Melanie A. Hom and others
Advance online publication.
Research indicates that connection to mental health care services and treatment engagement remain challenges among suicide attempt survivors. One way to improve suicide attempt survivors’ experiences with mental health care services is to elicit suggestions directly from attempt survivors regarding how to do so. This study aimed to identify and synthesize suicide attempt survivors’ recommendations for how to enhance mental health treatment experiences for attempt survivors. A sample of 329 suicide attempt survivors (81.5% female, 86.0% White/Caucasian, mean age = 35.07 ± 12.18 years) provided responses to an open-ended self-report survey question probing how treatment might be improved for suicide attempt survivors. Responses were analyzed utilizing both qualitative and quantitative techniques. Analyses identified four broad areas in which mental health treatment experiences might be improved for attempt survivors: (a) provider interactions (e.g., by reducing stigma of suicidality, expressing empathy, and using active listening), (b) intake and treatment planning (e.g., by providing a range of treatment options, including nonmedication treatments, and conducting a thorough assessment), (c) treatment delivery (e.g., by addressing root problems, bolstering coping skills, and using trauma-informed care), and (d) structural issues (e.g., by improving access to care and continuity of care). Findings highlight numerous avenues by which health providers might be able to facilitate more positive mental health treatment experiences for suicide attempt survivors. Research is needed to test whether implementing the recommendations offered by attempt survivors in this study might lead to enhanced treatment engagement, retention, and outcomes among suicide attempt survivors at large.
Here is an excerpt from the Discussion:
On this point, this study revealed numerous recommendations for how providers might be able to improve their interactions with attempt survivors. Suggestions in this domain aligned with prior studies on treatment experiences among suicide attempt survivors. For instance, recommendations that providers not stigmatize attempt survivors and, instead, empathize with them, actively listen to them, and humanize them, are consistent with aforementioned studies (Berglund et al., 2016; Frey et al., 2016; Shand et al., 2018; Sheehan et al., 2017; Taylor et al., 2009). This study’s findings regarding the importance of a collaborative therapeutic relationship are also consistent with previous work (Shand et al., 2018). Though each of these factors has been identified as salient to treatment engagement efforts broadly (see Barrett et al., 2008, for review), several suggestions that emerged in this study were more specific to attempt survivors. For example, ensuring that patients feel comfortable openly discussing suicidal thoughts and behaviors and taking disclosures of suicidality seriously are suggestions specifically applicable to the care of at-risk individuals. These recommendations not only support research indicating that asking about suicidality is not iatrogenic (see DeCou & Schumann, 2018, for review), but they also underscore the importance of considering the unique needs of attempt survivors. Indeed, given that most participants provided a recommendation in this area, the impact of provider-related factors should not be overlooked in the provision of care to this group.