Suicide and sudden death bereavement in Australia: A longitudinal study of family members over 2 years after death.

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Kõlves, Kairi
Zhao, Qing
Ross, Victoria
Hawgood, Jacinta
Spence, Susan H
de Leo, Diego
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OBJECTIVE: Grief reactions change over time. However, only a limited number of studies, and none in Australia, have analysed changes in individual grief reactions longitudinally. The aim is to examine changes in grief reactions, mental health and suicidality of close family members bereaved by suicide, 6, 12 and 24 months after their loss compared with those bereaved by other forms of sudden death, adjusting for confounding factors. METHOD: Participants were 142 adult family members bereaved by suicide and 63 by other sudden death, followed up at 6, 12 and 24 months in Queensland, Australia. The Grief Experience Questionnaire, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale and Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation were used as main outcomes. Mixed-effects linear and logistic regressions were utilized for statistical analyses. RESULTS: There were significant differences in rejection, stigmatization, shame and responsibility between the suicide and sudden death bereaved over the 2-year period, after adjusting for potential confounding factors. Rejection, stigmatization, search for explanation, somatic reactions and symptoms of depression and anxiety (Depression Anxiety Stress Scale) declined significantly over time in both groups. Rejection and somatic reactions showed group-by-time interaction effects, with a decrease in the suicide bereaved and no change in the sudden death bereaved. Loss of social support and suicidal ideation did not show a group or time effect. CONCLUSION: Although our findings confirm that there are several common dimensions to experiencing a sudden death of a family member, several differences were found between the suicide and non-suicide sudden death bereaved including significantly higher levels of rejection, stigmatization, shame and responsibility remaining in the suicide compared to sudden death bereaved 2 years after their loss. These findings should be considered in clinical practice and when designing postvention services in Australia.

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Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

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Biomedical and clinical sciences


Cognitive and computational psychology

Clinical sciences

grief reactions

suicide and sudden death bereavement

Longitudinal study

grief reactions

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Kõlves, K; Zhao, Q; Ross, V; Hawgood, J; Spence, SH; de Leo, D, Suicide and sudden death bereavement in Australia: A longitudinal study of family members over 2 years after death., Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2019, pp. 1-10