A new study from the UK suggests that additional suicide prevention strategies should be geared to social networks because 75 per cent of suicides occur in people who have not sought mental health care in the year prior to their death. In these cases, clinical intervention is not possible because no contact has been made.
Researchers from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry published their findings in the online October 2011 issue of the British Medical Journal. Their investigation included a review of 14 suicides by people aged 18-34, none of whom were receiving specialist mental health care in London, South Wales and the South West. They also interviewed 31 family and friends, and co-workers to determine what they had witnessed in the time prior to the suicides.
They found that family and friends had a great deal of difficulty in interpreting signs and intervening in potential suicides. In their one-on-one interviews, researchers learned that the words and/or actions of a loved one were not easy to identify as clearly suicidal, and even if they were, fear of “making things worse” inhibited people from taking action.
A lack of training and an absence of public information led to a knowledge gap for friends and family of the potentially suicidal. Even family physicians were sometimes unable to identify the serious warning signs of suicide, with tragic results.
Researchers concluded that a great deal of work needs to be done to develop suicide prevention training programmes for the public.
To read a summary of the research, go to www.medicalnewstoday.