with the End in Mind: Edge of Wild is a small town mystery about an outsider who finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer. Having this main idea from the get-go let my inner ‘gardener’ write what she wanted while maintaining an overall plan. A few unexpected scenes appeared as I wrote, but having this general idea kept them on topic.

2. Lay Out a Plot Plan: In my den, I have a wall dedicated to whatever novel I’m currently working on. I write a one-sentence summary of each scene on a sticky note, color-coding by which character it focuses on. I then lay these scenes out in columns by chapter. These scenes can (and do!) move around while I’m writing, but being able to see them in motion – color by color – lets me get the bigger picture of whose story is being told.
With mysteries, it’s important to keep your readers guessing. Moving character-scenes lets you do that.

3. Get An Outside Point-Of-View (or MANY): When the first draft of Edge of Wild was finished, I sent it off to beta-readers. Their insights allowed me to do my first round of edits (and they were massive!) With this done, my agent took a look, offering his ideas for polishing. (Round 2 was slightly easier.) Then the book headed off to a professional editor.
In my case, this was Dinah Forbes, one-time executive editor from McClelland & Stewart. She took Edge of Wild to the next level. Her complex, scene-by-scene analysis broke the plot down like a mathematical formula, pointing out issues with pace and plotting, and suggesting ways of tightening the mystery. Her notes were both terrifying and satisfying to read. If someone with a background as strong as Ms. Forbes says your book is ready to sell, it is!

4. Rewrite, Rewrite, and Rewrite Again: Every book benefits from revisions, but if you’re writing a mystery / thriller, edits are the difference between success and failure. (ie: See everything I said in the last paragraph.)

5. Let Your Characters Have One Out-Of-Character Moment: The last hint came to me as I was deep in the throes of revisions, and that is the question of how you throw enough shade on everyone in your story to leave them open to being the potential villain. It’s actually incredibly easy, and works beautifully in the realm of building believable, flawed personas for all the characters in your book.
You let them have flaws.
And every once in a while, you (sparingly) allow them to do something ever-so-slightly ‘off’. Why? Because your readers are smart, and they’ll be watching for it. You want them to wonder, and there’s no better way to do that then leave everyone as a possible suspect.
In the end, you’ll be able to judge your success by your reader’s reactions.

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I’d say that’s pretty fair evidence that Edge of Wild’s plot works.

It was lovely having Danika on my blog! Be sure to check out my review for Edge of Wild tomorrow!