Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Today during our training and simulations, one of the issues raised was how to deal with suicidal clients.

About halfway through the presentation, a memory came like a sucker punch out of nowhere... in my former life as a social worker, someone killed himself because of me.

To be fair, it's not actually true that I caused someone to commit suicide. But I was part of the event that led to the suicide. I was investigating a potential sexual abuse case, and it was my first such case. I conducted a painstaking interview, in which the youth kept changing the subject, avoiding any discussions that even approached what I wanted to ask about (this was a particularly smart client, too) until finally, it all started pouring out.

The abuser was a relative but not a member of the household, which is not uncommon. After consulting with the members of the youth's household, and after it was clear that the youth and the family was safe, my involvement ended. However, the police then began considering criminal charges. This particular jurisdiction almost never prosecuted child cases, which frustrated me as a social worker. I don't recall how I found out, but soon after this situation came to light, the alleged perpetrator killed himself.

I was reeling from the shock of the news, I remember - a 22 year old fresh out of college mucking around in the deepest and most secretive aspects of people's lives - and based on what? My job title? Who the hell was I? I felt overwhelmed. I cried. I was angry. I needed someone to help me figure out what my role was in this, and howI was supposed to feel about it. Neither my supervisor nor the detective I had been working with was any help to me. I don't think they really understood how or why this affected me.

Today, the same nausea I felt that day came rushing back.

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