Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Therapeutic and Nontherapeutic Reactions in a Group of Nurses and Doctors in Turkey to Patients Who Have Attempted Suicide

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Therapeutic and Nontherapeutic Reactions in a Group of Nurses and Doctors in Turkey to Patients Who Have Attempted Suicide

Article excerpt

In this study a questionnaire was used to investigate the predictors of therapeutic versus nontherapeutic reactions to patients hospitalized for attempting suicide in a group of doctors (n = 158) and in a group of nurses (n = 206) working in the health care system of a small city in the Western pan of Turkey. Doctors said that they would react therapeutically towards patients hospitalized for attempting suicide to a greater extent than did nurses, while nurses said that they would engage in nontherapeutic reactions to a greater extent than doctors did. Believing that suicidal problems should be communicated, feeling sympathy for a suicidal patient and not feeling anxiety/fear for a suicidal patient were found to be the independent predictors of therapeutic reactions, while feeling anger about a suicidal patient emerged as an independent predictor of nontherapeutic reactions in both doctors and nurses. The attitudes of nurses towards suicide were more traditional than the attitudes of doctors. Nurses believed to a greater extent than doctors that suicidal people would be punished after death and that suicide in one's family was to be hidden. Doctors, on the other hand, believed to a greater extent than nurses that suicide attempts resulted from illness/biological reasons. Men were found to be more prejudiced about suicide and suicidal individuals than were women.

Keywords: suicide, suicidal patients, therapeutic and nontherapeutic reactions, nurses, doctors, Turkey.

Suicide is a major mental health concern in young as well as adult populations. Statistics indicate that taking one's own life is a global public health problem (Lester, 1997). For instance, killing oneself is the second leading cause of death in the USA and the rate of suicide has increased approximately 200% since the 1960s (Gould, Shaffer, Fisher et al., 1992). Investigating deaths by suicide among 15-24-year-olds in the 34 wealthiest nations, Johnson, Krug and Potter (2000) reported that 15,555 young people killed themselves in only one year. Not only deaths by suicide but also nonfatal suicidal behaviors are common in the population (Simon & Crosby, 2000). Although mortality from suicide is low in Turkey, the prevalence of nonfatal suicidal behavior is high. For instance, a recent study with Turkish university students has shown that almost 42% had thought of killing themselves and 7% had attempted to do so during their lifetime (Eskin, Kaynak-Demir, & Demir, 2005).

Research efforts have been aimed at identifying risk factors for suicidal behavior. It is assumed that the identification of such factors will bring about better understanding of the suicidal process and, in due course, facilitate intervention to help individuals overcome personal crises. Research has identified some factors that increase the likelihood of suicidal behavior. One of the strongest risk factors for suicide is the presence of psychiatric disorders (Powell, Geddes, Decks et al., 2000). Previous suicide attempts and ideas were generally found to be strong predisposing factors to killing oneself (Joiner, 2002; Joiner, Walker, Rudd, & Jobes, 1999). Feelings of hopelessness and loneliness have often been identified as the most potent risk factors for killing oneself (Dori & Overholser, 1999).

Shneidman (1986), found that a major motive in almost all suicides is the communication of intention and hence the seeking of help. Therefore, suicide attempts are often seen as "cries for help." A critical point here is not whether or not suicidal individuals communicate their suicidal intent to others or not but how those in then social surroundings, including health professionals, respond to the communication of suicidal intention. Empirical evidence has shown that the majority of individuals who attempt to kill themselves have had frequent contact with health care service providers preceding their attempts (Suominen, Isometsa, Ostamo, & Lonnqvist, 2002). …

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