Considering the Care of the Suicidal Client and the Case for ‘Engagement and Inspiring Hope’ or ‘Observations’

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Psychiatric/mental health (P/MH) nursing has rightly been described as a ‘broad church’, and one that contains many contested matters and areas of differing opinion. One such contested matter is that of the appropriate care for the person who is at risk of suicide. Recent, albeit limited, debate of this issue has taken place, and the literature, such as it is, indicates two principal (though linked) positions. These can be summarized as the ‘engagement and hope inspiration’ position and the ‘observations’ position. Given the P/MH nurse's unique position in providing 24-hour, day-to-day care to suicidal clients and the growing problem of suicide within people who suffer from mental health problems, it is both necessary and perhaps timely to consider this debate in more detail. Accordingly, this paper considers the debate regarding care for suicidal mental health care clients. First, the paper briefly describes the historical policy context of care for the suicidal client. Next, it focuses on ‘observations’ and concludes that there is a range of well-established, empirically based problems or drawbacks to this approach. Following this, it focuses on ‘engagement, inspiring hope’ and points out the key processes of engagement: forming a relationship, a human–human connection, conveying acceptance and tolerance, and hearing and understanding. The value and importance of these most fundamental of interpersonal processes is described and alluded to throughout the limited research into care of the suicidal client. The paper then describes the range of criticisms that have been levelled at the engagement–inspiring hope approach and considers these criticisms in more detail. As a result of this detailed examination, the paper then reiterates the need to replace ‘observations’ with ‘engagement–hope inspiration’ as the principal approach to caring for suicidal mental health clients.


To acquire a personal use copy of this work, contact John Cutcliffe at john.cutcliffe@wright.edu.



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