What if your story could save a life?
Talking about suicide is never easy, and today’s guest knows that a story’s power can save a life. A story can move mountains for someone who feels depressed because knowing others have been there and got through can be the flashlight they need to get through the darkness.
It is one reason why podcasts make for such a perfect medium for mental health issues because it’s private, safe, and easy to listen.
Our episode with Kell Bjorn will help support other podcasters using stories to illuminate mental health issues.
National Suicide Hotline > 1-800-273-8255
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Hi and welcome to CausePods, I’m your host, Mathew Passy. Here at CausePods, we have one simple mission to highlight the amazing folks who are using podcast as a way to raise awareness for good causes and make the world a better place, whether it’s in their own local community or their taking on global issues.
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Are you going to take you out to the West Coast or oh, not that coastie into the mountains section of Utah, we are chatting with Kel Bjorn. He is the host of Stick Around, a suicide discussion podcast. And as we like to do on the show, we are talking about suicide. It is obviously a very serious and somber topic. And if you are someone you know is struggling and is thinking about doing something to harm yourself, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help.
The Suicide Prevention Hotline, one 800 273 8255. That number will be in the show notes. You can easily click and dial right away. Kel, Bjorn, thank you so much for joining us here on the show tonight.
Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.
So, Kelly, take us back. What is your relationship to this topic? What has you thinking about suicide as an important subject matter for podcast?
Well, I kind of have to go back a ways. So I first was interested in podcasting overall, probably six, seven, almost eight years ago, just because I like the idea of it. So I bought all the information, all the tools, I bought the microphone, headphones, I was ready to rock. I joined some podcasting networks to learn how to do it. Back then, it was more like, I really love beatboxing and like watching videos with these guys.
I did some competitions and it’s not that big a deal, but it’s not like professional or anything. But I was always interested, so I thought, hey, it’d be cool to interview beat boxers from all over the world and that kind of stuff. But I never had the time. You know, we kept having more and more kids. I’ve got four kids now and life gets busy and was working full time. So another side of my life is I’ve struggled with depression for a long time and I’d been in and out of medications.
And I’m also kind of an outgoing person. So most people think I don’t fit the mold of that. Like, you don’t seem like a depressed person. You have the stereotype of a person just hiding out in their basement and don’t want to talk to anybody. But that’s not necessarily true. Been pretty open about my journey with trying to improve my own mental health and that kind of stuff. And then it was last year in December, a friend of mine back in Washington where I grew up in the Seattle area, he actually took his life, died by suicide.
So it’s almost been a year. And that hit me pretty hard. I knew he had been struggling. I had talked to his wife about some of the things I had done to try and help get myself some help in dark times. But I had never gotten to the point where I was planning out a suicide or anything like that. So this was the first time in my life that I was close to someone that had actually followed through with that.
And so I was kind of angry, went through a lot of different emotions. And so I started kind of opening up even more about this topic and gave some trainings at work, presentations on mental health and things we can do, resources that are out there. And then I just had the thought, hey, I have all this podcast stuff in my drawer and now I’m passionate about something enough to actually do it for me. It’s totally a hobby.
That was the other thing is like once you start something without the intent on making money, I feel like that’s something that you can do long term and maybe that’s the direction it goes eventually. But for now, it’s all about just spreading good positivity to people and help them getting out of those ruts in times of need.
That’s the best reason to do it is for purely the passion of it and not because you have some sort of end game in mind. I’m sorry to hear about your friend that I’m sorry about the struggles that you’ve had, but I think you’re right. I think so many people have created this stigma of what depression looks like, and it’s cloaked in black long hair covering their eyes, never smiling, you know, recluse. And what we are learning more and more is that’s just not really the case, that even some of the most outspoken in public, you know, some of the people that bring you the most joys of the one having the the hardest battles, right?
Probably one of the most profound things I’ve learned in this process. So I’ve done about thirty episodes now this year, they’ve started to spread out all over the world. I mean, I’ve interviewed people in England and Australia. One gal from Africa in Zambia was probably one of my favorites because it was really Eye-Opening for me to talk to someone on the other side of the world that looks different. Me especially, you know, in our country right now with a lot of the racist conversations going on, racism, conversations going on.
And really just to see, this is a black woman, I’m a white man other side of the country. But we are the same like as far as like the struggles we go through mentally, some of the things like that. She had taken it quite a bit further and an attempt to take her life, but she survived. So her story was just so inspiring. And after the fact, I just felt so close to her. And it happens over and over.
I just think it’s fascinating that we we look at different cultures. We look at. Different people that look or act differently, but if you open up and start talking about feelings of life and challenges that we have, a lot of times you can find some common ground and we’re a lot more similar than you think.
It’s true. I mean, there’s definitely more that unites us than divides us, even though, you know, we’re we’re sort of told that there’s a lot of dividing lines between people.
You have this interest in podcasting. You’re going to do the beatboxing, but then you decide to launch it on this cause even it’s just a hobby. What were you hoping to I don’t want to say get out of it, because that makes it sound like you’re looking for some sort of return or some sort of monetary gain.
But where like what was the what does this even emotionally like what does this do for you or what has been the feedback you’ve gotten from your audience putting out this kind of content?
I almost felt like the position I’m in as someone who has dealt with depression and is also happens to be an extrovert, outgoing type person, I almost felt like not a burden, but like a responsibility to people like my friend Troy. Try to see if we can prevent more of these from happening no matter who it is. And it’s kind of rare. I guess I get some feedback from people that I don’t know or even friends I’ve had from college they haven’t seen for years.
I just had one of those a couple of days ago, reach out and say, hey, it’s really cool that you’re doing this. You know, it’s something I’m good at talking about my feelings and men in particular. You can see my mustache that I’m rocking right now. It’s absolutely hideous. But it’s Movember. It’s all about mental health for men’s awareness. So I’ve gotten a lot into that. And my wife hates looking at me for this month.
I feel that it’s important to just kind of put yourself out there, let people know what’s going on. And I’ve been amazed people come out of the woodwork just commenting on what I’ve been doing and that they can relate. And I guess that’s what really keeps me going.
What about podcasting itself? What have been, I guess, some of the hurdles that you ran into that you’ve overcome, that you think another podcast could benefit from if they want to launch a podcast for their favorite cause, something that’s important to them like this is for you.
You know, in the very beginning, it’s hard to just kind of commit and feel like I have a place in this space like who am I to put some content out there that people are going to actually care about? And I guess I don’t know at first I just talked about people or I talked to people. I knew my very first episode, very first interview was actually a guy that did a training in my work building on people that have survived suicide or had had a family member die by suicide and how do they cope.
And I went to that class and I thought it was amazing. So I sent him an email like, hey, would you be interested in this? And I’ve been just amazed with this topic how many people are so willing to participate and to that want to talk about it. So in the beginning, my hesitance to, like, bother people, you know what I mean? Like, hey, how do you approach someone, say, hey, I know your child died by suicide.
Do you want to talk about it? Like, that’s a scary thing to do. But the more I’ve done this to more, I realize that those are typically the people that are the most interested in are most appreciative of having the opportunity to share their message. So I’ve got a lot more confident, I guess, in just knowing that there are plenty of people that want to help, that want to participate and tell their stories. So I’ve gotten a lot better at just inviting people and that kind of stuff.
So the biggest hurdle, I guess, was confidence that this is something I can do. And I guess the answer to that is just doing it and getting more and more familiar and realizing that there are people out there that want to talk.
I find it so funny, by the way, that we both acknowledge that this is a topic that people don’t want to talk about in general. Society as a whole is not very good at engaging. And yet when you put it out there, you said people were willing to talk and were almost excited to get on that. Right. It’s like it’s such a strange dichotomy from what we’re told. And what’s the reality of it?
Absolutely. Especially when I talk to moms in particular that have lost a child to suicide, are some of the most passionate people I have ever met because they want to prevent other parents from going through what they’ve gone through. So they’re getting involved. I’ve had some reach out to me directly that found out about what I was doing and saying, hey, I want to be on your show because this is something that I’m a part of. There’s a couple of things I’ve learned with those conversations as far as, like verbiage goes.
You know, you come out the gate saying we’re talking about committing suicide and you learn real quick that that’s not a term that people like to use because it sounds like you’re committing a crime or something. So out of respect for those families, they tend to prefer that you say died by suicide or we lost them to suicide or something like that. And the other thing I’ve learned from those families is there’s no reason to ask how this was followed through.
How they had actually died, because that’s something that’s that’s painful for them to talk about. I think a lot of people are curious. It’s human nature right off the bat. When you hear of someone dying that you want to ask the family what happened, like how did they do it? And it’s just it’s kind of a touchy subject. So although there are people that want to talk and spread their messages, there are still a couple of topics that you kind of have to be careful with, because even though they might be coping well and are being positive and sharing a good message, that loss never really goes away.
I mean, that feeling of grief is something that they’ll feel for the rest of their lives.
I am listening to you and I’m thinking of my own morbid curiosity. And I’ve probably been guilty of doing that exact thing, which is wanting to be compassionate, wanting to be sympathetic, but then still having that curiosity of what they did and how they did it and not realizing how painful that could be for the person. So I’m glad that you brought that up. And I can hopefully do better moving forward. I mean, hopefully I don’t have to run into that question too often.
But the truth is, I like it’s something that if it does happen, you don’t do it a lot. It’s not something you should be practicing for. It’s not something we should all have to be, you know, mentally preparing. But when you do run into it, you want to be conscious of it and be generous of it and do it right. So I’m I’m glad you kind of share that with us. So, I mean, obviously, your cause your charity is the suicide prevention lifeline.
Do you have any relationship with them in general or just because of what you’re doing? You know, that’s where we’re we want to dedicate our attention now.
I don’t have any direct relationship. It’s just kind of the one that I chose in particular. One thing I am excited about is they are in the works of changing the actual phone number to just nine eight eight. It’s like dialing 911 one. But here, I think in twenty twenty two the bill has been passed. So in a couple of years that will roll out across the country. So I mean, I can’t even remember the number you shared at the beginning of the episode, I’m sure at the end of all my episodes.
But I can’t remember it because it’s too many numbers.
And with cell phones, nobody memorizes phone numbers anymore, although weirdly enough, I still remember the phone number for my like my parents household from, you know, 30 years ago.
That one I can’t get rid of tonight at eight. That’s going to be the number. I’m really excited about that. There are some other charities out there that I am interested in. I know Kevin Love is one of my favorite celebrities out there. I love basketball. And what he’s doing with basketball and he’s the Kevin Love Fund is another one. Or they’re really involved in improving mental health in addition to physical health because he’s opened up about panic attacks and his own depression.
So I love seeing examples like that as well.
We always like to ask everybody. So, you know, other people are listening to this. Other people are thinking about a podcast for their cause. What would be your advice to them? You know, if they’re thinking about starting a podcast, if they’re nervous about starting a podcast, what would you tell them so that they can get over that hump, put out content that is worthy of their cause?
I think doing something you’re, you know, you can be interested in for a long time if it’s like, hey, I’ve heard of people making a ton of money on a podcast then and maybe those are mixed, you know, that’ll be great. But if you’re doing that for the sole purpose, I don’t think it’s going to last like. So I just started this out of pure passion. And I mean, eventually maybe there’s ways to get some affiliates going on my website or something like that.
But at this point, I just I love the conversations that I have with these people. I really I just I feel so good after letting people share their experience and feeling like we’re doing something worthwhile. That’s what’s in it for me. So I can see myself doing this for a long time, even if I never make a dime, because it’s that important to me. So whatever that is, if you’re obsessed with grilling or you’re obsessed with fishing or or whatever it is that you like talking about or you feel like is important, then just go for it.
Just get started. Like some of the things I learned up front was like, John Lee Domus is big into podcasting, podcasts, paradise learning from those guys that are very successful at it. It’s like it’s all about consistency and it’s not going to be perfect in the beginning. Just start the thing and you’ll learn as you go and it’ll get better and better as you keep moving.
I think that is fantastic advice and fantastic wisdom for anybody looking to sort of podcast for their cause or if they’re going into, you know, if they want to get into beatboxing, too, that’s still good advice for them. So once again, we’ve been chatting with Kella Beyond the Stick Around a suicide discussion podcast. We’ll have a link to his show in the show notes as well as it CausePods.org a way to track him on Apple, Google and Spotify.
A link to the suicide prevention lifeline, dawg. And importantly, again, if you are struggling with this in any way, shape or form, please. Please get some help, start with one 800 273 8255 and hopefully coming up soon, it’ll be just as simple as nine eight eight. Thank you so much for your insight and for joining us here on CausePods today, Denel Problem.
Thanks for having me.
Thanks for listening to this episode of CausePods. If you’ve been inspired by the work of our guest, please check out the show notes of this episode in your podcasting app or at CausePods.org. There you will find links to their show, their website, their podcast, links on Apple, Google, Spotify, as well as a link to support the charity that they highlighted here. In this episode, you will also find a CausePods.org Barletta subscribe to this show on your favourite podcasting app, How to sign up to be a guest on this show and a link to our Facebook group, which is going to have special resources just for the folks who are podcasting for a good cause.
And I can tell you right now, we’ve got one great deal from our friends at Pod Page, but you’re only going to learn about it and get that special deal if you are a member of the Facebook group for CausePods. And before I go, I should say thank you in particular. The show is edited and produced by Ben Kilroy of the Military Veteran Dad’s podcast. And what a great job he has done. And all this is made possible because of the great support that I received from Shannon Rojas here at the podcast, consulted Dotcom once again.
If you want to learn more, go to CausePods.org. Thank you so much. And we will see you next time on CausePods.