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Self-inflicted. Deliberate. Death-intentioned. A critical policy analysis of UK suicide prevention policies 2009-2019

Hazel Marzetti (School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Alexander Oaten (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Amy Chandler (School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Ana Jordan (School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)

Journal of Public Mental Health

ISSN: 1746-5729

Article publication date: 17 January 2022

Issue publication date: 10 February 2022

270

Abstract

Purpose

With encouragement from the World Health Organisation, national suicide prevention policies have come to be regarded as an essential component of the global effort to reduce suicide. However, despite their global significance, the construction, conceptualisation and proposed provisions offered in suicide prevention policies have, to date, been under researched; this study aims to address this gap.

Design/methodology/approach

we critically analysed eight contemporary UK suicide prevention policy documents in use in all four nations of the UK between 2009 and 2019, using Bacchi and Goodwin’s post-structural critical policy analysis.

Findings

The authors argue that across this sample of suicide prevention policies, suicide is constructed as self-inflicted, deliberate and death-intentioned. Consequently, these supposedly neutral definitions of suicide have some significant and problematic effects, often individualising, pathologising and depoliticising suicide in ways that dislocate suicides from the emotional worlds in which they occur. Accordingly, although suicide prevention policies have the potential to think beyond the boundaries of clinical practice, and consider suicide prevention more holistically, the policies in this sample take a relatively narrow focus, often reducing suicide to a single momentary act and centring death prevention at the expense of considering ways to make individual lives more liveable.

Originality/value

UK suicide prevention policies have not been subject to critical analysis; to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study represents the first attempt to examine the way in which suicide is constructed in UK suicide prevention policy documents.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

With thanks to the Leverhulme Trust for funding this research and the editors and anonymous reviewers of this article for their helpful comments. This project is funded by a Leverhulme Trust Project Grant (RPG-2020–187).

Citation

Marzetti, H., Oaten, A., Chandler, A. and Jordan, A. (2022), "Self-inflicted. Deliberate. Death-intentioned. A critical policy analysis of UK suicide prevention policies 2009-2019", Journal of Public Mental Health, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 4-14. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-09-2021-0113

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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