Gatekeepers may be deeply affected when they lose someone to suicide; here's how you can seek help
As a gatekeeper, you can be impacted by a person’s death, even if you were not a close friend or family member. A gatekeeper who has lost someone they know to suicide may go through a gamut of emotions:
A suicide can affect anyone who was involved in the person’s care. Gatekeepers, who may not always be from the immediate group of family or friends, may still be deeply affected.
Most of us, when we hear about suicide, tend to look for that one factor that could have made the person attempt suicide; we draw conclusions that if only that one issue had been addressed, the person would not have contemplated suicide.
A gatekeeper is a person who believes that suicide can be prevented and is willing to give time and energy for this cause. They could be a teacher, parent, warden, boss, colleague or a community leader. A gatekeeper is trained to offer psychosocial support someone who may be contemplating suicide by assessing the risk and pointing them to mental health services in the community.
Seeking support as a gatekeeper
People in close proximity to the person who has died by suicide can be affected by the loss, and may have intense emotional reactions. Some may develop depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you feel overwhelmed, or unable to manage your emotions, get in touch with a professional in your community.
It’s also entirely normal to question yourself, and wonder if something you did or said pushed the person to attempt suicide; or if you could have done something to prevent it. You may not be able to predict the reason; there could have been one trigger that drove the person to contemplate suicide. At the same time, it could also be useful to go through this process of questioning, in order to gain insights into whether you could have done something differently. Recognizing, understanding, accepting and expressing your thoughts and feelings can help you deal with the event.
Mental health experts say that when they lose a client to suicide, they meet with other professionals who are part of their support group to deal with the incident. This offers them a chance to express how they feel about the incident, seek support and also identify what could be done differently the next time. A senior psychiatrist cautions gatekeepers not to berate themselves, and see it rather as a learning experience. “You are one cog in the wheel, and are not expected to be there for the person, whether physically or emotionally, all the time. Share your success stories – and the not-so-successful ones. Make a good assessment of the risk involved and signpost it to a professional. Seek support for yourself,” she adds.
Here are some things that organizations and communities can keep in mind:
What you can do as a gatekeeper:
It’s essential to remind yourself that you chose to be a gatekeeper because you found some meaning in the work. Take some time to introspect about what the process has meant to you. Take a break; find resources and a way to motivate yourself to continue. Every gatekeeper’s contribution is of immense value and is vital.