Suicide and self-harm risk around emotionally salient anniversaries: research evidence and clinical responses

Dr Alexandra Pitman of University College London presents a talk as part of the Department of Psychiatry's Seminar Series for Hilary Term with Professor Keith Hawton chairing the talk. This is an in-person and hybrid lecture, to join virtually, please click here:

Temporal risk factors for suicide are under-investigated but have the potential to identify time points at which suicide prevention interventions could be targeted. This presentation will start by describing well-established temporal risk factors for suicide at the population level (such as seasonality) before reporting the findings of new research on temporal risk factors in specific groups. The first set of findings are from an analysis of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) dataset, describing the characteristics of patients who die by suicide on or near a significant date and the implications for clinical care. The second set of findings are from an analysis of Danish population registry data to investigate whether suicide and suicide attempt risk are elevated at specific time points after suicide loss. We hypothesised that the following emotionally salient dates may represent periods of greater emotional distress and elevated risk of suicide: anniversaries of the suicide, birthday of the deceased, and the age at which a suicide-bereaved individual reaches the age at which a parent died by suicide. This presentation will summarise our findings and consider the implications for responses to suicide bereavement and for the societal discourse around suicide loss.