Attempts at suicide by youth frighten and estrange parents, caregivers and others, and the resultant deepening mutual misunderstanding and lack of empathy is counter-therapeutic, according to a study in PLoS One.
A team of researchers based in France did a systematic review of qualitative studies from 1990 to 2014 of youth suicide attempts. They then synthesized the information based on common themes identified in 44 studies from 16 countries that interviewed either youth themselves, their parents, or healthcare professionals.
One of the most common themes the researchers identified was that relatives and mental health care professionals could not understand why the youth wanted to attempt suicide. They usually expressed horror at it, and this tended to increase rather than decrease feelings of alienation in the youth. This, in turn, could lead to an intensification of suicidal feelings in the youth.
“The violence of the message of a suicidal act and the fears associated with death lead to incomprehension and interfere with the capacity for empathy of both family members and professionals,” the researchers concluded. “The issue in treatment is to be able to witness this violence so that the patient feels understood and heard, and thus to limit recurrences.”
Lachal, Jonathan, Massimiliano Orri, Jordan Sibeoni, Marie Rose Moro, and Anne Revah-Levy. “Metasynthesis of Youth Suicidal Behaviours: Perspectives of Youth, Parents, and Health Care Professionals.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 5 (May 22, 2015): e0127359. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127359. (Full text)