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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(3), 286; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030286

Perceived Stigma of Sudden Bereavement as a Risk Factor for Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempt: Analysis of British Cross-Sectional Survey Data on 3387 Young Bereaved Adults

UCL Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London W1T 7NF, UK
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London NW1 0PE, UK
Education Unit, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK
UCL Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London NW3 2PF, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Rory O’Connor and Gwendolyn Portzky
Received: 30 January 2017 / Accepted: 6 March 2017 / Published: 9 March 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue From Understanding Suicide Risk to Preventing Suicide)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [288 KB, uploaded 10 March 2017]


The sudden death of a friend or relative, particularly by suicide, is a risk factor for suicide. People who experience sudden bereavement report feeling highly stigmatised by the loss, potentially influencing access to support. We assessed whether perceived stigma following sudden bereavement is associated with suicidal thoughts and suicide attempt. We analysed cross-sectional survey data on 3387 young adults bereaved by the sudden death of a close contact. We tested the association of high versus low perceived stigma (on the stigma sub-scale of the Grief Experience Questionnaire) with post-bereavement suicidal ideation and suicide attempt, using random effects logistic regression, adjusting for socio-demographic factors, pre-bereavement psychopathology, and mode of sudden bereavement (natural causes/unnatural causes/suicide). Subjects with high perceived stigma scores were significantly more likely to report post-bereavement suicidal thoughts (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.74; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.93–3.89) and suicide attempt (AOR = 2.73; 95% CI = 2.33–3.18) than those with low stigma scores. People who feel highly stigmatised by a sudden bereavement are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempt, even taking into account prior suicidal behaviour. General practitioners, bereavement counsellors, and others who support people bereaved suddenly, should consider inquiring about perceived stigma, mental wellbeing, and suicidal thoughts, and directing them to appropriate sources of support. View Full-Text
Keywords: suicide; self-harm; bereavement; stigma; depression; support; risk factor suicide; self-harm; bereavement; stigma; depression; support; risk factor
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Pitman, A.; Rantell, K.; Marston, L.; King, M.; Osborn, D. Perceived Stigma of Sudden Bereavement as a Risk Factor for Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Attempt: Analysis of British Cross-Sectional Survey Data on 3387 Young Bereaved Adults. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 286.

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