Suicide prevention is a global priority. Psychiatric hospitalization presents an opportunity to intervene positively with, for example, psychological therapies. However, evidenced-based suicide-prevention psychological treatments are rarely available on in-patient wards. Understanding staff engagement with research investigating suicide-prevention psychological treatments is crucial for their effective, efficacious, and pragmatic implementation. A pilot randomised control trial and feasibility study of Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention therapy provided the opportunity for a qualitative investigation of staff experiences and views of a psychological intervention for people with suicidal experiences on psychiatric in-patient wards.
To investigate staff acceptability of Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention therapy for psychiatric inpatients based on their perceptions of their experiences during the conduct of a clinical trial.
Transcribed audio-recordings of qualitative interviews and a focus group (n = 19) of purposively sampled staff from eight psychiatric wards were analysed using inductive Thematic Analysis.
Facilitators and barriers were identified for: i) the conduct of the research, and, ii) the suicide-prevention intervention (Cognitive Behavioural Suicide Prevention therapy). Research-related barriers comprised communication difficulties between staff and researchers, and increased staff workload. Research-related facilitators included effective staff/researcher relationships, and alignment of the intervention with organisational goals. Suicide-prevention intervention-related barriers comprised staffs’ negative beliefs about suicide which impacted on their referral of inpatients to the clinical trial, and staff perceptions of insufficient information and unfulfilled expectations for involvement in the therapy. Facilitators included staff beliefs that the therapy was beneficial for inpatients, the service and their own clinical practice.
Staff beliefs that ‘suicide-talk’ could precipitate suicidal behaviour resulted in covert gatekeeping and restricted referral of only inpatients judged as stable or likely to engage in therapy, which may not be those who could most benefit. Such threats to sample representativeness have implications for future therapy research design. The findings provide novel information for researchers and practitioners regarding the conduct of psychological treatment and research in psychiatric units.