Many years ago, a well-dressed man sat down at my tarot table. He had a successful career and from the outside one might have assumed he “had it all.” He shuffled the cards, deep in thought, and handed them back to me. His question: “Will my plan work out?”
I don’t remember the cards any longer but they were favorable. I told him that yes indeed, it looked like everything would go according to plan. Curious, I asked him what his plan was. He looked at me and said, “I am planning on killing myself.”
Needless to say, we put the cards aside and began discussing ways to get help. He didn’t seem interested in my suggestions – he was only concerned with the plan. After he left, I broke my cardinal rule about client confidentiality and called his family. They got him the help he needed and I’m happy to say that he’s doing great as of this blog post.
While that story had a positive ending, there are many more that don’t. I have had clients take their own lives. I’ve also grieved side by side with families and helped them get through the painful legacy that suicide leaves behind.
I will admit that it’s a terrible feeling to know that no matter how hard you want to help, it doesn’t always work out. Tarot cards can be an ally for people dealing with mental issues but even if the future looks promising, it’s no guarantee that the person sitting in front of you will see that same outcome.
So how might you handle it when a tarot client is suicidal?
First of all: if a client discloses that they want to end their lives during a tarot reading, ALWAYS take that threat seriously. Do not brush it off or assume that tossing a few cards will change their mind.
Keep in mind that it’s possible that you’re the first person they’ve told. Sometimes people will open up during a tarot session and reveal things that they may not tell their loved ones. Give them a safe space to talk about their feelings. LISTEN with empathy. Sometimes this can make all the difference. If they don’t want to talk, do not force them. Instead, touching their hand or shoulder, or even verbal support can help.
Next, you need to encourage the client to seek help from the proper resources. While a tarot reading can offer guidance, it isn’t the solution and it’s NEVER a substitute for professional mental help. Unless you are a licensed therapist, you cannot take on that role.
Have a list of referrals on hand. Here are a few:
Crisis Text Line https://crisistextline.org/
Send a text anytime, 24/7, and a trained counselor will listen to you and reply. Totally free. Text and get support if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or any type of emotional crisis.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 1.800.273.8255
Call and get help anytime, 24/7, and a volunteer will listen and help you settle your nervous system and bring you back to a calmer place where you can think clearly.
Text and chat with a licensed therapist. Professional therapy that’s affordable and convenient. You don’t have to get dressed, drive across town, and find parking. A real therapist… right in your phone!
The world’s largest emotional support system. Connect to caring listeners for free emotional support. They also can connect you to licensed therapists.
In some cases, you’ll need to be ready to intervene. If you know their loved ones, reach out. Let them know what’s going on. Yes, you will be breaking client confidentiality but you may save a life. If you don’t know anyone that may be connected to them, err on the side of caution and reach out to a professional.
My friend Bonnie Fernandez of Quiet Mystic has wise advice for tarot clients who may be contemplating suicide on her scheduling page. I highly recommend that you read this. Her suggestions for people who are in crisis are sound. Perhaps you may want to put something like this on your own page or refer folks to Bonnie’s booking page to read her wise advice. (Bonnie is an amazing, sensitive, compassionate tarot reader who is excellent at working with people who are going through tough times.)
A bit of wisdom for you, the service provider:
Keep in mind that not everyone will disclose their situation to you. Some people may be keeping these thoughts to themselves. Or they may make the decision to end their lives impulsively. It’s too easy to blame yourself for “not seeing it in the cards” but you cannot take that responsibility on. No one can see it all, despite their best efforts.
A client may reach out to you in desperation. If they do and you can get them in, please do. Sometimes just having someone to talk to may help. But if you cannot squeeze them in and you feel the client might do something rash, once again, refer them to the proper help – and be ready to contact their family if you know them.
Working with a client who is going through a crisis can also be hard on you. Make sure that you are practicing extreme self-care in these types of situations.
If a client does decide to end their life, you may feel awful. You might grieve or beat yourself up. If you’re feeling sad, make sure that you get support too. Because when people commit suicide, the effects are devastating not just for the family that is left behind but also for the service providers and other folks that tried to help.
© Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2019
Listen in: Giving Voice to Depression is a marvelous podcast that can help.
More helpful posts:
On the other side of the coin: How To Read Tarot When Your Life is a Mess
image from stock photography