Phil Watson

“ Intervention is a bit like C.P.R. (Cardio Pulmonary Rescucitation)

It is simply attempting to keep the person alive long enough for them to receive proper professional help. Try to remain calm, objective, instill hope and buy time for the person in crisis.Accept that despite anyone’s best efforts, there is always the chance that the suicidal person will attempt to harm themselves.

Remember that each individual is ultimately responsible for keeping themselves safe.

Four Ways to Take Action

Do something specific and tangible. Give the person something to hang onto.

� Identify support people available to them (you, friends, family or whanau, others).

� Discuss and/or list person’s strengths and abilities to help resolve the problem.

� Help the person identify at least one step they can take to improve their situation.

� Encourage the person to make positive plans for the near future.

If necessary, take charge and be firm.

� Be directive if the person is unable to make rational, healthy decisions for themselves. Most people in crisis appreciate someone else taking charge of the situation.

� Seek out and obtain the proper professional help (counsellor, doctor, hospital, etc.). You may need to help the person make an appointment with a qualified professional.

� Tell (don’t ask) the person and their family to get rid of the lethal device (pills, guns, knives, etc.) so the risk of the person killing themselves is reduced.

� Do not let the person be alone if they are in immediate danger. Stay with them until more help arrives (with the exception of someone who is holding a weapon).

Maintain a supportive relationship.

� Assure them of your concern and commitment to support them.

� Be realistic about how far you can assist them through this problem before referring them to more qualified help.

� Arrange “islands” of support to be positioned around the suicidal person.

� Provide the person with information regarding support available to them.

� Don’t assume the person is no longer at risk because they feel a bit better. Follow-up is crucial over the next 6 – 12 months, whether through phone calls or further meetings.

� Check to see that the person is receiving ongoing professional counselling.

Take care of yourself

� Always be aware of your personal safety. If the suicidal person has a weapon, call the police. If they are about to jump from a height, stay clear so you don’t get hurt.

� Stay with the person as long as necessary, but no longer than is needed.

� Know you have done all you can do to handle the crisis.

� Give yourself credit for being willing to risk with the person.

� Get support for yourself if helping someone else has put you under stress.

Phil Watson is a Social Worker for the Open Home Foundation in Masterton. He is an experienced crisis intervention and street worker.

Anna Hawn, originally from Colorado, was in Wellington in 1997 and 1998. At the time of writing, Anna was working as a school counsellor and maintaining a private counselling practice. She is now living in Los Angeles.

Phil and Anna have put together the Friends for Life programme, designed to equip family members, friends and professionals with skills to recognise when a person is suicidal and provide ways to respond effectively.

If you are interested in hosting a Friends For Life training workshop in your community, contact Phil Watson, phone 06 378 7683, or PO Box 278, Masterton 5901, New Zealand