University of Tasmania
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Suicide prevention through social work intervention : a study examining the applicability of crisis intervention theory using an ethnographic approach

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posted on 2023-05-27, 00:45 authored by Craig, Diane J
Suicide is a concept that is socially constructed in that the intention of the deceased is inferred after the death has occurred. The implication underlying the use of the term is that such deaths are somehow problematic for society. Society therefore defines a role for professionals in the prevention of suicide. Psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners and nurses have written extensively on the subject and their role in the prevention of suicide is well articulated. There is a dearth of social work literature on the subject. Few studies that have researched the help-seeking behaviour of suicidal people have included visits to social workers in them and little has been written about the extent to which social workers encounter suicidal behaviour in clients or about the action they take. This is an exploratory study which seeks to establish the extent to which social workers encounter suicidal behaviour in clients, how they assess level of risk and what kind of action they take to prevent suicide. The study aims to test out predictions about social workers' responses based on crisis intervention theory. A random sample of thirty qualified social workers who are employed in the Launceston area were interviewed. Social workers were found to lack consensus about how highly suicidal behaviour ought to be treated and differed in the action that they took to prevent it. Social workers face a range of dilemmas about the extent to which they believe they ought to intervene to prevent a death by suicide. Just over half the sample (16 respondents) took non-directive action in that they offered choices, explored options or made suggestions and left the client to choose. The remaining 14 social workers argued that suicidal thinking is a process of constriction and this group intervened in a directive way. They acted to make the client safe and applied pressure to clients for consent for action to be taken. Dilemmas about action were particularly pronounced when the scenario involved a young adult or adolescent but action was more likely to be directive than non-directive. The beliefs that social workers held about suicide, depression, mental illness and professional knowledge were found to determine, to a great extent, their response to clients deemed at high risk of suicide. As a result of the findings of the study, explanations are generated for the split in opinions across the sample. A number of recommendations are made about the education of social workers and their needs in working with highly suicidal clients. Gaps that have been identified within the service delivery network in Launceston are discussed.


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Copyright 1996 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.Soc.Sc.)--University of Tasmania, 1996. Includes bibliographical references (p. 170-179)

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