In this episode of Beyond Clinical Walls Podcast, Dr. Curry-Winchell, affectionately known as Dr. BCW, engages, in a deep conversation with Emma White. What if you could help save a life with just a moment of connection? Brace yourself for a deep and insightful conversation with the remarkable Emma White, who brings her personal experience and passion to our discussion about suicide prevention, mental health, and the innovative ways her organization, Life is Worth It, is working to change the narrative. Emma fearlessly shares her own struggles with suicide, depression, and anxiety brought on by bullying, and how these experiences have fueled her commitment to creating a more mentally healthy world.
Emma's initiative on implementing a national health curriculum in schools is nothing short of groundbreaking. As we explore the intricacies of this curriculum which covers physical, mental, emotional, and digital health, Emma highlights her plans to pilot the program in Nevada high schools. But she doesn't stop there, Emma's dedication extends to making suicide prevention a communal responsibility - a strong call to action for us all. Let's immerse ourselves in this inspirational journey as Emma underscores the power of community and connectedness in addressing mental health issues and preventing suicide.
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Hi everyone. This is Dr BCW with Beyond Clinical Walls. I am excited to introduce my next guest, emma White. She is a pillar in my community as well as nationally, and doing so many different things in the space of mental health, suicide prevention and so much more. I will go ahead and give some of her introduction, but it doesn't do it justice just in respect to all the things that she does. Emma White is the founder and president of the Life is Worth it organization, a nonprofit organization that provides workshops, education and curriculum for youth and their communities to help prevent suicide. She is also the author of it's Not Okay, but it Will Be. She's an educator, a mental health advocate and suicide survivor. She was also selected as the winner of the Jersey Mike's Sub-Abover 2021 Award and was the 2022 winner of the Young Professional Network 20 Under 40. She is also a TEDx speaker, and the name of her talk is why we need a national health curriculum to prevent suicide in schools. She is also a youth suicide prevention coordinator for the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention, where she specializes in youth suicide prevention, intervention and postvention strategies on a federal and state level. She is an accomplished speaker, an advocate, whose passionate voice and lived experience has gained national acclaim. So, emma, welcome to Beyond Clinical Walls. I want to just kind of share, as I talked about your history and all of the great things that you are doing. I wanna share with the listeners. We also know each other personally and it is an honor to have her on my show. We were both TEDx speakers recently. I'm just so excited for you to hear about her and all the wonderful things that she is doing. So, emma, welcome and please share with the listeners a little bit about what you do.Speaker 2:
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here and just excited to know you and see all of the amazing things that you've been doing since we met at our TEDx talk. Thank you so much for the introduction. As you can probably tell from hearing my introduction, I am so passionate about suicide prevention, especially with our youth, because our youth are struggling so much, not only in the state of Nevada, but nationally and we could say internationally as well. There's so many people that are struggling. Some people think it was because of the COVID pandemic, but it actually exasperated a lot of the issues that were already existing before COVID. So we're seeing a lot of people struggling, even more so on top of what they might have already been struggling with before. So I'm so passionate about it, I'm so thankful to be in this work and happy to chat more with you about it today.Speaker 1:
The pieces that you mentioned. When we talk about mental health, when we talk about suicide prevention, at this time there is this thought that it's really correlated to COVID, but, to your point, this has been happening for so long and, of course, the pandemic kind of illuminated it, but it's important to mention. This is an issue that deserves attention, needs more awareness and an intervention in any way that we can, and so it's always important, when we talk about the love and the passion or the drive that you have or someone has for the work that they do, to explain why you have that drive. So can you share with us? Why do you do?Speaker 2:
what you do, and I agree, I think a lot of times we find our purpose and passion through lived experience, no matter what that lived experience is. So, yeah, my passion comes from my own lived experience with suicide. I was 15 years old and I developed depression. I developed anxiety. This was due to getting bullied at school and harassed on social media, and all of the things that were happening in 2010 is when I was 15, and it was very different than now, because social media was just kind of getting going a little bit. I mean, we had Facebook and MySpace, but we really didn't know the implications of what was going to happen with social media. When I started getting bullied online and then ultimately getting bullied in person, I had no idea what to do. I thought that I was the only person in the world that was going through that, which we know is not true, but it felt that way when I was 15. And we didn't talk about mental health when I was in high school. We just didn't talk about, we talked about our physical health, but there wasn't this understanding that physical and mental health go together, that we need both of them. So when I started to experience anxiety, I quite literally thought I was having a heart attack. I didn't know that that's what it was and was scared and sad and was pushing all of those emotions in which ultimately led me to develop depression. And I had depression for several months. What happens is when you push your emotions down deep, deep down, well, eventually it's going to explode, right, because it's got to get out of your mind. It's got to get out of your brain somehow, and so I made a plan to take my life. I, after struggling with depression and anxiety for four months, I developed suicide ideation. I thought that the only way to get rid of the pain and the things that I was struggling with was to end my life, which we know is not the answer and doesn't solve the problems. But in the moment, it felt like that's what it was, and for so many people who have thoughts of suicide or who have died by suicide, it's about wanting to end the pain. So in December of 2010, that's kind of what happened, but thankfully, my parents intervened, got me the help that I needed, and then I started my journey of healing. And now I'm here, 13 years later, very thankful to be able to share my story and to hopefully make an impact. If it's just one person, that is one more person who didn't take their life. So I'm very passionate about this work and that's where it comes from.Speaker 1:
I. You know that part is so important the experience that you have granted. It's not something that you would wish upon anyone. However, the authenticity, the transparency of why you are driven to help save lives and put this work forward is really important to highlight, because, you know, we think about all of the things that are out there as far as outreach efforts and really trying to help people get to the resources that they need. But there is also something to be said about having the ability to speak what happened, understand what's happening and what has happened to someone, and share your ideas and solutions of what has helped you as well, as you know, help other organizations really reach more people in the end to save lives. So thank you so much for sharing your story and I also want to be intentional and say thank you for being here and I'm so glad that you didn't end your life, and I think that part is also important to acknowledge, because every life is important, is a gift, and we have to make sure we acknowledge that as well. Thank you again for sharing that. When it comes to the work that you are putting forward, you are a TEDx speaker and how you decided to kind of put that work on a larger stage in hopes of helping more people. Can you share a little bit about your TEDx talk and what work you've been doing since your TEDx talk?Speaker 2:
Yes, absolutely. It was such an amazing time to be able to be around so many great people like yourself and to be inspired really, and since the talk, we have really been taking what I spoke about and putting it into plan, putting it into motion. My TEDx talk is about implementing a national health curriculum in schools to prevent suicide and my organization life is worth it. We are working on doing just that. The whole premise of the talk was about a curriculum that my organization has and it is a comprehensive health course. So, for anybody who is listening, maybe you know of what your state health standards are for high school, maybe you don't, but a lot of the health standards nationally are very similar for health, which means that they require one semester of health before graduation. Now I don't know if you think back to your health class. I obviously spoke about my health class and, knowing mine, it was not enough time to learn. One semester was not enough time to talk about physical health, mental health, emotional health and now digital health, which is really a part of life that we're starting to talk about our lives on the internet and how it impacts our in person lives. So our curriculum is a one year course or two semesters, and it dives into all of these practical life skills and knowledge that I believe every student deserves to have. Every human deserves to know how to take care of their bodies and their minds and what their choices in their life could mean for not only themselves but for the people around them, their families and their friends. So we're currently working on that. Over the next two years we are planning on piloting the high school curriculum in several high schools in the state of Nevada and then hopefully we'll be able to implement the curriculum in all high schools in Nevada and then we'll move forward into implementing it nationwide. So we have a lot of work to do. It sounds stressful even saying it, but I'm so excited. We have a lot of great support on board for the curriculum and we're just really we can't wait to get it into the hands of our students and our schools.Speaker 1:
This is so exciting and when I think of your TEDx talk and how you share what you received in high school and what type of curriculum you had and how it wasn't enough, and now you have put that forward in a way that can help so many different people, so many different kids really receive the mental, physical and I love that you mentioned digital health that they need, and this is a blueprint that could really help not only the state of Nevada but schools across the nation. This is wonderful work and I'm excited that you are. You know, as you mentioned, it's a lot of work, but that drive and passion is there as you continue to drive forward and I think that part is huge and you know. The other thing I'd like to have you share is not only your TEDx speaker you've shared your story of why you do what you do but also let's talk about the work you are doing on a daily basis, because sometimes we hear about people's stories and why they're doing what they're doing, but you're actually working in the space while you're putting these efforts forward. Can you share about your role that you, what you're currently doing in Nevada in itself in the school system?Speaker 2:
Yeah, absolutely, and, like many people were juggling lots of different jobs and different roles, wearing different hats. So I'm very thankful to be in the space that I'm in, that I get to work under federal grants and I get to work with the state of Nevada as well as my organization, so there's a lot of different things going on. So, on a statewide level, I'm working on a lot of different implementation strategies, trainings, making sure that our teachers have suicide prevention trainings, so they're getting trained in youth mental health, first aid or safe talk or assist different levels of trainings so that they know how to spot the signs of suicide among students. And then what do they do about it? Right, because it can be stressful, it can be scary if you don't know what to do. And I'll tell you, I do this for a living and I still get stressed sometimes because it's life and death. So I'm doing that. I do interventions with students as well, and that's one of my favorite things of what I do, part of my job. But it can also be really hard. There's a lot of hurt out there, there's a lot of challenges out there. So I love that boots on the ground approach to not only overseeing strategies and implementation, but also being there in the weeds, in the dirt, with someone who is struggling with those thoughts of suicide and being able to access life-saving resources. There's so much work going on, so much work to be done. I will say that I'm encouraged with our school systems that they are taking initiative. There's more funding now, there's more initiative to implement strategies and to train than ever before, and I think maybe one of the only things that we can thank COVID for was the fact that people are paying attention now and they are listening, whereas maybe before they didn't, and now they're saying, oh, I feel that way, or I know what that's like, or I lost someone to suicide. This is a real issue and we have to step up as communities. We have to.Speaker 1:
The fact that you are working in this space every day. It really provides optics into the barriers, the challenges, new things that are coming up that are barriers from before, and so I think that really helps shape your program, your work as you move forward. And I think that is huge. And the other part that you mentioned there is now more opportunity to really invest in this work Based on the pandemic. Now people are seeing more when we think of, like the recent passing of Twitch here is someone who was representing having it all and then to hear that he took his life. People can be radiating on the outside, but having a whole internal situation inside. We have to be thoughtful in how we lift that curtain to really find out what is happening to someone. This work that you're doing is so valuable. I'm excited for people to reach out to you and hear more. So can you share with me some of the ways that people can reach out to you to hear more about how they could possibly either learn about this program, find a way to connect and actually implement this program? Can you share with the listeners how they can connect with you?Speaker 2:
Yeah, absolutely so. If you go to life is worth it dot org, you will find all of our information about our programs and workshops that we provide. There's information about the curriculum, there's ways to get involved, there's ways to reach out. You can learn more about our board of directors and more about some of my speaking engagements and all sorts of things. So go to life is worth it dot org. And you'll also find our social media. But if you just type us into Facebook or into Instagram life is worth it org, you'll find us as well. Please reach out. I'm so excited to meet as many people as possible, because this work is everybody's business. It really is, and we can't prevent suicide alone. We need our communities to do so.Speaker 1:
You're right, it is everyone's business. You know, in the world right now, where there seems to be a lot of isolation or kind of silos, this is a need. There's a need. It should be everyone's business. We need to make it everyone's business and just take the time, because it is life or death and we can't forget that piece. Thank you again for joining Beyond Clinical Walls. It was a pleasure to have you on the show and I'm excited for listeners to connect with you. Thank you everyone for taking the time to listen and digest this information and, more importantly, as I always say, share it. Share it with as many people as you can, because that is how we continue to move towards health equity and move beyond clinical walls. This is Dr B C W. Thank you, as always.