The widespread effects of suicide on families

When a family member dies by suicide, the impact that it has on surviving family members and loved ones is devastating and far-reaching. In addition to the enormous grief that the sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one brings, loss by suicide elicits a flood of thoughts and feelings that compound the grief with emotional scars.

The thought never entered any of our minds that suicide would ever occur in our family. My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family was an avid outdoorsman and hunter. I heard many stories of him riding in on horseback for several days to hunt in Idaho, California, and Montana for moose, deer, and elk. He was a great hunter. It wasn’t long after his wife passed away when my father told us that he received a call saying that his father had taken his life by suicide.

My father became very withdrawn and angry following his dads’ death. He didn’t want to talk or have any discussion about it…ever! His dad had given my dad things over the years such as hunting equipment and supplies, yet for years every time my dad saw these things that had been given to him, it reminded him of his dad. It came to a point that he no longer wanted anything around that reminded him of his dad, so he got rid of it all. My dad told me that he did not want any items in the house that would ever remind him of his dad. This still affects our family and my father today since there has not been any closure of the way his father ended his life by suicide.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 34:18 NLT

Rural areas have had the highest suicide rates for many years, increasing by over forty percent over the past sixteen years as compared with ten percent in urban areas. Rural areas also have a higher veteran population as well; yet they lack much needed medical, mental health, and support care services. Many rural hospitals have closed their doors which significantly extends the commute or makes it unobtainable for many. It is estimated that one in four people have been directly affected by a loved one’s death by suicide.
In addition to the usual emotions associated with grieving the loss of a loved one, there are other known effects on surviving family members following a death by suicide that includes, but are not limited to the following:

  • Anger
  • Rejection
  • Resentment
  • Betrayal
  • Remorse
  • Failure
  • Blame
  • Guilt
  • Prolonged Grief
  • Confusion
  • Distress
  • Shame
  • Fear

Despite the prevalence of suicide, there is still a social taboo that is often associated with suicide. Survivors often feel very stigmatized and isolated with few people to talk to. These effects are often compounded in rural communities as fewer resources are readily available.

Suicide Risk Factors

A combination of risk factors (individual, relational, community, and social) can contribute to the risk of suicide. Although these risk factors may not be a direct cause of suicide – the following characteristics can be associated with suicide:

  • Family history of suicide
  • Bullying
  • Family history of trauma or abuse
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • History of mental health issues
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Social and relational Isolation
  • Barriers to accessing health care and mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, financial, work, or social)
  • Illness
  • Unwilling to seek help due to the stigma attached to mental health disorders, suicidal thoughts, or substance abuse, and more

Suicide warning signs

Approximately 50-75% of people that are considering suicide will tell someone. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously:

  • Threatening suicide
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Verbalizing that others would be better off without them
  • Verbalizing or acting out self-harm
  • Excessive sadness or moodiness
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep issues
  • Sudden calmness
  • Recent trauma or life crisis
  • Changes in personality and depression

Suicide warning signs

Approximately 50-75% of people that are considering suicide will tell someone. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously:

  • Threatening suicide
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Verbalizing that others would be better off without them
  • Verbalizing or acting out self-harm
  • Excessive sadness or moodiness
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep issues
  • Sudden calmness
  • Recent trauma or life crisis
  • Changes in personality and depression

How to make a difference-

  • Ask- Are you thinking of harming yourself or suicide?
  • Keep them safe until help arrives
  • Help them connect to the resources
  • Follow-up in the days and weeks ahead

CVM Impact Opportunities.

 

Increase awareness and provide education for rural communities.

Increase connectedness between individuals, families, and communities.

Advocacy and connection to available resources.

Youth mentoring relationships and support to promote personal development, leadership, and continuing education.

Take Action

Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1-800-273-8255 24/7 or 911 for immediate help.