Your Brain Health Episode 9

Introduction: This is Your Brain Health with noted Neuroscientists, Dr. Kristen Willeumier. Your Brain Health explores strategies to maximize your cognitive functions through life. Here’s Dr. Kristin Willeumier.

Dr. Kristen Willeumier: In part one of our conversation with Dr. Stephen Odom, CEO of New Vista Behavioral Health. We discussed the warning signs of suicide and how to get people the help they need. We continue now with our conversation with Dr. Odom. And I wanted to bring up with these sort of high profile celebrities, suicides. You know, Kate Spade sister had stated that the pressure of Kate maintaining her brand was what prevented her from seeking the help for her mental health problems. And she went on to say that her suicide was not unexpected and that they had tried to get her help for her mental health issues. You know, it was known she was self medicating with alcohol and that she was fixated on the death of Robin Williams who committed suicide in 2014. So I think, you know, and really looking back at the things you’ve just recommended, you know, if you notice these warning signs in a friend or loved one, you know, follow the steps that you had recommended to, you know, help these people to get help, do not lead them isolated, stay connected.


And I will tell you personally I do have people in my life that struggle with bipolar issues and depression and when my girlfriend gets in one of her very depressed States, she may not answer the phone, but she said, when somebody like myself or her sister calls, she’s like, you can call me eight times a day. I may not pick up the phone, but to know that you’ve called and that I hear your voice, she said, that means so much to me and it’s what helps me get through to the next day. And that’s why I feel like this is really important to talk about because I do feel people are afraid, you know, suicide has that taboo around it. As I’m sure you’ve seen, you know, in working with people in your clinical setting.

Dr. Odom: Sure. I think the other thing to remember is that no matter how I’m embarrassed or ashamed or unseemly, it is to have thoughts of suicide or not wanting to be here. We all have thoughts that disturb us one way or another throughout our life and everybody needs someone to talk to. And so whether that’s a good friend or you know a partner or a spouse or whether that’s a therapist or a life coach we all need that. And so again, it’s back to what I said earlier, connection really matters. And I think sometimes, you know, we come across people who know that they have a problem. They know that they probably should do something but they don’t want to or they, kind of refuse the help. I think especially when it relates to suicide, the ongoing conversation needs to be just how hopeless is this for the person? How are they feeling? And at some point along the way, it’s okay to do what we call an intervention. And an intervention is where we get, you know, folks who care usually close to family members and friends to coordinate a discussion that says, you know what, we’re really worried for you.


We love you and we care about you and we need you to get some help. And in some ways we’re not going to take no for an answer and you need to know where they’re going and what the plan is so that you have the therapist ready or the psychiatrist ready or the hospital ready or the treatment ready. But there are certainly ways to kind of force the issue and at least get them some help. You know, there’s a, there’s an old, an old saying from an AA related guru named father and Martin who talked about interventions and said, you know, I’m in the world of AA. We tend to think that people don’t get help until they’ve hit their bottom. And Father Martin always said, you know, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink, which is that phrase that you hear, but you can make them very thirsty. And so even when it looks like someone’s not going to take the help, that doesn’t mean you don’t get them there because for all, you know, that’s what they really needed was to get to that place and get to the person they could talk to and they can do better more quickly than we think. And I think there’s a lot of fear around talking about taboo things. So people tend to isolate when it comes to things like suicidal ideation.

Host: Right, right. Well, you know, and I’m going to shift the topic to addiction. And you know, I wanted to mention, you know, nearly 11 million American adults attempt suicide without completion at some point in their lives. And people who abuse drugs or alcohol attempt suicide six times more frequently than non substance abusers and the national center for injury prevention. And control state that 33% of those who commit suicide have significant amounts of alcohol in their system. I bring this up because the autopsy report from the suicide of the Lincoln Park front man, Chester Bennington, I, you know, I loved Lincoln Park had revealed the prescription drug Ambien, as well as alcohol and his son in his system. So he had previous history of suicidal ideations and it was well known among his friends and family that he had an hour by hour battle with addiction. And along with Chester Bennington, another wonderful talented, iconic song man, Chris Cornell who is the lead singer for Sound garden, also had a long history with addiction and was found to have been on the prescription painkiller benzodiazepine prior to his suicide. So given your experience in treating people with addictions, and I just wanted to ask, what recommendations can you give to people who be in the midst of living with addictions, who have suicidal ideations?

Dr. Odom: Well, sure. I’m going to split that into two roads. The first road is the person who’s actively drinking and using. And you know, unfortunately when someone’s drinking and using, and in their addiction, in some way, all bets are off because, you know, the lack of judgment, the impairment can be so intense that they make very, very impulsive decisions. And so someone may decide to have a really bad day and they take too many pills or they drink too much alcohol and basically poisoned themselves. And so those are the kinds of people that I believe really need to have an intervention. And we just basically say, we’re taking you to treatment, you’re going to get detoxed and we’re going to help you get help. Because the other thing to remember is that, you know, all the things I talked about earlier about talking to someone, if someone’s under the influence, they’re not hearing or remembering anything you say.


So it’s never a good time to talk to someone about suicide or anything else when they’re intoxicated. Generally speaking, the best conversations are the next morning when they’re waking up and not feeling very good. And that’s when they may actually face reality a little bit better. The second path is that person who is clean and sober and has done that work. But they’re still feeling depressed. They’re still feeling anxious, they’re still feeling suicidal at times. And what that’s all about is what we call dual diagnosis or co occurring disorders. And those are simply an addiction disorder and a mental health disorder all at the same time. And if you don’t take care of both, you’re going to relapse into one or the other. And so part of recovery is taking care of yourself and taking care of yourself may mean your mental health as well. And so, you know, many people in recovery still suffer from psychiatric illness and need to have help for that.


So whether it’s depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, you know, the list goes on and on. You need to have treatment for both. And I think sometimes that’s missing. And it’s something that as a part of a feeling connected and being a part of life, you have to take care of, you know, all those aspects. And not just the, not drinking and not using part. So when you look at these famous people, it becomes quite evident that there were certainly holes in the recovery program and things like that. I didn’t know the people specifically, but you know, when you hear the story, unfortunately it’s a repeating theme. And that’s, you know, people feeling depressed and not being able to talk about it, thinking, especially in a celebrity kind of way that, you know, I’m a bit of an icon and a message for other people. And if I have talked about being a clean and sober person and now I’m not feeling good or I’m vulnerable or I’m not still clean and sober, I can’t tell anyone.


And the next thing, you know, it spins out of control and something really tragic like what happens at Chester and Chris happens. I just, I want to mention one other thing real quickly. I think it’s really important that that we’re talking about suicide. But what’s also interesting is given that it’s happened with so many celebrities recently there’s kind of a double edge sword here when celebrities or important famous people do things like this and we regular people have similar thoughts, and we think to ourselves, wow, if that person who was so famous and so awesome and seemed to have it all together and had everything they could ever want suicided then what hope is there for me? And so if we don’t talk about this carefully and in an appropriate way in some ways we get into that experience of what we call copycat kind of stuff that, you know, I’m going to do what they did because I don’t have a chance either. And that’s not true at all. But if someone’s in that really negative spiral, it’s easy to see how they could think like that.

Host: Well, I’m so glad that you brought that up and I think we’re all thinking about that when you see Kate Spade commit suicide followed by Anthony Bourdon within a one week period. And you know, I think it’s really important that we’re having this dialogue. And I’m so thankful to have your valuable insights on mental health disorders and suicide prevention. And I really think this has to be a moment in time where we take this public health epidemic seriously. So just sort of in wrapping this up, for those of you who would like to learn more about Dr. Stephen Odom and his national treatment centers, which treat addiction and behavioral mental health issues, please visit new Vista Behavioral Health at So Stephen, it’s been such a pleasure. You are a wealth of knowledge. I would love to have you come back on the show because there are so many more things I can talk about with you from bipolar disorder, depression, addiction issues, and I’m really interested in getting your thoughts on CBD and marijuana and their impacts on the brain. So would you like to come back?

Dr. Odom: I would love to come back. We could have an ongoing conversation. This is important and fun. Thanks.

Host: Wonderful. Well thank you again for all of your insights. And I want to just wish you a great day.

Dr. Odom: Thanks a lot. Take care Kristen, bye.

Host: Bye Stephen. I want to thank Dr. Odom for joining us and thank you for listening to Your Brain Health. I’m Dr. Kristen Willeumier.

Conclusion: You’ve been listening to Your Brain Health with Dr. Kristen Willeumier. For more information or to contact Dr. Willeumier visit That’s D, R, W, I, L, L, E, U, M, I, E,