Survivors of suicide can become victims if not supported

A number of studies have shown that sudden deaths cause greater health-related consequences for survivors than expected deaths. As well as grief over the loss of a close family member, they also experience trauma

  • After a suicide many people struggle with a sense of guilt, shame and anger.
  • The state of helplessness and shock survivors are in after a suicide means they need to be sought out.
  • Grief and trauma reactions are typical features of a survivor's life for many years.
  • Understanding the grief of children is difficult as because children do not grieve in the same way adults do.
  • School have, by default, undertaken a growing responsibility for the mental functions and well-being of children.
Surveys indicate that survivors of suicide can become victims if not supported quickly.

When a death is sudden and unexpected, such as suicide, reactions of shock, disbelief and denial are accentuated, altering markedly the grieving process. So be proactive about getting all the support possible.

Survivors are at a highter risk, (80-100 times higher), of attempting suicide than the general population.

Survivors search for WHY?.

They are driven by a search to find the meaning behind the suicide of their loved one.

Survivors feel intense guilt, whether rational or appropriate.

Survivors feel stigmatised, whether real or perceived because of the suicide.

The Struggle for Those Left Behind
A number of studies have shown that sudden deaths cause greater struggles and health-related problems for survivors than when the deaths are expected.

For survivors this means that not only do they experience grief over the loss of a close family member, but also a trauma. The manner in which the death occurs causes specific, often long-term after-effects.

Feelings of unrest and general restlessness are usually higher than after an expected death, and intrusive memories about what happened are common consequences.

After a suicide many people also struggle with a sense of guilt, shame and anger. Many people may also encounter social difficulties either because of self-imposed isolation or due to a decline in social activity because friends and acquaintances may feel awkward about approaching.

Contact and Follow-up Schemes
Since survivors are in a state of shock and trauma following a suicide, the time and manner of the first approach to offer assistance is crucial.
Literature on grief shows that assistance must come quickly and it must come to the person in crisis. Those offering assistance, whether psychological, medical, practical or financial, must seek out the person in question and be respectfully "persuasive" Even if survivors reject assistance the first time, they must be contacted again.

Follow-up
Allowing for individual variations with respect to grief, it is known that grief and trauma reactions are typical features of a survivor's life for many years, and many will need outside help.

Studies have shown that survivors are offered most assistance during the first months while still in shock and denial, only to be left to their own devices when they are ready to start the real grieving process.

The reason may often be linked to the fact that those trying to help may underestimate the intensity and duration of grief and traumas.

Thus it is to be hoped that people and organisations will still have contact with suicide survivors one year or more after the death.

Care for Children
When it comes to understanding the grief of children, uncertainty and misunderstanding has been rife, because, for example, children do not grieve in the same way adults do.

Inadequate assistance for children by counsellors may be caused by a sense of not feeling able in communicating with children about grief, trusting that children will be helped by their parents.

The most frequently mentioned assistance schemes for children are conversations with the public health nurse and measures in schools and day-care centres. This reflects how these are arenas where children are, and how school has undertaken, by default almost, a growing responsibility for the mental functions and well-being of children.