The Chain of Events

The length of time between the instant of personal loss and the act of suicide itself will differ. But events normally follow a certain progression, whether it takes hours, days or weeks. Generally stated, the process takes about 6 to 8 weeks. For the chronically suicidal, things can percolate over a course of months or even years.

1) At the start, the sufferer experiences a grave, difficult situation. He or she does not find a solution from within the personal or community resources available to them. This provokes a deep desire to flee from the pain.

2) At some point, the idea of suicide crosses their mind. Suicidal ideation is at first fleeting. It starts with a vague notion, a momentary flash. There is no real plan formed, no thought of consequences. But the idea will reappear later on.

3) If things don’t work themselves out, this ideation will creep into the sufferer’s thoughts, gradually, like the tide lapping up on shore. Slowly, as other options don’t present themselves, this neat solution will seem almost logical. When thinking about ending it all becomes an everyday part of the sufferer’smental furniture, the planning process will begin. Suicide becomes an obsession. At the same time, the subject will raise questions. There will be fears: the sufferer will ask, silently, within the private confines of a confused, pained mind: Am I going crazy? After all, I’m already suffering more than I can bear… This part of the progression is called the reflection phase.

4) Now we reach the danger zone: the crystallization phase. The sufferer is fixated on what appears, in their tunnel vision, to be the only possible remedy. Suicidal ideation sets, like concrete. What once seemed absurd now appears feasible, even desirable.

5) This leads quite naturally to the planning phase. Generally, with most suicides, the planning phase is no confused, random state of mind. The sufferer is busy choosing a date, time, method and place.

As the sufferer moves towards the ultimate irreversible act, other solutions, other options to alleviate their psychic pains seem outmoded, obsolete, beyond even considering. There is a certain detachment. The sufferer is ambivalent until the final moment. A suicide can be stopped at any point before the very last second. The only point of no return is death itself.

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).

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