Suicide is preventable, sometimes.
I may have written (or not) about me doing my social work placement at a children’s hospital, within the Mental Health Inpatient Unit. I get to work within a multidisciplinary team who work with young children and adolescents who are experiencing acute mental/behavioural/emotional issues. During admission, the treatment team provides many services but not limited to psychiatric reviews, family meetings, therapeutic group activities, school within the hospital, continual observation from nursing staff, and case coordination/ liaising with relevant stakeholders.
One of our “frequent flyers” (as we would call those who frequently present to the Emergency Department, and have had a history of previous admissions/contact with mental health services) took her life over the weekend. Most people found out on Monday, and when I heard, it put me in a strange mood. There were a lot of questions on my mind, especially, could it have been prevented?
This young patient was linked in with a community clinic for follow up treatment, and was on a waiting list for a more intensive program- she was seen twice every week by the community clinician, and her parents were on board with doing whatever necessary to keep her safe. She was admitted 6 times, just this year. I helped with the case coordination for her last two admissions.
The first thing I did when I heard what happened, was look up her records/and history to read recent reports written about her. Then I read some research articles on teen suicides; and came across an article stating “Suicide is preventable, sometimes.” It basically commented on the common myth that many of service providers assume -that suicide is preventable, and we should work and provide as many services as we possibly can to help the individual be safe, and help prevent them from harming/killing themselves. We believe that if we gave enough support to the person, that we can prevent suicide, so when it is not prevented, we seek someone to blame, and look at where we have failed and think about what we could have done differently.
I cannot imagine what her family must be feeling, as well as clinicians who worked intensely with her. Reading the article was somewhat comforting, because it reminds us that even though we did all we could, and worked really hard, in the end, the individual will do what they are going to do, and it is beyond anyone’s control (no matter how hard we try to take control). Instead of being too critical, it helps to remember and reflect.
Apparently, sadly, her suicide was the result of an impulsive action following a disagreement between her and her mother, where she ran off to get away, and jumped in front of a train. Who knew if she really meant to take her life. In that instant moment, there is no turning back, no one to stop you. It is BAM! and that’s it.
I remember her being so despondent during a review prior to discharge from the inpatient unit. She did not say much, down cast eyes, vacant. She was very difficult to read. Did not engage, did not give us much during the interview, did not give much opportunity to build rapport (though it is often more challenging to do so in an acute situation).
Post discharge, the treating team from the inpatient set up a stakeholders meeting to discuss what the best treatment for her would be, and what preventative measures all involved can take to keep her safe. We visited the community clinic, to meet with her treating team there, and she was put on priority to attend the intensive treatment day program to keep her engaged and monitored by specialists. A lot of people involved, a lot of people working together to keep her safe, a lot of people affected by her taking her life.
The only time I saw her face light up was when she saw a fellow inpatient she knew, who was being discharged, and she said “Hey Girlfriend!” and gave her a huge hug. I guess you just never know. Who knows what goes on in a young person’s mind, but it is so important that they know there is help available, there are people willing and wanting to help fight the demons stirring inside.
There are so many protective factors/resources to keep a person alive- and it really sucks, when they don’t work.
Many of us may have known someone at one point in our lives, who have attempted to take their lives, and some who actually completed suicide. Generally, it is the males that complete, and the females who repeat (of course, not always the trend).
My first funeral attendance was when I was a junior in high school (I was 17). A classmate who I have gone to school with since I was in 7th grade, took his life weeks before his graduation. It was a terrible loss for many who knew him, and the ripple effect was heartbreaking. I remember him being very lively, funny, intelligent- never failed to make those around him laugh, not sure if anyone was aware that inside, he was suffering from powerful and overwhelming emotions that led him to do what he did. It was tragic.
That’s all for now. I apologise if this topic/post has stirred any emotions for you. I want to stress the importance to talk to someone/seek help, if/when you feel unsafe/wanting to self-harm or take your life. No one has to suffer in silence. There are people in your life who care for you, whether you realise it or not.
Lifeline #: 13 11 14
1800 SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Thanks for reading.