Gentle Way of Raising the Topic of Suicide

Mar 06, 2017

“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It’s what I’ve never seen before that I recognize.”

Diane Arbuss
Photographer (1923-1971)

Gentle Way of Raising the Topic of Suicide

TISA Description of the Problem: Clinicians are always looking for gentle ways of raising the topic of suicide gracefully. The method suggested by Kathleen Sullivan works quite nicely.

Tip: I find that raising the topic of suicide by tying it in directly with the client’s level of pain (while normalizing it as commonly experienced) often offers a graceful way to begin a thorough exploration of suicidal ideation.

“In almost every person I see, who is as depressed as I think you are, the person has had thoughts about either wanting to die or not wanting to live. What kinds of thoughts like that have you had?”

TISA Follow-up: The above quite useful tip can help a client – especially those clients prone to exaggeration, vagueness, or over generalization – to be more specific, for the past suicidal ideation provides a concrete memory for the purposes of comparison. This technique can also be very useful in ongoing therapy, where it is modified by the fact that both the clinician and client may have memories of the event.

Tip provided by:

Kathleen Sullivan
MHMR Tarrant county
Circle Drive Clinic
Fort Worth, Texas

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