We do all sorts at S2C. Some of it is very much obvious and out there and other things are far more subtle. Sometimes the subtle things that may go unnoticed are the ones that have the biggest impact. I hope, and indeed observe, that the community spirit we have builds trust. Trust is important when you are dealing with the vulnerable because when you feel vulnerable then it is very hard to trust.
The reason I touch on the subject of trust is because over the last five or six months there have been a number of occasions when vulnerable individuals have trusted us (those of us at S2C who take on the role of being the “go to” people) to disclose issues. None of these have been minor issues but massive life changing and threatening issues.
Sometimes it is enough that you listen. You could well be the first person they have told about the issue and the fact that they trust you enough to disclose and you listen to them can be the catalyst for them to then go and seek help from an appropriate source. Sometimes this might be a call for help because they don’t know where else to turn and along with listening there is the opportunity to help the individual by putting them in touch with someone who can help them or referring them on to another service.
At this point I have to sing the praises of the Gateway e-hub. This is a collective of local charities and services that hold an online system of information about service with the ability to refer service users to each other. Age Concern have developed the system and it grows in the local area as more organisations and groups take it on.
I come to the main slant of this blog however. This is one area where on an individual disclosing to us we are left powerless other than to be there and be supportive. I am talking about suicide. On a number of occasions we have had disclosures of suicidal thoughts or a concern about an an individual close to somebody. The problem I personally have with this is one of willingness to engage with services. It is very humbling that a person trusts you enough to talk about this very difficult subject but the problem arises where that trust does not exist with other services.
So, for example, an individual discloses they are suicidal. This is not always an easy thing to spot. I know from personal experience. When, many years ago now, I was suicidal I didn’t tell anyone. I wasn’t using it as a threat or to get attention (popular misconseptions and assumptions unfortunately) and in fact was very secretative and almost plotting the moment when I would try and kill myself. So that somebody trusts you enough to tell you this is a major major important moment.
Why do I have difficulty with this. Certainly not with the act of disclosure. I am very willing and prepared to support somebody with those feelings. My difficulty lies with what to do next. If that person is hiding their intentions and does not want to get help from anyone. If they will not engage then it is very difficult to help them no matter how much trust is there. I survived one of my suicide attempts because a person I trusted came before I hit the coma I went into. Anybody else I may not have opened the door to. They got help and I was unconciouse in hospital for three days. Had I not let them in or they had come a little later………trust is important.
Faced with a situation where the individual does not want to engage you can call but often get told a referral from a GP is needed before any action can be taken. A crisis team may visit them but again the failure to engage or present any signs of suicidal intent might not be there. That person can then go on to deteriorate or attempt suicide and the only option you or the concerned person might have is to call the police.
I hear this kind of story, usually from relatives of individuals threatening suicide, where they have felt the only option is to call the police after trying to get help from anyone else. It is a tough one to deal with. Trust. The person trusts you. It is a big responsibility and you can only try and use that trust to get them help. However small a first step is then to use that trust to get the individual to do something positive. One small step can be the catalyst to getting the help they need. That trust comes from being there and listening to them.
At S2C we don’t set out to build trust just for this purpose. Trust is an essential part of any community but if everyone in the community knows everyone else will listen then there is hope that problems can be solved.