The relationship between experience with suicide and suicide assessment in university counseling centers
Currie, Lacy Kristen
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Given the alarming prevalence of college student suicides and the detrimental effects to the campus climate, recent literature has focused on preparing mental health professionals working within university counseling centers for detecting risks and adequately assessing for suicidality. Yet, very little, if any, attention has been given to exploring the relationship between a clinician’s previous experiences with suicide and their engagement in suicide assessment behaviors when working with suicidal clients. Thus, the primary purpose of the current study was to explore the relationship between clinicians’ previous experiences with suicide (i.e. suicide training, clinical experiences with suicide, and personal experiences with suicide) and their engagement in four core suicide assessment behaviors (i.e. completing a lethality screening, utilizing direct language, engaging in narrative dialogues related to suicide, and conducting routine reassessments of risk). Data was obtained from 107 mental heath professionals working in university counseling centers. All participants completed a survey assessing their previous experiences with suicide and engagement in suicide assessment behaviors. Frequencies of suicide experiences and suicide assessment behaviors were examined. In addition, a canonical correlation analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between suicide experiences and suicide assessment behaviors. The results indicated a significant relationship between previous experiences with suicide and suicide assessment behaviors, with personal experience being the most significant contributor and suicide training, acting as a minor, secondary contributor. Specifically, results revealed that individuals with more personal experience with suicide more often completed a lethality screening and engaged in narrative dialogues related to suicide, and less often used direct language. Results also revealed that individuals with more suicide training utilized direct language when discussing suicide more often, but completed lethality screenings and engaged in narrative dialogues about suicide with clients less often. Implications for clinical practice, education and training, and future research are discussed.
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