Ethical suicide research: a survey of researchers

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2009 Feb;18(1):10-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2008.00569.x.


Research is needed to better understand and respond effectively to people who are suicidal. Involving people who are suicidal in research poses some ethical and pragmatic problems. The ethical problems and difficulties in obtaining approval to involve people who are suicidal in research has contributed to the current paucity of research that explores the suicidal experience. To explore some of these problems, a web-based survey of suicide researchers was undertaken. Researchers identified from published reports were contacted by email and invited to participate in a web-based survey. Researchers were asked to describe any problems they encountered, how ethical problems were negotiated or resolved, and any advice received from human research ethics committees. The main problems identified were accessing the population, maintaining confidentiality, the extent of care owed by the researcher to participants, and the facilitation of support to participants. As with clinical practice, ethical research involving people who are suicidal involves a process of sensitive engagement, and careful consideration and remediation of risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Confidentiality / ethics
  • Ethics Committees, Research / ethics
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Informed Consent / psychology
  • Internet
  • Ireland
  • Negotiating
  • North America
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Problem Solving
  • Research Personnel* / ethics
  • Research Personnel* / organization & administration
  • Research Personnel* / psychology
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / ethics
  • Researcher-Subject Relations / psychology
  • Safety
  • Social Support
  • Suicide, Attempted / ethics*
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom