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Bereavement Support Services

Complicated Grief

Guidelines for Working With Suicidal Family Members

Be aware that many family members will occasionally express thoughts that may initially sound alarming, such as “I just want to be with my child “ or “Life’s not worth living anymore now that my child is gone.” The vast majority of the time, however, the family member has absolutely no intention of acting on these thoughts.

Crisis intervention professionals often employ steps which follow the acronym S-L-A-P

  • S - Specificity: How specific is the plan? Does the family member say, “I don’t know. I’ll take some pills or something” or do they say “I’m going to use a gun and I will do it after the kids are at school. I’ll send the kids to my mother’s after school so they won’t find me.” The more specifics they can give you about her plan, the higher the risk.
  • L - Lethality: How lethal is the method they have chosen? Some methods have a higher failure rate or allow more time for rescue than others.
  • A - Availability: How readily available to her is the method? “I’m going to use a gun. It’s in my husband’s third drawer under his socks. The bullets are in the closet” or “I have an open bottle of sleeping pills here in my hand” are much more dangerous than “I was thinking of going out to buy a gun this afternoon.”
  • P - Proximity: What is the family member’s proximity to help? Is help nearby or will someone be returning home soon? Or have they gone (or plan to go) somewhere isolated or selected a time when they know they will be alone for some time.
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