Ethical and Competent Care of Suicidal Patients: Contemporary Challenges, New Developments, and Considerations for Clinical Practice


Clinical work with suicidal patients has become increasingly challenging in recent years. It is argued that contemporary issues related to working with suicidal patients have come to pose a number of considerable professional and even ethical hazards for psychologists. Among various concerns, these challenges include providing sufficient informed consent, performing competent assessments of suicidal risk, using empirically supported treatments/interventions, and using suitable risk management techniques. In summary, there are many complicated clinical issues related to suicide (e.g., improvements in the standard of care, resistance to changing practices, alterations to models of health care delivery, the role of research, and issues of diversity). Three experts comment on these considerations, emphasizing acute versus chronic suicide risk, the integration of empirical findings, effective documentation, graduate training, maintaining professional competence, perceptions of medical versus mental health care, fears of dealing with suicide risk, suicide myths, and stigma/blame related to suicide. The authors' intention is to raise awareness about various suicide-related ethical concerns. By increasing this awareness, they hope to compel psychologists to improve their clinical practices with suicidal patients, thereby helping to save lives. © 2008 American Psychological Association.

Publication Title

Professional Psychology: Research and Practice