A thematic analysis of how prisoners overcome suicidality



Lucy Reading, Erica Bowen

International Journal of Prisoner Health







To explore the perceptions, beliefs and abilities that support adult male prisoners in overcoming suicidality.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 male life sentenced prisoners in a Category B prison. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data and interpret how prisoners have overcome suicidality.


Five overarching themes were identified; Sense of Self, Presence of Meaning, Connectedness, Shift of Perspective and Re-Establishing Control. The themes were closely interconnected and revealed novel insights into the variables that supported prisoners to overcome suicidality.

Research limitations/implications

The themes were drawn from a specific prisoner population, which may not be representative of the wider prison population. Additionally, the sole focus on suicidality may be an oversimplification of self-destructive behaviours and could have affected the factors identified.

Practical implications

The results highlight the need to refine suicide prevention strategies in prisons; in the assessment of suicide risk, the improvement of supportive regimes and the development of psychological interventions.


This research is the first to qualitatively examine the factors involved in overcoming suicide in adult male prisoners. The research is of value to researchers and practitioners alike, as it extends previous research in prison populations and suggests avenues for the development of suicide prevention strategies.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee