Long-term impact of exposure to suicide: a three-year controlled follow-up

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1996 May;35(5):646-53. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199605000-00020.


Objective: To determine the long-term impact of exposure to suicide on the friends of adolescent suicide victims.

Method: One hundred sixty-six friends of suicide victims and unexposed community controls were followed up at periodic intervals up to 3 years after the suicide, using the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children, Epidemiologic and Present Episode versions, to assess current and incident psychopathology.

Results: The incidence of suicide attempts was comparable between groups over the entire follow-up period, despite higher rates of baseline and incident psychopathology in the exposed group. An increased incidence of depression and anxiety was found in friends that was most marked in the first 6 months of follow-up. An increased incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in those exposed was seen in the early as well as the later periods of follow-up. Those exposed youths who knew the suicide plans of the suicide victim were at the greatest risk for incident depression and PTSD over the entire course of follow-up.

Conclusion: Exposure to suicide does not result in an increased risk of suicidal behavior among friends and acquaintances, but it has a relatively long impact in terms of increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Suicide / psychology*