Potential role of close friends in preventing suicide - study
Jun 24, 2005 - 7:56:38 PM

The British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) has reported research showing that close friends and relatives play a key role in determining whether or not suicidal people seek help from their GP.

The study which analysed sixty-six interviews was conducted as part of a psychological autopsy with family members or friends of suicide victims. The paper highlights the importance of lay networks and suggests that a combination of medical and non-medical strategies are essential in helping to prevent suicide.

Participants in the study were asked whether or not suicidal individuals had sought medical help in the month leading up to their death. It found that half of the suicide victims had consulted in their final month and that many were persuaded to do so by a relative or close friend.

Of those who did not consult, some were characterised as help-resisters, but others had failed to do so because no one around them was aware of the depth of their distress or considered it to be medically significant.

Dr Christabel Owens of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter and principal author said: “A huge amount of research has been done on the factors associated with suicide and on what can be done to prevent it. For a long time, there has been a very heavy focus on mental illness and on the role of doctors in detecting and treating it but, of course, they have no opportunity to do so unless individuals consult. We know very little about how people make help-seeking decisions at times of emotional crisis. This study is a first step towards a better understanding of that process.”

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