When Suicide Becomes An Option

When Suicide Becomes an Option
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults.Nearly 90% of all suicides are associated with a diagnosable mental health or substance abuse disorder.2 The unbearable feelings of despair, hopelessness and powerlessness resulting from their mental illness, trauma, significant grief or abandonment can, despite the best efforts of loved ones and professionals, cause nearly one million people globally, to attempt suicide each year.3 The feelings of loss experienced by professionals and loved ones are magnified when the death they grieve is by suicide. Those whose grief results from a suicidal death are at high-risk for developing a major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behaviours and prolonged and complicated grief.4

photo of someone depressed perhaps suicidal

The above information and my experience of working professionally with clients who are threatening suicide and with those who are attempting to heal from the effects of complicated grief and the associated feelings, including the stigma and shame which keeps them from seeking the help and resources they need, has led me to develop a training program to assist professionals in offering effective help to those who threaten suicide and to support the bereaved when suicide results.

This forty-hour Suicide Intervention Certification training is accredited by The Canadian Counsel of Professional Certification Global (CCPC Global.) Graduates of this training from Taking Flight International may apply to CCPC Global for designation as a Certified Suicide Intervention Specialist (CSIS.) Certified graduates of this training also receive 27 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward certification or re-certification as a drug and alcohol counsellor from the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF;) as well as from the International Association (ICADC).

1. Young I T., Iglewicz, A., Glorioso, D., Lanouette, N., et.al. (2012). Suicide, Bereavement and Complicated Grief. Clinical Research, LLS SAS. www.dialogues-cns.org

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide. Available at http://www.afsp.org Assessed, 2016-08-01.

3. Ibid Young, et al.

4. Hawton, K., van Heeringen, K. (2009). Suicide. Lancet, 18,373:1372-1381.

PreRequisite: Trauma Recovery Certification

Click Here to see training dates and download application form.

When Suicide Looms: Saving a Child’s Life

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.

 holding hands

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.

Reference

 

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.

Love Saved a Life

Love Saved a Life

©Jane A. Simington, 2014

For quite some time following the death of our son, my husband’s thoughts were punctuated with self-loathing, resulting in occasions of suicide contemplation. While I, too, was struggling with grief and remorse, I knew my husband needed my help to reclaim his sense of worth and his desire to remain among the living. Up to that point in life, I had for the most part, taken for granted the giving and receiving of love between us. This crisis forced me to recognize that the giving of unconditional love could not be taken for granted, but instead required a concentrated effort. Now, years later, in retrospective contemplation, I reflect on the verbal and nonverbal techniques that were the most effective in helping my husband survive those turbulent days and nights; I most especially think about the efforts, which over the years, seem to have contributed significantly to the sustenance and growth of our longtime relationship. Below I note what I believe were the most effective ways I communicated unconditional love. I share with you what I feel is at the top of my list for creating a loving partnership following a relationship crisis.

Love Saved a Life
1) I learned to listen totally and completely

I recognized that to help my husband again see himself as worthy of living a good life, I needed to let him know how much I valued and appreciated him. My first counseling class taught me that one of the best ways to show I value someone is to listen attentively when that person speaks. It was also during this class I realized what a poor listener I actually was, for when I really began to listen to my husband, I discovered that he knew a lot about some very interesting topics and had some delightful stories to tell. As time went by, and even though I had previously heard many of his stories, each time I stopped what I was doing, made direct eye contact with him, and concentrated fully, not only on what he was saying, but also on him. As a result, I felt an increased sense of admiration for the man I married. In turn, he picked up not only my attentiveness but also my renewed admiration. This simple act seemed to slowly, but surely, return the gleam of light to the windows of his soul.

2) I learned the value of setting aside precious time just for the two of us

I gain a lot of pleasure from accomplishing tasks that I set my mind to completing, and because of that I can be quite task-orientated. Not long after I became aware of my need to help my husband emotionally and physically survive our crisis, I recognized that showing someone he or she is valued and appreciated requires allotting time to be totally available. To meet this goal we began a routine of being together, just the two of us, each Friday evening. We would pick a secluded table and take turns listening to each other express our grief and sorrow and share any forward movement we believed we had made along our healing journey. These times of intimate conversation positively and significantly impacted both of us and in many ways strengthened our relationship.

3) I learned the power of using therapeutic touch

During studies for my Master’s degree I explored the benefits of touch as a therapeutic modality. I learned that caring, loving touch is necessary for the survival of infants and for the maintenance of emotional and mental health at all ages. Nurturing, caring touch can increase endorphins; the body’s own pain relief. Similar to the effects of opiates, nurturing touch has the potential to create a euphoric response. Although previously I had not considered the value of touch as a means to convey care and acceptance, I began to put into practice what I learned about the physical, mental and emotional benefits of stroking an arm and rubbing a back. I also learned that when my husband’s grief was raw and he could not hear my words of love, he could still feel my touch and absorb the acceptance it conveyed.

I love the Nairobi proverb, “Hold a true friend with both eyes and with both hands.” February is considered the month to convey love since in many countries the feast day of St. Valentine is celebrated on February 14th. Perhaps this year on February 14th it may be appropriate to begin a practice of increasing the power of your love by applying the Nairobi proverb teachings. Gazing deeply into the eyes of the person you love, hold both this person’s hands in yours as you convey the words; “I value and appreciate all you are and all you do for me. I love you for all you do and for all you are.”

Suicide and Trauma: Securing Hope

September 8-14, 2013 is national suicide prevention week. In light of the relationship between suicide and trauma, strategies to prevent suicide must suicideribbonbe aimed at healing trauma. While trauma symptoms are categorized as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is more to PTSD than emotional stress. The effects of trauma are experienced physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritual. The accumulation of symptoms, including feelings of inner emptiness, can cause relationships to fail and make the life of someone who has experienced trauma seem unbearable and not worth living. Many turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb their intense suffering. When these attempts no longer work, suicide can seem like the only way out of the constant misery.

When working with someone who appears to be contemplating suicide it is important to
1) Do a reality check.

While children of all ages have some concept of death those concepts may not be clearly developed. Helpful reality checking questions can be:
·         What is dead?
·         What is it like to be dead?
·         How long is dead?

2) Explore options

It is also important to recognize that when someone is under a great amount of stress, or when they are triggered back to a past trauma, the hippocampus in the mid brain may become impaired. Since the hippocampus does much of its processing through the brain’s left hemisphere, functions of the left hemisphere may also be interfered with, causing the traumatized person to experience difficulties with judgment, decision -making and logical thinking. An important beginning question that can help you assist such a person in thinking the situation through and in exploring other options is:
·         How will suicide make your situation better?


3) Secure hope

A person who is contemplating suicide is feeling powerless to change the circumstances. One strategy I use to increase feelings of hope in the ability to change circumstances is to provide a disposable camera and have the person take picture of all the things that could be possible signs of hope. When the pictures are printed the person uses them to create a collage. These externalized signs of hope can then act as a mirror reflecting that hope really does exist.

A question that can assist a suicidal person in exploring other options and in securing hope is:
·         Where do you see yourself in a month, a year, and five years from now?

4) Provide information

During National Suicide Prevention Week some of you will be presenting information on suicide. Many in your audiences may be attending in hope of receiving the help they are seeking.

I suggest that in a presentation on suicide prevention you include:

1)     Information on how trauma affects the body, mind, emotion, and spirit.
2)    Skills to assist a traumatized person to reclaim personal power.
3)    Basic strategies to help a traumatized person heal from the effects of trauma.
4)    Specific questions to have someone at risk of suicide ponder.
5)    Information on how a person who is feeling suicidal can receive more help.

PTSD and Suicide Prevention Week

September 9-15, 2012 is designated as suicide prevention week. Many are asking how we can prevent the horrific statistics, such as those recently reported about the thirty-eight American soldiers who killed themselves in July, the worst month for suicides since the Army began releasing figures in 2009. Statistics about escalating suicide rates, for all age groups in the general population, are also alarming.

Since focusing on the causes, should always be the first step in any discussion about prevention, the relationship between suicide and trauma must be recognized. In light of this relationship, prevention strategies for suicide must be aimed at preventing traumas (such as is caused by childhood abuse and domestic violence), and when trauma does happen, the focus of suicide prevention must be on healing the effects of trauma on the body, mind, emotions and soul.

While many traumatized people experience most or all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there is more to PTSD than is usually discussed. I have worked as a trauma specialists since 1999 and now recognize that trauma can wound the soul. Many of the more than 4000 people I have helped heal from the effects of trauma have described how excruciating their soul pain and spiritual disconnection is. Most indicate that the soul pain is the most acute aspect of their suffering.

Many who have experienced trauma intuitively know that the traumatic event had created an inner disconnection causing a deep longing to again feel whole. Indigenous cultures believe that when trauma happens, a part of the soul can remained trapped in the place where the trauma occurred and remain there frozen in time. Those who feel they have left a part of themselves at the trauma scene often voice that their lives feel incomplete and empty and that they are plagued by dreams of searching and longing. For these reasons I believe that Post Traumatic Soul Disorder is the more accurate term to describe the symptoms of unhealed and difficult to resolve trauma.

The accumulation of symptoms, including the feelings of inner emptiness, can cause relationships to fail and make the life of someone who has experienced trauma seem unbearable and not worth living. Many turn to alcohol and drugs in an effort to numb this intense suffering. Others slash themselves knowing that the instant release of endorphins will momentarily ease their suffering. When these attempts no longer work suicide can seem like the only way out of their constant misery.

Some ways to prevent suicide include:

1)    Assess how much unhealed and cumulative trauma the person is experiencing (pay special attention to the history of repetitive childhood trauma and trauma involving sexual abuse).

2)    Assess for soul pain and spiritual disconnection as well as for emotional and mental concerns.

3)    Offer interventions that are more holistic in nature as versus only cognitive based therapies and pharmaceuticals.

4)     Guide and teach grounding and other safety techniques.

5)    Teach strategies for the removal of flashbacks and how to stop night terrors.

6)    Use deep imagery with a spiritual focus to help the person heal and reclaim their power.

7)     Use therapeutic art to help the person heal and to believe in them self again.

8)    Assist the person to reintegrate all aspects of their soul/self.

9)    Teach therapeutic energy work and have the person obtain energy- transfer treatments such as Reiki and therapeutic touch as a way to cleanse their energy filed and release stored cellular memories.

10) Help the person work with the dream messages being received.

11)   Assist the person in rebuilding relationships

In conclusion, I believe in the need to heal the soul pain of the person who has experienced trauma. When I do so, I see the light return to the windows of their soul, and I see the person’s excitement about being able to once again walk among the living.