Suicide is no accident. Think about it. The implication becomes clear: that a cause/effect relationship within the human mind links unbearable psychological pain (Shneidman, 1993) to irreversibly lethal behaviour that kills the pain but that tragically and coincidentally destroys the decision-taking mind. Hence an aeons long search goes on for a General Theory of Suicide, exemplified most recently in the work of O’Connor (2011) and Joiner (2005). I hasten to add that I am not a member of any global search squad. Rather I am interested in understanding the idiosyncratic nature of each lethal event of human self-destruction. For me, and many others, shocked and distressed by family suicide, prevention is no longer possible: we have become survivors of bereavement by suicide. And choices exist, that are inevitable, unavoidable and essential, regarding our response to what has happened. Either, we can invest scarce energy in analysis of the impossible, i.e. how I, and/or others, might have prevented our family suicide event/s, or we might consider, in some systematic and disciplined way, how to deepen our understanding about what happened, not least inter alia to secure some fraction, large or small, of absolution in relation to our catastrophic loss. Understanding suicide is, I would argue, a prerequisite for reducing the incidence of suicide, including its prevention, for example by way of the recent heavily publicised “Zero Suicide” movement: you’ll not easily change what you don’t understand.
Some think that ‘suicide prediction skills’ are a logical way ahead for countering suicide. Some say these ‘skills’ involve an awareness of both suicide ‘risk factors’ and counter-suicide ‘protection factors’ and their balanced application in psychotherapeutic work with each suicidal client. And I am sympathetic to the apparently rational nature of this approach. However most suicidologists will not disagree that such an apparent master/servant relationship between an expert therapist and a vulnerable client, may neither fully reflect nor align well with person-centred counselling theory and practice. In what follows I discuss some helping principles for reducing an individual’s suicide impulse by facilitating the individual to understand it and thereby to take control of it. [Note that I do not intend to refer to medical psychiatry nor the DMS nor pharmaceutical pathology in what follows as I am content to possess neither relevant qualifications nor practical knowledge of these esoteric areas.]
The CAMS approach seems to be an attempt to situate therapist and client in a relationship of equals. This may also be as close as psychotherapy can get to a self-help, life-saving approach to suicide prevention.
Joiner, T. (2005) Why people die by suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Press
O’Connor, R.C. (2011) The Integrated Motivational-Volitional Model of Suicidal Behaviour (IMV). Accessed on 18 July 2017 at http://www.suicideresearch.info/the-imv
Shneidman, E.S. (1993) Suicide as psychache. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. v181:145–147