November 7 I was present in Leiden at a conference on suicide prevention, entitled Deadly sin. A few hundred workers from the world of social work, community team, police, youth care, mental health care, general practitioners, schools and patient organizations shared their concerns about the more than 1900 people, and their stragglers, who commit suicide each year, and their stragglers. The initiative was taken by the TurningPoint Foundation in collaboration with 113 suicide prevention.
An impressive documentary with the same title 'Deadly Sin' was screened. In it we were introduced to two young people who, by their suicide, turned the lives of their loved ones and all kinds of other people upside down, such as social workers, teachers and acquaintances. They looked back on the treatment process and the fatal outcome, regardless of all their efforts. A black period in which powerlessness, doubts and pain regularly arose. And afterwards, after the death of these young people: powerlessness, guilt and the question of how things could have been or should have been done differently.
I was struck by the diversity of emotions among the parents and among the care providers. From sad to angry, from disappointed to upset. I was also affected by the unguided communication during the treatment period, although there was a fair amount of consultation. Listening and being heard (really), not for being hysterical, over-concerned or too involved… it is enough and gets in the way of good communication. The question occurred to me whether the victim, the subject of the suicide, has always been the center of attention…. And whether that could be prevented.
In the conversation of mental health professionals and other social partners with regard to suicide prevention after the screening, this communication was also frequently repeated. A central figure, a person of trust in this, seems to be the general practitioner. She knows the students and their loved ones. And I thought: many students still have their GP at home… So that won't work automatically.
One important conclusion: we remain human beings, no matter how professionally we deal with a situation surrounding a young person with depressive, self-destructive thoughts and delusions. So we will keep making 'mistakes', however harmful that may be to one or more human lives.
A gruesome conclusion, but a realistic one. Because, as care and social workers, we cannot get everything under control. We can, however, pick up signals earlier and communicate better with each other to prevent suicide. In doing so, we as professionals must take and bear our responsibility and keep the 'difficult questions' to dear others and to ourselves in the counseling process on the table. That takes time and attention, which we do not always have (we remain human in this as well), but after all it is a human life. It also made that very clear to me.
As 'another social partner' from RAPENBURG100, I also thought: what can we do in this regard? In any case, organize an evening for and by students (organizations) on this charged topic. The collaboration with student psychologists from higher education is already in place. The second is that as a team, we must continue to make time and attention available to discuss with students what deeply concerns them. This is often very positive in the context of personal development, but can sometimes backfire into something destructive. We have that time and that attention and we find it important to search together for that which determines and constructs a student's life. Based on the conviction that every person is and remains worthwhile. Thirdly, we may contribute to raising awareness and publicizing the 113 suicide prevention foundation. Hereby. Responses can go directly to medium will be emailed.