Teenage suicides are thought to occur due to family pressure or rejection by society and suicide prevention strategies are focused on. But little attention is paid to families who have gone through the incident.
Now, researchers at the Umea University have shown that such teenage suicide is a devastating trauma for the surviving family and the lack of sustainable explanations for the suicide is a predominant issue in the grief process.
In the their study, researchers have highlighted a key role for general practitioners in organising long-term, individually formulated support schemes for those affected.
They attempted to investigate in more depth the aftermath of suicide on families.
The team led by Per Lindqvist retrospectively analysed 10 cases based on data from a large project on unnatural teenage deaths in northern Sweden (1981-2000).
The researchers examined the qualitative aspects of loosing a teenage family member due to suicide, including post-suicidal reactions, impacts on daily living, and the families' need for support after the event.
During the study, researchers found that the participants were still struggling to explain why the suicide had occurred.
Although most had returned to an ostensibly normal life, they were still profoundly affected by their loss.
They highlighted that post-suicide support was often badly timed and insufficient, especially for younger siblings and said they would welcome earlier assistance from friends, family and the clergy.
"There is a need for better understanding and treatment schemes for families who have lost a teenage family member in suicide, and especially for the younger siblings who often are forgotten," Lindqvist said.
The general practitioner was identified as a key person in organising a support strategy for the families of suicide victims.
Researchers suggest that this support would not only prevent emotional contagion, but would actively help families in the aftermath of a teenage suicide.
The study is published in the open access journal, BMC Psychiatry.