Trigger warning: Suicide
In the year 2019, over 90,000 young adults died by suicide in India, highlighting the need for improving accessibility to mental health services and crisis intervention (Rampal, 2020). While suicide helplines are in place to provide support to individuals with suicidal thoughts, there is a need to create improved frameworks for the loved ones of individuals who die by suicide.
The loss of a loved one is often a traumatic event, but bereavement by a suicide brings with it a unique set of concerns. People who have lost loved ones to suicide may be hesitant to disclose the cause of death. This is because in most countries, including India, there is stigma around mental illness; and suicide is also considered to be a ‘sin’ by many religions. People may also be unsure about how to offer support when the death is caused by suicide. As a result, coping with grief related to suicide is harder to overcome.
Further, the loved ones bereaved by suicide may also be confronted with difficult emotions such as anger at the loved one, and misplaced guilt for not predicting what happened (eg. ‘If I had checked up on them more often this would not have happened’). Additionally, suicide is a major existential event that can lead to a person challenging their key beliefs and assumptions about the world. Finally, individuals who have lost a close relative or friend to suicide are also more likely to contemplate suicide (De Groot and Kollen, 2013).
As a result of all of these factors, suicide postvention becomes of utmost importance. Suicide postvention refers to various programs and interventions that are conducted for survivors following a death by suicide. Suicide postvention programs are designed to facilitate recovery after the loss of a loved one because of suicide and prevent deaths by suicide (Andriessen, 2009). Postvention can be carried out for various individuals impacted by suicide, including parents, classmates, colleagues, extended family and so on. Moreover, postvention can be carried out in clinical, community and residential settings.
Examples of suicide postvention activities include grief counselling, providing survivors with details of support groups they can attend, strengthening social networks etc. While losing a loved one to suicide is an irreparable and traumatic loss, with appropriate psychosocial support individuals can cope with grief, find new meaning in life and even experience post traumatic growth.
If someone you know has lost a loved one to suicide, you can help them by offering emotional and material support, and avoiding intrusive questions. Finally, if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or have lost a loved one to suicide, feel free to reach out to YWP;’s peer support team to get referrals to qualified mental health professionals. Follow our Instagram page for more information.
Andriessen, K., Krysinska, K., Kõlves, K., & Reavley, N. (2019). Suicide postvention service models and guidelines 2014–2019: a systematic review. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2677.
Minahan, J. A. (2016, October). Suicide and shame. The General Psychologist.