“A difficult tightrope to walk”: an exploration of therapists’ experiences of working with suicidal students in Higher Education

Kalsi, Sonia (2020) “A difficult tightrope to walk”: an exploration of therapists’ experiences of working with suicidal students in Higher Education. DCPsych thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute. [Thesis]

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Suicide has become a public concern and a high government priority in the UK in recent years. Universities across the UK have witnessed increases in student suicide and with growing demands for university counselling provision, suicide risk amongst the student population is an increasing concern for mental health professionals in higher education.

Existing research on suicide is dominated by quantitative research, which has mainly focused on the epidemiology of suicide and the identification of risk and protective factors of suicidal phenomena. Despite increases in mental distress and suicidality amongst students, research on mental health professionals working with this complex population is an area which has been largely neglected. Recognising the imperative need for research in this area, this study aims to address the significant gap in research by exploring therapists’ experiences of working with suicidal students in higher education in the UK.

The study used a qualitative design with semi-structured in-depth interviews. Eight participants were selected purposively and interviewed regarding their experiences of working with suicidal students. The interviews were then transcribed and analysed for recurrent themes using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Four super-ordinate themes, each with inter-related sub-themes, emerged from the interpretative analysis: Exploring suicidality; The context matters; What helps?; and Barriers to working with suicidality in university counselling services.

Participants’ accounts provided valuable insights of working with suicidal students in the higher education sector and created a space for therapists to give voice to their experiences of working with the implicit phenomenon of suicide. This research has increased knowledge, awareness and understanding of working with suicidality in the higher education sector. The findings have implications for therapists and counselling services in higher education as well as universities themselves, and it is argued that the findings could assist heads of university counselling services in planning improvements to service provision for suicidal students and improve support for therapists working with this vulnerable client population. Finally, implications for Counselling Psychologists working in the higher education sector are explored as well as areas for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (DCPsych)
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Psychology
B. > Theses
C. Collaborative Partners > Metanoia Institute
Item ID: 32930
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2021 07:47
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:49
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/32930

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