Written by Sophia Fedorowicz, PhD researcher.
On the 31st of July I presented the preliminary findings of my PhD project ‘Experiences of talking to your GP about suicide’ at the PsyPAG annual conference, and this year the conference came with a twist. As a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak the majority of academic pursuits have moved online, including conferences. The Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group answered the call to remote conferencing by designing a Twitter-takeover style conference, depositing delegates posters and pre-recorded presentations in an open access database facilitated by the Open Science Framework and scheduling posts and discussion around them on Twitter throughout the day. There were also workshops over zoom and a social area to network and support each other. Nice. An excellent effort by the PsyPAG team that somehow made us all feel like we were together, despite being apart.
My PhD focusses on the patient experience of being assessed for risk of suicide in primary care with an emphasis on patient and public involvement in the project design and execution. The presentation featured at PsyPAG 2020 detailed a study that was co-created with Expert Citizens, an independent group of people who have all experienced multiple needs – combinations of mental ill health, homelessness, addiction and offending behaviour, and offer their lived experience to projects such as mine, service evaluation and many other exceptional undertakings. I presented the preliminary findings of this study seeking to understand how patients experience talking to their GPs about suicide alongside Phil Parkes, the volunteer coordinator for Expert Citizens who has played a key role in the work so far.
The project consists of an on-line, open-ended survey asking participants questions about their experiences. Working with people who have lived experience led to designing the questions to be as trauma informed as possible and using language that was suitable for the general public. We also emphasised to the participants that they could stay up to date with the progress of the study should they wish to. The purpose of this was to allow the participant to maintain ownership of their contribution and to keep being involved as the study progressed should they wish to.
We are currently engaged in the analysis of the responses of forty-one participants, aged between 19 and 67. Presently, a dominant theme is how much the attitude of the GP towards the patient matters to the overall experience. For example, even if the GP is not able to provide any practical support for the patient, if they are perceived to be empathic and understanding allowing the person seeking help to talk about their distress, then the patient leaves feeling more positive about the consultation. Participants commented that they felt somewhat relieved by being able to talk to someone about it and to have the potential for ongoing support from their GP. Whereas patients who received a referral to a secondary service but felt the GP was dismissive of them left feeling regretful, and in some cases worse than they did before the consultation.
These findings are preliminary and there is much more work to be done, this project will also inform further investigation focussing on people trying to access support for suicidal thoughts and feelings using primary care services during the lockdown. If you would like to discuss any part of this project or be kept up to date as it progresses, please get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Twitter (@Soph_Fedorowicz).
If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings
Please know that you are not alone. We encourage you to seek support from someone you trust, your GP or a support service like the Samaritans. You matter.
You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or access their website for further support HERE (https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/).
You can also go to stayingsafe.net, this resource was developed in collaboration with people who have lived experience and is designed to help keep you safe.