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October 2021

One-year follow-up of significant others of suicide attempters

Author(s): Ojehagen, A.

Journal/Book: Soc Psychiat Psychiat Epidem. 1999; 34: Platz der Deutschen Einheit 25, D-64293 Darmstadt, Germany. Dr Dietrich Steinkopff Verlag. 470-476.

Abstract: Background: In a previous study we interviewed significant others (SOs) directly following a patient's suicide attempt as a part of the psychiatric assessment. SOs added important information to the assessment and they needed professional counselling themselves. In the present study the opinions of SOs were investigated 1 year after a suicide attempt. Methods: Semi-structured interviews of 84 SOs (93% of a consecutive series) were performed by telephone, focusing on the patient's situation, their own involvement in care and treatment as well as their own well-being and need for support. Forty-four percent of the SOs were parents, 27% partners and 29% persons with other relationships. An independent researcher interviewed the patients. Results: According to SOs, 63% of the patients had mental health problems and 80% had other kinds of problems (e.g. Relationship problems: financial problems, unemployment and substance abuse) at follow-up. A majority of SOs were worried that the patient was going to hurt themself again. There were differences in the information given by patients and SOs concerning suicide attempts during the follow-up period. Many SOs had questions about the suicidal behaviour, and nearly half of the SOs reported that they had not talked to the patient about the index suicide attempt. Nearly half of the SOs would like to have had professional counselling, preferably shortly after the suicide attempt. Two-thirds of the inpatient SOs and 90% of the outpatient SOs had not been involved in the patient care and treatment, although a majority of them desired such involvement. The well-being of the SOs was generally good, except for a small subgroup. Conclusions: The findings of this study provide further evidence that SOs contribute valuable information about the patient after a suicide attempt. They also point strongly to the fact that SOs themselves need support. Insufficient communication between patient and SOs indicates the need for joint counselling directly after a suicide attempt in order to reduce some of the burden and stress experienced by SOs.

Note: Article Magne-Ingvar U, Univ Lund, Dept Clin Neurosci, Div Psychiat, S-22185 Lund, SWEDEN


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