Confronting a Somber Experience

Guest contributor, Noel DeLeon, Community Engagement Specialist, gives us an update from the CLEAR team and the LCOTF.

February 29, 2024
Noel DeLeon

Every month, while creating reports for the Task Force Monthly Meeting, I do my best to relay any findings or takeaways from the Community Engagement Team (CET).

Past topics such as collaboration, education, and perspective have highlighted the positive efforts made by our team and the LCOTF. This month, however, the subject is not a lighthearted one. This month’s topic is of a more serious and somber nature as I would like to discuss suicide and suicidal ideation.

Right before the holidays, the CET began to hear more and more individuals expressing thoughts of suicide. Having been trained in QPR, we made every effort to ask direct and difficult Questions, to Persuade individuals to seek professional help, and to Refer them to the appropriate providers.

With many of these interactions, the individuals were simply expressing their distress and feelings of hopelessness. By asking questions, the team ascertained that most of the people we interacted with had no intention of completing suicide. Many had mentioned suicide in order to emphasize the depths of their angst. Regardless of how casually folks spoke about suicide, every mention was taken seriously. While many only talked about taking their life to illustrate how bad things had gotten, this was not always the case. On some occasions, using the QPR method led to further assessment and calls to the DHMAS Mobile Crisis Team (MCT).

On one such occasion, during a meeting to discuss their wellness plan, a participant shared that they felt hopeless and just wanted to die. After being asked if they had a plan, they shared that they not only had a plan but also had the means to complete suicide. When asked what they felt would happen if the means were removed, they very honestly shared that they would easily reacquire them. The direct questions that were asked and the responses received led to the DHMAS Mobile Crisis Team being called in.

This particular individual was sent to CHH for psychological evaluation – and is still with us today. They’ve continued their connection with the CET. This outcome is the result of the rapport fostered with the individual, the training received by the CET and MCT, and most importantly the individual’s willingness to share. Unfortunately, not every individual is willing to share their feelings to such an extent.

On Thursday, February 8, while at a rover site, I received the news that a longtime rover participant had completed suicide. Having known this individual since the beginning of my time with the CET, I was left in a state of shock and profound sorrow. The support of my coworkers Hailey Collins and Alicia Peterson, along with my supervisor, Lauren Pristo, helped to buoy my emotions and allowed me to compartmentalize and reinforce my professional boundaries.

Despite the support and my reinvigorated mindset, I couldn’t help but ponder. I was aware that my coworkers and I made every effort to help the individual in the time we knew them, yet I couldn’t help but feel like I should’ve done more. That thought was quickly quashed by what I learned from training and from my own life experiences, reminding me that at the end of the day we can only do our best and that we have no control over another’s actions.

Later that evening, as I engaged with the community at the overflow shelter, I had discussions with a few folks and did my best to not think about a face I would never see again, a voice I would never hear again, and a soul I would forever miss. However, these introspective thoughts ended abruptly as a couple of gentlemen who utilize the shelter came in and were clearly in a gregarious mood. While their laughter reminded me of another’s laughter that I would never hear again, it also reminded me that life goes on – and that my mission to serve was far from over.