Having had a basic CPR/first aid training where I work, a few things went through my mind and I asked a question to the woman who was doing the training, a question about how to deal with people who are emotionally unstable, or even suicidal. She said that, of course, it was a whole different training, a complete formation, and that therapists are trained to lead people who want to commit suicide out of suicide, since it is basically their job.
Art therapists seem to be trained intensively for this. There was even a workshop organized at the University of Memphis last July untitled: ‘Healing through Creativity: Art Therapy, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation Among College Students’.
A little research about this kind of training (without entering into more details) returns documents stipulating that:
1. ‘All threats of suicide should be taken seriously’.
2. ‘An assessment of the lethality of the plan’ should be done by a professional as ‘certain means are more lethal than other’.
3. ‘The person who is acutely suicidal should not be left alone’.
More than the removal of the knife by Jennifer Chiba, this is what bothers me in Elliott Smith’s story: J. Chiba had this formation, however, for each point above, she did exactly the contrary of what she was supposed to do being trained as an art therapist.
She said to friends that less than an hour before his death Elliott had threatened to kill himself, but used to his melodramatic threats, she ignored his remarks and took a shower or simply locked herself in the bathroom depending on the version you are reading (the police report simply says locked herself). She ignored his threats, which goes completely against the first point of the training.
She also said to someone she thought Elliott was joking with a fake knife, I think she said she saw him with a knife when she exited the bathroom. Anyway this goes against the second point, a knife is a lethal weapon and she should have taken seriously anything looking like a knife.
She locked herself in the bathroom, leaving Elliott alone after hearing his suicidal threats, and this totally goes against the third point.
These are the thoughts that went through my mind many times before but my discussion with the CPR training person clarified everything. All this does not prove anything I guess, just that J. Chiba is a bad therapist.
Originally published on Rock NYC (September 03 2010)