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Attempted suicide and suicidal behaviour

My interest in attempted suicide was initially stimulated by a finding from my MD study that there was a connection between attempted suicide and parent death (Birtchnell, 1970). The two papers I wrote with José Alarcon in 1971 were the result of José testing attempted suicides in the accident and emergency department in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary as part of his requirement for the Diploma in Psychotherapy. The two papers I wrote in 1974-75 were the result of a shared interest in menstruation with Sandra Floyd, who later became my wife.

My interest in attempted suicide was reinforced when, in 1970, I moved to a research unit in which there was a particular interest in suicide. The 1981 study on familial and clinical characteristics was based upon data I was collecting on suicidal patients in the North East of Scotland Psychiatric Case Register (started in 1968). The (1983a) paper on psychotherapeutic considerations grew out of a project I started in this unit (in collaboration with Barbara Nelson) on the psychotherapy of suicidal patients, which was prematurely stopped by the unit director. The (1983b) study on life histories (which also included accounts of some actual suicides) was the result in a related interest in what leads people to suicide. The series of studies with Doros Pallis, was also linked to the data I was collecting from patients on the North East of Scotland Psychiatric Case Register. Doros eventually obtained an MD from Aberdeen University for his thesis on attempted suicide.

When I moved to Chichester in 1970 I soon became involved in the work of the Samaritans. I was a consultant for the local branch of the Samaritans from 1972 to 1982, and spoke at a number of Samaritan conferences, including the UK annual conference. The series of articles I wrote in The Samaritan was associated with this involvement. The Samaritans invited me to take over the care of some of their more difficult clients.



Birtchnell, J. (1970) The relationship between attempted suicide, depression and parent death. British Journal of Psychiatry, 116, 307‑313.

Birtchnell, J. (1981) Some familial and clinical characteristics of female suicidal psychiatric patients. British Journal of Psychiatry, 138, 381‑390.

Birtchnell, J. (1983a) Psychotherapeutic considerations in the management of the suicidal patient. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 37, 24‑36. Reproduced in Maltsberger, J.T. & Goldblatt, M.J. (Eds.) (1996) Essential Papers on Suicide. New York University Press: New York.

Birtchnell, J. (1983b) The life histories of some suicidal patients: pointers to the aetiology of suicidal behaviour. British Journal of Clinical and Social Psychiatry, 2, (1), 1‑7.

Birtchnell, J. & Alarcon, J. (1971) Depression and attempted suicide: a study of 91 cases seen in a casualty department. British Journal of Psychiatry, 118, 289‑296.

Birtchnell, J. & Alarcon, J. (1971) The motivation and emotional state of 91 cases of attempted suicide. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 44, 45‑52.

Birtchnell, J. & Floyd, S. (1974) Attempted suicide and the menstrual cycle ‑ a negative conclusion. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 18, 361‑369.

Birtchnell, J. & Floyd, S. (1975) Further menstrual characteristics of suicide attempters. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 19, 81‑85.

Pallis, D.J. & Birtchnell, J. (1976) Personality and suicidal history in psychiatric patients. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 32, 246‑253.

Pallis, D.J. & Birtchnell, J. (1977) Seriousness of suicide attempt in relation to personality. British Journal of Psychiatry, 130, 253‑259.

Pallis, D.J., Clopton, J.R. & Birtchnell, J. (1979) MMPI profile patterns of suicide attempters. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 47, 135‑139.

Pallis, D.J., Langley, A. & Birtchnell, J. (1975) Excessive use of psychiatric services by suicidal patients. British Medical Journal, 3, 216‑218.

Articles in The Samaritan

Birtchnell, J. (1972) Befriending: a kind of loving. The Samaritan, No.2, 1‑4.

Birtchnell, J. (1974) Don't just do something, stand there. On the importance of just being there. The Samaritan, No.9, 15‑18.

Birtchnell, J. (1975) Suicide and "depressive illness". The Samaritan, No.11, 11‑13.

Birtchnell, J. (1976) Depression. The Samaritan, No 16, 5-10.

Birtchnell, J. (1978) Turning into the skid. The Samaritan, No.22, 3‑5, & No. 23, 8‑11.

Birtchnell, J. (1979) Do Samaritans really prevent suicide? The Samaritan, No.27, 8‑10.

Birtchnell, J. (1983) You can't change people, so why try? The Samaritan, No.43, 3‑5.

Birtchnell, J. (1987) The Samaritans: Purveyors of closeness. The Samaritan, No. 62, 3‑5.

Birtchnell, J. (1997) Ordinary Friendliness. The Samaritan No 100, 9-11.