The suicide question

scottish unemployed workers' network


I’m sorry, I have to ask you, but have you ever had suicidal thoughts? When? Did you act on them? What did you do? What happened? And were there other times? Each heart-wrenching answer seemed only to prompt a further question, and although they were asked with gentleness and seeming concern, the questioner was a Work Capability assessor. The aim of this deeply personal grilling was not to help, but to judge. And that matters. Hugely.

I have been with people when that have been asked about suicide before – it is a standard question the assessors ‘have to’ ask. The grilling has never been quite as persistent as it was when I accompanied Julia last week, but it is never comfortable. And the awful thing is that you hesitate to suggest they move onto another line of questioning because every awful recollection can strengthen the case for the person…

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