Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Perception of Suicide Risk in Mental Health Professionals

This study employed an independent-groups design (4 conditions) to investigate possible biases in the suicide risk perception of mental health professionals. 

Four hundred participants comprising doctors, nurses and social workers viewed a vignette describing a fictitious patient with a long-term mental illness. The case was presented as being drawn from a sample of twenty similar clinical case reports, of which 10 were associated with an outcome of suicide. 

The participant tasks were 
  1. to decide whether the presented vignette was one of those cases or not, and 
  2. to provide an assessment of confidence in that decision. 
The 4 conditions were used to investigate whether the presence of an associated face, and the nature of the emotional state expressed by that face, affected the response profile. In fact, there were no significant differences between conditions, but there was a significant bias across all conditions towards associating the vignette with suicide, despite the base rate being pre-determined at 50%. The bias was more pronounced in doctors and in male respondents. Moreover, many participants indicated substantial confidence in their decisions. 

The results are discussed in terms of availability bias and over-confidence bias.

Below: ‘Suicide’ responses for male and female participants by professional group

Full article at:

Tim M. Gale 
Department of Research, Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Hatfield, United Kingdom

Tim M. Gale 
Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom

Christopher J. Hawley 
Department of Post-graduate Medicine, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom

John Butler 
School of Health, University of Central Lancaster, Preston, United Kingdom

Adrian Morton 
Reigate Psychology Service, Reigate, Surrey, United Kingdom

Ankush Singhal 
Psychological Medicine Service, The Royal Oldham Hospital, Oldham, United Kingdom 

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