My first appointment of the morning was an intake interview with a new arrival. Initial interviews take at least an hour, and they always involve a lot of paperwork, including the treatment plan. One section of the treatment plan involves listing the patient’s current “strengths and needs.” When we got to that part of the interview, I asked the patient to tell me what he considered his strengths.
“I’m not sure,” he said. He sat there and I let him think about it for a minute. He looked at me helplessly. “I don’t know.”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s okay. We can come back to that part later.”
I moved on to the rest of the form and then got to the Suicide Risk Evaluation. I went through the questions with Mr. M until I got to the part where I had to assess whether he had any current suicidal thoughts, intent, or plans.
“Basically,” I said, “are you having any thoughts or plans to end your life, right now, today?” When conducting a suicide risk assessment, you don’t leave any room for vague answers. You have to be blunt and direct.
I looked up from the form and saw that he was taken aback, almost affronted.
“No!” he said. “I love me. I wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Well, there you go,” I said. “I think we found one of your strengths.”