Hargen et al., examined the experience of 11 women who were admitted to a psychiatric hospital and were struggling with suicide (2020). It was found that individuals struggling with suicidality and being in the position as a patient in a psychiatric acute ward can be understood as being in a liminal phase and place, with a weakened sense of personhood.
Some of the participants described being in the hospital as feeling as if they were in a waiting room or an in-between stage with a lack of meaning. It is important for staff to recognize that personhood is an important aspect of care. Experiencing recognition of personhood means that a patient feels recognized, both verbally and non-verbally, as an equal and valuable human being, and experiences being taking seriously, respected, and understood.
One example of non-verbal support described nurses coming all the way into the patients’ room when they checked upon them, and not only standing in the doorway. Participants stated that small things such as a staff member smiling at them, making eye contact, shaking their hand, or carefully touching or patting their shoulder made a world of difference.
Hagen, J., Loa Knizek, B., & Hjelmeland, H. (2020). “… I felt completely stranded”: liminality and recognition of personhood in the experiences of suicidal women admitted to psychiatric hospital. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 15(1).
James Bender, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern