Bereavement and suicide bereavement as an antecedent of suicide in children and young people: Prevalence and characteristics

Journal of Affective Disorders

Cathryn Rodway, Saied Ibrahim, Su-Gwan Tham, Pauline Turnbull, Nav Kapur, Louis Appleby


Introduction: There is limited research into bereavement and suicide bereavement as an antecedent of suicide in young people.

Methods: We extracted information on the antecedents of suicide from official reports, primarily coroner inquests, on a 3-year national consecutive case series of all UK deaths by suicide in people aged 10-19.

Results: Between 2014 and 2016, there were 595 suicides by young people. 134 (25%) had been previously or recently bereaved; 51 (9%) by suicide, mainly of a friend or acquaintance. This is equivalent to 1 in 4 and 1 in 11, respectively, of all young people who die by suicide. Bereavement added to existing adversities – many antecedents of suicide were more likely in young people who were bereaved compared to those who were not, but there were few differences in the experiences of young people bereaved by suicide compared to other causes.

Limitations: This was an observational, not a risk factor study, and we did not use a control group. It is difficult to obtain data on non-suicide controls due to the ethical implications in contacting families, and the fact of suicide itself, its impact on disclosure and the reluctance of potential controls distorting any comparisons.

Conclusion: Lasting bereavement support needs to be routinely and immediately available for young people, including those who have experienced the death of a friend or acquaintance. Vigilance of agencies for bereaved young people is required, especially if there is evidence of other adversities.

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