One in five people affected by suicide express thoughts of self-harm – The Irish Times

One in five people who have suffered a bereavement or been affected by suicide have themselves expressed recent thoughts about self-harm or suicide, a new study has found.

In the first study of its kind on the impact of suicide on people, researchers found that among 2,413 adults affected by suicide, more than half, or 56 percent, reported poor mental well-being and symptoms of depression and anxiety, which was twice the level of the national population.

The study, carried out by the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) in collaboration with the charity HUGG (Healing Untold Grief Groups), found that poor mental wellbeing was most pronounced among young adults aged 18 to 24.

The results of the National Suicide Bereavement Survey are published today to coincide with World Mental Health Week.

The study aimed to create a national profile of the impact of suicide loss and the needs of the estimated 60,000 people affected by suicide each year. This estimate is based on international research into the ripple effect on people of the 500 to 550 suicides a year in Ireland.

“This is the first time anyone in Ireland has been asked: How has suicide affected you and how has it affected your life and have you received support?” said Fiona Tuomey, founder and CEO of HUGG.

The high percentage of people who express thoughts of self-harm or suicide after being affected by suicide was cited as a concern by researchers. Ms Tuomey said it was “shocking but not surprising because suicide loss is not something that goes away”.

Dr. Eve Griffin, who led the research for the NSRF, said the findings were “quite stark” in showing the “complex, far-reaching and lasting effects” of suicide on people’s mental health.

“We now have updated evidence of the consequences that suicide can have, and this provides a really strong case for developing specialist and tailored supports,” she said.

The study found that most participants who had experienced a suicide loss in their life, about 62 percent, had lost a family member or partner to suicide, while half of the respondents, about 54 percent, had experienced multiple deaths after suicide.

A significant proportion experienced the loss of friends, colleagues or as part of their work as a first responder, such as a member of the Garda or as a health worker.

Common grief experiences reported by participants included expressions of guilt, feelings of perceived stigma and shame, and searching for an explanation for the death.

A third of participants did not access support after their loss. Formal support was accessed to a lesser extent by men or people who experienced suicide through a professional role.

Two-thirds of participants believed that the quality of services in their area was poor, and common barriers to accessing support included lack of awareness, accessibility, waiting times and cost.

Ms Tuomey said there was a “patchwork” of support offered in response to suicide and that suicide received a “very different public debate” from other tragedies experienced in the community.

“It’s at the bottom of the list when it comes to conversation, and it’s a conversation that people are very uncomfortable having,” she said.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, please text HELLO to 50808 or contact the Samaritans on freephone 116123 or email jo@samaritans.ie or the Irish Hospice Foundation Bereavement Support Line on freephone 1800 807 077

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