First, be impressed by Logan LaPlante, the 13-year-old doing the presenting. Then let his message sink in.
“Start where the client is” is carved on our cornerstone, but it’s difficult to embody in our practice. Even harder is letting the client design the process rather than processing the client according to the strictures of our agency or the limits of our training.
Last, pay attention to the goals Mr. LaPlante has set. This is one smart kid.
Watch and be amazed. She’s a social worker, by the way.
Here’s a basic lesson of social work artfully expressed by Ernesto Sirolli. He’s applying it in the world of international economic development but it’s equally applicable in community development, group work or individual counseling.
Is murder a problem?
Are there more murders happening now than there were ten years ago? Twenty?
What about suicides?
Are there more murders or suicides each year in the US?
There’s a good chance you’ve guessed how this is going. Violent crime of all sorts is dropping off and has been since the late 1960s. A 1999 story by ABC News reported that the murder rate was at a 33-year low. It’s continued to drop since then. The US murder rate in 1993 was 9.5 per 100,000, in 2002 it was 5.6 per 100,000 and by 2012 it had dropped to 4.7 deaths per 100,000. (from FBI website)
Suicide is a different story. From 1991 to 2000 the suicide rate was in decline. After 2000, though, the rate has been steadily increasing. (from CDC website) According to CDC, in 2008 the suicide rate was 11.7 per 100,000 population while the homicide rate that year was 5.3 deaths per 100,000. (from CDC website) Suicides continue to outnumber homicides by more than double and the number of suicides annually has been trending upward. Sharply. (2013 article from New York Times website)
For every completed suicide there are an average of 25 attempts. There are significant comorbidities, especially with alcoholism and mental illness. This is everyone’s problem.
So what can you do?
In every interaction with clients, do a suicide risk assessment. Don’t dance around the issue. If you ask a suicidal person who’s planning to use a “painless” means of dying if he is planning to “hurt” himself, the answer will be no, even though he intends to die. Ask, “Have you been thinking about harming or killing yourself?”
Here’s a PDF factsheeet from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Note that it touches on the eight factors associated with a high risk of suicide as identified by the American Psychological Association. Here’s a PDF document from CDC on suicide prevention.
Ask the question. Be ready to act on the answer.