A Introduction: The Challenge and Opportunity
Suicide concerns can present themselves in a wide range of healthcare situations, from routine screening to dealing with a person in the aftermath of a suicide attempt, and can even arise spontaneously when talking with a person struggling with suicidal thoughts.
When engaging with persons at risk for suicide, healthcare professionals have an opportunity to make a real difference in the life of the patient. However, the situation can place a great deal of pressure on those trying to help. When dealing with a person struggling with suicidal thoughts, a variety of concerns might arise:
The clinician cares about the person and worries about their safety.
They now feel personally responsible for the safety of the person.
There are time-consuming steps to take and documentation to fill out.
The clinician may be worried about being blamed or held legally liable if something goes wrong.
Settings: Acute Services
Acute services teams have a unique opportunity to support and care for individuals with mental illness who are often at a very vulnerable point in their lives. But time demands, patient volume, and the sheer number of different risks and problems that teams are responsible for addressing can make it hard to take the time for caring interactions that will promote honest disclosure.
These pressures can make it hard to remain focused and to maintain the kind of concerned but calm presence that will help patients through this difficult situation.
This chapter focuses on the core goal of Connecting. Forming a meaningful connection with the patient serves as the foundation for all other steps that need to be taken in a medical setting to support a person with suicide concerns.