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Brain Hijack: Science to Practice in Suicide Prevention

As part of CSTS's efforts in understanding and intervening to prevent suicide and informed by the Center's STARRS study (Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members)

Brain Hijack

Brain Hijack podcast series aims to increase awareness and support a culture shift amongst the general public around the topic of suicide prevention. We encourage support-seeking behaviors and connectedness through expert interviews, debunking myths, and normalizing topics in mental health. Emerging public health research on media communication channels indicates podcasting as a promising tool to reach communities at large or those uniquely at risk. This podcast intends to bridge the gap between science and practice by translating expert recommendations in suicide prevention and its upstream drivers into a discussions understood by all. 



Episode 16: Supporting Families Who Have Lost A Loved One To Suicide

How should we memorialize someone who has died by suicide? To help answer that question, Brooke and Adam speak with Dr. Keita Franklin, a national leader in suicide.

Dr. Franklin shares why we should be memorializing someone who died by suicide in the same way as those who died by other means. It can feel uncomfortable to talk to person who has lost someone to suicide; however, Dr. Franklin notes the importance of hearing their story as a way to honor the loved one who has passed. Lastly, she highlights the "dos and don'ts" of how to have a conversation about a loved one who has died by suicide.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Keita Franklin

Episode 15: You Do Matter: A Look at the LGBTQ+ Community and Suicide

Do LGBTQ+ individuals have the same risk factors for suicide as the general population?

Today we speak to Dr. Kate Comtois, a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Washington University, about LGBTQ+ community and its increased risk of suicide. She highlights the impact social media has had in creating a space where bullying is much more public and longer lasting than pre-social media days and how we can combat its effect.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Kate Comtois

Episode 14: 5 Principles of Firearm Safety

Today’s episode addresses the myth, “If access to one method of suicide is restricted, will another method be used instead?” Brooke and Adam speak to Dr. James C. West, host of the critically acclaimed podcast “Let’s Talk About Your Guns” a series that discusses gun safety by unpacking real-life scenarios. Listen in as Dr. West talks about the impulsivity around the act of suicide and why ready access to means matters. Lastly, we learn about the five principles of firearm storage and how you can start implementing them in your life today.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. James C. West

Episode 13: Managing Intense Moments While Still Showing Up for People

On today’s episode, special guest host Dr. Joshua Morganstein talks to guest speaker Dr. Steven Dubovsky about managing intense moments. Dr. Dubovsky shares his experience as a firefighter/EMT to give us an inside look at how people working in high intensity jobs cope with stress. One key takeaway is that the firefighter community is a great example of showing up for people (both on and off the clock).

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Steven Dubovsky
Learn More About Today's Host: Dr. Joshua Morganstein

Episode 12: Addressing Youth Suicide

Today’s episode addresses the myth that “teens say they are suicidal to manipulate their parents and teachers.” While this may happen, a 2021 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey asked teenagers if they have had any suicidal thoughts in the last 30 days and an astonishing 3.3 million teenagers responded “Yes, I’ve had serious thoughts of suicide”

Listen in as Brooke and Adam, along with guest speaker Dr. David Jobes, former President of the American Association of Suicidology, shed light on the reality of suicide and suicidal thoughts among today’s children and teenager and what you can do to help prevent it.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. David Jobes

Episode 11: Losing a Child to Suicide

As a parent, you always want the best for your child; however, you can do everything seemingly right and still unfortunate events unfold. Today, Brooke and Adam speak with Mr. Dennis Ward, a Registered Nurse about his experience losing his son to suicide and what life looks like after losing a child to suicide.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dennis Ward

Episode 10: Pump the Brakes

Is it true that “All people who have thoughts of suicide, have a mental illness?” What about, “If you have suicidal thoughts once, you’ll always be suicidal?” Listen in to learn why the answer to both of these questions is “NO.”

Our guest today, Dr. Craig Bryan, a board-certified clinical psychologist in cognitive behavioral psychology, shares new research that points to suicidal thinking being highly dynamic and how these highs and lows can play a role in suicide prevention. While we would like to prevent/reduce all suicide attempts, the reality is that despite our best efforts some people will still attempt suicide. Maximizing safety in one’s environment is vital and taking steps in advance of a suicidal crisis to increase safety can be the difference between life and death.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Craig Bryan

Episode 9: Time for a Systems Change

Did you know that the time after a patient is discharged from the hospital, is one of the highest times for suicide death?

Brooke and Adam speak with Dr. Julie Goldstein Grumet, the Director of the Zero Suicide Institute at the Education Development Center, about how this seemingly counter-intuitive occurrence could be reduced through strategic system changes within hospitals. Dr. Goldstein Grumet goes on to discuss how hospitals could better utilize evidence-based practices that already exist to improve their understanding of which patients are at greater risk for death, thereby increasing their ability to take actionable steps to keep those patients safe.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Julie Goldstein Grumet

Episode 8: The Simple Question That Can Save A Life

Are doctors or mental health professionals the only people allowed to ask someone if they are suicidal? On today’s episode, Brooke and Adam speak to Dr. Kelly Posner about how we often expect doctors and other healthcare professionals to ask the “difficult” questions when it comes to someone’s health, particularly around suicidal ideation. Dr. Posner explains how many people think if you, a non-healthcare professional, ask a friend or family member if they are having suicidal thoughts it will cause them to become suicidal; however, the reality is actually the opposite! Over 90% of suicidal incidents with some sort of intervention (such as asking if someone is suicidal) will never go on to try again. That one question could make all the difference.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Kelly Posner

Episode 7: Suicide Prevention and Technology

On today’s episode of Brain Hijack, we discuss the myth that “People who are thinking of suicide, always tell someone they are thinking of suicide.” Adam and Brooke speak with Dr. Matthew Nock, a Harvard professor whose research is aimed at advancing the understanding of why people behave in ways that are harmful to themselves, with an emphasis on suicide. Dr. Nock shares how the majority of people contemplating suicide, do not express it; however, as technology improves we are getting more data on people’s lives, building increasingly sophisticated models that may tell us when someone is at risk.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Matthew Nock

Episode 6: The Power of Words

On today’s episode of Brain Hijack, we learn how Brooke and Adam came to work in the field of suicide prevention. We also look at the myth, “The words we use and the way media talks about suicide has no influence on people’s behavior.” Brooke and Adam go on to discuss the importance of certain words when talking about suicide. When speaking with someone who is going through a difficult time, certain words may open the conversation while others may shut it down.

If you have any comments or stories you would like to share with us after listening to today’s episode, please email

Learn More About Brooke

Learn More About Adam


Episode 5: 988 Suicide and Crisis Line

Today Brooke and Adam discuss why the statement “You can't call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Line anonymously" is FALSE. Listen in as they speak with Dr. April Naturale, the Interim Executive Director for the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, about what to expect when you call the 988 suicide crisis line. Dr. Naturale explains the difference between 988 and 911 and how the 988 suicide and crisis line is not only for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, but for anyone experiencing emotional distress. Everybody has things going on in their life and sometimes you just need a little help. Mental health is a journey and the 988 crisis line can be used anywhere along that journey.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. April Naturale


Episode 4: A Little Caring Goes A Long Way

On today’s episode, we discuss why the myth that “suicide rates increase over the holidays” is incorrect. Listen in as Brooke and Adam speak with Dr. Thomas Joiner, an American psychologist and The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology at Florida State University (FSU), about what it means to belong and how a little bit of caring goes a long way.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Thomas Joiner


Episode 3: Hold On, Pain Ends (HOPE)

On today’s episode of Brain Hijack, we tackle the question "Does asking someone if they are suicidal make them suicidal?"

To help us debunk this myth, we spoke to Cory Will, a Licensed Master Social Worker with the heart and soul of a Peer Recovery Specialist. We'll learn how talking about suicide does not lead to nor encourages suicide, but rather provides the other person with an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about something they may be keeping secret, and/or obtain help and support.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Cory D. Will, LMSW, QMHP, CPRS


Episode 2: Your Thoughts Do Not Have To Be Your Reality, Change Is Always Possible

On today’s episode of Brain Hijack, we respond to the myth "Once a person thinks about suicide, they will never change their mind and they will die by suicide."

Listen in as Adam and Brooke speak with Dr. Marjan Holloway, a Professor of Medical and Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at Uniformed Services University about self-regulation as it relates to suicidal thoughts. Dr. Holloway emphasizes that it's okay to acknowledge and recognize in the moment that you are having suicidal thoughts and just because you are having suicidal thoughts does not mean you have to engage with the act of suicide. She goes on to share steps you can take to talk to your doctor if you are having suicidal thoughts. Our takeaway from today's episode: your thoughts are always subject to change and just because you have a suicidal thought, you do not have to act upon it.

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Marjan Holloway


Episode 1: Getting Through The Moment: How To Be An Effective Helper

On today’s episode of Brain Hijack, we respond to the question, "Do clinical professionals always know who is at risk for suicide and when they may try to die by suicide?" The short answer, "No." Listen in as Adam and Brooke speak with Dr. Peter Gutierrez, Executive Vice President, Innovation at LivingWorks on why a community, public health approach to suicide prevention is so important. Dr. Gutierrez explains what it means to be an "effective helper" and answers tough questions including how to respond to a someone who just told you they are having suicidal thoughts. Our takeaway from today's episode: anyone can play a role in preventing suicide, including you. 

Learn More About Today's Guest: Dr. Peter Gutierrez


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The opinions and assertions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the Department of Defense.

The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or policies of The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. Mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.