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The borderline between life and death: Mental healthcare professionals’ experience of why patients commit suicide during ongoing care [2018]

Aims and objectives
To explore mental health professionals’ experiences in regard to circumstances that cause the patient to take their own life during ongoing care.

Background
Suicide is a worldwide health problem, and of those who take their own life, nearly 20% have had contact with a psychiatric unit. Mental health professionals may have extended intuitive knowledge that has not been made visible. Mental health professionals’ experiences can contribute knowledge that can complement suicide risk assessments and can be helpful in developing approaches and strategies where the hope is to identify and draw attention to people at risk of taking their own life.

Design
A reflective lifeworld research.

Methods
Twelve interviews with mental health professionals with experience of working in caring relationships with patients that had taken their life during the period of care. The study was performed in accordance with COREQ (see Supporting Information Data S1).

Results
Mental health professionals’ experiences regarding circumstances that cause the patient to take their own life are related to the patient’s life circumstances that led to a loss of dignity, and finally beyond retrieval. Mental health professionals share patients’ struggle to choose between life and death, the darkness of their life and their hopeless situation. This shared experience also makes the mental health professionals wish to relieve patient’s suffering but also gives them an understanding of why patients take their own life.

Conclusions
The mental health professionals experience how the patient loses the possibility of living a worthwhile life, recognise darkness within the patient and see how the patient’s life is fragile. Suicide described as logical and expected, based on their life and life circumstances, has not been found in previous research. Bearing this in mind, should psychiatric care focus on a proactive approach and act when these circumstances are identified?

Relevance to clinical practice
The Mental health professionals’ tacit knowledge may be used to strengthen uncertain suicide assessments.

Sally Hultsjö, Rikard Wärdig, Patrik Rytterström
Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27 December 2018
DOI
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