Formulating a Recovery Plan

It’s often not the place of a crisis counselor to participate in long-term therapy. Other specialist resources might be better suited to the moment. In the short term, the important thing is to get the sufferer to realize that he or she needs a long-term program for recovery. They need a plan.

It’s time to establish where the resources will come from – the how and the when. If you can furnish these resources, all the better. Know what’s available in your community, on the web, at the library – and within the sufferer’s own heart and mind. The human heart is a wellspring of strengths and complexities. Our souls harbor untapped, un-told tools and reflexes geared to our survival, built over millions of years of human evolution. The capacity to love, to learn, to struggle, to breathe, is bottomless.

For a thousand years of antiquity, the centre of the universe was determined to be the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in Greece. There, in Greek, inscribed on the front of the temple was what all humankind believed to be the most profound bit of wisdom in the world. The inscription read: Know Yourself.  Introduce your sufferer to the best that lies within their own heart.

In the diagram entitled Evolution of Suicidal Thoughts, we can see that at the first stage, many solutions cycle through the sufferer’s thoughts. But time is needed to deal with the loss. And there is seemingly, in the sufferer’s mind, no time to properly deal with the pain being felt. The pain is too great, the loss too important, to adequately grieve.

The means to deal with these feelings aren’t at the sufferer’s disposal. The mind yo-yos, then goes in a tailspin.

During the depressive phase preceding a crisis, the sufferer starts categorically ruling out possible solutions thought up in the beginning phase. If the slide continues, solutions suggested by others will also be ruled out.

But if the sufferer earnestly looks for ways to deal with their inner anguish, they may find a positive method. Just being open to talk to friends might be enough for the moment. If the sufferer isolates him or herself, the slope will likely continue downward; if the sufferer reaches out and establishes contact with someone they can call back, then recovery prospects are hopeful. If no one from his or her immediate circle is available, or desirable, then it is up to you the intervener to provide someone to fulfil the vital role of confidant.

You must present the potentially suicidal person with every positive, life-affirming option you can think of. Our role as counselors is to make the sufferer know that life is worth living. That there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

 As the sufferer eliminates options, suicide looms ever larger on the horizon of their melancholy thoughts. At first, it is one option among many; then, it becomes a likely, practical option; and finally, it seems to become the only way out.

This is when the planning phase begins. The sufferer thinks about “when”, “where” and “how”. Details get nailed down. At this stage, you have to go up to the person face-to-face and ask direct questions about whether or not they are considering suicide. The answers you receive will guide how you continue your intervention.

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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