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Trust and the dilemmas of suicide risk assessment in nongovernment mental health services


Lemon, G and Stanford, S and Sawyer, A-M, Trust and the dilemmas of suicide risk assessment in nongovernment mental health services, Australian Social Work, 69, (2) pp. 145-157. ISSN 0312-407X (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Australian Association of Social Workers

DOI: doi:10.1080/0312407X.2015.1131843


Reducing suicide rates is a national mental health priority as over 2,200 people die from suicide each year in Australia. Increasingly, nongovernment organisations (NGOs) provide services to people experiencing severe and persistent mental illnesses - a significant cohort at risk of suicide. While clinical services are generally seen as the arbiters of risk, little is known of how suicide risk assessments are undertaken in NGOs. This article reports the findings of a survey-based pilot study of 44 frontline workers in mental health-focused NGOs in Tasmania, Australia, with the aim of sketching a preliminary picture of this under-studied terrain. We identified the assessment practices utilised by workers, and the challenges and dilemmas they experienced in navigating issues of trust in suicide risk assessment in contexts where they often felt vulnerable and under-prepared. We argue that these early findings demonstrate the need for organisations to foster cultures of trust to facilitate both the activities of relationship building between practitioners and clients, and those of monitoring risk.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:mental health, risk assessment, suicide, community services
Research Division:Studies in Human Society
Research Group:Social Work
Research Field:Counselling, Welfare and Community Services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Health and Support Services
Objective Field:Mental Health Services
UTAS Author:Stanford, S (Dr Sonya Stanford)
ID Code:107733
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-03-22
Last Modified:2017-06-15

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