Between 48 million and 500 million people are thought to experience suicide bereavement every year. Over the past decade, increased policy attention has been directed towards suicide bereavement, but with little evidence to describe the effect of exposure or to provide appropriate responses. We used a systematic approach to carry out a narrative review of studies of the effect of suicide bereavement on mortality, mental health, and social functioning, and compared them with effects from other bereavements. We found 57 studies that satisfied strict inclusion criteria. Results from these studies suggested that exposure to suicide of a close contact is associated with several negative health and social outcomes, depending on an individual's relationship to the deceased. These effects included an increased risk of suicide in partners bereaved by suicide, increased risk of required admission to psychiatric care for parents bereaved by the suicide of an offspring, increased risk of suicide in mothers bereaved by an adult child's suicide, and increased risk of depression in offspring bereaved by the suicide of a parent. Some evidence was shown for increased rejection and shame in people bereaved by suicide across a range of kinship groups when data were compared with reports of relatives bereaved by other violent deaths. Policy recommendations for support services after suicide bereavement heavily rely on the voluntary sector with little input from psychiatric services to address described risks. Policymakers should consider how to strengthen health and social care resources for people who have been bereaved by suicide to prevent avoidable mortality and distress.
Lancet. Psychiatry, 2014, Vol 1, Issue 1, p. 86-94