Jane A. Simington, PHD ©2015
Ten year old Chantal died by suicide. Two years later, her still-grieving mother brought Chantal’s younger sister Maria for counseling. The alarmed mother revealed that Maria, who had recently celebrated her tenth birthday, was expressing a desire to kill herself.
Last month, this same Marie turned 18 years of age. She is about to complete her first year of college. During an interview, Maria described the strategies that made the greatest difference in helping her chose life over death. Based on what was most effective for her during those crisis days, Maria made these recommendations to use when attempting to prevent a childhood suicide.
1. Until you understand the motives behind suicidal thoughts and expressions, it is best to avoid talking about the grief and sadness suicide would cause the family. Maria pointed out that both she and her sister had been abused by the man who lived with their mother. Her thoughts of suicide were often triggered by feelings of hatred, which led to considerations of ways to make him suffer pain, somewhat similar to that which he had caused her sister and her.
2. Do a reality check of the child’s perception of death. Maria emphasized that during times when she felt overwhelmed, ideas of suicide saturated her mind and she needed some straight-forward questions to help her process facts about the finality of death and the lack of possibilities following death. Maria noted that the reality check was especially valuable when she was asked to identify events, such as graduation, marriage, and having a child that her sister Chantal would not experience, and to then ponder the lack of those same events in her own life should she choose death.
3. Ask this vital question. “How will killing yourself help?” Maria related that reflecting on this question allowed her to recognize she was really searching for ways to release intense emotional and spiritual pain. She acknowledged that this confronting question, and the following one, “Are there other ways you could make the same result happen?” provided an openness for her exploration of options to heal childhood abuse and other early traumas.
4. Monitor the connections between triggers, dissociation, and suicide ideation. During her first appointment I recognized that Maria was triggered by her bodily reactions to memories of abuse and would often become dissociative as she spoke of the abuser. During the interview that took place, some eight years post survival, Maria emphasized that teaching her to use rocks for grounding and to use various breathing, meditation and imagery techniques to keep her from dissociating, not only helped her survive critical moments but also led to doorways that opened to spiritual exploration which helped her become the woman she is proud to be. Maria recalled that during one particularly difficult week, when the threads between life and death were thin, she believed she survived, knowing that during her session she would be wrapped and safely contained within a soft, light-weight, eagle-imprinted, blue blanket.
5. Cleanse and seal the aura. Trauma can fracture the human aura leaving the person vulnerable to spiritual intrusions. Seasoned therapists, experienced in helping those who threaten suicide, concur with Catherine Reimer.1 Her research revealed that many youth who are suicidal, report hearing voices. Maria stated she felt immense relief when asked. ”Do voices speak to you about suicide?” Maria reported feeling “a moment of healing” when she recognized that someone was validating her experiences of hearing voices encouraging her to kill herself. Maria emphasized that the cleansing and sealing of her aura 2 was likely the pivotal moment, turning her from terror to inner calm, from despair to hope.
Suicide has become increasingly more common than in years gone by. US statistics indicate that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children ages 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for teenagers 15-19. Experts suggest that increasing protective factors have a greater impact on suicide rates than does decreasing risk factors. Supportive factors include: providing support and counseling; teaching creative problem solving; building self-worth through validation and affirmation; offering programs to heal trauma and grief; providing classroom education on the symptoms of depression, and helping the child establish and reestablish spiritual connections
We have all heard that it takes a whole community to raise a child. Whether we are a professional or a lay person, each of us can make a difference. A word of kindness may save a life.
1) Reimer, C. (2013) Circle of Swans: Journey of a Native American Counselor. Iviksik: Seattle, WA.
2) Simington, J. (2011). Shielded With Light: A Guide for Cleansing and Sealing Your Aura. (CD).Edmonton, AB: Taking Flight Books.