Once a risk assessment is complete, you can then determine the next steps in accessing support for your client.
Some questions to consider may include:
- How can I increase this person’s safety?
- Does this person need to be hospitalised?
- Who else does this person see as being helpful and trustworthy?
- Who can I involve in supporting this person?
- What are the support options for when I am unavailable?
- What does this person think will be helpful for them?
Accessing support: Services available for referrals
In an emergency
If you judge your patient’s safety to be at immediate risk, consider the following options:
- Call 000 and ask for an ambulance. Stay on the line and be ready to answer the operator’s questions
- Take the patient to the local hospital’s emergency department
For further information and services please visit our accessing professional support page.
Police welfare check
If you are worried about the immediate safety of a client but they are not physically with you (for example, if you have spoken to them on the phone), you can contact the police to report your concerns and request a police welfare check. This will involve police officers visiting the person’s residence in order to check on their safety.
Individuals requiring urgent assessment or treatment
CATT Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team
The CATT Team provide 24/7 urgent assessment and short-term treatment services for people in serious mental health crisis where there are concerns about their safety.
Doctors, mental health professionals and other community service workers can contact their local CATT Team, many are contactable 24 hours a day by telephone.
The team can arrange an assessment and professional treatment for at-risk clients with a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health nurse or social worker.
The CATT service can also provide support and treatment for patients with acute mental illness who are able to be managed in the community.
CATTs are called different names across Australia, but perform essentially the same roles:
- CATT (Tasmania, Northern Territory and ACT)
- Acute Care Teams (Queensland and NSW)
- Acute Community Intervention Service (Victoria)
- Mental Health Triage Service (South Australia)
- Mental Health Emergency Response Line (Western Australia)
Psychiatric triage provides phone consultation, advice, assessment and referral for people experiencing mental health issues.
The service is also provided to health professionals and carers who are concerned for somebody with mental health issues. The service is staffed by a team of experienced senior mental health clinicians who provide advice, consultation, assessment and referral.
Individuals requiring immediate support
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
The Suicide Call Back Service provides immediate telephone counselling and support to anyone affected by suicide, including clients at risk of suicide. They also offer a call back service, where clients may be able to receive up to six sessions of ongoing professional telephone counselling with the same counsellor, at a time that suits them. The Suicide Call Back Service is available 24/7, throughout Australia.
Help them to help themselves
Educational and self-help materials can be helpful in empowering patients to help themselves when they are feeling suicidal.
General considerations when dealing with suicidal clients
- Identify, document and discuss suicidal behaviours using clear definitions
- Recognise personal beliefs, stigma and myths about suicide
- Involve the client’s family, friends and support networks in their management
- Be aware of the importance of the clinician-client relationship
- Be clear to clients when explaining the exceptions to confidentiality, including circumstances where they may be at risk of harm.
It is important when you are managing suicidal clients to take care of yourself to avoid burnout. Ensure you make use of professional supervision and debriefing after a session.
Self-reflection and support from colleagues can also be invaluable.
It’s critical to look after yourself while dealing with clients at risk. Try to continue to get ample and regular sleep and exercise, and maintain a good diet.
Taking time out from your professional role with relaxation and hobbies can also be helpful.
Further reading for health professionals