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Risky Business: The art of assessing suicide risk and imminent danger - Wellington

Undertaking a suicide risk assessment is not without its complexities. One size does not fit all. This advanced level workshop provides the opportunity for participants to depth their knowledge and competency in the “art” of assessing suicide risk and imminent danger through empathetic dialogue rather than a more traditional ‘checklist’ assessment interview process.

The Conversation of Enquiry is a series of mini conversations that is client-focused and where the conversation of distress is the primary focus of the enquiry rather than presence of risk factors. This conversation model has been shown to be an effective process in enhancing engagement and eliciting the information required to make an informed assessment of suicide acuity. The conversation ends with a summative assessment task that focuses on nuance and subtlety; degree of reflective insight; wairua; despair to hope and if the person moves from alienation to engagement and reactive to responsive.

Building on foundational or gatekeeper suicide prevention training, the workshop provides a critical analysis of suicide risk factors and the risk assessment process and emphasises the importance of investigating in detail the suicidal moment and interrupting the suicide thought. The research that informs and the rationale for asking the assessment questions will be explored. This assists practitioners to confidently and competently adapt the content or assessment process to best meet the context and the needs of the client, particularly in crisis situations and facilitates greater depth of enquiry It examines the elements essential for establishing a good assessment: rapport.

The content of this course is relevant and applicable to the work of mental health and primary health clinicians; mental health support workers; counsellors and psychotherapists in private practice; school counsellors; frontline health, youth, social service and community workers. Those without previous suicide prevention training would also benefit from attending this workshop.

Topics covered in this practical workshop:

  • Overview of the phenomenon of suicide and the 'suicidal moment’
  • What is meant by suicide risk? - Predisposing, Precipitating and Perpetuating Risk Factors
  • The context of risk – understanding the suicide narrative and contextualising the suicidal thought or act
  • A holistic approach to assessment - taking into account physical, emotional, cultural, socio-economic, and spiritual factors or influencers
  • The art of assessing suicide risk: From assessment checklist to a conversation of enquiry
  • The Summative Risk

What others have said about this workshop

“I have learnt more about risk assessment in this workshop than I have learnt from all the suicide prevention workshops I have attended combined” - Psychotherapist

“Appreciated how you constantly drew upon the participants’ experience. Will leave thinking / reflecting on my current practice” - School Counsellor

“Gave me new insights into something I do everyday” - Mental Health Clinician“

A must attend for counsellors. A rich experience filled with practical exampes and learning moments” - Counsellor

"I feel much better equipped to provide support and supervision to my team members" - Mental Health NGO Team Leader

"I feel more reassured that our staff have both the knowledge and the competence to undertake a high quality assessment that is person-centred and appropriate for the numerous cultural communities that we work with." - Manager


Barry has proven leadership over 30 years at local, national and international levels in using community initiatives and strength-based approaches to improve individual and community wellbeing and the prevention of suicide. He has extensive experience in the development, implementation and evaluation of prevention programmes, especially creating collaborative partnerships to prevent or respond to suicide.

Barry's insights are informed by a comprehensive and critical understanding of the research and latest thinking in both the national and international suicide prevention sector. Drawing also on his over 30 years of engaging and supporting suicidal people from different cultures, age groups and genders he offers practical and time proven approaches to assessing risk and providing safe containment and therapeutic support to those experience acute suicidality.

As a health sociologist Barry offers a unique insight into the evolving phenomenon of suicide in the New Zealand context and the critical social and cultural determinants that have influenced it. The workshop is enriched by the learnings from Barry's own lived experience of depression and suicidality and his pathway to recovery. In 2016 he was awarded the NSW Mental Health Commissioner Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. After a number of years overseas, Barry has returned to New Zealand both passionate and enthused to make a contribution to effective and evidence-based suicide prevention activity.