Yearning to be heard: What veterans teach us about suicide risk and effective interventions
Thomas, L.P.M., Palinkas, L.A., Meier, E.A., Iglewicz, A., Kirkland, T., & Zisook, S.
Background: Patients with serious mental illness can be at higher risk for suicide. Most research has focused on determining the risk factors for suicide-related events using quantitative methodologies and psychological autopsies. However, fewer studies have examined patients' perspectives regarding the experience of suicidal events. Aims: To better understand suicide experiences from the perspective of patients diagnosed with serious mental illness. Method: This study purposively sampled and qualitatively interviewed 23 patients within the Veterans Affairs Hospital who were diagnosed with serious mental illness and who had attempted suicide. Using a phenomenological design, hermeneutic interviews included questions about the precursors, characteristics, and treatment of the suicide events, as well as patients' recommendations for care. Results: Loneliness, isolation, depression, and hopelessness were commonly described as emotional precursors to the suicide events for all patients, while command hallucinations were reported among patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. When evaluating whether treatments were effective, patients focused primarily on the level of empathy and compassion shown by their providers. Conclusion: The most common recommendation for the improvement of care was to increase clinicians' empathy, compassion, and listening skills. Additionally, efforts to bolster social supports were highlighted as a means to diminish suicide events.