What do suicide survivors tell us they need? Results of a pilot study

Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2008 Aug;38(4):375-89. doi: 10.1521/suli.2008.38.4.375.


Few studies have examined the natural coping efforts used by suicide survivors, or have identified specific problems and needs survivors experience following the death of a significant other by suicide. In the present study, we used a newly developed needs assessment survey to examine four areas of natural coping efforts: practical, psychological, and social difficulties; formal and informal sources of support; resources utilized in healing; and barriers to finding support since the loss. Sixty-three adult survivors of suicide were recruited from suicide survivor conferences and support groups. Results indicate that participants experienced high levels of psychological distress since the suicide, including elevated symptoms of depression, guilt, anxiety, and trauma. Participants experienced substantial difficulties in the social arena (e.g., talking with others about the suicide). The majority of the sample viewed professional help as beneficial; although many informal sources of support were also valued (e.g., one-to-one contact with other survivors). Depression and a lack of information about where to find help served as barriers to help-seeking behaviors for our participants. Participants who reported higher levels of functional impairment were more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress, social isolation, and barriers to seeking help. Future research with a longitudinal and more inclusive sample is needed to build on these preliminary findings and to provide a solid foundation for evidenced-based interventions with survivors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Bereavement*
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self-Help Groups
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*