|Title||Researching suicidal behaviours by offenders serving community based sentences: a near-lethal approach|
Suicide, a global problem, affects individuals from diverse backgrounds. Higher at-risk groups include vulnerable populations, such as offenders and prisoners. Most suicide research focuses on prisoners with little focus on probation populations. The lived experiences of probation clients who have made suicide attempts has not previously been explored. Furthermore, research on experiences of probation staff managing suicidal offenders is limited. Consequently, the current research explored the experiences of probation clients who made near-lethal attempts, as well as the experiences of staff managing these clients, and strategies to prevent suicide.
Study 1 explored probation staff experiences of managing suicidal clients through in-depth interviews. Findings indicate that staff felt inadequate in managing these issues, but training and experience facilitated better management techniques. Studies 2a & 2b explored the perspective of individuals serving probation sentences who had made near-lethal attempts. Findings suggest that the suicidal state was experienced in relation to perceived loss of control, which often related to their probation process. Clients felt that non-judgmental listening prevented suicide attempts. However, disclosure was sometimes unlikely due to a fear of being judged or lacking trust in others. Study 3 employed 3-6 month follow-up interviews to explore changes in clients’ perspectives. Findings suggest that following reflection on their attempts, clients’ time perception fluctuated. For example, time leading up to the attempt was perceived as slow whilst the actual attempt was quick and impulsive, and following the attempt time slowed down. This slowness in time prior to the suicide attempt could be an opportunity for interventions. Findings highlight the need for extra support regarding negative coping strategies in order to prevent offending and suicide. Moreover, clients receiving support for their suicidal feelings and maladaptive coping mechanisms did not make further attempts. Study 4 compared the experiences and views of probation clients with staff. Findings demonstrate similar views in terms of when and why suicides occur, and what can be done to prevent suicide. However, poor communication between the two parties was a barrier to suicide management.
The unique contribution of this program of research lies in its understanding of suicide from the perspectives of probation clients who have experienced it; providing unique understandings about clients at high risk of suicide, ways of preventing suicide, and what barriers exist for clients who need help.