Here is a checklist of points to follow up on in a crisis situation

  • Help the sufferer to understand that they have been cut off from the help and support that is there for them from those closest to them.
  • With the suicidal person, create a list of significant contacts that can be available in dark times. Usually, the sufferer hasn’t realized just how many resources they already have at their disposal.
  • Are there specific problems that some specific person on your list can assist the sufferer with? If not, the counselor can make introductions to people or organizations that can help with a specific problem. You can even accompany the sufferer to any first meeting.
  • With youth, writes Raymond Viger, I have found that it’s vital to get the sufferer interested in activities. Music, art, and dance are wonderful creative channels. The sufferer can exorcize inner demons through painting, poetry, rap, dance, sports… Community resources can provide such outlets. And these places can bring the sufferer in close contact with other artists – and with a public that appreciates their art.
  • Draw on every contact you can find from within the sufferer’s everyday world. Add contacts from your crisis counseling milieu. Often, you’ll find to your astonishment that the sufferer’s family and close friends had no idea the sufferer was in any distress at all. In other cases, they may have sensed that something was very wrong, but were afraid to get involved in case any help they may offer might backfire. The more outside contacts the sufferer interacts with, the more opportunities there will be for the pressure building up inside to be relieved. It’s all about outlets and safety valves.
  • Convince members of the sufferer’s entourage that all human contact will help, especially when interactions are filled with love and hope.
  • Often, by the time you get involved, a professional is already implicated – but the sufferer won’t confide in the professional. Your role may be limited to getting the sufferer to put their trust in the professional. Opening up communication channels is key. That includes both external communication channels and the sufferer’s own internal communication channels.
  • When re-establishing contact between the sufferer and his or her circle, you’ll have to deal with many of the factors that led to the sufferer’s isolation in the first place. Members of the entourage may be afraid to deal with the sufferer in a distressed, depressed state. The sufferer may be afraid to be labeled crazy; to be shut up in a mental asylum; to get fired from a job; to show vulnerability in a tough milieu; etc.

Book excerpt from Quebec Suicide Prevention Handbook (2014), Éditions TNT

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