Email to a suicide survivor

You may have read about nurses as prescribers of digital therapeutics in editorials, letters, journal articles or blogs. This is one of two blog posts demonstrating email as an adjunct to face-to-face support, and as an example of how a nurse can use/prescribe digital therapy. Naturally, it comes with the usual disclaimers about these being examples that may be of use to adapt for you/your practice, not an instruction/template for practice. One of the goals of this blog is to share ideas – that’s what this blog post is about.

Below is a sample email to a person who has survived suicide:

From: Paul McNamara
Sent: Friday, 27 December 2019, 11:50 AM

Subject: Suggestions

Hi Paula

Thanks for speaking with Molly and I this morning. This email is in follow-up to some of the suggestions we discussed:

1. Safety Plan
In recent years we’ve been thinking more about safety-planning for people who experience suicidal thoughts. Beyondblue have a free App called “BeyondNow” which guides us through the sort of things to include on a safety plan.
Here’s the link:

Having the safety plan on the phone can be pretty handy, and you can share the plan via email with your GP, trusted friend(s), psychologist etc. If you do decide to use it, and would like the hospital and/or community mental health to have a copy of your safety plan, I’m happy for you to email it to me, and I’ll put it on our system.

2. Mindfulness Strategy
Download the SmilingMind App on your phone from here:
As with the BeyondNow App, it’s free, evidence-based and endorsed by beyondblue.
I suggest giving it a try. Mindfulness activities like slow breathing and some of the other stress-management tips on the app can sometimes be more effective than medication when it comes to preventing/managing anxiety.

3. Employee Assistance Program vs GP Referral
Like we talked about today, it would be handy to get plugged-in with a specialist mental health professional (eg: Credentialed Mental Health Nurse, Psychologist, Mental Health Social Worker) in private practice for support. The easiest way to access this for employed people is usually via their Employee Assistance Program – your employer does not get told what you’re discussing in sessions. If you’d rather not go via the Employee Assistance Program, you can book a double appointment with your GP to request a Mental Health Plan/Referral.

4. Short term follow-up via ACT
Community mental health’s Acute Care Team (ACT) will make phone contact with you later today/tomorrow, and will arrange to see you face-to-face within the next week. We think it’s important to offer an avenue to emotional support until we’re sure you’re “back on your feet” and/or engaged with a specialist mental health professional.
You can contact ACT on 1300 64 2255 (1300 MH CALL).

5. Finding your way back
Just in case you lose the booklet I gave you this morning, here’s a an online version:
“Finding your way back” (information for people who have attempted suicide)
You’ll find some good info in that booklet.
Also, the booklet I left for your partner (“Guiding their way back{) is available via the same web page.

It was good to meet you this morning Paula. It’s such a relief that you’re emerging from that dark space you were in a few days ago. I hope this email is helpful to your recovery. Naturally, I’m happy for you to contact me directly if you’d like clarification or elaboration.

Kind regards,


End Notes

If you’ve seen me in my clinical practice and have received an email similar to the one above, please accept my explanation that this blog post is just to share an idea about integrating digital therapeutics into everyday clinical practice. I’m a bit anxious that seeing the info online rather than as a one-to-one email may call into question the authenticity of the original email. At my end it doesn’t. I do recycle some sentences/paragraphs when I’m emailing a person after meeting them face-to-face, but the email is always tweaked to reflect the uniqueness of each therapeutic engagement. I’d be horrified if the blog post causes offence or dilutes the authenticity of our meeting, and sincerely apologise if it does.

Please also see this blog post’s companion piece, “Email to a person who experiences persistent pain“.

As always, your feedback is welcomed in the comments section below.

Paul McNamara, 27 December 2019

Short URL

References/Further Reading

Ferguson, C., Hickman, L., Wright, R., Davidson, P. & Jackson, D. (2018) Preparing nurses to be prescribers of digital therapeutics, Contemporary Nurse, 54(4-5): 345-349.
doi: 10.1080/10376178.2018.1486943

Søgaard Neilsen, A. & Wilson, R.L. (2019) Combining e‐mental health intervention development with human computer interaction (HCI) design to enhance technology‐facilitated recovery for people with depression and/or anxiety conditions: An integrative literature review. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 28(1): 22-39.
doi: 10.1111/inm.12527

Wilson, R.L. (2018) The right way for nurses to prescribe, administer and critique digital therapies, Contemporary Nurse, 54(4-5): 543-545.
doi: 10.1080/10376178.2018.1507679

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