Background: Ethical issues have been raised about using the psychological autopsy approach in the study of suicide. The impact on informants of control cases who participated in case-control psychological autopsy studies has not been investigated.
Aims: (1) To investigate whether informants of suicide cases recruited by two approaches (coroners' court and public mortuaries) respond differently to the initial contact by the research team. (2) To explore the reactions, reasons for participation, and comments of both the informants of suicide and control cases to psychological autopsy interviews. (3) To investigate the impact of the interviews on informants of suicide cases about a month after the interviews.
Methods: A self-report questionnaire was used for the informants of both suicide and control cases. Telephone follow-up interviews were conducted with the informants of suicide cases.
Results: The majority of the informants of suicide cases, regardless of the initial route of contact, as well as the control cases were positive about being approached to take part in the study. A minority of informants of suicide and control cases found the experience of talking about their family member to be more upsetting than expected. The telephone follow-up interviews showed that none of the informants of suicide cases reported being distressed by the psychological autopsy interviews.
Limitations: The acceptance rate for our original psychological autopsy study was modest.
Conclusions: The findings of this study are useful for future participants and researchers in measuring the potential benefits and risks of participating in similar sensitive research. Psychological autopsy interviews may be utilized as an active engagement approach to reach out to the people bereaved by suicide, especially in places where the postvention work is underdeveloped.