AfterWords: A survey of people bereaved by suicide in Ireland, is a first-of-its-kind survey undertaken by researchers at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), in collaboration with the suicide bereavement charity HUGG (Healing Untold Grief Groups). It was funded by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP), as part of the Collaborative Research Grants Scheme for 2021 and 2022.
With 2,413 Irish adults taking part, the study sought to provide a national profile of the impact of suicide bereavement and the needs of the estimated 60,000 people impacted by suicide every year in Ireland. As well as understanding the emotional and physical impact of suicide bereavement, researchers sought to identify gaps and barriers to accessing appropriate supports for those affected.
Between October 2021 and February 2022, 2,413 adults completed the survey. The findings underline the need to rethink what is meant by suicide bereavement and highlight the significant and enduring impacts on friends, work colleagues and professionals experiencing a loss by suicide.
- While most (62%) of participants had lost a family member or partner to suicide, a significant proportion had experienced the loss of friends, work colleagues, or as part of their professional role (including first responders, members of An Garda Síochána and healthcare workers). In addition, half of participants (54%) experienced multiple bereavements.
- Half of participants (56%) reported poor mental wellbeing and reported symptoms of depression and anxiety were higher than the general population. Of concern, one-in-five participants expressed some thoughts of self-harm or suicide in the two weeks prior to the survey. Poor mental wellbeing was most pronounced for young adults aged 18-24 years.
- Common grief experiences reported included expressions of guilt, feelings of perceived stigma and shame, as well as searching for an explanation for the death. Impacts following the death included mental health challenges, relational or family problems and prolonged use of alcohol. Despite this, many participants also reported positive personal growth over time.
- One-third of participants did not access any supports following their loss. Formal supports were accessed to a lesser extent by men or people experiencing suicide loss as part of their professional role. Those who did access support generally found them to be beneficial, particularly specialised services.
- Two-thirds (65%) of participants felt the quality of services in their area was poor and common barriers to accessing support included awareness, availability, waiting times and financial costs.
- Factors which helped people access support included realising the significance of the mental health impacts, encouragement and information from others, financial and practical ease of access, and previous positive experiences.
AfterWords: A survey of people bereaved by suicide in Ireland (October 2022)
Contact Mr Niall McTernan, National Suicide Research Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org
Information for media