Supporting a Family on a Cruise Ship, Following
Death by Suicide
-Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
The following is the second story of a three-part series where the
Foundation leadership applied the principles in a workplace tragedy, as
taught by the QPR Institute, by Dr. Paul Quinnett, founder, and CEO.
This case involves death by suicide on a cruise ship where two young
boys and their mother were of major concern for the medical and guest
services team—as they were two days away from shore when a guest
jumped from the ship. The response for supporting the mother and her
boys required a great deal of coordination between the ship and the
shore offices in order to provide the best support possible in difficult
“When something as frightening as suicide arises within a family,
the entire family often needs help. With help, the whole family
Founder & CEO, QPR Institute
A man became quite intoxicated during the dinner meal, and the conflict
between him and his wife was visible to the crew on board. After dinner,
the couple returned to their cabin, along with their two boys, ages two
and four. The arguing continued in the room, and to the shock of the wife
and four-year-old son, the man ran to the balcony and threw himself over
the rail into the ocean. The wife called security and the team came quickly
to her side. The ship was stopped, and a search was begun. Despite the
search which lasted for hours, the man was never seen again.
The four-year-old boy awakened his two-year-old brother and told him
that their father had gone over the back of the ship. Both boys expected
their father to return from the ocean, as due to their ages, they did not
understand the finality of their father’s actions. The ship’s team, consisting
of nurses and doctors along with other crew members, were quite able to
support the mother who was finding it difficult to explain to her children
what had happened—but felt at a loss to advise her about how to handle
the confusion her sons were experiencing.
Fortunately, the ship had very well-trained children’s staff members on
board. While they were not trained on the subject of suicide as related to
children and a parent’s death, they understood that allowing children to
continue to play and carry out other normal activities was crucial. For the
next two days, as the ship made its way back to port, the young boys
played, ate ice cream and pizza, and played with others in their age
group. Things for them were normal, aside from the occasional question
about when their father would re-join the ship. They went in and out of
their mother’s room—always accompanied by one of the staff members.
None of the three were ever left alone, as nurses took shifts in order to
remain with the mother, as she rested.
Using the team approach advocated by the QPR Institute, behind the
scenes, Foundation leadership helped arrange for a counseling
professional, trained on working with young children on death and related
issues, arrive at the port ahead of the ship. While other guests debarked
in the normal manner, the counselor boarded the ship and sat with the
mother and helped her understand about young children and how best to
talk to them about their father’s tragic death.
In addition, transportation was arranged for the mother and her children,
so she would not have to drive herself home. Not wanting her to be alone,
the team also asked her if there was someone they could bring to the
port to ride home with her and the boys. At her request, her mother was
waiting for her and the boys and rode with them on the long ride home
without her husband. The Foundation leadership team then arranged for
the family to see counseling professionals in their hometown.
Two years later when the mother was re-interviewed, she praised the
company for how they had supported her and her boys in the aftermath
of the tragedy. She also expressed gratitude for the counseling support
she received on the ship once in port. She was especially grateful that
the Foundation team worked with the cruise line to arrange for
counseling for the family once they were back in their hometown.
No one should be expected to have all the answers for any crisis. Using
resources and seeking advice from those whose training and expertise
covers difficult subjects like suicide will prevent long-term adjustment
problems for children and adults who love them.
If you are interested in learning more about how to become a Gatekeeper
and becoming part of a more extensive network that is dedicated to
suicide prevention, see www.qprinstitute.com. To learn more about the
training classes offered by the Family Assistance Foundation and for
information about upcoming Gatekeeper classes and how you can
become a trainer within your workplace go to fafonline.org. You can also
contact Stephen Young at email@example.com.
Upcoming Gatekeeper Trainings
Hong Kong Gatekeeper Training
Hong Kong Train-the-Trainer
QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer and is a research-based
intervention that anyone can learn. The Foundation works with the QPR
Institute to customize this successful intervention for cruise lines,
aviation companies, human resources professionals and other workplace
groups. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org at the Foundation if you
would like to know more about how you can learn to be a QPR Gatekeeper
in your organization. You can also learn how you can become a certified
trainer of the QPR Gatekeeper model. Contact the Foundation to discuss
© 2018 QPR Institute Inc./Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation
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