Communication and interpretation of emotional distress within the friendships of young Irish men prior to suicide: a qualitative study.
AffiliationBarts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.
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CitationSweeney, L., Owens, C., Malone, K., 2014. Communication and interpretation of emotional distress within the friendships of young Irish men prior to suicide: a qualitative study. Health and Social Care in the Community [published online 16 October 2014]
PublisherHealth & social care in the community
JournalHealth & social care in the community
AbstractThe potential for young men in crisis to be supported by their lay networks is an important issue for suicide prevention, due to the under-utilisation of healthcare services by this population. Central to the provision of lay support is the capability of social networks to recognise and respond effectively to young men's psychological distress and suicide risk. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore young men's narratives of peer suicide, in order to identify how they interpreted and responded to behavioural changes and indications of distress from their friend before suicide. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted during 2009/10 with 15 Irish males (aged 19-30 years) who had experienced the death by suicide of a male friend in the preceding 5 years. The data were analysed using a thematic approach. Through the analysis of the participants' stories and experiences, we identified several features of young male friendships and social interactions that could be addressed to strengthen the support available to young men in crisis. These included the reluctance of young men to discuss emotional or personal issues within male friendships; the tendency to reveal worries and emotion only within the context of alcohol consumption; the tendency of friends to respond in a dismissive or disapproving way to communication of suicidal thoughts; the difficulty of knowing how to interpret a friend's inconsistent or ambiguous behaviour prior to suicide; and beliefs about the sort of person who takes their own life. Community-based suicide prevention initiatives must enhance the potential of young male social networks to support young men in crisis, through specific provisions for developing openness in communication and responsiveness, and improved education about suicide risk.
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