Exploring the lived experiences of suicide attempt survivors
Suicide is a major problem in society and remains a challenge for services. Approaches to suicidality occur across individual, inter-personal and socio-cultural levels. However, the dominant narrative remains a biomedical one. Excessive reliance on a biomedical approach is problematic as complex phenomena may be reduced to linear causes. Service user perspectives may highlight alternative understandings and interventions but can also be constrained by dominant cultural constructions. Accordingly, this study aimed to explore the cultural constructions which survivors drew on in narrating their experiences of suicidality. 11 attempt survivors who had recovered from suicidality were interviewed. A narrative analysis was conducted and highlighted a polyphony of survivor voices and cultural constructions. Attempt survivors drew on the dominant biomedical model to varying degrees, and accounts could be placed on a continuum of acceptance/rejection of this model. 6 stories (one for each point of the continuum) were explored in detail. All participants also related to alternative constructions of suicide including psychological, situational, interpersonal, moral, public and spiritual. Participants used constructions of suicide to justify their experiences. One previously unexplored voice to emerge was of suicidality as having been a positive experience. Results are discussed with respect to previous studies, narrative typologies of illness, clinical implications, limitations and future research.
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