A crisis may be black. The individual is down, very down. His words come very slowly; his movements are slow. He sees no point in anything. His just being alive makes things worse. He does not want to kill himself. He just wants to stop living, to get out. He is tired of playing the game. The hassle is too much. His mood is very black. He is slowing down and has no interest or motivation in going on. As we talk with him, his speech may seem somewhat slurred, and his words may have a thick and mumbly quality about them. If we are talking with him on the telephone, especially, our initial reaction may be that he is intoxicated. It is critical for us to get beyond seeing him as a drunk and to get to a point where we understand that we are dealing with a black crisis. As we talk, the individual seems exhausted, appears to have no energy, and may give us the impression that he either wants to, or is about to, go to sleep. We may be frustrated and feel tempted to terminate our communication with him. It takes all of our effort and concentration to pay attention to and focus on the individual and his crisis. Black crises are seen considerably less often than red and yellow crises; however, they are by far the most difficult with which to deal.
You are talking with a seventy-year-old woman whose husband died a few months ago. Her children all live in other states and do not come to visit her very often. Many of her friends have died, and she has no particular interests outside her home. Her neighbors, who have called you in, are concerned because she does not come out of her house but just sits in her chair staring off into space.
She says: Please go away. I dont want to talk to anyone. [You say: You seem pretty tired and depressed.] Im okay. Dont worry about me. Everything is fine. Ill just sit here until its over. I hope it doesnt take too long. Im so tired and want things to quit. [You say: It makes me sad to see you so sad.] Im not sad. Everything is fine. It wont be too much longer now. Hes coming back to get me soon. [You say: Its a pretty day, and your neighbors are worried about you.] There arent any pretty days anymore. The neighbors shouldnt worry. Im okay. It wont be much longer now.
The now potential in a black crisis is the death of the individual. Such a person may stop eating, stop taking care of personal and health needs, and generally let himself physically and emotionally deteriorate. As an alternative to this gradual deterioration, the individual might choose to terminate the process of slowing down by abruptly hanging or shooting himself. These two forms of suicide frequently result from black crises. In other situations, the individual may overdose, expecting to go to sleep and not wake up. The goal of intervention in a black crisis is gradually to elevate the individuals mood, get him interested in and more connected with his environment, and stop the process of withdrawing and turning in. If we are able to do this, the individual will begin to see himself as connected to his environment and will start to interact with it. This increases his ability to get out of his black mood.