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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Speaking of suicide prevention...truth-seeking, agenda setting, and traditions in conflict : a narrative account of everyday planning practice White, Jennifer Hume

Abstract

The main purpose of this study was to develop a more complete understanding of the deeply situated, ethical and political character of suicide prevention program planning practice through the analysis of everyday narratives or "practice stories." By offering an in-depth view of program planning practice - based on the retrospective analysis of a national conference planning process - this study provides an ideal opportunity for learning about "what matters most" when multiple interest groups come together to plan new programs. Three broad research questions provide the focus for this study: What are the diverse personal and professional understandings that stakeholders bring to the work of suicide prevention? How do these various identities and roles get enacted through language? What are the implications that these various understandings and multiple discourses have for shaping subsequent program planning experiences, decisions and actions? Using an open-ended interview structure, nine conference planning committee members were invited to reflect on their own experiences at the planning table. My own storied account of our planning experience is presented alongside the observations and stories of my planning colleagues. Thus, the varied perspectives of different planning partners and stakeholders are represented in their own words and are woven into an unfolding and textured narrative about planning practice in the mental health field. Several important findings emerged which have relevance for the future study and practice of program planning. First, there was a clear privileging of professional knowledge and interests at our planning table. Second, the tasks of problem framing and discourse shaping are key functions that planners need to bring conscientious attention to in order to advance the overall planning agenda. Finally, critical listening, emotion, empathy, and care are important elements of communication and meaning making and I have argued that these relational attributes should be explicitly cultivated and nurtured at the planning table.

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