Suicide, trauma and family constellations: surviving suicide – looking at the why.

While suicide is a major public health concern globally our understanding of suicide remains fragmented and incomplete. The link between trauma and suicide is well-established and trauma is acknowledged as a root not just of suicide, but of mental illness, addiction, economic poverty and indeed the poverty of spirit that often precedes an attempted or completed suicide.

Family Constellations can help us look at suicide not as a by-product of mental disorder but as phenomenon in its own right. We gain important insights by focusing on the thoughts and feelings of the bereaved. This movement away from from the medical model seems to speak directly and in a very meaningful way to individuals and families touched by suicide. It is also fully in line with the strong recommendations from the International Handbook on Suicide Prevention (2016).

Using a Family Constellations lens we will present a way of working with suicide and suicidal ideation for the constellation community. This experiential and phenomenological work, and the hermeneutic study of our constellation transcriptions and audio recordings helps us understand suicide and its effects from the point of view of the historically and culturally situated individual. Each client has his/her own vocabulary and phrases to describe the family experience of suicide. Each family tells its own story in its very particular way. It is in the study of this story – as told by the family – that we continue to gain insight into the suicides that have a devastating effect on life in Ireland in our time.

Hellinger speaks of three core dynamics in suicide:

● I’ll follow you

●  I’ll go instead of you

●  I’ll atone for your guilt

Our presentation will address the importance of the competence of the facilitator in dealing with traumatic events. An understanding of trauma and how to manage it as it manifests is paramount. We will explore ways in which we, as facilitators, can prepare ourselves to “hold” the deeper work that may arise. We will look at the possibility of the retraumatisation of clients and representatives and outline strategies that can help us keep our client present as we work in the here and now.

Finally, we will discuss how we can take these learnings forward in our individual practice. We will speak briefly on the importance of Research for the Constellation Field. Recognising suicide as an abiding human phenomenon, the question arises: Can we prevent suicide at all?