By Jake Fairnie, on 10 February 2016
A study by Dr Alexandra Pitman, Prof David Osborn and Prof Michael King (UCL Psychiatry), funded by the Medical Research Council, has found that people bereaved by the suicide of a friend or relative have a greater probability of suicide attempt than those bereaved by the sudden natural death of a close contact.
Read the January 2016 paper in BMJ Open here: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/1/e009948.full
They also found that the probability of dropping out of a job or an educational course was higher in people bereaved by suicide, suggesting that employers and teaching staff should consider how to support people after a suicide (you can read more about this in the following Times Higher Education piece: www.timeshighereducation.com/news/dropout-rates-soar-those-affected-suicide ).
The team analysed data from a national sample of over 3,400 adults aged 18-40 who had experienced the sudden death of a close contact. Of this sample, 31% had experienced a depressive episode since the bereavement, and 6% reporting having had to drop out from a course or job. Almost half (45%) the sample reported suicidal thoughts since the bereavement, and 6% had made a suicide attempt since the loss. To give a rough comparison with the general population in England, the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey had shown that up to 21% of people in the equivalent age group had ever had suicidal thoughts in their life, and 7% had ever attempted suicide in their life. The UCL study figures of 45% and 6%, respectively, only related to the period since the bereavement – an average of only 4 years.
The study authors had input from voluntary sector organisations providing bereavement support when piloting the questionnaire, including Cruse Bereavement Care, Samaritans, Widowed by Suicide, and Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide. Samaritans also advised on the wording of the press release accompanying the publication of this article, being mindful of the language used and avoiding any implication that suicide attempt might be inevitable after suicide bereavement. Read the Samaritans media guidelines on reporting suicide here: www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines-reporting-suicide
– Click the following link for the press release for this study: www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0116/270116-bereavement-suicide-attempt-risk/
– A statement from Samaritans about the study findings: www.samaritans.org/news/comment-study-bereavement-suicide-risk-factor-suicide-attempt-published-bmj-open
– A statement from Cruse about the study findings: www.cruse.org.uk/news/BMJsuicide
– If you have been affected by suicide, you can find a Public Health England resource called ‘Help is at Hand‘ at this link: www.gov.uk/government/news/you-are-not-alone-help-is-at-hand-for-anyone-bereaved-by-suicide