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Occupational Therapy & Suicide Awareness

In the U.S., one person completes suicide every 13 minutes. Occupational therapists need to be aware of
risk/contributing factors of suicidal behavior in order to implement appropriate referrals and interventions. OTs have a role in
promoting awareness of suicide.
A focused literature review shows that occupational therapy has a positive impact on overall quality of life by
addressing elements of the OTPF. OTs will encounter a variety of individuals who may display risk factors that could lead to
suicidal ideation. Additionally, OTs should be aware of identified warning signs that necessitate immediate referral to other
members of the multidisciplinary team.
Student survey results pre and post educational presentation on research articles:

Question #2: Occupational therapists have a role in suicide awareness.

Question #4: The topic of suicide (suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, awareness, prevention) should only be addressed by OTs
who specialize in mental health.
Question #5: There should be mandatory training in suicide awareness/prevention in order to maintain OT licensure.
Question #6: The therapist should seek consultation from peers or experts anytime suicide is perceived to be an issue.
Question #7: After this program, you personally feel that you will be qualified to implement interventions that address
suicidal ideation.
Question #8: Occupational therapists must know when it is appropriate to make referrals when suicidal ideation is reported.
Question #1: Please identify one risk factor of suicide.
Pre-Education Risk Factors

Post-Education Risk Factors

Links to OTPF

Alcohol dependence
Mental illness
Impact on family and friends
Substance abuse
Alcohol dependence
Traumatic experience

Mental Health condition
Sense of not belonging
Any significant or small disruption in one's life
Stress, anxiety, substance abuse, social skills, selfworth
Substance Abuse
Cultural adversity/poverty
Mental health diagnosis, feeling of not belonging, not

Client factors
Mental functions, Values, Sensory
function, Global mental functions, Body
Performance Skills
Social interaction
Education, Social Participation, Health
management and maintenance, Leisure
Context and Environment
Personal, Social
Approach to intervention

having a place, depression, suicidal ideation

Traumatic Experience
Any type of illness/disease/mental illness/or physical

Performance patterns
Roles, Habits
Participation, Role competence

Question #3: If you feel that occupational therapists have a role in suicide awareness, please define what you feel that role is.
Pre-Education Themes

Post-Education Themes

Stress, Emotional feelings, Occupational balance, Mental health,

Prevention, Risk factors, Communication, Meaningful activities,
Being Aware

Suicide risk factors, Referring, Interventions, Prevention,

Communication, Meaning in life through engagement in activities,

Almeida, O., Pirkis, J., Kerse, N., Sim, M., Flicker, L., Snowdon, J., Draper, B., Byrne, G., Goldney, R., Lautenschlager, N., Stocks, N.,
Alfonso, H., & Pfaff, J. (2012). A randomized trial to reduce the prevalence of depression and self-harm behavior in older
primary care patients. Annals of Family Medicine 10(4). 347-356. doi: 10.1370/afm.1368.
Arbesman, M., Bazyk, S., & Nochajski, S. M. (2013). Systematic review of occupational therapy and mental health promotion,
prevention, and intervention for children and youth. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(6), 120-130. Doi:
Centers for Disease Control. (2015). Suicide data sheet. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from
Chen, Y., Ay-Woan, P., Ping-Chuan, H., Lyinn, C., Jin-Shei, L., Shur-Fen, G., & Tsyr-Jang, C. (2015). Life adaptation skills training
(LAST) for persons with depression: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders 185, 108-114.
Doll, J., & Brady, K. (2013). Project HOPE: Implementing sensory experiences for suicide prevention in a Native American
community. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 29(2), 149-158. doi:10.1080/0164212X.2013.788977
Gutierrez, P. M., Brenner, L. A., Rings, J. A., Devore, M. D., Kelly, P. J., Staves, P. J., & Kaplan, M. S. (2013). A qualitative description
of female veterans' deployment-related experiences and potential suicide risk factors. Journal of Clinical Psychology,
69(9), 923-935. doi:10.1002/jclp.21997
Kimball-Carpenter, A., & Smith, M. (2013). An occupational therapist's interdisciplinary approach to a geriatric psychiatry activity
group: case study. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 29(3), 293-298. doi:10.1080/0164212X.2013.819731
Knis-Matthews, L., Richard, L., Marquez, L., & Mevawala, N. (2005). Implementation of occupational therapy services for an
adolescent residence program. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 21(1), 57-72.
Rimkeviciene, J., OGorman, J., & De Leo, D. (2014) Impulsive suicide attempts: A systematic literature review of definitions,
characteristics, and risk factors. Journal of Affective Disorders, 171, 93-104.
Shtayernman, O. (2008). Suicidal ideation and comorbid disorders in adolescents and young adults diagnosed with Aspergers
Syndrome: A population at risk. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 18(3), 201-328.
Wahlin, R., Bckman, T. B., Lundin, L. Haegermark, A., Winblad, A., & Anvret, M. (2000). High suicidal ideation in persons testing
for Huntington's disease. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 102(3), 150-161. doi: 10.1080/10911350802427548
Contact Information: Chatham University Masters of Occupational Therapy
Carlie Bieranowski, OTS
Jana Meister, OTS
Melissa deRyk, OTS
Anne Brady, OTS
Sharon Novalis, PhD, OTR/L