In a new study, presented this week at a national conference on suicide and domestic abuse, experts at the University of Birmingham set out their findings on the key warning signs that a survivor is likely to take their own life.
The researchers call for an assessment tool that would enable professional services such as police or healthcare workers to rapidly pick up on key warning signs and put in place measures which could reduce the incidences of suicide among abuse survivors.
Lead researcher Professor Heather Flowe, in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, explains: “We can identify elements in the particular circumstances of survivors that should be a red flag for the services involved in supporting those individuals. Tools that would help police and healthcare professionals identify people who are most at risk have real potential for reducing future domestic abuse survivor suicides.”
Tools that would help police and healthcare professionals identify people who are most at risk have real potential for reducing future domestic abuse survivor suicides.Professor Heather Flowe, School of Psychology
Warning signs identified by the team include:
- The experience of life-threatening abuse, sexual assault, coercion and control, and multiple or repeated abuses.
- Feelings of despair and hopelessness relating to abuse
- Self-identity issues such as experiences of disrupted relationships, or childhood trauma
- Coping strategies such as self-harm, drug or alcohol abuse
By developing an effective assessment tool and training staff how to apply it, the researchers argue it should be possible to elicit critical information from survivors about their situation and others in their care who may be at risk, and ensure the right support is given.
“Domestic abuse dismantles the survivor’s identity, making it very difficult to seek or accept support,” added Professor Flowe. “By developing an assessment tool and feeding this into a domestic survivor suicide prevention pathway, we can start to support survivors effectively towards more positive outcomes.”
The research will be presented at the national Suicide following Domestic Abuse Conference, on Wednesday 26th April 2023. This conference is being organised by the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner and West Midlands Police and is designed to raise greater awareness of the link between domestic abuse and suicide among senior leadership through presenting research and the voices of bereaved families. The overarching aim is to prevent future deaths.
The conference aims to drive discussion around policy and practice development that improves the way agencies and systems coordinate to prevent future deaths and effectively identify, investigate and respond where domestic abuse is a causal factor of suicide, whilst supporting those bereaved.