Research Endeavours into Suicide: A Need to Shift the Emphasis

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002), approximately one million people died as a result of suicide in the year 2000. Perhaps more worryingly, evidence provided by the WHO (2002) indicates that the global rate of suicide has continued to rise since 1950. Consequently, suicide should be regarded as a global problem, and one that is increasing in magnitude. Drawing predominantly on policy and empirical literature emanating from Canada and the UK, this article will show that, despite a substantial research effort and the production of an associated literature, suicide rates continue to rise in the example countries. Even given the existence of numerous positivistically oriented studies, and the introduction of a range of strategies to help prevent suicide, significant reductions in suicide rates have not been achieved. Similarly, while there exists a substantial literature on the issue of suicide, there are many gaps in our knowledge and our understanding of the experiences, and the meanings attributed to these experiences that motivate people to attempt suicide is far from complete. Accordingly, the author argues that there is an urgent need to better understand the particular life experiences and the meanings that individuals attach to suicidal experiences. In order to design interventions to help reduce the suicide rate, whether these are interventions at the pre-primary, primary or secondary level of care, it is argued that it is necessary to gain a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of this highly complex behaviour. Consequently, this article makes the case for the use of hermeneutic, phenomenological investigations, in order to further elucidate the lived experiences of people who have attempted suicide.


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