Reach Out – Feeling Suicidal

If someone is experiencing a suicidal crisis, a positive relationship with a mental health worker is of paramount importance. Listening closely to a person’s story and displaying a genuine and caring attitude can make a huge difference in helping them through. A group of clinicians writing about the importance of a positive working alliance have developed guidelines for clinicians in meeting the suicidal person.27

They stress the importance of a narrative style of interviewing which allows the person to explain their suicidal feelings in the context of their life-history. The guidelines suggest that:

  • the mental health worker’s task is to reach a sharedunderstanding of the person’s suicidal thoughts and behaviour
  • the mental health worker should be aware that most suicidal people who experience mental pain or anguish can be very vulnerable
  • the mental health worker’s attitude should be nonjudgementaland supportivef
  • the interview should start with the consumer’s self-narrative.For example, ‘Tell me, in your own words, about yoursuicidal thoughts and feelings . . .’
  • the ultimate goal is to engage the person in the therapeutic relationship.
  • The outcome for many people who are experiencing asuicidal crisis is admission to the in-patient unit of a hospital.

This process can be a traumatising experience, even if voluntary.Research by Samuelsson et al 28 suggests that people can feel a sense of shame and failure mixed with relief when hospitalised for suicidal behaviors. It is important for workers to recognise this and acknowledge the confusing feelings and trauma that a person may experience