Information sources used by the suicidal to inform choice of method
Biddle L., Gunnell D., Owen-Smith A., Potokar J., Longson D., Hawton K., Kapur N., Donovan J.
Background: Choice of suicide method strongly influences the outcome of an attempt. Public knowledge of possible methods is an important but less frequently considered aspect of the accessibility of suicide. This qualitative study explored the sources of information shaping the near-fatal suicide attempts of 22 individuals. Methods: Respondents were recruited from nine hospitals in England. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain detailed narratives of the planning of the suicide attempt. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, then subjected to thematic analysis utilising constant comparison techniques. Results: Information sources discussed most frequently were television, news stories, the Internet, and previous self-harm. Others were professional resources, personal knowledge of others' attempts and information gleaned from healthcare professionals. Many respondents reported seeing media portrayals or reports of suicide, which had contributed to their awareness of suicide methods. Several provided examples of direct imitation. Some had deliberately sought information about methods when planning their attempt - mostly from the Internet. Past experience was used to identify 'best' methods and perfect implementation. Limitations: The frequency with which sources of information are 'used' by particular groups and their relative import cannot be inferred from a qualitative sample. Near-fatal cases may differ from completed suicides. Conclusions: The media is an important contributor to the cognitive availability of suicide in society and could be used for prevention through carefully crafted portrayals of suicide designed to generate negative social perceptions of popular methods. Understanding of how sources of information can influence perceptions of suicide could inform the content of clinical conversations with patients. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.