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Suicide Not a ‘Selfish’ Act - NFP Report

24 July 2014 at 4:43 pm
Lina Caneva
A Not for Profit study of Australians who have attempted suicide found many made the attempt feeling they were “a burden” and believed their family and friends would be “better off” without them.

Lina Caneva | 24 July 2014 at 4:43 pm


Suicide Not a ‘Selfish’ Act - NFP Report
24 July 2014 at 4:43 pm

A Not for Profit study of Australians who have attempted suicide found many made the attempt feeling they were “a burden” and believed their family and friends would be “better off” without them.

The research, by national mental health charity SANE Australia and the University of New England, found that a common feeling among people at the time of the attempt was of hopelessness and that their “mental pain” would never end. The research goes against a commonly held notion that suicide is a “selfish” act.

“We interviewed 31 people from across Australia – from both city and regional areas – who had made an attempt on their life, and asked them to tell us about their experience, what support was available to them, whether they had talked with family and friends about the attempt and also what helped or hindered recovery,” SANE Australia’s Suicide Prevention Manager, Sarah Coker said.

“This type of research is lacking in Australia. Many studies have focused on prevention or clinical and expert opinion, neglecting the personal and lived experience of people who have survived a suicide attempt.”

“Given that suicidal ideation and prior suicide attempts are common predictors of increased risk, it is important to understand the experiences of people who have attempted suicide and what factors may help the recovery process,’ Associate Professor Myfanwy Maple, from the University of New England’s School of Health said.

The majority of the study’s participants (87 per cent) reported having been diagnosed with at least one mental illness. Fifteen people reported one or more suicide attempts and 11 reported multiple suicide attempts across their lifespan.

The report said triggers for the attempt included symptoms of mental illness, a lack of professional support, being bereaved by suicide, and drug and alcohol use.

Several participants reported that at the time of their attempt they had “an intense emotional pain” that they wanted to stop. Others felt they were “trapped, with no way out” or “worthless”.

“Judgemental attitudes and stigma were also commonly mentioned, with several people citing a ‘need to end the suffering’ that they were causing others. In a way their suicide attempt was not a selfish act, but rather a distorted belief that by ending their life, the person would improve the situation for those they cared about,” Sarah Coker said.

The study found that access to effective treatment and developing a trusted relationship with a health professional, such as a psychiatrist, was crucial in helping people recover. Support and understanding from family and friends and learning ways to cope was also very important.

“People who have survived a suicide attempt are extremely vulnerable and unfortunately they can encounter negative, dismissive or discriminating attitudes, which can make them feel they are not deserving of help.

“The less judgemental we are about people who attempt suicide the more likely that people who are feeling suicidal will seek help,’ Coker said.

The research is being presented by SANE Australia at the 2014 National Suicide Prevention Conference currently underway in Perth. 

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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