The following survey was given online in 2015 to 59 mental health professionals. The questions are geared to see if and how these professionals interact individually and in relation to significant others with thoughts of their own death.
Here in the first slide, almost 34% of the mental health professionals hardly talk to family or friends about personal death. Another 52% reported periodically. Yet in the second, over 50 of the 59 that took the survey view death as natural and spiritual in nature. This discrepancy was seen in other survey questions, suggesting that even mental health professionals seem to have conflicting views between theory and practice on the theme of death.
This practical discrepancy was seen on the question of preparation. A little less than 14% reported to have planned out their memorial service, which wasn't defined but implied through the words "planned out" more than just a discussion.
At the end of the Introductory workshop a survey is given. Since 2014-2019 a total of fifty-five surveys exist that express the attendees views and experiences on the Conversing with Death Workshop:
1) The attendees were asked if they had a daily or weekly ritual to provoke death awareness. Thirty said no; twelve reported yes. In 2014, the question was worded differently, which taints the question as modified from 2015-2019. The question was originally, "Have you ever heard or read about the practice of body impermanence". The results were as follows: 5 said no; 7 reported yes.
2) The attendee had opportunity to express how he/she experienced the workshop, feeling threatened was an option. Of the fifty-five attendees, checked this box.
3) Another choice the attendee had was to share if he/she found the workshop of no use. Two reported such an outcome, even though one stated in writing that there were feelings of helplessness, confusion and excitement and the other reported that the workshop "still made me think."
4) The attendees had opportunity to share both in checklist and written form what emotions surfaced. The three leading emotions were sadness (25), anger (10), and peace (10). Negative feelings reported in writing: grief, past grief, fear, apprehension, loss, confusion,dis-ease, loneliness, and fatigue. Positive feelings reported: relaxing, trust, hope, tenderness, joy, love, gratitude, happiness, acceptance, empathy, and connection. Thirty-eight reported that the workshop was insightful.
5) Written comments were shared by some attendees in response to how they experienced the workshop: "helping clients," "help my hospice work," "appreciation of life," "solidified my faith," and "grief for parents."
Observations: This survey suggests that the majority of attendees found the work of death awareness helpful, in spite of the negative feelings which one should expect given the nature of the theme. And that positive emotions seem to equally come along when reflecting on death.
About a week later attendees were reached to report if and how their experiences had changed since the workshop. Often in open-ended questions, the majority who responded shared that their experiences shifted to a more contemplative state that at times promoted conversations with family or friends.
From 2017-2019 (through June) a survey was given to those attending the Intro workshop. This survey was handed at the beginning. The total number of surveys gathered is 48, the majority female (36). Three did not choose male or female and put "Gender Neutral" or "Other". The rest were male. The age range was from 24-73. Most were in the mental health profession (therapist, social worker, students), only one was a physician. A few had a career outside of these two professions (Spiritual Director, Speaker/Writer, Medium). Most of the questions were based on preference, what the attendee wished if he/she could choose. Only the last question (how the attendee thinks he/she will die is based more on one's medical history, current medical revelations, and intuition).
Here are the results:
1) When asked what month he/she would pick to die, the top 3 were chosen: October (8), May (7), and March (7). January had 6 votes. No one picked July. Other months received 1 or 2 votes.
2) The next question was about which season he/she would choose to die. Here, the results differed from the first question. For instance, one attendee picked the month of October but for the season he/she picked the summer. The three seasons chosen were: winter (15), spring (15), and fall (14). Only three chose summer and one had no preference.
3) When asked what part of the day or evening he/she would like to die, evening had 16 votes (after midnight had 9), making the general "during the night" a majority with 25. Morning came in second with 14. The afternoon had the lowest with 8 votes. One had no preference.
4) The place one wished to die was unanimous, home. The only exceptions: one chose the hospital, one chose an assisted living, and one had no preference.
5) The question about how the attendee thinks he/she might die began with a list of statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on how people in the US die. The list was as follows: Heart Disease, Cancer, Lung Disease, Accidents, Stroke, Alzheimer's, and Diabetes. The majority chose heart disease (18) and cancer (12). Stroke was third with 6, one attendee adding the words, "No lingering". A few chose two and did not specify, so they were not added to the above numbers. For instance, one added an "X" to Stroke and Alzheimer's, another checked heart disease and cancer, and yet another attendee put cancer and Stroke. If added, Stroke would leap from 6 to 8. Two attendees in their 50s wrote down old age. Three picked accidents, but the type was not specified, and one wrote "fastest". Technically, vehicle accident is not a part of the CDC definition in this particular list; a separate statistic exists for vehicle accidents. However, from conversations some attendees did not seem to make a distinction and voiced dying in a vehicle accident.
Observation: This survey suggests that most people have preferences. However, it doesn't address what might happen if such preferences aren't met, which is often the case especially around the question of where one wishes to die. Such conversations can produce a helplessness that characterizes existential angst and the behavioral reactions that tag along with it. In the survey, one can see slight resistances in the making of written remarks such as dying of "old age" or the like.
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