New study finds one in 10 people bereaved by the suicide of a friend or family member are 65 percent more likely to attempt suicide.
Those bereaved by suicide were also 80 percent more likely to drop out of education or work, the researchers noted. "Our results highlight the profound impact that suicide might have on friends and family members," said study author Alexandra Pitman from University College London.
‘People bereaved by death of a friend or family member are 65% more likely to attempt suicide if the deceased died by suicide than if they died by natural causes’
The team conducted a study of 3,432 university staff and students aged 18-40 who had been bereaved to examine the specific impacts associated with bereavement by suicide.
The findings, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open
, suggest that a history of suicide among non-blood relatives and friends should also be considered when assessing suicide risk.
The results showed that people who had been bereaved by suicide tended to perceive more social stigma around the death.
When the results were adjusted for perceived social stigma to reflect this, the significant differences in suicide attempts and occupational functioning disappeared.
Asking about the impact of a suicidal loss will also give professionals a sense of how it has affected their day-to-day functioning, and whether feeling stigmatised has prevented them from accessing help.
"We know that people can find it difficult to know what to say to someone who has recently been bereaved. However, saying something is often better than saying nothing, and simple gestures like offering practical help with day-to-day activities can mean a lot," Pitman stated.
"Employers should be aware of the significant impact that suicide bereavement has on people's working lives and make adjustments to help their staff return to work," Pitman noted.
There is a guide called "Help is at Hand", written by people affected by suicide, which offers emotional and practical advice as well as information on organisations that can offer further support," the authors informed.