Bairbre Fee, an assistant psychologist who works on St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ Living Through Distress Programme talks us through the importance of taking a minute…
World Suicide Prevention Day took place on September 10th this year and the theme invited us to consider how taking just a minute could change a life.
The team behind St Patrick’s Mental Health Services’ ‘Living Through Distress’ programme have given some thought to how each one of us can get the most from that minute.
The Living Through Distress programme is aimed at service users who find their emotions difficult to regulate.
Participants often report urges to self-harm or carry out behaviours that are self-damaging.
This programme is available for inpatients and day patients.
Take a minute for you…
As a GP, it can be challenging if we can’t leave stresses we might have at work at the door. Mindfulness is a skill that we encourage in the programme, but it’s also something that GPs can use for their own mental health.
We sometimes refer to it as a superpower, because with practice we’ve seen how it can help anchor us, so we can be fully engaged in the present moment.
As a team we take a minute (two on a good day) to practice mindfulness to help us settle ourselves before we go in to individual or group work.
Many individuals contemplating suicide have reported that they were waiting for someone to notice that they are struggling (Connecting for Life, HSE, 2015).
Taking a mindful moment helps us to focus and participate fully in our interactions with our clients instead of being caught up in thoughts around outside demands or problems. We have a better chance of tuning in to their struggle.
Take a minute to ask about suicide…
Talking about suicide is part of our work and during our programme orientation we ask directly about previous attempts and whether a client has current plans.
Yet we know that people were more likely to have contact with primary care than mental health services in the year, and even month, leading up to suicide. In one study just 8.5% of adults over 55 were in contact with mental health services versus 77% seeing their GP in the year prior to dying by suicide.
Hearing that someone is actively suicidal often provokes a need to respond and move towards urgent action.
Using mindfulness not only helps us to take a minute to ask the difficult questions but also to stay engaged to hear the answer and accept what the client is currently feeling without pushing for change immediately.
It is interesting that Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, which informs much of our work focuses as much on acceptance as it does on change.
Ask your service user to take a minute…
It is important that we ask our clients to take a minute before acting on an urge or reacting to a situation.
One of the skills taught on our programme is STOP!
It is an acronym that stands for ‘S – STOP’, ‘T-Take a step back’, ‘O- Observe’ and ‘P – Proceed mindfully’.
It is about learning the habit of hitting pause.
A minute’s grounding can help us proceed mindfully to consider what is effective right now, what needs to be done, what is the wisest course of action in this moment.
It might not necessarily lead to feeling better in the short term but it could buy time and time that could be life-saving.
Maybe we could all benefit from taking a minute.
Author: Bairbre Fee, Assistant Psychologist, Living Through Distress Programme
Department of Psychology, St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services
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