In the face of this distress, we couldn’t continue our intervention efforts without trying to discuss the matter with the proper authorities. Band-aid solutions wouldn’t do.
My colleague met with the Casino’s management. We offered to work on the premises to help compulsive gamblers directly, one-on-one.
We also offered to train Casino employees on signs of distress to pay attention to. That way, those heading for a darker place could be referred for help before it was too late. A potential suicide could never be allowed to leave the Casino alone after squandering their life’s savings.
I was deeply troubled by the management’s response. They had no need for our help, or for anyone’s help for that matter. They claimed that no gambler ever considered suicide!
Did they mean that all of us folks in crisis counseling were delusional? Our intervention services were completely overwhelmed. My colleague and I, for example, remained available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we couldn’t handle the demand. Were all those late-night phone calls to us by desperate gamblers figments of the imagination?
This train of thinking took us aback. It was the same reply that crisis counselors got from high school principals confronted with evidence of drug use among their students. “We don’t have that problem at our school…” Their students were coming to us in droves, relating their severe distress.
Those in authority preferred to camouflage problems rather than deal with them head-on. Pretending a social ill doesn’t exist is never a good way of handling it.
As a society, we have to ask ourselves: are we as a collectivity ready to act in the best interests of our fellows?
Are our institutions ready to help those in need? Old or young, weak or strong, male or female, every citizen sup posedly has their role to play in our community. But does this, in the real world, extend to the handicapped, the mentally ill, the marginalized?
Book excerpt from Quebec Suicide Prevention Handbook (2014), Éditions TNT
Suicide Prevention Hotlines:
Québec: 1-866-APPELLE (277-3553). CLSCs can also help you.
Canada: Canada Suicide Prevention Service 833-456-4566
U.S.: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).