Combating Veteran Homelessness and Suicide

Drive On Podcast
Combating Veteran Homelessness and Suicide

Jessica-Rose Johnson is a Marine Corps veteran who has continued to serve veterans in a variety of roles since leaving the military.

She has worked to help homeless veterans and as a suicide prevention resource for the military, businesses, and other organizations.

Recently, she was honored with the distinction of being the State of Oklahoma's veteran of the year ????

Links & Resources


Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:00    Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a Veteran, Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, or a family member, this podcast we'll share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio and now let's get on with the show.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:00:22    Hi everybody. Today my guest is Jessica Rose Johnson, who is a Marine Corps Veteran who was medically discharged from the Marines in 2011. Since then she's continued to serve Veterans in a variety of roles. Today we're going to talk specifically about her work with homeless Veterans and suicide prevention. So welcome to the show. Why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:00:48    So thank you for having me. I'm so excited to be here and talk more with you. So like you said, I'm a Marine Corps Veteran. I'm also a Navy spouse. I'm a daughter of dual Air Force Veterans. So it's kind of interesting. I'm from a long lineage of military and I've been in the prevention field now for, oh gosh, it's been over six years actually. I was just calculating that today. So it's a really exciting experience. It's not what I went to school for. So I usually like to tell people, I actually went to school for crime intelligence analysis and religion and culture. So those are my masters. I like people and I like research. So prevention just fell in my lap and it made sense. And I love everything that I get to be involved with and really just teach people how to be people.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:01:33    Yeah. That's pretty interesting how people find out that what they went to school for isn't necessarily the thing that they end up doing. I have an accounting degree and I work in, this is not my full-time job or anything, but I work in software development. So, it has nothing to do with my degree at all. And it's pretty interesting how so many people that I've talked to on this show have changed gears along the way, with their careers and everything. So let's take a step back a little bit to your time in the military, around the time of your discharge, when you got out of the military was this something that you saw coming and had an opportunity to plan for, or was this more of a sudden change than you would have liked it to be?

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:02:21    So when it comes to my discharge, getting out of the Marine Corps, I say it's kind of both, I knew it was coming, but it was also quick at the same time. I was on a med board for a little over a year. And originally, my injury was in 2007. I didn't get surgery till 2010. And then by the time I was on a med board, I sustained another traumatic injury. So I knew I was getting out. I knew I wasn't gonna be able to stay in the Marine Corps. However, it was the when. So I went past my EES and I literally one day woke up, logged in and was like, oh, I was supposed to leave last Friday because good old Marines, they can't do math. So yeah, it was quicker than I anticipated. So I had that, like, I know it's coming for about a year, but then it was like, oh, oh, oh, it's here. It's now. Well, that was fast. So yeah, definitely an interesting experience.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:03:14    So, did you get a chance to like prepare for what the next steps were going to be for you? Like after you got out of the Marines or was it something like, oh my God, this is here and I didn't do anything to prepare for what's next for me.   

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:03:31    I am an over-prepared person. So I had a plan, A, B and C, and unfortunately God had a whole different plan. So everything fell to the shits, like plan A, plan B, plan C. I was working my way into playing D and realizing like this just really isn't working. So I had a really great plan set up. I was going to get out, I had my associates degree, I was going to start my bachelor's. I was renting a room from this person. I was going to work at this place. And every part of every plan just fell through to where I was sleeping in my car outside the officer's park, because I felt that was like the safest place to be is on base at the officer's park, you know? And I finally called my parents and said, yeah, I don't think it's going to work. I think I need to come home. I planned, but plans did not work.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:04:22    And that's part of the military in general is you plan for plans to not work and contingency plans and backups and everything like that. You have to plan for it to not work because there's just unforeseen circumstances that come into play, but you obviously have a calling to serve others. The fact that you joined the Marine Corps to begin with serving your country, that's one aspect. But after you got out of the Marine Corps, you have continued to serve Veterans throughout the whole time. Basically since you've gotten out and you've continuously worked to serve other Veterans in a variety of roles. So, where does this calling come from for you? Is this something that you learned from family or where did that come from for you?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:05:18    I think my calling the service in my blood, you know my whole family has served in the military. So my parents, all the way back to the revolutionary war, like each generation has served and my mom has just always been such a loving giving person. And I think it's just because of her experiences in life that there's so many people living that have these basic life needs that aren't being met. So how can we be giving people? We're all grateful and fortunate in our own ways. And yes, there's always that person who's worse off than we are, but how can we be a better person to help other people, you know? That's where I think it's just in my blood, my whole family served and having that kind of mentality, for my mom is how can we help other people?  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:06:05    Right. Well, so if we could, I'd like to take some time to talk about your work with the supportive services for Veteran families, which for the listeners is a program that helps Veterans who are either homeless or on the brink of becoming homeless. There's probably a lot to unpack. What it is that you do or that you've done with the homeless Veterans and these other people that are involved there. I guess let's start with how Veterans even get to the point of homelessness. Which might be a loaded question. I think since there's probably, not just one root cause for why someone becomes homeless, but if there's some trends that you've noticed along the way, it might be good to try to understand some of those to hopefully avoid those situations with some of the listeners here.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:07:04    So when it comes to homelessness, it is like you said, a loaded question, right? There's a lot of different reasons why people become homeless. But the one thing that I saw is a lot of people have relationship issues. So when the gentlemen on my caseload that I had, and I say, gentlemen, because of my particular case load, I never ended up having a female on my caseload, but not to say that there's not homeless female Veterans. So the gentlemen that were on my caseload, there was a lot of relationship stuff. So a recent divorce, or there was a child who ended up with a disability and the mother didn't wanna be involved in the picture, or a death. So the loss of a significant other by death and different things like that. And that really kind of changes the dynamics, but in all seriousness, it's almost a loss of anything.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:08:00    So a lot of times what you see is we lose identity in ourselves. So we lose a relationship with ourselves. We don't really know who we are. We're searching, we're lost. And you see that a lot in the Veteran community, because here we served, right. I would say, I'm a Marine. And people's response is way different than when I say, oh, I'm a Marine Corps Veteran, right? It's like, oh, I'm a Marine. I am something I'm part of this brotherhood. Right? And then you get out of the military and you're like, I was a Marine. How does this translate? Who am I now? So you go through almost like this identity crisis, but that happens when we lose relationships too. So when we lose relationships, either by a divorce or by death, right. There's a part of us that we've lost. So again, that kind of identity, what do we do?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:08:53    And if we don't have the good old resiliency, right? The bulk of their phrase there, if we don't have the resiliency, if we don't have the support systems to get us through those moments, then our health just falls completely apart. So you build up a loss of divorce, right? So there's an income change there right now. Now there's a housing change. So you're now looking for a job. Maybe you didn't have money to even afford a house. Maybe you were “couch crashing.” You get depressed or go through that self identity crisis. And the people you're couch crashing with are like, Hey, you got to get your life together, but you can't get out of this depressive state and you can't figure out who you are now without that person. Right. So it's kind of the snowball effect of things.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:09:39    And I really think a lot of health in general, falls into that. So mental health, physical health, whatever the case may be is that it's our health. So when our brains are not healthy, our bodies can't be healthy. And we get to a point where we give up. Right? We're so weak. We just don't have the energy anymore to keep fighting. Now, unfortunately, once people become homeless, a lot of times that becomes a new identity. So they found their place. They have a group of people now, they've established a lifestyle and they start moving forward and they start to get used to it. So if you try and change that, they're a little apprehensive because now that's who they are, their identity has now been reformed. And we saw this in one gentleman on my caseload as we got him into a hotel.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:10:34    And he said, oh, that it was too warm. The bed was too soft. It wasn't what he was used to. So then what happens? The identity changes again. So now they're questioning their relationship with themselves. Well the relationship with the people that I was living on the streets with, or I was in the shelter with, so now it's, again, a change of environment. A change of self, a change in relationships. So it's hard that once someone ends up homeless that then see the change in no longer being homeless, getting them into housing, getting them into employment, getting them back into a whole other new identity. So when I, when I think of homelessness and how people become homeless, yes, there's, there's a ton of different reasons, but a lot of it is linked back to relationships and our self identity and our self-worth.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:11:25    I've never really thought about it that way. Fortunately, I've never been homeless myself. So, it's not something that I've ever had personal experience with, but that loss, like you said, in a relationship with maybe a divorce situation or something where now you have to try to find a new place to live and then it is a depressing thing. And I know a little bit about depression and how that affects people. And you lose the desire to be motivated to do the things that you know you're supposed to do. You might even have a checklist of things. Okay. I know I need to get these things done, but then just getting out of bed in the morning sometimes is a really hard thing for you to do, nevermind going and taking a shower and getting a suit on and going on a job interview and trying to better your life and go looking for houses and all that kind of stuff.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:12:28    If you can't even force yourself to get up in the morning, how can you expect that you're going to do all that stuff? So, there's probably a lot of mental health aspects surrounding that as well but through other catalysts that take place whether it's a divorce or the loss of identity after your service or whatever. So that's interesting. How did it work with you and these homeless folks that you worked with? How was it that you were able to help them get out of this situation that they were in to try to rediscover who they were and kind of create that new identity?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:13:13    So, one thing with SSVF, the Supportive Services Veterans Families is housing first. So it's really, evidence-based where you've got to sustain those basic life needs, right? So if we can sustain that, then we can work on sustaining income. We can work on sustaining employment. So a lot of what I did was kind of interesting and kind of risky too. So I am who I am. I wear dresses, I wear heels and I would walk into homeless camps and I would smile and say, hi, my name is Jessica Rose. I'm looking for Veterans. Are any of you a Veteran? To any of those who are Veterans, here's my card. I'll be by next Tuesday whatever the case may be. And some of them would come through where there is a screening process for that program specifically. So the majority of them would come through the screening process and we'd be assigned.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:14:06    But my thing was like, they're there somewhere. And if we don't know where they are, and they don't know about the screen process, maybe it's just not a good time for them because for some people it’s just not. I had a gentleman on my caseload, loved him to death, dishonestly, where there's certain things that we have to know. Right. So if it's housing, first to get you into housing, if you have a felony, depending on what kind of felony you have, we can't house you in certain areas. So that as long as you're upfront and you tell me, Hey, I have this felony, for example, I cannot live within a certain distance of a school. Now I know I can work with that. You know, we can find a place that'll work for you, or if you have a pending felony, right.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:14:47    Well, you could go to jail at any point. So we can't stabilize you in housing. We have to stabilize your legal situation to make sure if we get you into housing, you can stay in that housing. So there's a lot of those things that kind of come up and just having those honest and open conversations with them and saying, look, I'm not here to judge you. Okay. We all screw up in life. I'm here to help you and the best way I can help you is by you being as honest as possible. So having those hard questions and asking them, Hey, do you have any felonies? And one of my guys said, yeah, I got a few. And I said, okay, okay. How many is a few? And he says, I got seven. I was like, all right. Yeah. That's a few.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:15:28    Okay, great. I said, when was your last felony? And I forget what month it was, but we'll say for the sake of time he said, April, I'm like April, like last month? And he said, yeah.   All right. Well, what felonies do you have, and he says drugs, man, get you every time, every time. So sure enough this guy had drug felonies and I said, okay, well, have you been through the drug court system? So in my state, we have a system where we're trying to get people into treatment and get them helped because our correctional system doesn't correct. It's a punishment system. Like I think we can all agree. So they go to prison and it's not correcting their behavior. Like it's a punishment for getting caught for doing something bad, because again, we all do bad stuff.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:16:22   So really saying, there's this resource that exists here, how can I get you into this resource to then help benefit you? So getting him enrolled in a drug court, right. Having that conversation with the liaisons in drug court, Hey, I got this guy he needs to be in here. And sometimes you run into people who are burnt out. You also run into people who are in jobs that they just really shouldn't be in. So I would get different things from different resources. Oh, well, they came here before and this happened. I'm like, okay, well that was like two years ago. So first of all, we've all changed, second of all, did you actually address the situation? So that's what I would find a lot too, is people just get so burnt out in their own jobs that when someone does come in for help, that person's already struggling, just like we talked about with depression, it's hard enough to get out of bed if they found this resource on their own.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:17:14    Holy hell. But if I gave the resource to them and said, show up to this appointment and the fact that they actually showed up, like that's huge. That's huge. So really trying to have that open conversation with them, say, “look, I'm not here to judge. I'm here to help.” And then really listening to what their needs are and how we can pull in community resources to meet their needs, to get them going again. It's a lot of multiple step things. So, like housing first. Oh yeah, sure. I'll get you into a house, but that's not the end of it. Because like I said we're talking about depression, we're talking about there's an identity crisis. That's a huge change for people. You know, like last night I was sleeping on the cold, hard ground in the pouring rain, and now I'm in a hotel room. That's a big mental shift for people.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:17:59    It is.  So I want to switch gears a little bit here but still talking about your work with Veterans here, but after you worked with the homeless Veterans, you transitioned to a role as the suicide prevention program manager for the Oklahoma Army National Guard and suicide prevention is one of the reasons why I started this podcast after several people that I served with took their own lives. I decided I just couldn't sit around and wait to hear that someone else that I knew or anybody really, any other Veteran took their lives. I needed to do something to help. And here we are about two years later and I'm still going. It's just that important to me that people get the help that they need and resources are available to them.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:18:48    And so talking to people like yourself, who offer this type of training and that type of stuff is really important to me because I wanna make sure that people know that there are resources like this available. We all have heard about the 22 Veterans a day statistic. And I think in recent years, that number has actually come down a bit, but it's a good thing, but we still quote the 22 anyways. I think this is probably going to be another loaded question, but how do we get that number even lower? What are some of the things that you do that work on, you know improving that number. I know you've worked with the National Guard, but you also work with other businesses and other organizations. What is it that you do to help identify these at-risk people and get them the help that they need?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:19:48    So the thing about that is like, we're all at risk when it comes to suicide. So if you haven't been personally touched, you just don't know that you've been personally touched by it, right? So when it comes to suicide, it's quite interesting, especially when you talk about the numbers is a lot of that has to deal with, are we willing to call it what it is? And it makes people uncomfortable? So the reason I think suicide is different than any other death is the self-blame, right? Because if someone dies from a heart attack or a clogged artery, right, we don't go back and question every hamburger we ever bought them. Or like if somebody dies from I don't really know how a lot of medical conditions work, but in my mind, I'm thinking diabetes, because someone close to me has diabetes, right?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:20:33    So if their blood sugars were so out of control, that they ended up dying from it. Am I going to go back and question every time I ever brought them a cookie, what are we doing? But when it comes to suicide, we do, right. I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't have done that. When was the last time I called the woman, the last time I texted him. Right? So it makes people uncomfortable. So when someone dies, right. People it's so hard to accept if it's a suicide. So it was an accident. It's a lot easier to post while like, oh, it was an accident. Oh, that sucks. Right? The self blame game doesn't kick in, but for suicides, it does. And since people are so uncomfortable to talk about it and call it what it is, the numbers are going to fluctuate. So until we start saying, yes, this is a suicide,   

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:21:18    the numbers are never really going to be accurate. The other thing I always like to inform people of is overdoses are not always considered suicides. In fact, the majority of the time overdoses are considered accidents that are unintentional. So the reason for that is it's actually up to every state, the state determines how they categorize the deaths and most err on the side of was there a note left because we can't prove intention. And again, if I say they died from an accidental overdose, that's a lot easier for people to handle then they died from suicide. So one big thing is talking about suicide saying suicide, right. Even just saying suicide out loud makes people uncomfortable. So in a lot of my trainings, I have people ask about suicide. And it's not, are you thinking about hurting yourself? Because when people are thinking about suicide, they're thinking about ending their hurt. So that's one of the things that you'd have to be super direct on. Are you thinking about suicide? Are you thinking about killing yourself? That's another option, but really just, are you thinking about suicide because saying suicide itself is almost like when I've done interventions, it's kind of like she said it now I can say it. Now we can have that conversation  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:22:35    You have opened that door to that conversation.

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:22:38    Yes. And the other thing is that we're so quick. We're so quick all the time, all the time. We're so busy. We're so quick. I'm guilty of it. Definitely not perfect here, but what happens is, we do things in such a quick manner, right. Where it's like, “Hey, how's it going? Good. How are you? Good.” And we're running off. Right? When people ask me how I'm doing, I normally have something to say. And they're like, “oh, cause I was just trying to be nice.” Right. And then it gets super awkward. Cause I was like, oh, I was actually going to start a conversation with you. That's that, we don't do that anymore. So as a society, as a people, we're not communicating, we're not talking, holding the door open for someone.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:23:18    I mean, seriously, how many times is it like, oh, I'm just gonna slip in the door real quick and I'll hold it for the person behind me. But it's just like small acts that make mountains of wonders for people. So just talking about suicide, helps suicide. So that's always the biggest myth is like, oh, I'm going to ask someone about suicide. If I mention suicide, it is going to put the idea in their head. Well, let me tell you it's out there. Okay. People know about it. It's a thing, especially with the marketing of the 22 per day, right. If people know that there are people suffering and if we're not having conversations with people and checking in with people and just being honest and open, I think it's one of the other biggest simplest things. So not just saying suicide. As you know, when we ask people how they're feeling is validating and not trying to relate. So a lot of the time people tell us a shitty story. And we're like, oh my God. Yeah. Here's my equally shitty story. I'm like, oh yeah, we're going to bond. But there's actually not just knowing what happens. So like how many times have we heard, oh, you gotta eat your dinner because the starving kids in Africa. 

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:24:30   So kind of the same concept, is that there's always someone worse off than you. But I am struggling right now. So when we throw all these other things, when someone tells you a shitty story sometimes all you gotta do is say “that freaking sucks and I'll tell you, it makes wonders, it’s wonderful for people just to validate it.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:24:55    And that's just sometimes all that they really are even needing in that conversation. So, the reason why they're bringing it up is just the validation that they're not looking for a contest to see whose situation was worse. I've seen that a lot with Veterans, combat Veterans, especially, oh, my deployment was harder than yours. And it was one of those things where we were in firefights every day. And then, oh, our base was rocketed every day. And all these things that they come up with and some of it may be true. Some of it may just be puffing your chest out and that type of thing, contest.   But it

Scott DeLuzio:    00:25:37    doesn't matter. At the end of the day, someone is probably struggling with the fact that they experienced these traumas in their combat situation that they were in. And they might just need some validation, say, “yeah, man, that sucks.” That was pretty shitty. And you know, now how do we deal with that and move forward from there? 

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:26:06    Yeah. I had that conversation with somebody once they told me gosh, like everything they were telling me, I was like, Ooh, I can't find hope for this guy. Like, this is literally the shittiest story I've ever heard. Like, holy moly. So when he was done, telling me his story. I just told him if I do that, that really effing sucks. And he said, thank you. And I was like, I mean, sorry, man. Like, I ain't got nothing else for you. That's just how it is. That's a terrible situation. Nobody else would validate him. Everybody else blamed him. Oh, wow. Well, you shouldn't get with that girl. And we told you that you shouldn't do this. And we told you that you shouldn't have been there. And you know, like you should have listened to us. It's your fault you're in this situation. Rather than just saying, man, that sucks.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:26:58    And then at the end of the day, you can't go back and change those things. You can't change the place that you're in or the people that you are with, it is what it is and it happened. And that's just how it is now you have to deal with it and move forward from it. Yeah the situation sucks. I don't know this person's situation specifically, but I've known enough shitty situations that I know what you're talking about here. And you know, there's nothing you can do to change the past. So now I think the takeaway there is how do you deal with the future after dealing with this bad situation. I know with your company you offer suicide prevention training resources to businesses and organizations. What is it that you do with these companies and these organizations in terms of training people on how to identify the at-risk people that if you want to call it that for certain, I know you said we're all technically sort of at risk, but identify someone who's maybe further down that path. 

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:28:17    Someone who's actively in crisis or actively struggling and just trying to make it through the day. So I actually tailor all of my training and presentations to really the needs of the organization. So one organization in particular, they had a lot of suicide attempts. So they reached out to me and they said, what are we missing? How are we not connecting with people? So I just came and had a conversation with them. And what I did was I did a pre and post survey and I asked people a lot of questions. And then I shared the results. Like, obviously it's anonymous, right. But I shared like 75% of you in this room have been in so much pain that you'd rather be dead than alive. So really for that one, talking about how you are treating each other on a daily basis?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:29:05    You know, are you helping build each other up? Because there are so many times again where we're just running, running, running. So the big focus there was really trying to get them to be aware that everyone there was struggling. So not just that one person who had attempted suicide or the three or four people who had attempted suicide, but out of the 50 people, right. We had a huge number that had thought about it. I also worked with another company. I came in, I did a very general touch base with them. They had a recent person who passed away in their company. So they wanted me to come in. I had 30 minutes, but I did multiple 30 minute presentations to catch all the different shifts. People kind of coming in on their breaks, that kind of thing. And then I worked with management on, okay, so these are your people that are grieving, right?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:29:52    And the grieving process is just going to come up when it comes up. Let's be real. It could be today, or it could be 10 years from now. So with that, really training them further. So assisting is one of the licensed trainings that I have. It's an international based training. And with that one it's two, eight hour days, but it really teaches people. It doesn't just teach people. It empowers people to act to the point that if someone is standing on a bridge, you feel empowered enough to walk up to that person and say, “Hey, what had you standing on the bridge here today? And then walking them off the bridge. So it's really in-depth training. I absolutely love it. I think it's life-changing, for it really works on the management team to say, “Hey, these are some skills you're gonna need in the long-term because there might be someone coming in one day, that's extra struggling.” 

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:30:42    Like I think of when people come into work late. We all know that person who's no time management, but why is it that they just don't care about time management. I know somebody in my life like that. Or is it that all of a sudden they're chronically late? Well, what's causing that lateness, what's going on in their life? So rather than being like, you need to be on time, why are you always late having a conversation saying, “Hey you're showing up late on a regular basis. What's going on here?” So I do a lot of that, like talking to companies on how to approach situations from a human aspect, rather than a disciplinary aspect, because I'm not saying let people get away with whatever, but I'm also saying like, there's oftentimes something's just going on in someone's life.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:31:27    Like when I tell people all the things that I've been through in the past year, I mean, we've all been through, I mean, 2020 was the worst year for everyone, not just COVID, that they're like what? You had this going on, you have that going on. I'm like, yeah, we have no clue the struggles that people bring. And we have no clue about the life that they are battling on a daily basis. So something as simple as saying, “Hey, you've been coming into work late the last two weeks. Is there something going on that we need to talk about?” And if they're just like, no. I'm just like, okay, well you need to figure it out. You need to correct yourself. But maybe that opens up the conversation, right. Because communicating that can be the downfall of our society, but it can also be the greatest success is having a conversation. So a lot of what I do is just talk to people about being leaders, how to have those conversations, especially those hard ones. When you do feel like you need to ask about suicide, and then also what benefits and resources does the company already have, or the company needs, so program evaluation. So companies who have EAP programs, is it enough? Do your employees know about it, those kinds of things? So that's some other stuff that I work on with companies too,  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:32:36    You know, just kind of circling to something I mentioned earlier. I personally served with several people who have unfortunately taken their own lives. You know, after deployment. They survived the deployment where people were actively trying to kill them and then they came home and something happened. And you know, I don't know the specific details for all of them in what was going on in their lives, but something made them think that ending their lives would be the better option. And that's obviously not the case, we don't want people to do that. I would much rather have someone be here tomorrow than having to have them make that decision. But there's also the other side of that is there's family members who were around those people.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:33:35    They had family, some of them had wives or at least they had parents and whatever. Those loved ones are now, like you said earlier, they're looking back and questioning everything that they did. Did I do this right? Did I say this the wrong way? Was I too harsh with whatever? There's no right answer to like, oh, what did I do wrong or anything like that? Because again, you can't change the past, but you can change the future. So for people who know someone who's on that brink of having some rough times and they're having some troubles, what are some things that they can do to get them help to move away from that decision and get them a little bit further away from that so that they don't end up becoming another statistic and they continue to move on and thrive.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:34:37    I think one thing is having that open conversation. So having an open conversation really helps and giving them the time and space. So a lot of the time we want to poke “tell us, tell us, tell us”  and they're just not ready. So sometimes just saying, Hey, I've noticed these things you're seeming a little bit, not like your typical self, maybe like being late or being depressed, staying in your pajamas all day, or those kinds of things. And I'm really concerned about you. And I want to know, is there anything I can do to help? And again, just asking outright some of the ways that we word it is, Hey, I've noticed that you've been showing up late to work. You're not dressing like yourself. You seem a bit depressed. And usually when people start showing signs like this, they might be thinking about suicide.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:35:30    Is that something that you've been thinking about? And I'll tell you why I've asked everyone I've ever asked that no one has ever gotten mad at me for asking that, right. So it's either, oh gosh, no, I'm just having a really rough week, thank you for caring or, yeah, actually I have been these months have been rough. So just taking that time and space to have that conversation with someone and knowing that we're busy, knowing we have a million things on our schedule. But if I didn't show up to this podcast, this interview and you'd be sitting around and be like, well, this is weird. You probably call me or text me or send me an email and then, okay, well, I hadn't heard from her. If I then later told you, Hey, I'm so sorry. I was on the phone call with somebody who was thinking of suicide.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:36:17    You're going to be like, oh, wow. Yeah, no big deal. Right? Nothing else matters because we literally have a life on the line. So when we put that into perspective of like, I'm going to be late too, I'm going to miss whatever, right. This person is missing out on life because whatever it is is draining them. So giving them some time, giving them some compassion and love when it comes to resources, it really depends on what's going on in the person's life. Because I've done an intervention where I was like, all right, I got to get you connected to like 15 people, but really hearing what is that big thing right now? What's that feather on the camel's back? Right? Because when it comes to suicide, it's the everyday life stressors that just box us in. And so we're in this black box and we can't see the light.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:37:06    So sometimes it just takes that little bit to get the light and we can start peeling away all those stressors. So if we find that's the big thing to focus on and always getting professional help. If you are so depressed and you have 99 things going on in your life, you can't handle them all, shoot. I can't handle it. And I know things I have going on in my life. That's why I have assistants. That's so I pay people to do things for me. So it's just like that, like when you're depressed and you're overwhelmed, get help. So saying I need to talk to somebody who can help me lay these things out. There are a lot of great services, Giving OR actually is a nonprofit where doctors can donate their time.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:37:52    So Veterans, first responders, anyone who's dealt with a natural disaster. So in Oklahoma here, we have tornadoes a lot. Right? So that's an opportunity for you to go on there, find a provider in your area that even if it's just an hour to sit down to just clear your mind and head. Another really great easy one is the crisis line. And I know people are like, oh my gosh, that's a big thing. Like calling a stranger. Well, first of all, you're calling a stranger, so they're unbiased. So they're not going to pick sides. They're going to listen to you. So they're not going to be like, well, I ain't told you that like your friends are like, I've told you for the 10th time. Right. The other thing is, it's out there. It's a service. So if we don't use it, we lose it.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:38:34    So if you're overwhelmed one day and you need an unbiased opinion, you can call that line and say, look, I'm really overwhelmed right now. Or I'm really worked up right now. And I just need someone to talk to for a minute. So I can just take a breath. When you call that line, you tell them that, okay, well, let's talk about it. What's got you so overwhelmed and worked up because I've had that conversation a couple of times too. I had a young kid call me once and just was like, dah, dah, dah, dah. And I was kind of like, okay, okay. You know, for him, he's super overwhelmed. And then he said, oh my goodness, I can't believe I just called a stranger about this. This is, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. I wasted your time. You didn’t waste my time.

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:39:09    Do you feel better? And he was like, yeah, I do feel better. I was like, you didn't waste my time, but we're good. So it's the same thing with the crisis line if you can call in. And I really just encourage everyone to at least call in once because you can call in and say, Hey, I'm not in crisis right now, but I just want to know what the process was like. And if I was, or if someone I love is, how would that conversation go? Or what kind of resources would you offer them? Because most crisis lines get routed to a local call center. So you're getting local people. Also there's 2-1-1. So it's kinda in between 4-1-1 and 9-1-1. You can call in and say, Hey, I need shelter. I need food. I need clothing.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:39:50    I'm looking for mental health resources. I'm looking for substance abuse resources. And they'll be able to connect you to local resources in your area. And again, that's typically answered by a local community person. So in Oklahoma we have two major call centers in our two major cities. So if you call in and you're like, I'm from middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, Kansas they're going to know where that's at. So that also helps in the conversation too. There's tons of resources out there. There's tons of great national resources and databases to get services and to get more help for people.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:40:25    Yeah, that's great. And like I said, I've known people who've been affected by this. I actually interviewed a mother of a soldier who committed suicide and just hearing the the pain in her voice and the regret in wishing she had done things differently and all that stuff. I just want to make sure that other people who are out there who might be dealing with a similar situation just know that there are resources available. So you don't have to go this alone. You might not be able to handle it on your own for your own reasons, because while you might want to help this person, because you love them and you want to help them as best as you can, but you may not have those resources or the know-how to really give them the help that they really need, but there are resources available. And some of the ones that you mentioned are perfect for this, the Veteran's crisis line and 2-1-1 resources and things like that, really being able to dig down to what it is that they need. And then, offering the right assistance at the right time, I think is really gonna make a difference. So, I really appreciate that bit of insight there.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:41:50    Yeah. And the crisis line is actually going to be going to a three-digit number too, which is super exciting. Because I don't know why it took so long, but it did. So it'll actually be going to a three digit number and that should be launched within the next year. So to make it super easy, you don't have to Google the crisis line.

Scott DeLuzio:    00:42:07    And I know there are websites that have that number all over the place. So if you Google it, you're probably going to find the right number anyways, but it's just like 9-1-1. You don't want to have to remember this 10 digit number to get emergency services, especially when your mind is not in the right place. You know, it's much easier to remember a short three digit number. So, that's great. And I'm glad to see that that's coming around, hopefully in the near future. Is there anything else that we maybe didn't touch on that you might want to offer to the listeners as far as other advice or resources or really anything that we didn't cover?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:42:53    Oh, there's so many resources out there. I could spend an hour alone talking about that. I think the big thing that I just want to leave with is really remembering that we're all human. We're all human, we're all struggling. We're all dealing with our own life. And just taking that extra minute sometimes with people, is that people are people. And if we are more human to each other, we can make a world of difference.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:43:17    That's wonderful. I really appreciate that little insight there too. So well, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today. Where can people go to get in touch with you and to find out more about what you do?  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:43:30    So the best way to reach me is going to be through my website. So good old You'll have my contact information a little bit more about the training that I'm doing. You can sign up for our newsletter that has tips. And we also give shout outs to different podcasts and different resources. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:43:58    So, awesome. Yeah. And I will have links to your website and any of your social media sites available in the show notes for people who might want to get in touch with you so they can find out about you and follow you on social media, wherever they happen to be. They can get in touch with you that way. So thank you again for joining me and sharing a little bit of what you do and the process around trying to help these Veterans, between the homelessness and suicide prevention. It really is, you know, great work that you're doing. I really applaud your efforts.  

Jessica-Rose Johnson:    00:44:40    Well, thank you for having me on, and I appreciate you and what you're doing, because just giving people a platform to have a voice and to hear more from others is huge and extremely beneficial. So I appreciate you and your service.  

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:52    Great. Thank you very much. 

Scott DeLuzio:    00:44:54    Thank you for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at DriveOnPodcast. 

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