JAPAN'S SUICIDE RATE is the worst figure among developed countries since 1998. Following the introduction of the Basic Suicide Prevention Law in 2006, a project providing a training workshop on caring for suicide attempters was started by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2008 and is ongoing. The 1-day workshop primarily targets medical staff in emergency units and involves lectures and case studies.
The authors conducted questionnaire research to investigate the understanding, willingness, and perceived need of the participants concerning caring for suicide attempters before they were educated. The questionnaire consisted of the 11-item Understanding Suicide Patient Scale (UPS) and six additional items, developed by Samuelsson et al. and Kishi et al., respectively. While the items of the UPS are not categorized, the UPS asks about understanding and/or willingness except for one item (‘A person who has made several suicide attempts is at great risk of committing suicide.’). The additional questions asked about perceived needs for further training (two items) and preventive strategies for attempters (four items). The respondents answered with a 4-point rating scale from 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree).
This study was approved by the ethics committee of Yokohama City University School of Medicine. Informed consent was obtained from all participants (n = 210) in the workshops held in 2009 and 2010, and 203 answered the questionnaire. The mean scores for the UPS and the additional questions were 2.3 and 2.5, respectively. The highest score (2.9) on the UPS was observed in response to the statement ‘Patients who have tried to commit suicide are usually treated well in my work unit’. For the additional questions, the highest score (3.4) was given to the statement ‘I think my present training has provided me with adequate skills to take care of people who have tried to commit suicide’. Sixty-five percent of the participants felt they did not treat suicide attempters well enough; 89% of the participants reported they had not yet been provided with adequate skills to care for suicide attempters.
A previous suicide attempt is a potent risk factor for later suicide. Medical staff in emergency units can be gatekeepers for suicide prevention. Given that most staff reported they had not received enough training before the workshop, the session is considered important to help change negative attitudes and decrease the sense of difficulty. More medical staff members who work with suicide attempters are expected to participate in the training workshop in the future and the workshop content will need to be updated to reflect the latest research in the field.