Can I… still be a community carer under these circumstances
By N. Fields, Jul 2021
Community carers are known to be individuals who aim to provide support to those at risk of suicide, but what if you are a community carer who faced suicidal ideations before and still harbour these ideations from time to time? You may feel inadequate, hence doubting your own capabilities but fret not, you can still be a community carer and provide the right kind of support to individuals at risk.
First off, who can be a community carer? Those who are willing to help those at risk and journey alongside them, can most definitely be community carers. If you are a person who had suicidal thoughts before, take heart in knowing that your past experiences can make it more meaningful and personal in the process of listening to and supporting individuals at risk. It may even encourage them to share their struggles and thoughts more vulnerably with you, knowing you have struggled with suicidal ideations before as well. A safe space is created for both parties to share their personal experiences with one another, paving the way for better and stronger accountability in future.
What happens then, if a community carer is considering suicide, again? There could be situations whereby community carers find themselves prone to past trauma and emotions in the midst of providing support to individuals at risk. In such instances, he or she must first seek professional help immediately – by calling the SOS (Samaritans of Singapore) helpline or IMH (Institute of Mental Health) crisis line. If the carer is reluctant to engage professional help, their closest next of kin or friend must do so. The carer’s safety is of utmost importance. The community carer will then have to take time away from supporting the individual at risk, and rope in other community carers to help support the individual. Once the carer’s thoughts and feelings have stabilised, he or she can safely return to support individuals at risk.
One may wonder, why is it important that a community carer’s emotions and thoughts be in the right place, before supporting an individual at risk of suicide? It must be noted that when a carer supports an individual at risk, the goal is to prevent them from taking their own life and to ensure their safety. The carer must therefore be in a healthy and stable state of mind to listen and provide the right counsel to the individual. This is also to avoid instances where the individual at risk influences a community carer to reconsider suicide again, or that the carer further aggravates the individual’s thoughts of suicide.
How can community carers who had struggled, continue to struggle with suicidal ideations or perhaps are suicide attempt survivors, better support individuals at risk? For a start, carers can work to build the emotional resilience of the individual. Finding strong reasons for the individual to continue living for, bringing hope to them, encouraging and journeying alongside them in taking small steps daily to cultivate a healthy mind and body will be pivotal in their progress. Thereafter, teaching them how to manage or deal with the stressors, triggers,negative thoughts and emotions is important. Healthy coping mechanisms such as speaking to trusted friends or close family members, going for counselling sessions, finding persons they can be accountable to, journaling their thoughts… are just some ways. In turn, the community carer can be encouraged by the individual’s progress, which will spur him or her on in helping to save more lives before it is too late. It may also provide the community carer with a greater sense of purpose and hope, strengthening his or her will to live on, should the suicidal thoughts return.
With reference to an article written and published by Channel NewsAsia, the number of suicide cases in Singapore peaked last year as the nation continues to trudge through the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals who took their own lives were observed across the age groups. There has never been a more appropriate time than now to be trained as a community carer, to identify key signs of suicide displayed by an individual and to bring him or her back to safety before a life is lost.
For both community carers and individuals at risk who have struggled with suicidal thoughts or continue struggling with these thoughts from time to time, it is a tough battle for the mind, between choosing death or life. We acknowledge their pain and struggles. However, every choice being made by an individual to live and every life saved, is a battle won.
To end off, the process of connecting with, convincing and supporting an individual with suicidal ideations or a suicide attempt survivor can be daunting, emotionally challenging and time consuming – but is well worth it.
About the writer
Fields strongly believes that support of the community is paramount to the efforts taken in suicide prevention. She has had close friends struggle with suicidal ideations and realised that people have the power to influence or change one’s decision to take their own life. N. Fields is committed this cause of suicide prevention and continues to author articles regarding this topic, hoping to destigmatize suicide, saving more lives.