• being suicidal;
  • mental health;
  • nursing;
  • psychache;
  • relationships;
  • suicide;
  • systematic review


Title. How people live with or get over being suicidal: a review of qualitative studies

Aim.  To systematically review qualitative research which addresses how people live with suicidality or recover a desire to live.

Background.  Suicide is a pressing social and public health problem. Much emphasis in suicide research has been on the epidemiology of suicide and the identification of risk and protective factors. Relatively little emphasis has been given to the subjective experiences of suicidal people, but this is necessary to inform the care and help provided to individuals.

Data sources.  Electronic searches of CINAHL Plus with full text, Medline and PsychArticles (included PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts and Sociological abstracts) were undertaken for the period from 1997 to April 2007. In addition, the following journals were hand searched (1997–2007): ‘Mortality’, ‘Death Studies’, ‘Archives of Suicide Research’ and ‘Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention’.

Method.  A systematic review of the literature and thematic content analysis of findings. The findings were extracted from selected papers and synthesized by way of content analysis in narrative and tabular form.

Findings.  Twelve studies were identified. Analysis revealed a number of interconnected themes: the experience of suffering, struggle, connection, turning points and coping.

Conclusions.  Living with or overcoming suicidality involves various struggles, often existential in nature. Suicide may be seen as both a failure and a means of coping. People may turn away from suicide quite abruptly through experiencing, gaining or regaining the right kind of connection with others. Nurses working with suicidal individuals should aspire to be identified as people who can turn people’s lives around.