Background: "A person's death is not only an ending: it is also a beginning - for the survivors. Indeed, in the case of suicide, the largest public health problem is neither the prevention of suicide (...), nor the management of attempts (...), but the alleviation of the effects of stress in the survivor-victims of suicidal deaths, whose lives are forever changed and who, over a period of years, numbers in the millions ..." (Edwin S. Shneidman, 1973).
Aims: As there is no doubt that suicide postvention should be given a more prominent position on the agenda than is presently the case, this paper explores what we now know about perceived needs for help on the part of suicide bereaved in different parts of the world.
Methods: A search of related literature in the field was undertaken using the PubMed/PsychInfo databases. In addition, professionals throughout the world working in the field of suicide postvention were invited to submit reports about suicide postvention measures or literature.
Results: Very little research was found that reflected the perceived needs for help on the part of the bereaved - and all the studies stemmed from countries in the Western world. However, the bereaved in these studies agreed about a common need for peer and social support, and that professional help must be adapted to and offered with respect for individual needs. Thus, it seems that in societies in which the stigma about suicide has diminished, the bereaved experience very similar needs for help, whereas in other societies it is difficult to talk about their need for help because of the sanctions and taboos connected to suicide.
Conclusions: We need far more culturally sensitive research in order to explore and clarify how each community understands suicide and reacts to families who have lost someone by suicide.