Pathways, Contexts, and Voices of Shame and Compassion: A Grounded Theory of the Evolution of Perinatal Suicidality

Biggs, Laura J., Jephcott, Bonnie, Vanderwiel, Kim, Melgaard, Imogen, Bott, Shannon, Paderes, Mitzi, Borninkhof, Julie, and Birks, Melanie (2023) Pathways, Contexts, and Voices of Shame and Compassion: A Grounded Theory of the Evolution of Perinatal Suicidality. Qualitative Health Research, 33 (6). pp. 521-530.

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Abstract

There is an urgent need to generate deeper understandings of how suicidality manifests and evolves during pregnancy and the following year. Several perinatal studies have examined the incidence of suicidal thoughts and behaviours and associated social and obstetric risk factors; however, there is very limited research offering insights into women’s experiences of suicidality at this time in their lives. This study aimed to generate a theory to explain how suicidality evolves in the perinatal period. A grounded theory design was used with data generated using anonymous online surveys (119 participants) and in-depth interviews (20 participants) with women who received pregnancy care in the past 5 years in Australia. The developed theory holds shame as a core concept. Origins and contexts of shame reflect current epidemiological understandings of risk for perinatal suicide, including experiences of gender-based violence, adverse childhood experiences, and a history of mental health difficulties. When women feel that they are defective, are unworthy of love and belonging, and do not possess what it takes to be a good mother, they can conclude that their family is better off without them. Pathways beyond shame were facilitated by compassionate and rehumanising care from family, friends, and care providers. Findings demonstrate that perinatal suicidality is a complex multidimensional phenomenon, influenced by socio-cultural expectations of motherhood and interpersonal, systemic, and intergenerational experiences of trauma. Increasing the prominence of perinatal suicide prevention within health professional education and practice, and addressing systemic barriers to compassionate health care are critical first steps to addressing perinatal suicide.

Item ID: 78483
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1049-7323
Keywords: compassion, grounded theory, perinatal mental health, perinatal suicide, psychological isolation, shame
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2023 03:19
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420303 Family care @ 20%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420313 Mental health services @ 30%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4204 Midwifery > 420403 Psychosocial aspects of childbirth and perinatal mental health @ 50%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2003 Provision of health and support services > 200305 Mental health services @ 40%
20 HEALTH > 2003 Provision of health and support services > 200306 Midwifery @ 20%
20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200409 Mental health @ 40%
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