Understanding suicide clusters through exploring self-harm: Semi-structured interviews with individuals presenting with near-fatal self-harm during a suicide cluster.
John A., Marchant A., Hawton K., Gunnell D., Cleobury L., Thomson S., Spencer S., Dennis M., Lloyd K., Scourfield J.
There was a highly publicised cluster of at least ten suicides in South Wales, United Kingdom, in 2007-2008. We carried out a qualitative descriptive study using cross-case thematic analysis to investigate the experiences and narratives of eight individuals who lived in the area where the cluster occurred and who survived an episode of near-fatal self-harm at the time of the cluster. Interviews were conducted from 01.01.2015 to 31.12.2015. All interviewees denied that the other deaths in the area had affected their own suicidal behaviour. However, in other sections of the interviews they spoke about the cluster contributing to difficulties they were experiencing at the time, including damage to social relationships, feelings of loss and being out of control. When asked about support, the interviewees emphasized the importance of counselling, which they would have found helpful but in most cases did not receive, even in the case of close contacts of individuals who had died. The findings suggest that effective prevention messaging must be subtle, since those affected may not be explicitly aware of or acknowledge the imitative aspects of their behaviour. This could be related to stigma attached to suicidal behaviour in a cluster context. Lessons for prevention include changing the message from asking if people 'have been affected by' the suicide deaths to emphasising the preventability of suicide, and directly reaching out to individuals rather than relying on people to come forward.