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Personal and Professional Factors and Suicide Intervention Skills


Department of Psychology, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152; E-mail:, or to Barry Fortner, PhD, West Cancer Clinic, 1775 Moriah Woods Blvd., Suite 5, Memphis, TN 38117; E-mail:


This research investigated the relationship of professional and personal factors to the ability of counselors to respond appropriately to suicidal verbalizations using the Suicide Intervention Response Inventory (SIRI). Level of training, experience with suicidal clients, and death acceptance were positively related to suicide intervention competencies. A personal history of suicidality and a belief that suicide is a personal right were negatively related to such skills. Regression analysis revealed that personal history of suicidality and attitude toward suicide as a personal right accounted for a modest, but significant, percentage of the variance in SIRI scores, beyond that accounted for by professional factors. Post hoc analysis indicated that the negative relationship between personal history of suicidal behaviors and suicide counseling skills was significant in the professionally trained participants. These results highlight the importance of attitudes toward suicide and personal history of suicidality, as well as training and experience, in effectively counseling potentially suicidal clients.