A qualitative study of help seeking and primary care consultation prior to suicide

C Owens, HS Lambert, J Donovan, KR Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background Many suicides may be preventable through medical intervention, but many people do not seek help from a medical practitioner prior to suicide. Little is known about how consulting decisions are made at this time. Aim To explore how distressed individuals and members of their lay networks had made decisions to seek or not to seek help from a medical practitioner in the period leading up to suicide. Design of study Qualitative analysis of psychological autopsy data. Setting One large English county. Method Semi-structured interviews with close relatives or friends of suicide victims were conducted as part of a psychological autopsy study. Sixty-six interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using a thematic approach. Results Relatives and friends often played a key role in determining whether or not suicidal individuals sought medical help. Half the sample had consulted in their final month and many were persuaded to do so by a relative or friend. Of those who did not consult, some were characterised as help-resisters but many others had omitted to do so because no-one around them was aware of the seriousness of their distress or considered it to be medically significant. A range of lay interventions and coping strategies was identified, including seeking non-medical help. Conclusion Greater attention needs to be given to the potential role of lay networks in managing psychological distress and preventing suicide. A balanced approach to suicide prevention is recommended that builds on lay knowledge and combines medical and non-medical strategies.
Translated title of the contributionA qualitative study of help seeking and primary care consultation prior to suicide
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503 - 509
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Volume55(516)
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005

Bibliographical note

Other identifier: PMC1472785

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