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Br J Gen Pract. 2005 Jul;55(516):503-9.

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

Author information

1
Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter. c.v.owens@ex.ac.uk

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.

PMID:
16004734
PMCID:
PMC1472785
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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