People bereaved by the sudden death of a friend or relative by suicide are much more likely to attempt suicide themselves, a new study suggests.
Previous studies have shown family history of suicide to be a risk factor for suicide attempt. The new study suggests that a history of suicide among non–blood relatives and friends should also be considered when assessing suicide risk, the authors note.
The investigators studied 3432 staff and students at UK universities who had been exposed to the sudden death of a friend or relative to examine the specific effects associated with bereavement by suicide. The participants were 18 to 40 years old; 614 had lost a friend or relative to suicide, 712 had lost a friend or relative to death by sudden, unnatural causes, and the remaining 2106 had lost a friend or relative to death by sudden, natural causes.
The likelihood of attempting suicide was higher in adults bereaved by suicide than in those bereaved through sudden, natural causes. There was no such increased risk in adults bereaved by sudden, unnatural causes.
There were no between-group differences in the probability of suicidal ideation. The effect of suicide bereavement was similar whether bereaved participants were blood relatives of the deceased or not.
The study also showed that those bereaved by suicide were 80% more likely to drop out of school or work. In total, 8% of the people bereaved by suicide had dropped out of an educational course or a job since the death.
Adults who had been bereaved by suicide tended to perceive more social stigma associated with the death, the authors report. When the results were adjusted for perceived social stigma to reflect this, the significant differences in suicide attempts and occupational functioning disappeared.
Addressing the social stigma attached to suicide bereavement might be one way to limit its impact on people’s lives.
REFERENCE: medscape news