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Notes on Suicide Prevention

It is difficult to discuss suicide. As someone who has dealt with this idea personally and professionally, for a variety of organizations, I can vouch for how terribly hard it is for the person who is having suicidal thoughts and for the people who are doing everything they can in a supportive role. In the past few months, we, The Staff, have handled two suicide threats, the deaths of two of our players, and the backlash that comes from a very close-knit community watching its members suffer from the very real trauma that is depression. There have been a lot of tears and restless nights, and I am sure that you, the players, have felt these negative effects just as viscerally.
 
Despite how well I believe we’ve handled the few situations that have occurred within our gaming community,  you may not realize that we are neither trained nor equipped to handle this sort of thing (and taking into account this has never come up before until a few months ago). We are not reading from a manual when we determine how to react to a suicide threat. We do not have a master list of numbers to call, nor do we have the resources at our disposal to assist someone in need right away. In the spirit of transparency, it’s important for you to know that we make it up as we go, hoping like hell that we’re processing information efficiently enough to save a life.
 
After the phone calls are made and the at-risk players are secured, when all is said and done, we’re happy to help. We love you. Our roles as volunteer administrators put us at the helm of amazingly powerful creative energy, and it thrills us to see you happy and healthy. If we can help you stay that way, we will, with just as much creative fervor.
 
However, in an effort to better assist you in situations where suicide threats are the primary focus, where the stakes are much higher than resolving pending issues or working through design approvals, please read the following reminders very carefully:
 
  1. We are not public authority figures. It may feel instinctive to turn to us for the answers to these very sensitive real-life situations, but as I stated above, we are not trained to handle this sort of thing. I think it’s necessary, however, to point out that while we are very adept with things relating to roleplay, writing, crafting, event-weaving, and some low-concern issues (that typically relate directly to the game), we are just like you. With the exception of the paid IRE staff, we are students, young professionals, retail managers, restaurant servers, teachers, and freelance writers. We are not public authority figures. In situations such as these, informing us of the possibility that one of our players is planning to hurt themselves is very generous information, but please remember that we are just as limited as you are. We will help. We like to help. But we cannot be the first people you call on to help. That is what campus police, family members, friends, police officers, and guidance counselors are for. We should be the last resort.
  2. Do not take this lightly. If we are contacted as the last resort, we will leap into action. I have never, ever met a team of people so well-equipped to handle crisis in my life, and I worked directly with my campus on suicide prevention through QPR (a suicide prevention training program) and the LGBT (a support group for the queer community). To that end, please realize that if this situation is brought to us, we will react immediately. Chances are, we’ll decide to alert the player’s local authorities if we cannot find the information we need to reach out to the corresponding family members. What I’m really saying is this: think very, very hard about what you’re saying if you tell another player that you want to kill yourself. If you are having a bad day/week/month/year, and you’re having a flurry of negative thoughts, I will provide you with extraordinary resources that will help you resolve these painful feelings at the bottom of this post. Your life is too important for anyone to assume you’re just having a bad day, and there will be reactions to your words.
  3. We are not counselors. When a situation like this has reached a conclusion, you may feel like reaching out to your divine patrons for emotional support. Please do not do this. Again, we are volunteer administrators who all have very diverse backgrounds, but none of us have the time or the education to help you manage this level of emotional turmoil. If you are feeling the urge to talk to someone who is an objective authority figure, please refer to the links below for a few wonderful resources. They are trained experts who will be able to provide you with the tools you’ll need to regain mental and emotional stability.
  4. We hurt, too. In keeping with the above points, you cannot fathom how challenging it is for us to work on situations such as these. To give you an example of what we go through, I called all of our paid staff members back from their lives to help me organize this information during the last few occasions. Other high-ranking staff members who have taken on a managerial presence then spent hours helping us track down additional information we might have needed to come up with an action plan. We then consoled players, we monitored player activity, we dug through pages and pages of backlog to find answers, and when all of it was said and done, we still had our own work to do. We have to write more programs for you and build events for you, and perform daily patron duties for you. This is largely why we should be your last resort – we are so limited in what we can do, and it takes our staff hours longer to respond to this sort of thing than it would a trained professional.
  5. Do not take this as red tape. Sometimes, you don’t know what to do. We understand. We’ll likely never have all of the answers, but what I can say, with impunity, is that if you need us because all of your ideas have failed, we are here. Every life matters, and we are so dedicated to building a community in which you can feel supported by your peers. We realize that we have positioned ourselves as the frontline managers of things like this, but I implore you to do everything in your own power first before you turn to us.
 
The following links are here for you. Each one has some kind of service attached that will help you throughout any stage of an experience like this, whether you’re the person managing depression or know someone who is battling with thoughts of suicide. Please look at them.
 
o National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ 
Self-explanatory. This should be the go-to number for those living in the USA.
 
o International Association for Suicide Prevention: http://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres 
The same as the NSPL, but worldwide.
 
o Wikipedia.org’s List of Suicide Crisis Lines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines 
Suicide crisis lines for Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Iran, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.
 
o UK suicide/mental health crisis lines:
– Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org
– Mind: http://www.mind.org.uk
– Papyrus (which is for young people): http://www.papyrus-uk.org
– People in the UK can also go into Accident & Emergency or Urgent Care centres, and most GP surgeries have an out-of-hours urgent line.

o 7 Cups of Tea: http://www.7cupsoftea.com/ 
For when life is hard and you need someone anonymous to listen, the trained and certified active listeners here will lend their ear and the right words.

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