Six po­ten­tial hol­i­day sui­cides thwarted by Cri­sis Res­o­lu­tion Malta

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - NEWS -

Jeremy Mi­callef Cri­sis Res­o­lu­tion Malta pre­vented six peo­ple from com­mit­ting sui­cide over the Christ­mas pe­riod through their first ‘Sui­cide Watch 10’ ini­tia­tive.

The team, es­tab­lished in 2010 and con­sist­ing of post-grad­u­ate cri­sis pro­fes­sion­als who were on call 24/7, col­lab­o­rated with the Po­lice Force, the staff of the Poly­clinic and any­one else from the gen­eral pub­lic who of­fered their help.

Be­ing on call 24/7 is some­thing the cri­sis pro­fes­sion­als are con­stantly do­ing through­out the year, but since the Christ­mas pe­riod in par­tic­u­lar some­times causes vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple to see a con­trast be­tween them­selves and oth­ers, par­tic­u­larly men, the col­lab­o­ra­tion is nec­es­sary to em­u­late what is al­ready be­ing done abroad.

The team also take notes and col­lect data on those who have com­mit­ted sui­cide and where, when, why and how this hap­pens.

Sui­cide Watch 10

Cri­sis psy­chi­a­trist Dr Mark Xuereb ex­plained that the idea of Sui­cide Watch 10 is about reach­ing out to save lives. “The fact that we saved six lives hum­bles us. It saves a lot of pain and suf­fer­ing.”

Each one of the six in­di­vid­u­als who were helped are now back on track – they are re­ceiv­ing ther­apy and any­thing else they may need in the con­text of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, psy­chol­ogy, med­i­ca­tion and, where nec­es­sary, even ad­mis­sion to su­per­vised care.

“None of them needed to be ad­mit­ted, which is a good thing, but they are ob­vi­ously mon­i­tored fairly in­ten­sively in the com­mu­nity by a team of pro­fes­sion­als.”

Christ­mas Eve and New Year’s Eve posed a chal­lenge for the team as they re­ceived an av­er­age of eight calls a day.

Dr Xuereb clar­i­fied that whilst not all calls were nec­es­sar­ily re­lated to im­mi­nent risk to self, they were a way of help­ing those in­di­vid­u­als who were vul­ner­a­ble.

“Peo­ple who could see the con­trast be­tween them­selves and oth­ers mak­ing merry.

“This is not about be­ing weak or strong, be­cause we are all at times weak, strong, smart, and stupid. But we live with var­i­ous chal­lenges which help us learn how to grow as hu­man be­ings.”

He even shared a quote from one Mal­tese man’s call to em­pha­sise what a dark place some souls find them­selves in: “I don’t have any­thing left to live for. My fam­ily has left me alone, I’ve lost my job and I do not de­serve to live.”

Cri­sis Re­search

Dr Xuereb ex­plained that re­search also tends to be very mixed in this area.

“Whilst some peo­ple say that

the Christ­mas pe­riod can be a safer time when it comes to sui­cide and self-harm be­cause there tend to be more char­i­ta­ble or­gan­i­sa­tions and ini­tia­tives avail­able, we also have peo­ple who are de­pressed or are go­ing through a cri­sis and see that as more of a con­trast and say to them­selves: “those peo­ple are en­joy­ing them­selves; why can’t I en­joy my­self?”

“Over the years, re­search on the func­tion of a cri­sis team has al­ways been mixed, mean­ing that peo­ple used to say that cri­sis teams helped to re­duce ad­mis­sions, and they do, but sta­tis­ti­cally they are not so sig­nif­i­cant.

“What is sig­nif­i­cant, how­ever, is that they min­imise mor­tal­ity, mor­bid­ity and nip men­tal ill­ness in the bud. This min­imises med­i­ca­tion, doc­tor vis­its and ad­mis­sion as well.

“Cri­sis teams are use­ful – they pro­vide and serve a very im­por­tant func­tion in the con­text of a na­tional sui­cide pre­ven­tion strat­egy.”

What’s next?

Dr Xuereb says he hopes that the cri­sis team can be fur­ther strength­ened to make it strong enough at a na­tional level, ex­tend­ing the ser­vice to round-the­clock ac­cess, with the help of doc­tors, nurses, psy­chol­o­gists, so­cial work­ers and even lawyers and spir­i­tual di­rec­tors, if nec­es­sary.

Any­one who can ac­tu­ally help in the con­text of a one-stop-shop ser­vice to chan­nel peo­ple ap­pro­pri­ately and ef­fi­ciently.

“Let’s not for­get that the big risk fac­tors for sui­cide and self­harm are drugs, al­co­hol, be­ing male, sepa­ra­tion and/or di­vorce, or go­ing through a ma­jor neg­a­tive life event such as loss of in­come, so­cial iso­la­tion, loss of em­ploy­ment, etc., which are all very im­por­tant risk fac­tors for which cri­sis pro­fes­sion­als are trained.”

The team also hopes to crys­tallise a pro­to­col they al­ready have with the Po­lice Force and con­tinue pro­vid­ing sup­port to both the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies.

Apart from the vic­tims them­selves, any­one con­nected to them are also at a 60 per cent risk of los­ing their job and 80 per cent of drop­ping out of ed­u­ca­tion, mak­ing it a trans-gen­er­a­tional legacy of pain and suf­fer­ing.

“Life is not per­fect and, in the words of Irvin D. Yalom: “If you want to choose the plea­sure of growth, pre­pare your­self for some pain.

“Happy doesn’t mean per­fect; happy doesn’t mean that you won’t have your chal­lenges, but if any­body is fac­ing their own crises, you know where to get help.”

Free 24/7 Crises line 9933 9966 or Face­book (Crises Res­o­lu­tionMalta) or crises­[email protected]

Dr Mark Xuereb

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