A qualitative exploration of young people's experiences of attempted suicide in the context of alcohol and substance use

Rebecca Guest, Alex Copello, Maria Michail

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore young people's experiences of the role and the processes underpinning the use of alcohol and/or other substances in attempts to end their life. Seven young people, aged 16-25 years old, were interviewed using in-depth, semi-structured interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse these interviews and develop an understanding of how young people understand their attempted suicide in the context of alcohol and/or other substance use. The analysis identified four superordinate themes reflecting young people's experiences across the seven interviews. Superordinate themes included: i) The complexity of relationships; ii) The double-edged sword of alcohol and substance use; iii) The straw that broke the camel's back; and iv) Reflecting on the on-going processes of recovery. The results of this study highlight the complex and multifaceted functions of the consumption of alcohol, and other drugs, in the experiences of young people attempting suicide. Young people described a number of inter and intrapersonal factors which impact upon their suicidal experiences including suicidal ideation and attempts. Participants reported using alcohol and substances as methods of coping with distress, low mood, hearing voices, anxiety and mania. However they also reflected on the impact that this has on their own suicidal ideation and attempts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0256915
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

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