Karen VanderSluis, CSPS National Training and Quality Assurance Manager, reflects on the importance of self-care.

Self Care And Hope

“The expectation that we can be immersed in suffering and loss daily, and not be touched by it is as unrealistic as expecting to be able to walk through water without getting wet.” ~ Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen

“We are a group that is infinitely exposed to trauma.” I heard this statement and the above quote in a workshop at the 2018 American Association of Suicide conference that I recently attend on behalf of Crisis Services Canada. I keep reflecting on the conference and the various sessions and workshops I attended.

This quote keeps coming back to me as it feels like such an accurate description of what we face every day in the distress and suicide prevention sector.

When one either works or volunteers in the field of Crisis Line work we often take for granted the day-to-day trauma and emotional pain that we are exposed to. Sometimes it feels cliché to talk about self care or self compassion, which is something we hear about all the time.

From my experience, we can even begin to see that some of the information and impact around from a ‘been there, done that’ state. Even if we are really good at self care, it can be easy to underestimate the intentional aspect of taking care of ourselves.

We need to pat ourselves on the back for making the effort for self care and to ensure that we understand what it is and practice it on a regular basis.

Self care isn’t just about what you can do, but is more about what you actually need. Many of us do not make the time in our busy lives to stop and reflect on this, let alone act.

Knowing this, how can we begin to build our own compassion satisfaction so it doesn’t turn into compassion fatigue?

One presenter at the AAS Conference said that every clinician working in this field should have the Virtual Hope Box application on their phone.

I confess I downloaded this app after the last conference, and then didn’t do anything more with it. I have now downloaded the app once again, and made sure to load it with some personal photos of things that give me hope and joy in the ‘remind me’ section. I’ve pulled it out over and over in the past couple weeks when I feel my stress level rising, and it helps calm me.

I particularly love the ‘Distract me’ section where I can do a puzzle of my own pets (some of the cutest animals in the world!).

In a different presentation, David Covington shared a story where someone came up to him and said “David, I announced to my family that I am taking suicide off the table, it will never happen to me.” David’s response was “Great idea, I’d like to take cancer off the table! I’d like to promise my family to never get cancer”.

The idea that we can say with confidence we will never think of suicide is impossible and should be thought as no different than someone struggling with a physical health issue.

I have been intrigued to hear David Covington compare suicide to cancer, as I feel he is doing so much to break through the stigma and misperception that surround suicide.

I share this story as it also had me thinking about the unpredictability of all of our futures. None of us know what lies ahead and the more we can build our hope and our resiliency the more it will help everyone in our lives. Hope is a skill and hope can be taught to all people, disregarding gender, age or other demographic factor.

As a final thought, I’ve been thinking about a Kevin Hines documentary film, “The Ripple Effect”, that was shown at the conference.

In this film, Kevin focuses both on the devastating effects of suicide, and the tremendous positive ripple effects of advocacy, inspiration and hope that are helping millions heal and stay alive.

In an area of work that is often filled with sombre discussions, the stories of those who have lived with the experience of suicidal thoughts and survived is a shining hope into our discussions in a way that never has before seen, particularly at a global level.

The ripple effects of these hope-filled stories truly have the ability to help us all reconnect with why we are involved in the crisis intervention field, to connect with the compassion and satisfaction that we feel at being a part of something that is bringing people hope and connecting them to life every single day.

With all those stories and thoughts swirling through my head, here is what I imagine for our families, and even more exciting to do with our Crisis Services Canada team.

We are a small distributed virtual team of clinical and technology professionals who work together from across Canada to build and expand the Canada Suicide Prevention Service network to serve the people of Canada in suicide prevention and support.

It would be great to sit down together and create individual Hope Boxes (or virtual hope boxes if can’t meet face to face!) with your close family, and the people you work together with every day and share your answer to the questions below:

  1. What is in your Hope Box?
  2. Why did you put what you did in your Hope Box?
  3. Imagine it was a year from now, and something happened to make you suicidal, how will this Hope Box, and what is in it, help you

I strongly believe this exercise would build greater connectedness between those of us that work together, and also with our families.

Together, this method and regular self care will enable a strong foundation of enabling people to be focused on life and hope, for the people they serve, and more importantly themselves!

For additional information, contact:
info@CrisisServicesCanada.ca | www.CrisisServicesCanada.ca | (437) 317-4488

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