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Title: The experience of attempted suicide in later life : a qualitative study
Author: Crocker, Louise
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2002
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Older people constitute one of the highest risk groups to suicide. The existing research on suicide in later life has neglected the role of subjective experience and social context, through largely taking a risk factor approach, which is limited as only a minority of people who are deemed to be at risk actually make a suicide attempt, making prediction and prevention difficult. The present study aimed to capture the experience of older people who had recently acted on their suicidal feelings by exploring their understanding of the pathway to their suicide attempt. It also aimed to capture their experience of ageing, which has received little attention in the research to date. Fifteen participants were interviewed after they had acted upon their suicidal feelings. Their transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Three broad themes emerged from the interview data (The Struggle, Control and Visibility), incorporating 20 subordinate themes covering the experience of participants prior to, at the time of and following the suicide attempt. Participants reported losing control and becoming less visible in society prior to their suicide attempt, although they were not entirely helpless at this time and many tried to fight against some of the changes and losses that they were experiencing, even though many of these efforts were in vain and participants were overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. The themes that emerged following the suicide attempt highlight the vulnerability of individuals at this time, as well as the opportunities available for positive outcome. Ageing was largely experienced as a struggle as participants tried to come to terms with getting old. Most felt marginalised and overlooked by society on account of their age. Several participants made an explicit link between their difficulty in adjusting to growing older and their motivations for attempting suicide. There was no set pattern to which themes came together for participants, demonstrating that the pathway to suicide is extremely complex. Furthermore, risk factors identified in the literature were not always present or salient to participants, suggesting that the risk factor approach to suicide is limited and that role of subjective experience and social context must be considered. Directions for future research and the clinical implications of the findings are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available