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Who are the bereaved?

An early pioneer in suicidology, Edwin Shneidman, estimated that for every person who completes suicide, there are six people who suffer from a significant grief reaction.37 Over time, this figure has become stated as fact, however the actual number of people affected is unknown.8,38 Not all suicides have the same impact and the degree of impact is not just a function of ‘closeness’.38

When a person dies by suicide, those affected include:

  • family and friends
  • colleagues
  • those involved in his/her clinical care
  • people who appear quite removed from the deceased (eg a person in the community with depression and suicidal thoughts).38

Therefore, the term ‘bereaved’ may apply to ‘anyone who experiences a high level of self-perceived psychological, physical, and/or social distress for a considerable length of time after exposure to the suicide of another person’.38

If you were involved in the care of the person who has suicided, you might also be affected by suicide bereavement. In this case, you face managing your emotions (eg sense of loss, personal or professional failure), often while needing to provide support to the bereaved family and community members.8


  1. Suicide Prevention Australia. Position statement: Suicide bereavement and postvention. Leichhardt, NSW: Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009.
  2. Shneidman E. Forward. In: Cain C, editor. Survivors of suicide. Oxford: Charles C Thomas, 1972. p. ix–xi.
  3. Jordan J, McIntosh J. Suicide bereavement: Why study survivors of suicide loss. In: Jordan J, McIntosh J, editors. Grief after suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivors. New York: Routledge, 2011.


After suicide: A resource for GPs