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When a close friend or relative dies by suicide: the impact on mental health and social functioning of young adults

Pitman, AL; (2014) When a close friend or relative dies by suicide: the impact on mental health and social functioning of young adults. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Introduction: Provision of support for people bereaved by suicide has become a key priority for suicide prevention strategies in many developed countries. Few studies have measured whether suicide bereavement increases risk of suicidal behaviour compared with bereaved controls. Methods: I sampled 659,572 staff and students at 37 UK higher education institutions in 2010. Via mass email, I invited adults who had experienced a sudden bereavement to complete an online survey measuring post-bereavement suicidal ideation and attempts, and other psychosocial outcomes. Inclusion criteria were: current age 18-40 years, and sudden bereavement of a close contact since the age of 10 years. Multivariable regression was used to compare those bereaved by suicide to two reference categories: those bereaved by natural causes and those bereaved by unnatural causes. Results: Of 3,432 eligible respondents, 614 adults were bereaved by suicide, 712 by sudden unnatural causes of death, and 2,106 by sudden natural causes. Compared with adults bereaved by natural causes, adults bereaved by suicide had a similar risk of suicidal thoughts, poor social functioning, non-suicidal self-harm and incicdent depression, but a significantly increased risk of suicide attempts (AOR=1.65; 95% CI=1.12-2.42; p=0.01), drop-out from work or education, and subjective stigma. Compared with adults bereaved by unnatural causes, adults bereaved by suicide had a similar risk of all the above outcomes, except for an increased risk of poor social functioning and subjective stigma. For all the associations identified, risks were elevated in both relatives and non-relatives. Discussion: My findings suggest that there are some risk similarities in suicidality between young adults exposed to suicide bereavement and those exposed to other violent bereavements. Implications: The needs of young adults in the UK bereaved by unnatural deaths may also need consideration in suicide prevention policy.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: When a close friend or relative dies by suicide: the impact on mental health and social functioning of young adults
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Bereavement, suicide, sudden death, suicide prevention
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1457391
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