Living with Suicide: Collective Narrative Practice with People Experiencing Ongoing Suicidality

Prof Doc Thesis

Hunter, C. 2020. Living with Suicide: Collective Narrative Practice with People Experiencing Ongoing Suicidality. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsHunter, C.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Introduction: Thousands die by suicide each year, and many more live with suicidal thoughts, feelings and acts. Suicide and suicidality are often conceptualised as symptoms of pathology, with the focus on treating mental illness and research participants recruited from healthcare settings. Little research has focused on what it is like to live with ongoing suicidality in the community or on how people narrate suicidality. This study aimed to explore how people live with suicidality over time, with the intention of creating collective resources from people’s narratives.
Methods: A collective narrative project with contributors recruited via a community group and informal networks. Each contributor had ongoing experience of suicidality. Data was collected in
interviews and group workshops. Data was analysed using dialogical narrative analysis. Collective resources are being produced from the shared narratives, in collaboration with contributors.
Findings: Living with suicide was often characterised by experiences of abuse, neglect, rejection and discrimination, across multiple domains in life. People experience suicidality as a response, and sometimes a resistance, to suffering. Shame and stigmatised identities were central to people’s narratives of suicidality. Finding ways to be accepted and valued as a ‘whole’ person counteracted the diminishing effects of shame and stigma. People narrated epistemic injustice as a result of dominant framings of suicide as pathological. Finding value in lived experience and advocating for change were meaningful narratives offering ‘reasonable hope’ to participants.
Conclusion: Stigma and epistemic injustice were powerful forces in people’s narratives of suicidality. A more relational understanding of suicidality as a response to unjust suffering and a resistance to dominant narratives of suicide as pathological are key to creating a more socially just approach to suicidality.
Future research should adopt collective and participatory methods to co-create ways of responding to suicidality with people who have lived experience.

KeywordsSuicide; Narrative; Qualitative; Suicidality
PublisherUniversity of East London
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Online01 Oct 2020
Publication process dates
SubmittedMay 2020
Deposited01 Oct 2020
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