Bereavement due to suicide

Help and information through the internet

Many people who seek health information and support now use the internet, and this was a source of comfort and reassurance for many of the people we talked to. However, detailed dramatic reports of suicide, particularly of celebrities, may make others think about doing it themselves so the internet could have a negative effect, particularly on those who have already attempted suicide.
The main way that people had used the internet was to contact others who had been bereaved through internet support groups. It particularly suits people who are geographically isolated, those who value anonymity and those who want support and information available 24 hours a day.
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and Compassionate Friends have websites, with useful information, book reviews, survivors' testimonies, and details of group meetings, conferences, retreats and special events. When Ann’s friend died she found very little on the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide website apart from the helpline. Eighteen months later she found the website much improved. It encouraged her to start a local support group, linked to Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (see Self-help groups, conferences and helplines).
Support groups, such as the one Ann runs (see above), offer email support, but some people want the opportunity to interact more fully, either by email or via a website chat-room, with others bereaved by suicide. Nina and her father valued reading about other people’s experiences of suicide and being able to post messages on a website.

Some of the younger people had found help via the WAY Foundation, and, an organisation for the ‘Widowed and Young’, which supports men and women widowed (not necessarily by suicide) under the age of 50 (also see ‘Self-help groups, conferences and helplines’). The Way Foundation website also has links to other sites.

Bereavement due to suicide may be harder to bear than other forms of bereavement because it challenges some deeply held beliefs. Survivors of suicide may see themselves as sharing an identity with others similarly bereaved, and so want to find others like themselves. For this reason, Dolores also liked using the email group which she found on a website called Widowed by suicide. This group aims to lessen the isolation of people who have lost their life partner through suicide. The site provides emotional support and informal advice for men and for women. Dolores found a circle of friends through widowed-by-suicide, yet still has some anonymity'

Some parents we talked to wanted regular contact with other parents who had been bereaved by suicide, so they used the American website ‘Parents of Suicide (POS) and found it very helpful. Kate said that POS has ‘saved’ her and kept her on this earth. In common with many other support group members she says that it also helps her to help others, but the 80-100 emails she receives every day take up lots of time.
Bob and his wife Lynda have belonged to POS since 1999. Once a year they go to America to meet other members of POS. Bob looks at the website every evening after work. He reads other people’s emails, finds support and tries to help others too. He sees it as a “two way thing”.
People we talked to used the internet for other reasons too. Ann, for example, used the internet to search for books. She found it hard to find books on suicide in shops. In particular she wanted to find autobiographies in which the author told his or her own story about bereavement due to suicide. Nina used the internet for support, but she also used it to do her own research into the subject of suicide. Stuart used the internet to look for a counsellor.
Some people we talked to had used the internet to find out about suicide research, or the mental illness associated with the person’s suicide. They wanted to understand what had happened. Lucy, for example, wanted to find out if there was anything she could have done to prevent her partner’s suicide. She knew it was too late but she wanted to understand why he had felt so depressed and suicidal.
Margaret had been a counsellor herself, but she wanted to find out why she wanted to be alone after her daughter died. She found a useful article on the internet about post-traumatic stress. Her GP printed it for her.
Some people had not used the internet for support, either because they did not have a computer and had never used one, or because they preferred talking to people face to face when looking for support or information. Dave, for example, said that he hadn’t joined any internet support group because he prefers to be face to face and ‘look at people’s eyes’ when he is talking to them.
Others used the internet a lot soon after the death and then decided they were spending too much time on the computer. Paula found that 'the WAY' chat room was ‘taking over her life’, so decided to visit it less often.

Today people may also find counselling over the Internet. One programme, ‘Beating the Blues’, was developed by the Institute of Psychiatry and is a computer based programme approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). In some areas counselling over the Internet is paid for by the NHS.

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated January 2015


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