EACH year, approximately 500 people die by suicide in Ireland.
We cannot underestimate the impact that each suicide has on those who knew the person. Generally speaking, this impact is most felt by those closest to the person, particularly family and friends.
However, more and more, we are coming to realise that the ripple effect of a suicide extends beyond the family to the wider community who knew the person directly, or even indirectly.
It is thought that, for every individual who dies by suicide, 135 people may be affected. This means that every year in Ireland, 60,000 individuals will know someone who has died by suicide, and many will require support for their grief.
The need for support following a suicide
Providing appropriate and timely support following a suicide is important for several reasons. In fact, postvention supports (supports following a suicide) are a form of suicide prevention.
We know that people who have experienced a bereavement due to suicide are at greater risk of suicide themselves. A recent study in England found that one quarter of young people who died by suicide had previously known someone who died by suicide also.
Other negative impacts from such a traumatic loss include increased social isolation, drug and alcohol misuse and physical health impacts.
People bereaved by suicide are identified as a priority group in Ireland’s national strategy to reduce suicide, Connecting for Life. Efforts have been made in recent years to review and improve the supports and services which are designed to support people in their loss. These supports range from practical support and information, support through the inquest process, to more specialised services such as counselling. However gaps remain, and it is essential that there are adequate services available which are easily accessible.
Survey of people bereaved by suicide
In October 2021, Ireland’s first national suicide bereavement survey was launched. This survey seeks to gather information on the experiences of those who have been impacted by suicide. The survey specifically asks people to share their experiences of support and help- seeking following their loss(es). It also asks people to identify factors that affected their access to support and to make suggestions for how services could be improved.
Through the information gained in the survey, we can help to improve the support available to people bereaved by suicide in Ireland.
To date, more than 1,800 people have contributed to the survey. The responses have highlighted the far-reaching effects suicide can have on family members, friends, neighbours, colleagues, health professionals, first responders and other acquaintances.
However, just 20% of those who have completed the survey are male.
Appeal for men to participate
We want to ensure we represent the experiences of men impacted by the suicide of someone they know. We especially want to learn about men’s experience with suicide bereavement, as we know they are less likely to seek help for their mental health.
Participants in this survey so far have noted the challenges for men seeking support:
“Being men in our forties, none of us found that easy to do - Our culture is to keep going, man up, so males are not inclined to look for this”
The survey is open for responses until the end of January 2022. You must be 18 years or over and living in Ireland to participate. If you are interested in learning more, visit this webpage: www.hugg.ie/suicide-bereavement-survey/
About the National Suicide Research Foundation
The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) is an independent, multi-disciplinary research unit in Cork, established in 1994 by the late Dr Michael Kelleher. The NSRF undertakes research on suicide and self-harm in Ireland, with the aim of providing evidence to inform policy, clinical practice and interventions to prevent suicide (www.nsrf.ie).
This current research is being led by researchers at the NSRF, which is funded by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention. The research is in collaboration with HUGG, a charity which provides peer-support groups for those who have experienced suicide bereavement – led by people who have themselves lost a loved one to suicide. HUGG was founded by Fiona Tuomey, its Chief Executive Officer, following the death of her 11-year-old daughter Milly by suicide in 2016.
For anyone affected by suicide, helplines are available: 50808: Text HELLO to 50808; Samaritans: free phone 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; Irish Hospice Foundation Bereavement Support Line: free phone 1800 807 077.
Additional information for people bereaved by suicide is available in the guide ‘You are not alone: Support for people who have been bereaved by suicide’ [https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/connecting-for- life/news/national-suicide-bereavement-support-guide.pdf]
About the authors
Dr Griffin and Dr O’Connell are researchers at the National Suicide Research Foundation, Cork and are leading out on this research into improving suicide bereavement supports nationally.