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BACKGROUND: Prisoners have a high risk of suicide. Research studies have investigated factors contributing to this, some through interviews with survivors of suicide attempts, others with informants such as family and friends of suicide victims. However, there is little information regarding the effects of participating in such interviews. AIMS: To investigate the effects on participants of taking part in detailed interviews about suicidal behaviour and contributory factors. METHOD: Case-control studies of 120 prisoners who made near-lethal suicide attempts (cases) and 120 prisoners who had never carried out near-lethal suicide attempts in prison (controls) were conducted. Information regarding effects on prisoners of participating in the interviews was collected using quantitative and qualitative methods. RESULTS: For both male cases and controls, and female controls, self-reported mood levels improved significantly by the end of the interviews. For female cases, the interviews had no negative effect on their self-reported mood. Whilst some prisoners found the interviews upsetting, nearly all said they were pleased to have participated. LIMITATIONS: The same researchers carried out the interviews and collected data on the effects of participation. Also, several potential participants were excluded from the study and the likely effect of the interview on them is unknown. CONCLUSIONS: We found little evidence that participation of prisoners in interview-based research on suicidal behaviour has negative effects on them; indeed, it can be beneficial. Inclusion of similar instruments to measure the effects of research participation in future investigations could provide valuable feedback to researchers and ethics committees.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





54 - 62


Adolescent, Adult, Case-Control Studies, Female, Humans, Interview, Psychological, Male, Prisoners, Stress, Psychological, Suicide, Attempted, Young Adult