Don’t forget those left behind: Support after Suicide

By Roberta Heale @robertaheale  @EBNursingBMJ

World Suicide Prevention Day was on September 10th.  The focus was, importantly, on raising awareness about the prevalence of suicide across the globe and to continue the essential work about preventing these tragedies.

The World Health Association estimates that 800,000 people per year die by suicide.  These are people from every country and every walk of life. The WHO has dedicated the upcoming World Mental Health Day to suicide prevention.  

For every person who dies from suicide there are countless more people, their loved ones, family and friends, left behind to grieve.  The grieving process when suicide is involved is often more complicated than for that of someone who dies by other means.  Those left behind are may have guilt thinking that they, somehow, could have prevented their loved one’s death.  There continues to be stigma related to suicide. Many people ruminate about why this has happened.

In a poignant opinion piece for the New York Times, Peggy Wehmeyer wrote of her experience in “What Lies in Suicide’s Wake.  Along with everything else, I wasn’t prepared for the stigma of becoming a widow this way.”  She tells of the difficulty in being a widow when her husband died of suicide.  In one instance she prefers to tell a stranger at a dinner that he died from cancer. Later she asks “How is it I could persuade the man I loved to apply sunscreen, get regular checkups and wear a bike helmet, all in an effort to prolong our life together, but I couldn’t keep him from killing himself?

A heart wrenching documentary called Evelyn, tracks the journey of a family trying to heal from the suicide death of their brother/son/friend, a decade prior. Regardless of the time that has passed, emotions are as raw as when it first happened.  They find solace in each other and in the journey.  The move was recently released on Netflix and available to watch via this website

As health care professionals we simply can’t forget those left behind in the wake of a suicide. Along with the essential work of suicide prevention, we are seeing a growing number of supports for family and friends who suffer from the loss of a loved one to suicide.

The Evelyn documentary website includes a number of supports available in the UK and internationally  While we continue to work together toward eradication of suicide, we need to remember those left behind.





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