Clinical Trainees’ Personal History of Suicidality and the Effects on Attitudes Towards Suicidal Patients

  • Noel Hunter Long Island University


Up to half of all individuals who completed suicide were in treatment at the time of death. Clinicians are thus uniquely positioned to help avert suicidal behavior, and the attitude of treating clinicians can greatly affect the quality of care of suicidal individuals. The goal of this study was to gain a preliminary understanding of how clinicians’ own personal histories may impact their interactions with and attitudes towards suicidal patients. A questionnaire was distributed to clinical psychology trainees attending a voluntary 2-day workshop on working with suicidal crises. Questions assessed history of suicidality in self or close others, history of working with suicidal patients, attitudes towards suicidal patients, and attitudes towards preparedness and willingness to work with this population. Of 44 participants, 73% personally knew somebody who was suicidal, 59% had themselves experienced suicidal ideation, and 5% had an actual plan. Personal experiences with suicide were associated with increased stigmatizing attitudes, while specific education appeared to mitigate these negative feelings. Preliminary evidence is provided that indicates high levels of personal suicidal experiences in clinical trainees’ histories which directly affect attitudes towards patients. It is suggested that specific education may increase students’ preparedness and comfort in working with this vulnerable clinical population.


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