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Attempted suicide in the family: the siblings' experience

Ball, L. E. (2010). Attempted suicide in the family: the siblings' experience. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University)


Research on the impact of attempted suicide on siblings is scarce, with studies tending to focus on the attempter, on the parents or on the impact of completed suicide. In particular, there are few qualitative studies that solely explore the sibling's experience of attempted suicide. To address this gap in the literature, this study examines the subjective, lived experience of eight adult siblings aged 22-39 years of people who have attempted, but not completed suicide. In particular, the intention was to explore the emotional impact of the suicide attempt for the sibling, alongside the influence on the family dynamics and the quality of the sibling relationship. Following semistructured interviews, the qualitative methodology of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the data, with the emergence of four masterthemes: Feelings of grief & loss; Resilience; Family communication, roles and changes; Experience of professional help. The findings reveal a profound impact on the sibling and family relationships that is analogous to that of completed suicide. What emerges is the complexity and ambiguity of the subject matter, with a sense of 'unfinished' business, manifested particularly through feelings of grief and loss. Furthermore, emotions of shame and guilt interweave the accounts, with a sense that the families' lack of communication perpetuates the distress from the suicide attempt. In addition, there appears to be a lack of professional support offered to siblings. Despite the negative impact, there also appeared to be resilience within the siblings, and some positive changes possibly result from the suicide attempt. The findings are discussed in relation to the existing literature, and implications for Counselling Psychologists and other professionals are considered.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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