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Health and Wellness – Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and in this week’s episode, the Bosses tackle the often difficult topic with the help of therapist Vanessa Pierre-Parker.

As voice actors and entrepreneurs, we are in a higher risk category for suicide and other mental health concerns. Vanessa & The Bosses talk about depression, anxiety, and the warning signs of suicide. It is important to de-stigmatize the conversation about mental illness and talk about resources that can help someone who is struggling.  If you or someone you know needs help please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or visit


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode

  1. As voice actors and entrepreneurs – we are in a high risk categories for suicide

  2. Warning signs of depression or thoughts of suicide are different for everyone

  3. Ask if you are unsure, and more often than not, they will be willing to answer

  4. Asking if someone is alright is only part of it- you also have to really LISTEN to their feedback.

  5. It’s best to address these questions in person rather than on social media. Its about privacy.

  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Drugs and Alcohol Increase Suicide Risk
More info on ipDTL


Gabby: September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so today’s episode of VO BOSS is a little different than what you usually hear. If you or someone you know is struggling, they are not alone. We want you to know that you matter, and there is help. Please call the national suicide prevention lifeline. 1-800-273-TALK. Again, 1-800-273-8255.

Announcer: Today’s voice over talent is more than just a pretty voice. Today’s voiceover talent has to be a boss, a VO BOSS. Set yourself up with business owner strategies and success with you host Anne Ganguzza along with some of the strongest voices in our industry. Rock your business like a boss, a VO BOSS.

Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my amazing cohost, Gabby Nistico. Hey, Gabby.

Gabby: Hey, Anne.

Anne: Gabby, we have a very special guest with us today.

Gabby: Yes.

Anne: We have Vanessa Pierre-Parker, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a member of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Council, and serves as a champion for survivors of intimate partner violence. She provides a safe place for clients who seek support, guidance and compassion, and provides therapeutic services for trauma and coping skills, and has provided mental health services in outpatient and community-based service agencies, including Pfeiffer Institute for Marriage and Family Therapy with children, adolescents, and adults, the shelter for battered women with adults and families, and she is the principal therapist and owner of Kindling House Psychotherapy. She lives in the Charlotte area near you with her husband and three children. Welcome, Vanessa, to the show. Thanks so much for joining us.

Vanessa: Hi, hi, hi, thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Gabby: I think Vanessa is officially our first guest to have the most technical intro and bio.

Anne: I know, I love it, right?

Gabby: It was very by the book. That was good.

Vanessa: I am thinking like, who is this person?

[Anne and Gabby laugh]

Vanessa: Sounds very cool. [laughs]

Anne: Let me explain. Let me explain. I didn’t want to miss a beat there because all those qualifications, I thought every single one of them was just amazing to me, I didn’t want to skip any of them because we’re very honored to have you here, because I think there’s some really important topics that, that we want to cover today with you.

Vanessa: OK, great. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for having me.

Gabby: So initially, Vanessa, this discussion about having you on the show started a couple months back, and um as I’m sure most of our listeners remember, we had two celebrity suicides almost back to back, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. It impacted a lot of people.

Anne: Oh yeah.

Gabby: It’s not like it used to be. Someone commits suicide, and now the effects of what has happened, the ripple if you will, is almost immediate. Within 10 minutes to a half an hour of their passing, it, it’s all over the globe. Everyone knows what’s going on. It got me thinking about, as actors and entrepreneurs, we’re in two really high risk categories for suicide.

Anne: Yeah.

Vanessa: mm-hmm.

Gabby: It got me thinking, what’s going on in our community? And are people aware of A, when a friend, a colleague may need assistance? Do you know where to turn? Do people know where to go if they are feeling um the effects of depression or anxiety, or any other host of possibilities? And so we really wanted to talk to you today about just that, the, the pieces of, how can we be more proactive as a community? How can we look out for one another? What do we look for?

Vanessa: Yeah. Those are all very good points. You know, when you think about the, the suicide reports that we are experiencing, it is staggering. I mean, I’m just thinking um the CDC reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Gabby: Wow.

Anne: Wow.

Vanessa: It, it’s a it’s a huge deal that, as a community, we really have to focus on and pay attention and say, “OK, what is happening?” Because when you look, maybe even 10 years ago, the numbers are not what they are now. And there’s just been a spike, especially after you’ve experienced a celebrity’s death like Robin Williams or like you mentioned, Anthony Bourdain. I was looking into some research data. I found some information that was just interesting. After celebrity death, suicide calls jump 25%.

Anne: Wow.

Gabby: Wow.

Vanessa: So it tells me that there is a lot of people out there hurting, and when they notice that this is happening on the, on a world stage, right, because these people are famous, they are in the limelight consistently, so it opens up the door for someone to say, “I need to reach out for help.” But some don’t. What do we do? What do we look for? But before I go into warning signs — we can always identify look for this, look for that, look for that — I have to say this. I was having a discussion with the client today who reported to me that her friend took his life this past week.

Gabby: mmm.

Vanessa: So what she did, which a lot of us do, is where she went back over through text messages, and she fell on one text that was four months ago where this friend was having a — just a casual conversation with her, but in there he mentioned, just a brief sentence. And by that sentence she assumed, “oh my God, that was a sign, and I missed it. He said something in that text, and I should have caught it, I should have known, and I didn’t know that that was a cry for help.” So now we’re looking at guilt, right? We’re looking at someone who’s thinking, “I should have recognized that my friend was suffering.” When in fact when she went back and analyzed the text, how could you have known? That was not a clear indication that there was a thought of suicide, or that there was a plan in motion. This person was just expressing some pain they were experiencing. Could it have been depression? Maybe, but again, that discussion went somewhere where it didn’t lead to any further disclosure of what was going to happen. And the thing to also remember is that it shows up differently for different people. I have personal experience with someone who did complete suicide, and it was my sister-in-law. And she was really good at two things, masking her pain and disarming you when you asked her how she was doing, OK? So masking, that looks like, “how are you today?” “Oh, I’m great, honey. How are you doing?” As a professional in a mental health field, I need to ask some more questions, but even then she would disarm me. “Why do you think something’s wrong? Is it the way I look? Is it” — she started just asking some questions that deflect and change the direction of the conversation. So I wanted to just put that statement out there that we have to be careful when we think about warning signs. They are different for everyone.

Anne: Wow.

Vanessa: OK, so —

Gabby: Yeah.

Vanessa: So that’s the first thing. Having said that, one of the first warning signs, there are things we can pay attention to and be aware of. When someone is talking or thinking about suicide, or even threatening to take their own life, that can be a major sign, right?

So if there is someone that you know can be pretty like, you know, in a pleasant mood, things may be going well in their lives, but then things change. Their language starts to change. Their actions start to change, and they may even have a plan and say, “you know what? I can’t take this anymore. I’m just going to, you know, take this step and take my own life.” That’s a surefire way of saying, “wait a minute, something is wrong.” Even if you don’t know that it’s true or not, ask. Ask and listen, because a lot, um — more often than not, they’ll be willing to share, but you have to probe. You have to ask, because you got to understand. When I look at this, when I am going over some of these pointers or warning signs, think of the hurt. That person is a hurt person. I identify them as hurt, and then you have the loved ones, but everyone can pay attention to the signs. Does that make sense so far?

Anne: So far.

Gabby: Oh yeah.

Anne: Absolutely.

Vanessa: So that’s one point.

Anne: If somebody is speaking, as you mentioned about it, if they are joking about it, is that also a sign?

Vanessa: Well, some people joke, and unfortunately I have to say adults and teenagers that I work with, sometimes they will make some passive comment, right? It’s just passive-aggressive type behavior. What I suggest is ask. Still ask, “what would make you say something like that?”

Anne: Right.

Vanessa: “Why would you joke about something like that?” It doesn’t hurt to ask. So sometimes they may say, “hey, I was, I was just kidding. Oh my gosh. Why are you taking it so seriously?” So that is an opportunity to let that person know, if in fact they were thinking it, or they are joking about it, but really they’re not —

Anne: Right.

Vanessa: When you stop and say, “listen, that is a very serious topic, and when I hear that coming from you, I don’t know where it’s coming from, so I want to make sure that you know I am here for you. And if you need someone to talk to, I’m here.” Does that make sense?

Anne: Yes, good advice.

Vanessa: You open the door to say “hey, you may say you’re joking, but just in case you are not, I’m here for you.”

Gabby: That’s the hardest part for people too, is the asking. It’s coming to terms with their own fear of the subject matter.

Vanessa: Correct, correct. Because you know, some people think, “well, if I, if I ask, will I make them think about it more? If I ask, ill that create more damage? If I ask — what if I ask and something goes wrong?” What if you don’t? What if that just taking a pause and saying, “how are you doing today?” And, and also listen for their feedback, right? So I have some people who’ll say, “I’m fine,” and one of the first things I say is, “OK, define fine. What does that look like?” Now, you know it’s socially normal to say, “hey, how are you?” “Oh, good.” “Ok, see you later.” But when you’re paying attention, and you notice something’s changed in a coworker or a friend, family member, whomever, and you take the time and say, “hmm, OK. I’m fine. What does that look like? Tell me, tell me a little bit more about ‘you’re fine.’ What is happening, how is your life doing?” So you make it about them, and you just kind of pay attention. Listen to the feedback that they give you. Yeah. Ask those questions and get them to really uh unpackage that, because that can be a loaded sentence, “I’m fine.” What does that mean?

Anne: Can I ask you about, is it something that you can ask on social media, or discuss on social media, and what are the implications?

Vanessa: People just kind of have this need to put up a façade, right? And they, they have to be OK. When you think about the industry that you both are in, people expect you to be happy, to be OK, to be great. But sometimes, if you can reach out to the person privately and have a private conversation, it may give them the opportunity to be more honest with you and share exactly what’s happening. So it just depends, really. It depends on the individual. Some people are an open book, but then the implications of that could be backlash, right, because everyone on social media feels they have an opinion. They know how you should feel, who you — where you should be in all of that, and that can perpetuate that issue. Remember I said that person who is going through this can be identified as a hurt person. So now they have opened themselves up for more criticism.

Anne: And then, were the signs they are? You know what I mean, based on the posts on social media? I know there is always people speculating about that. Should we have known by the posts?

Vanessa: Right. And so a lot of times it’s paying attention to what’s being said, reaching out and saying, “when you posted that, what did that mean?” Because sometimes it could be a cry for help, but we just don’t know. That is the thing with suicide. We don’t know. That person in their mind, they are, there is a perception and an interpretation of their situation. So in that moment — think about your feelings. They ebb and flow. They come and go. So they could have just had a discussion with a girlfriend and decided “let me post it on there.” And if someone is paying attention, it is OK to ask, privately maybe. “Hey, what’s going on? Can we talk? Call me, text me, something. I noticed you posted something, and I’m not quite sure what that means, but I thought I would check in any way.”

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Anne and I have worked to use this, this platform. We are very fortunate to have this as a way to communicate with other voice actors and business owners, and to take away some stigmas, to help normalize some of the problems and the challenges that we all have. How do we do that with mental health? How do we normalize some of that? Because I think sometimes people think, “I’m alone, I can’t. This is only happening to me.”

Vanessa: Oh yeah. Yeah. I can think of a client that I was working with, and he had gone through his own experiences, and, and fortunately did not complete suicide. He felt like he had to keep this experience that he had close… knit. He couldn’t share it with anyone because, “if I do, what sort of judgment is going to be passed on me?” So as a male, one of the things that society teaches the young boys, men, is, you have to be strong. You know, don’t cry, don’t share your feelings. You know? And just, you will be OK. Everything is going to be good. You are fine. But I find that that just again perpetuates the issues. For him, he decided to answer questions honestly, so a friend he hadn’t seen in a while said, “hey, you know, around this time, I was checking on you, and you didn’t respond. What happened? Where were you?” And he decided to say, “I was going through a tough time, and this is what happened to me.” Well, because he opened the door, that friend disclosed to him that that, “oh my gosh, I am actually in a place where I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who to reach out to.” And so it was a great opportunity for him to share his pain with someone, and because he was able to do that, now this person felt like, “OK, it’s not just me, you know. We are all dealing with some issue, and so here is this person who went through some things, maybe not exactly the same, but I can reach out for help.” One of the quotes I share with some clients is don’t make a permanent decision on a temporary situation. I can’t remember who I heard it from, but it made a lot of sense to me because it’s like, well, things change. Feelings change. Situations change, but the thing is in that moment, that person’s perception is just so negative that they don’t see a way out. So I think that is one of the ways to normalize it, to say, “hey, we’re all hurting. We all have history. We all have experienced different things in life, and it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK that you’re in pain. There is help out there. There is people that can help you and support you.”

Gabby: It’s such an important message, and I mean, gosh, Anne and I can both attest to this. Bosses do cry. Bosses have emotions. Bosses go — we go through all of it, the whole spectrum.

Anne: This whole creative industry, I mean, we face rejection um so much on a day to day basis in all different forms, and I think it is just so important to know that, that you’re not alone, and as you mentioned, and I said everybody hurts, and everybody —

Vanessa: Everybody.

Anne: — everybody has, and to not feel alone, I think, is really a, a big safety net, or to at least know you are not alone, that, there are people out there that you, that you can talk to. Um hopefully, you know, you get to them, and you find them.

Vanessa: And don’t be afraid. When you think about the hurt, it’s like, shame or guilt of experiencing. So for example you think about the industry with actors and business owners. There can be this piece that, “is there meaning in what I am doing,” or some sort of identity crisis, or, you know, “what is the purpose of all of this?” Right? So existential type of challenges that people face. “Hmm, if I chose to be a, for example, a voiceover, but now that I’ve gone down this road, I can’t change it. My family thinks that” – well, you know there’s the saying, you make your bed, you lie in it, type of thing, and so people assume that they have to stay with that choice that they make, and it’s OK. It’s OK to say, “no, umm I’m at a place right now where this is not what I want to do,” or “I’m more than just this. There are other sides of me that I’d like to explore, and, and so I’m going to be courageous and venture out into these areas. And if you don’t understand it, ask me questions.” All of those things play a role in being able to say, hmm, “I have some pain. I have them negative self talk. I have some difficulties that I am facing, and I just, I want to make a change. I’m not sure how,” but don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Seek a professional, if it’s a spiritual leader, if it’s an accountability partner. That’s another thing that I have started to use with my clients, is, who in your circle — think about your circle. When you close your index finger and your thumb, those people who can fit in that circle, who are they? Identify your tribe, get support from that tribe, and get them to kind of help guide you or walk alongside of you so that you can find a way out.

Gabby: It’s so important. Nobody does this alone, and that’s the thing that yeah, people, people forget. They just – ughh, everybody gets so wrapped up in their individual — whatever it is. Whatever’s happening, that they isolate.

Anne: I, I love what you said about being able to like change, to change direction and if it’s not working for you, and to be you. I mean, and that, that includes, you know, I think people in this industry. If it’s not fitting you, and it is not going exactly the way that you are envisioning it, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay there.

Vanessa: Correct. Correct.

Anne: And I think most people, when they stay there, and things continually don’t go the way they expect or anticipate, that just leads them down a very unhappy path.

Vanessa: Correct. Correct. And if you keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same response.

Anne: Right.

Vanessa: And so you know, people become depressed. They become discouraged. Anxiety grows, shame and guilt. “I should have done this. I could have done that. Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I venture out? Why didn’t I — why, why, why?” Well hello, I mean, that’s not going to help anyone, you know? And so that takes you down a rabbit hole of self-defeating statements, negative self-talk. “I’m undeserving. I’m a failure.” And that narrative just continues and perpetuates those, those depressive symptoms people normally experience. Speaking as someone who comes from an HR background, and I decided, well, you know, it is working with humans, but that’s not the type of work I wanted to do, that I thought I was called to do. And I decided to change. And so what I did was I went back to school. I went back to that existential questioning, right? What am I here for? I was created for something bigger, for something greater. Is it through human resources, or is it through something else? I’ve done this 10 years. It’s not working, and it’s not bringing me the level of joy and happiness that I’m looking for. So I’m making a change. And let me tell you, I’ll never looked back. Now is that going to work the same for everybody? Maybe not. It’s your life. You have to make the choice to say, this is what brings me happiness.

Gabby: I think sometimes people wear like it is a badge of honor to say, “I’m my own worst critic.”

Vanessa: mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Gabby: But that is not, that is not, that is not a badge you want, because —

Vanessa: No.

Gabby: — you are not going to be able to um self-care and be compassionate to your own needs if you’re always criticizing —

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: — yourself.

Vanessa: Correct.

Gabby: Vanessa, how can learn more about you and your practice and the things that you’re doing um to, to help those who are struggling?

Vanessa: So yeah. Um check me out on my website. It’s My contact information is there. If anyone has any questions, um and they would like to just check in, I do have some 15 minute complimentary consults that I can provide. If it is to try to find you — if it is someone in the North Carolina or specifically Charlotte area, I can connect you with a clinician or provide some resources. I would be happy to do that, some suicide prevention resource guidelines and things like that, I will be glad to do that. So yeah, that is a great way to reach out to me and contact me.

Anne: Vanessa, thank you so much. This has been such a valuable, valuable interview, and uh we thank you for taking the time to, to talk to us, and to help our listeners out with some really great points and some great advice.

Vanessa: Absolutely, my pleasure. And thank you both for having me.

Gabby: Vanessa, you think there is anything else we should add to that?

Vanessa: Have a safety plan. I mean so think about, we have triggers. Identify what those triggers are. Understanding that there are some coping skills. If you have not gone to therapy or have that type of support, you may not readily know, so that is why it is important to seek out the help of a professional, but getting some coping skills. Also in there is, what are some signs that something is wrong? One person I spoke to said the way he — she identified it was to say “if I don’t leave my house for several days in a row, that is a sign. So come knock on my door. Here is the key,” or you know, things like that. Also too, the safety plan can have a contact, a list of who to contact and then support groups, things like that that can help in a moment of crisis to help somebody out.

Anne: I’d like to give a big shoutout to our sponsor, ipDTL, yet again connecting all of us together in one beautiful-sounding arena. So you can find out more about them at

Gabby: They, they help us make our circle, Anne.

Anne: They do, they absolutely do.

Gabby: You’re, you’re in my circle, no doubt.

Anne: I love it.

Vanessa: Oh good. [laughs]

Gabby: And for all things BOSS, of course, please be sure to check out our website, Lots of cool things there. Uh but most importantly, guys, the message for the day really is that we want you to know that um, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone, and we really hope that you reach out to someone.

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.