Living Perspectives of Suicide is offered as a bespoke workshop that can be delivered over either a half or a full day. It is a suicide awareness and intervention skills workshop specifically for people who by nature of their workplace role, find themselves in a position of needing to support someone expressing suicidal thoughts and/or crisis. The content has been designed collaboratively and is delivered jointly by Roses in the Ocean and Lifeline Qld. Originally designed for people working within frontline call centre roles the program is also highly valuable for people working within mental health, suicide and social service areas. It is easily customisable to suit various workplace environments who are interested in gaining a new perspective of suicide and intervention skills
The workshop explores the complexity of suicide, the myths and misconceptions, and practical guidelines for engaging in the necessary difficult conversations with people in crisis, especially over the phone. This is particularly relevant for people in call centres, those who take incoming calls into a service etc. The concept of self-care is covered in detail, as are the practical steps to take when supporting someone in crises while professional help is sought for someone in imminent risk.
Imperative to being able to respond effectively to someone in crisis is using a person-centered approach. The person-centered approach is based on the premise that people are their own experts in experience in terms of what they might need in a suicide crisis. Carl Rogers’ person-centred theory in On Becoming a Person : A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy is used to develop skills relating to understanding human relationships and connection (Rogers & Ransom, 1961)
Prior to discussing more in-depth topics some context setting is done to help orient participants as to why everyone in the community can and needs to be able to respond to someone experiencing a suicide crisis, whilst acknowledging that there is a need for developing some key skills. An introduction to the ABS cause of deaths data from 2018 is used to discuss the basic statistical data in Australia relating to suicide (Statistics, 2019).
To help participants understand safe, unsafe and stigmatizing language the workshop refer to the Why we shouldn’t use the ‘C’ word (Beaton et al., 2013) article. This is important foundational knowledge and helps prepare participants for those times when they are responding to someone in suicidal crisis. Through guided exploration, participants discuss language and how important using safe language can be and the significant positive impact on people who have a lived experience of suicide and perhaps encouraging their willingness to disclose. Understanding safe language also relates to the various myths and misconceptions that surround the topic of suicide. To support this knowledge we are able draw on the great work from Everymind (Myth Busting, n.d.). Both of these topics of safe language and understanding common myths and misconceptions is important for participants in having the confidence and skill to empathetically engage with anyone experiencing a suicide crisis.
Knowing how to use and apply different questioning techniques is critically important in order to be able to establish and maintain rapport with someone experiencing a suicide crisis. Participants work through a number of activities focusing on open, closed and direction questioning techniques including how and when to use each type of question. The various types of questions each have a role to play when talking with someone who is in suicidal crisis (‘Counselling Microskills’, 2009).
Workshop content also addresses the different types of life and situational events and circumstances that can lead to someone reaching a of suicidal crisis. Content material includes a Loneliness Survey conducted by Lifeline and a short video by a lived experience representative highlight what some of the barriers are to someone seeking help when in distress.
Participants are also introduced to brief crisis intervention strategies to assist them, exploring what it might mean to be courageous when encountering someone who may be experiencing emotional pain and thinking about suicide. To support this content, we draw on the work of John Kalafat’s Crisis Intervention Framework. In particular, his article An Evaluation of a School‐Based Suicide Awareness Intervention (Kalafat & Elias, 1994) provides sound evidence here. Closely related to understanding brief crisis intervention strategies participants are guided through content relating to high risk disclosures, detecting when someone is at imminent risk to suicide and being aware of the warning signs to imminent risk and knowing how to take the appropriate action to respond to someone in imminent risk.
Also addressed in the workshop are topics relating to both vicarious trauma and self-care. This is in recognition that responding to someone in suicidal crisis can lead to responders feeling emotionally heightened as effective intervention requires the use of deep listening, compassion, empathy and responding skills. Both vicarious trauma and self-care awareness are imperative and core concepts for participants to develop readiness skills. In particular, participants work through skill development relating to knowing the signs of vicarious trauma and how to manage any vicarious trauma. To illustrate what vicarious trauma is participants are shown a YouTube clip by Laurie Pearlman, Headington Institute (What Is Vicarious Trauma? – YouTube, 2012)
What is Vicarious Trauma? – YouTube. (2012). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVDSdta0mbM
Beaton, S., Forster, P., & Maple, M. (2013). Suicide and Language: Why we Shouldn’t Use the ‘C’ Word. In Psych, 35(1), 30–31.
Counselling Microskills: Questioning. (2009, July 10). Counselling Connection. https://www.counsellingconnection.com/index.php/2009/07/10/counselling-microskills-questioning/
Kalafat, J., & Elias, M. (1994). An Evaluation of a School‐Based Suicide Awareness Intervention. Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1943-278X.1994.tb00747.x
Myth busting. (n.d.). Everymind. Retrieved 19 May 2020, from https://everymind.org.au/suicide-prevention/understanding-suicide/messaging
Rogers, & Ransom, C. (1961). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’sViev of Psychotherapy. Personne Houghton Mifflin Company.
Statistics, c=AU; o=Commonwealth of A. ou=Australian B. of. (2019, September 25). Main Features—Australia’s leading causes of death, 2018. c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0