How Losing A Friend To Suicide Raises Your Own Suicide Risk

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Losing a loved one to suicide can make a huge impact on a person's well-being. In fact, new research suggests that this experience can increase your own risk for suicide.

For the study, published online today in BMJ Open, researchers sent an online survey to young adult staff and students from several U.K. universities. They ended up with 3,432 respondents, all of whom had suddenly lost a friend or family member due to natural or unnatural causes, or to suicide. Participants were also asked whether they'd had any depression, suicidal ideation, or non-suicidal self-harm since they lost that person.

The results showed that those who were bereaved by a death due to suicide were more likely to have experienced depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, compared to those who were bereaved by other types of deaths. Although any sudden emotional event can increase your risk for depression and, therefore, suicide, participants who were dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide had a 65% increased risk compared to those who lost someone to natural causes.

Even though mental illness is in no way a communicable disease, the risk for suicide can spread between people who are close. Researchers have been investigating this idea of "suicide contagion" for a while now, and some schools have plans in place to prevent its spread. Other research shows that you don't actually have to be personally close to someone for their death by suicide to impact you in this way. For instance, there was an unprecedented spike in calls to suicide hotlines in the weeks following Robin Williams' death.

This new study also found that suicide risk was especially elevated among those who were bereaved by suicide and who reported a high degree of social stigma around death. "People bereaved by suicide should not be made to feel in any way responsible, and should be treated with the same compassion as people bereaved by any other cause," said Alexandra Pitman, PhD, the study's lead author, in a press release.

Clearly, it's extremely important that we do whatever we can to make people feel more comfortable talking about what they're going through — without the fear of being judged.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
Advertisement

More from Mind

We explore the unconscious messages a voice can give off and why snap judgments can be harmful, even if they're innocent
It's not always easy to predict how much you're going to drink when you go out — or how drunk you'll actually get. And according to a new study, your ...
This story was originally published on May 19, 2016. A few years ago, I called my dad for one of our weekly chats — but he wasn’t happy to hear from me...
(Paid Content) Taking short breaks during the workday can bring your sanity back to earth. Of course, they have a calming effect, but did you know breaks ...
As much as it sucks, anxiety doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Without a little bit of it, you wouldn’t make sure to show up on time to that job interview or...
This story was originally published on May 19, 2016. I am six years old, in the first grade girls’ bathroom with my friend. We are washing our hands. ...
This story was originally published on Jul. 19, 2016. Several months ago, a woman I’m very close to checked herself into a hospital because she’d been ...
(Paid Content) Moods are fickle things. You can be going about your day in a happy, productive, and calm manner, and boom — everything changes. And ...
This article was originally published on May 27, 2015. Now that pot legislation is making its way across the country, it's time for a refresher on the ...
Depression is one of the most common mental-health issues in the United States, and it affects roughly twice as many women as men. Yet new research ...
On social media, it's easy to catch all sorts of digital diseases, such as FOMO, internet addiction, and anxiety. Facebook and Instagram-wary researchers...
As a culture, we have a slight tendency to exaggerate. We don’t just love PSLs — we’re obsessed. We aren’t just neat and tidy — we Kondo. Another term we ...
Prince William recalls his mother's death as he consoles a grieving family
We live in a world of dichotomies. Good or evil, pink or blue, clean or dirty. Then there is man or woman — what if you don't identify as either