Suicide Risk Assessment Education for Counselors Who Work with Clients with Substance Use Disorders

Monday, 9 November 2015

Stacie L. Olson, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC, RN, NP (AdultPsych)
Department of Nursing, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, USA

Background/Significance: Suicide is the leading cause of death in people who abuse alcohol and drugs.  The role of the counselor is to assess a client’s risk for suicide, yet according to the literature counselors have a limited background in formalized training on suicide prevention. 

Methods/procedures: A suicide prevention training intervention designed for addiction counselors was conducted for 11 counseling and professional staff working in a substance abuse treatment center. The training intervention was compared and evaluated pre-intervention, post-intervention, and six weeks post intervention to assess changes in attitudes (using ASP scale), confidence (using COSE scale), knowledge (using knowledge quiz), and facilitative skills in suicide management (using SIRI 2) on suicide prevention.

Outcomes/findings: There were no statistically significant changes in subjects’ scores post intervention in reference to counselors’ attitudes, confidence, and facilitative suicide skills. However, the power of this study was low (48%) and sample size small. (N=11). Despite the lack of power, there was a large clinically significant effect size (0.64)    between the pre and post SIRI survey scores which demonstrated a change in competence in recognizing facilitative suicide responses.  In addition, 64% of the participants had prior training in suicide prevention, which also may have affected this studies results. Knowledge did show statistically significant changes in subjects’ scores post intervention t -2.68 (p<.023), which demonstrated a positive benefit of training on suicide prevention.

Summary: In the future a larger sample size should be used to assess changes in attitudes, confidence, knowledge, and skills of counselors and professional staff using the suicide prevention training.  Training was well accepted by the participants, and there continues to be a need for education on suicide prevention for clients with substance use disorders.