Support networks are an extremely important protective factor in working with people who are suicidal. Support networks are first, internally, our beliefs, attitudes and strengths, and then externally the people in our lives who we can rely on for emotional support; finally, it’s the community agencies that you rely on for more intensive, or emergency support.
This post reviews some of the material from the Resources section of the CPR Risk Assessment as well.
There are a few ways you can record your support network. One is with a simple list, on which you write the three support network categories, Internal, External and Peripheral.
Internal resources are the things inside a person that help them defeat suicidal thinking. They include:
- Having future hopes and dreams
- A belief that suicide is wrong
- A relationship with God or a religion that believes suicide is wrong
- Fear of suicide and death
- A belief that a person should be responsible for their family
While these characteristics are unlikely to be changed while talking to someone who is suicide, it is helpful to recognize them.
Ego strength is the term for an internal coping strategy referring to your ability to consistently understand the world realistically and to use that understanding to get your wants and needs met.
External resources are the people in our daily life who can provide emotional support. Examples include:
- Close friends
- Pets (people often underestimate the benefits that pets can have on our emotional and mental health)
- Significant other/partner
Often suicidal individuals experience a form of tunnel vision where they find themselves unable to notice the resources in their lives. Therefore it may take some questioning. Examples of questions to help flesh out a person’s resources include:
“Who in your life do you turn to when you need someone to talk to?”
“Who is going to miss you if you die?”
“If something really amazing or really terrible happened, who’s the first person you would call?”
The next part of the resources section is the Peripheral resources. These are individuals we may not see in our daily lives but who are there to provide us with additional support in times of need. Examples include:
- Helplines and crisis lines
- Therapists, counsellors, social workers
- Teachers (if a student)
- Clergy (if religious)
Sometimes people without any family, people who have been isolated or people who have experienced an addiction or other life situation that causes a personality change find themselves without any external resources, and in those situations the peripheral resources will become more important as a way of providing emotional support while a person works to build up their external resources.
If a person has few or no external or peripheral resources, that is one risk factor. A person with 3 risk factors (a current plan, a previous history of exposure to suicide and few or no resources) is HIGH risk on the CPR Model. It’s important that all of us (whether in a state of good or poor emotional health) work to build up our support network so we can be more resilient in the face of negativity.