Family members bereaved by suicide have elevated levels of stress, depression, and anxiety and are at increased risk of poorer physical health, according to new research.
Financial difficulties in the aftermath of suicide often prevent them accessing formal support.
The research conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) and the School of Public Health, University College Cork (UCC), had two separate strands: A systematic review of 24 studies worldwide and in-depth interviews with 18 family members bereaved by suicide in Ireland.
Ella Arensman, chief scientist at the NSRF, said the 18 family members had previously been interviewed three months after bereavement as part of a separate project.
Ms Spillane’s research found that one in four participants had at least mild levels of stress and nearly one in five had elevated levels of anxiety two years on.
They described nightmares and visions, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts of their own, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Prof Arensman said that 18% displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Physical health problems include hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, type 1 diabetes, and diverticulitis.
The research found financial difficulties in the aftermath of the suicide “were unfortunately common” and prevented many from accessing formal support services.
Participants spoke about having to halt their counselling sessions due to a lack of money to pay for the service. Reasons for financial difficulties include inheriting the debts of the deceased or having to give up or take a break from work due to grieving difficulties.
Prof Arensman said “an arm around the shoulder is good”, but people also need professional expertise”.
She said people are less likely to have social supports available to them two years on as there is often an expectation that people would have “moved on”.
“If people don’t have ongoing independent support, it remains a very painful and stressful situation,” she said.
The studies are published online at BMC Public Health and BMJ Open.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved