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Attitudes to suicide following the suicide of a friend or relative: a qualitative study of the views of 429 young bereaved adults in the UK

Pitman, A; Nesse, H; Morant, N; Azorina, V; Stevenson, F; King, M; Osborn, D; (2017) Attitudes to suicide following the suicide of a friend or relative: a qualitative study of the views of 429 young bereaved adults in the UK. BMC Psychiatry , 17 , Article 400. 10.1186/s12888-017-1560-3. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: People bereaved by suicide are at increased risk of suicide attempt and suicide, but explanations for these associations remain theoretical. It is possible that the experience of suicide bereavement modifies personal attitudes towards suicide, but the nature of these changes remains unexplored. There is a need to understand personal attitudes to suicide following suicide bereavement, as this may inform the development of suicide prevention interventions. Our aim was to explore the attitudes of young adults bereaved by suicide towards their own likelihood of dying by suicide. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of staff and students aged 18-40 at 37 United Kingdom (UK) higher educational institutions in 2010. Ethical approval was granted by the UCL Research Ethics Committee. Qualitative responses to a question probing attitudes to own suicide were provided by 429 respondents who had experienced bereavement by the suicide of a close contact. We identified key themes in this dataset using thematic analysis. RESULTS: Analysis identified four main themes: suicide as a more tangible option (whether feared or not); identification with the deceased and awareness of shared vulnerabilities to suicide; personal determination to avoid suicide; and beliefs regarding safeguards against suicide. These themes reflected a broad split in participants' views regarding own likelihood of dying by suicide, influenced by the degree to which own suicide was feared and the extent to which they felt in control of determining a suicide death. Whilst the majority described an aversion to the idea of attempting suicide themselves, largely through an awareness of the impact on others, a minority described their experiences as having normalised suicide as a personal option. CONCLUSIONS: The views of a sample of UK-based adults bereaved by suicide suggest that exposure to the suicide of a close friend or relative can influence attitudes to suicide in ways that could influence own risk of suicide attempt. The normalising attitudes to suicide observed in a minority of respondents could contribute to the observed association between suicide bereavement and suicide attempt.

Type: Article
Title: Attitudes to suicide following the suicide of a friend or relative: a qualitative study of the views of 429 young bereaved adults in the UK
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12888-017-1560-3
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1560-3
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author(s). 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Attitudes to death, Bereavement, Contagion, Self-harm, Suicide, Suicide prevention
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Primary Care and Population Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10040349
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