Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer is a Senior Lecturer in Ageing and Family Care at the University Exeter Medical School. She leads a pioneering programme of research on suicide, homicide, and self-harm in unpaid carers (known outside the UK as family carers or family caregivers).
This is the first review of the international evidence on suicidal thoughts and behaviours in unpaid carers. Drawing together research from low-, middle-, and high-income countries, and spanning a wide range of illnesses and disabilities, it clearly identifies carers as a high-risk group for suicide (and homicide-suicide) and maps out a clear plan of action for research, policy, and practice.
If you’re a policy maker, charity, or health or social care professional, Dr O’Dwyer can help you identify and support at-risk carers. Contact her at email@example.com to find out more.
An emerging body of international research suggests family caregivers may be a high-risk group for suicide, but the evidence has not been synthesised. Forty-eight peer-reviewed journal articles were included in this review, spanning low-, middle-, and high-income countries and a variety of illnesses and disabilities. The proportion of caregivers experiencing suicidal ideation ranged from 2.7% to 71%, with evidence of suicide attempts, deaths by suicide, and deaths by homicide-suicide also reported. Risk and protective factors varied across studies and there was little consideration of differences by caregiving relationship, type of illness/disability, or country. There is sufficient evidence to warrant concern for caregivers around the world and prompt action in policy and practice, but more rigorous research is required to draw clear, nuanced conclusions about risk and inform evidence-based prevention and intervention.
Siobhan T. O’Dwyer, Astrid Janssens, Anna Sansom, Lucy Biddle, Becky Mars, Thomas Slater, Paul Moran, Paul Stallard, Julia Melluish, Lisa Reakes, Anna Walker, Charmaine Andrewartha, Richard P. Hastings, Suicidality in family caregivers of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities: A scoping review, Comprehensive Psychiatry, Volume 110, 2021,152261,