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Case study 4: The BLAKE protocol – how to support customers who may be suicidal

Breathe (to focus) – it can be scary to hear something like this, so take a moment to simply breathe and focus your thoughts. You can do this by acknowledging what the customer has said: “I’m so sorry to hear you feel that way. How can we help?”

Listen (to understand) – we always take what the customer has shared seriously, but we also always listen carefully so we can assess the imminent risk of harm. Listen to the customer using verbal nods and recapping key information to show your understanding.

Ask (to discover) – listening is important, but where gaps continue to exist in your understanding about the current situation, you should ask questions to fill these. Example questions could include: “What has led to these feelings?” or “Have you spoken to anyone about how you are feeling?”

Keep safe (from harm) – based on your understanding of the situation, and also your organisation’s policy, the emergency services should be contacted if the customer is at imminent risk of harm. During this, you may need to stay on the line to keep talking with the customer. Reassure the customer that your primary concern is their safety, and that any financial difficulty can be dealt with later. “I’m worried about what you’ve told me – what can we do to keep you safe?”

End (with summary) – once customer safety has been addressed, if it is possible to do so, staff should summarise what has been discussed and agreed, so that the call can end (and any data-recording can begin). “We’ve been talking for a while, but before we finish let me summarise what we agreed and what will happen next...”