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New blog by SBRL member Tiago Zortea

posted Feb 15, 2018, 2:23 AM by Karen Wetherall
Suicide research without borders: The travel diary of a ‘SBRL ambassador’

When people ask me where I am from, I always play a game and ask them back where do you think I am from. After some guessing, I generally say that ‘I am half Italian, half Portuguese but born in Brazil’. But I also speak Spanish, live in Scotland and have a Glaswegian heart! Although this might sound like an identity crisis, I must admit that it is very nice to have so many influences and being able to communicate in different languages, learning and celebrating diversity. As a researcher, this not only helps me to learn from what has been published in the countries where those languages are spoken, but it also opens doors for collaborations and new friendships within our field. At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky enough to collaborate with Brazilian and Portuguese suicide researchers and clinicians, which made feel like a ‘SBRL (Suicidal Behaviour Research Laboratory) ambassador’ in parts of the Portuguese-speaking world.

 My collaboration trip started on the 13th January in the city of Vitoria (Brazil). Since I am a clinical psychologist researching suicidal behaviour, I was invited by a Brazilian clinician, Diego Souza, to deliver a workshop on psychotherapy with patients at suicide risk. Over 90 clinicians including psychiatrists and clinical psychologists attended. Practical procedures on clinical intervention were taught through the lens of the IMV model of suicidal behaviour and, for the first time in Brazil, David Jobes’ CAMS approach (Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality) was presented as a new programme with a growing evidence base to work with patients who are suicidal. The workshop was extremely productive: lots of knowledge exchange and very good feedback from attendees.

My second stop was on the 20th January in the biggest city of Brazil – São Paulo – where I was invited by the Dialectica Psychotherapy Institute to give a workshop on single interventions with patients following a suicide attempt who had been discharged from emergency departments or discharged from psychiatric inpatient care. More than 40 clinical psychologists and psychiatrists attended the course where, also for the first time in the country, Gregory Brown’s and Barbara Stanley’s Safety Planning Intervention (SPI) was presented as a tool for this modality of intervention. Theoretically, the SPI was framed as working on volitional moderators within the IMV model, acting to reduce the likelihood of suicidal thoughts to be translated into a suicide attempt. In the workshop, I also mentioned the current SBRL SAFE TEL project and that we are looking forward to learning about the results of this important work. Finally, my last course in the country was in Brasilia (Capital of Brazil) on the 26-27 January at the invitation of the Atitude Courses Institute. I delivered the same workshop as I had done in Vitoria with about 50 clinicians in attendance. My time in Brazil has been very constructive and positive, and I left the country with quite few other invitations to return next year - which is really exciting.

My final trip was to my mum’s homeland – Portugal. As a result of attending IASR ECR’s Breakfast in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor José Carlos Santos, from the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Over the past 10 years, Prof Santos’ lab in Coimbra has conducted important research projects within suicidology - indeed one of them is a key reference for the first empirical study of my thesis! After the conference in Vegas, Prof Santos kindly invited me to be one of the speakers at the International Winter Seminar on Suicidology, organised by him and his lab in Coimbra. The event was extremely productive, informative and thought-provoking, with speakers from different parts of Portugal, Brazil - and me representing Scotland. It was very nice to learn about different research and intervention projects, including Prof Santos’ lab’s huge suicide prevention programme, +Contigo, which has been conducted in Portuguese schools with impressive results. My talk presented the results of the first empirical study from my PhD which is investigating perceptions of past parenting and attachment as diatheses for suicidal ideation within the context of the IMV model. The seminar finished with plans of collaboration and an invitation from me to our 3rd EMCR Forum in the summer in Glasgow.

What is next? Well, next is a thesis to finish writing up and I can say that all these experiences were unique, and they boosted my energy to finish my PhD this year! I want to thank all Brazilian researchers and clinicians who made those workshops in South America possible, to Prof Santos for such a kind invitation and with whom I learned so much, and finally to my supervisor Rory O’Connor who supported my desire to collaborate internationally within the Portuguese speaking world.

Obrigado a todos!

Tiago Zortea

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