Open Access Open Badges Research article

Cross-sectional study of attitudes about suicide among psychiatrists in Shanghai

Yumei Jiao12, Michael R Phillips13*, Yourong Sheng4, Guojun Wu4, Xianyun Li5, Wei Xiong1 and Liwei Wang24

Author Affiliations

1 Shanghai Mental Health Center, Suicide Research and Prevention Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, 3210 Humin Road, Shanghai 201108, China

2 Department of Psychiatry, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

3 Departments of Psychiatry and Global Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

4 Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China

5 Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, Beijing, China

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BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14:87  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-14-87

Published: 25 March 2014



Attitudes and knowledge about suicide may influence psychiatrists’ management of suicidal patients but there has been little research about this issue in China.


We used the Scale of Public Attitudes about Suicide (SPAS) – a 47-item scale developed and validated in China – to assess knowledge about suicide and seven specific attitudes about suicide in a sample of 187 psychiatrists from six psychiatric hospitals in Shanghai. The results were compared to those of 548 urban community members (assessed in a previous study).


Compared to urban community members, psychiatrists were more likely to believe that suicide can be prevented and that suicide is an important social problem but they had more stigmatizing beliefs about suicidal individuals and felt less empathy for them. The belief that suicide can be prevented was more common among female psychiatrists than male psychiatrists but male psychiatrists felt more empathy for suicidal individuals. Only 37% of the psychiatrists correctly agreed that talking about suicide-related issues with an individual would not precipitate suicidal behavior and only 41% correctly agreed that those who state that they intend to kill themselves may actually do so.


Many psychiatrists in Shanghai harbor negative attitudes about suicidal individuals and are concerned that directly addressing the issue with patients will increase the risk of suicide. Demographic factors, educational status and work experience are associated with psychiatrists’ attitudes about suicide and, thus, need to be considered when training psychiatrists about suicide prevention.

Suicide; Attitudes; Psychiatrists; China