How Motivational Interviewing Can Reduce Suicidal Thoughts

The road to suicide begins with suicidal thoughts. Several studies have been carried out on what theories or strategies may be able to reduce those thoughts and behaviours, and research (J Educ Health Promot 2020,9:247) identifies that motivational interviewing can have a significant impact. In this article, we discuss what it is, why it’s beneficial and how you can use it to help someone in need.

What Is Motivational Interviewing? (MI)

The studies around suicide in general look at a variety of common areas such as post-suicide attempt care, cognitive behaviour, group therapy, problem-solving skills training and telephone follow-ups. However, most studies had not considered motivational interviewing as an effective strategy.

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a guiding style of communication that combines following (good listening) with guidance. It’s designed to empower people to change by drawing out their own meaning, importance and capacity for change.

Why Is Motivational Interviewing Effective?

The study shows that after discharge from hospital after a suicide attempt, some presented as ambivalent, some expressed anger and were often left weighing up reasons for continuing to live.

Motivational Interviewing is one of the approaches used to resolve ambivalence and increase a person’s motivation towards making and sustaining a choice/change. It provides a guided pathway for motivations through self-discovery and self-mastery.

MI has been proven to show displayed healthy behaviour changes, a significant reduction in suicidal ideation, and being more inclined to accept referrals to mental health specialists/support. People who receive MI are more likely to seek help and talk to friends and family, which is one of the most important things when it comes to suicide prevention and intervention.

How Does CALM Incorporate MI Strategies In Suicide Prevention?

There are three main communication skills that we teach — asking, listening and informing. These encourage and support change when used in a guiding style or a collaborative conversation, rather than a directive style where people are told what to do or think.

By respecting the person’s efficacy, hopes and wishes, CALM adopts a person-centred and recovery-oriented approach which can be very effective. We teach the skills and strategies which you can use to hear the other person’s change, hope, doubt and future, which you can highlight for them to develop a plan that will sustain their change and choices.


Overall, the study’s findings suggest that MI training has a positive, significant impact on the rate of referral to mental health specialists, alleviating the severity of suicidal ideation, and reducing subsequent suicide attempts.

If you would like to learn more about MI along with other techniques that are proven to save lives, visit our website ( to learn more information about our programs and workshops.

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