Discovering the truth in attempted suicide

Am J Psychother. 2002;56(3):424-37. doi: 10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2002.56.3.424.


The findings of an international workshop on improving clinical interactions between mental health workers and suicidal patients are reported. Expert clinician-researchers identified common contemporary problems in interviews of suicide attempters. Various videotaped interviews of suicide attempters were critically discussed in relation to expert experience and the existing literature in this area. The working group agreed that current mental health practice often does not take into account the subjective experience of patients attempting suicide, and that contemporary clinical assessments of suicidal behavior are more clinician-centered than patient-centered. The group concluded that clinicians should strive for a shared understanding of the patient's suicidality; and that interviewers should be more aware of the suicidal patient's inner experience of mental pain and loss of self-respect. Collaborative and narrative approaches to the suicidal patient are more promising, enhancing the clinician's ability to empathize and help the patient begin to reestablish a sense of mastery, thereby strengthening the clinical alliance.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Videotape Recording