Year: 2019 Source: Crisis. (2018). 39(5), 326-334. SIEC No: 20190130

Background: Asylum seekers have increased risk of suicide and suicidal behavior, with differences related to origin, gender, and age. There are barriers to communication in clinical encounters between asylum seekers and clinicians. There is insufficient knowledge about how communication in the clinical encounter affects the suicide risk in female asylum seekers. Aims: To explore the documented communication between female asylum-seeking suicide attempters and clinicians and how it affects treatment. Method: The medical records of 18 asylum-seeking women who had attempted suicide were analyzed with content analysis. Results: Communication between patients and clinicians was affected by: the unbearable realities of the women; difficulties for clinicians in decoding languages of distress, and understanding trauma and subjective meanings of suicide; challenges of combining patients’ and clinicians’ perspectives; and a sense of shared powerlessness. Limitations: The medical records did not give direct access to the patient’s experience, only to the patient as documented by the clinician. Conclusion: The results suggest that clinicians working with asylum seekers who have attempted suicide need to develop an understanding of social and cultural factors and of trauma issues. A question for further study is how an enhanced integration of context and subjectivity in psychiatric practice would equip clinicians for the specific challenges encountered.