Behind the Scenes – A day in the life of a Suicide Crisis Support Officer

Over the next few months we will be bringing you a series of interviews ‘behind the scenes’ from different team members. We hope these interviews will show what happens behind the scenes and give a more personal side to the work that happens in both Harmless and The Tomorrow Project.

Our first interview in this exciting new collection is from Bevan. We hope you enjoy it.

Meet Bevan…

Q: What’s your role at The Tomorrow Project?

A: I work as a suicide crisis support officer and also in sustainability and data collection. My main role as a support officer involves seeing people in crisis, at risk of suicide or thinking of suicide in some way. This role takes up four days of my week and then one other day is data collection, data analyses and service evaluation…..which is quite fun!

Q: Can you tell me a bit more about the importance of data collection?

A: At the moment we have a lot of data collected from the past several years which we are compiling into something that we can get some information from, rather than just a big list of numbers. I’m going to be looking at themes such as: who presented to the service, who’s improving, how much are they improving etc. This is ahead of the IASP conference in September (The International Association for Suicide prevention) which we will be presenting at.

The data collection allows us to understand why some people might not be improving, so we can look at what we can do better for people who are presenting at the service, or if there’s more women than men despite the fact men tend to complete suicide more…why is that? The data might tell us something about the service that would make it more accessible for men and certain at risk groups. That’s something I’m going to be exploring over the next few months.

Q: What age range do you support?

At The Tomorrow Project we don’t have anyone age range, we support people from 0-100! There is really no exclusion criteria for The Tomorrow Project around age etc, only around clients who already access secondary mental health services.

Q: Where are you based over the week?

A: I work in Nottingham four days over the week and East Leake one day. On Thursdays I go to East Leake and that means people across the country or out of city will be able to access support and find it easier to attend.

Q: Can you tell me an example of how a session with you might look?

A: Something I like to emphasize quite a lot with clients is the relationship we have, rather than trying to force someone out of suicide crisis. Instead of forcing someone through crisis and trying to convince them not to take their own life it’s more about understanding from their perspective why they want to take their own life, or why they might be considering suicide. Personally I think that’s the best way forward, I think if we are trying to force someone to move through crisis I don’t think it works. Comments such as “just move on, come on, just get better!”, I think disregards how people are really feeling. We sometimes have to go along with people around their journey and often that does lead to recovery. We would look at reasons why someone might want to take their life, working from an emotional and practical perspective. I have the opportunity to work from both of those angles so rather than just looking at the emotional I can support someone who might also be struggling with issues such as housing. If their situation is difficult and isn’t changing it’s very unlikely that anything else will really permanently change, if a person is constantly going back to the same environment of stress/distress etc. So working from both perspectives of practical and emotional support…and I really do enjoy that. It lets you look at suicide crisis from more of a broader way.

I don’t like to force someone out of crisis, I stand with them. Often people are quite ambivalent about life or death, something might be pulling them more towards life or something might be pulling them more towards death. My job in some way is to minimize the death pulls and maximize the life pulls. What that sometimes looks like is just talking and listening, and trying to understand from their perspective why something is pulling them towards one thing or the other. A lot of my sessions are just talking either about life in general, or about their friends/family/interests, and sometimes it’s quite intense around suicide prevention. I guess a skill I hold Is adaptability, not every client is the same, not every session is the same and people are different and also in different stages of suicide crisis.  Some clients are imminently in crisis and then some people are just entering the beginnings of thinking about suicide.

Q: It sounds like some really challenging work and I’m wondering what you do to keep yourself safe and what do you do for self-care?

A: We get supervision in the service which is fantastic. I have really wonderful colleagues who all understand the stress that can come when working with clients who are highly distressed. I think especially with TP (Tomorrow Project) crisis, everyone we see in some way wants to die or take their own life. Part of this work means I get to help people through from presentation to discharge and that’s really nice. I see people come in in distress or in crisis, it’s one thing to want to end your own life but another is knowing that you can get through it and with the right help they will. Colleagues, supervision and seeing people get through it is really helpful for me. Outside of work I really like playing video games, watching Netflix and going to music festivals.

Q: What made you want to work in suicide crisis or in the field of mental health?

A:  I guess for me, suicide is something people talk about in quite an abstract way sometimes. Especially looking at research, which I think can sometimes be quite impersonal and theory driven “this is why people do this, this is why people do that”. I think that’s great having theories and understandings of suicide as a process, but with that said I think it can take the person out of it. Research can be quite clinical, quite cold, talking about a really difficult topic in quite a sterilised way and I think for real suicide prevention people need to be involved. We need to understand suicide from not just a research perspective but from actually working with people who are experiencing this every day.

I think suicide prevention can sometimes become quite an abstract thing. People often say “we need to stop suicide” and share things on Facebook, which I think is good, suicide awareness is good but I think we need to sometimes step beyond just sharing posts and actually do sometimes about it. I’ve worked here for three years and I like to think I’ve helped some people in those three years but I guess I’m only one person and one service and this needs to be more of a nationwide thing across the country, not just Nottingham and the East Midlands.

Suicide prevention I wanted to work in because I just seemed to me the right more, something I wanted to do and really interesting and worthy thing to do with my time.

Q: Final questions to end with a bit of fun! What is your favourite cake and least favourite food?

A: I have recently become a fan of carrot cake, I love it! Pickled onion for sure! Not a chance! Never again.

 

A huge thanks to Bevan for making time for such a content rich and educational interview, we really get a sense of how passionate you are about your role so thank you for sharing that with us. 

If you have ideas or suggestions for future interviews please drop us an email at info@harmless.org.uk, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Leave a Reply