Parents who have lost a son or daughter to suicide risk developing psychological ill-health that can become long-lasting and, in the worst case, life-threatening. Despite this risk, there is a lack of knowledge about the parents’ needs for professional help after a child’s suicide. We currently know very little about which interventions are helpful after a child’s suicide; the help that is offered depends on who one is lucky or unlucky enough to meet and at what time of day the death occurs. Meeting a parent who has lost their child to suicide can be difficult and both bereaved persons and clinicians are calling for recommendations that can be used for support. One reason for the lack of research in this area is that studies that include traumatised persons are often hindered by the fear that they will suffer as a result of the contact; another reason is methodological difficulties. This project started, therefore, by developing a method to be able to carry out a population-based study in an ethical and methodological way with a focus on the psychological ill-health of parents who have lost a child to suicide and their need for professional support.
The overall aim of our research is to acquire knowledge that can be used to improve the professional care of parents who have lost a child to suicide.
We created hypotheses, questionnaires and an ethical protocol for contact and research participation in a qualitative feasibility study that included 46 suicide-bereaved parents. We then identified all parents who had lost a child (aged 15-30 years) to suicide during the years 2004 to 2007 and a matched (1:2) control group of non-bereaved parents from population registers. Contact was established with 1410 of 1423 parents, and 666 (73%) suicide-bereaved and 377 (74%) non-bereaved parents participated in the study by answering the respective questionnaires.
Hypothesis tests are ongoing. To date, eight articles have been published, six from the parent study and two from the sibling study. For detailed results, please see the articles on DIVA.
Our interpreted results, that build on the parent study together with results from previous studies, suggest that parents who have lost a son or daughter to suicide:
Furthermore, our research results and previous research suggest that:
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