Suicide prevention skills, confidence and training: Results from the Zero Suicide Workforce Survey of behavioral health care professionals.

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SAGE Open Med

MeSH Headings

Mental health/psychiatry, Zero Suicide, suicide prevention, workforce development


Introduction: In behavioral health care settings, a workforce well trained in suicide prevention is critically important for behavioral health care professionals across different disciplines and service sectors who are likely to have considerable exposure to patients at risk for suicidal behavior. This study examined the types of training behavioral health care professionals received, their self-reported skills, comfort level and confidence related to suicide prevention, the association of types and length of training with skills, comfort level and confidence, and areas in which participants would like more training.

Methods: The Zero Suicide Workforce Survey was administered electronically to behavioral health care professionals at six behavioral health treatment centers with both inpatient and ambulatory programs in Connecticut, USA. Item numbers and percentages were calculated for 847 respondents with behavioral health care roles. The chi-square tests were performed to determine the statistical significance of group differences. Non-parametric sign tests were performed to determine the statistical significance of the collective differences in direction among items between groups.

Results: Suicide prevention training is associated with increased levels of behavioral health care professionals' skills and confidence, but one-third of behavioral health care professionals in the sample received no formal training in suicide prevention/intervention. Even brief training appears to have a positive impact on behavioral health care professionals' assessment of their skills and confidence. Prominent topics for additional training include suicide-specific treatment approaches, suicide prevention and awareness, and identification of risk factors and warning signs.

Conclusion: Although behavioral health care professionals may often encounter patients at risk for suicide, many have not obtained any relevant training. The findings highlight the need to strengthen suicide identification, assessment and treatment within behavioral health care treatment settings as part of an effort to prevent suicide.



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