Suicide Survivors Seeking Mental Health Services

By Brock, Stephen E. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, January/February 2009 | Go to article overview

Suicide Survivors Seeking Mental Health Services


Brock, Stephen E., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Summarized by Kimberly de Deaux, Intern School Psychologist, & Richard Lieberman, NCSP, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

Suicide is currently the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, with 32,637 Americans dying by suicide in 2005. Survivors of suicide (family, friends, and coworkers of the victim) are a significant portion of the population (an estimated 1 in 64 Americans) and have been identified as being at high risk for mental health problems, including suicidal behavior. In this group comparison study, Cerei and Bradley (2008) compared the effects of traditional passive models of postvention (PP) and active models of postvention (AMP) on the amount of time between a suicide and when survivors seek treatment, on the clinical problems experienced by survivors after a suicide, and on their degree of engagement in group treatment.

Cerel and Bradley (2008) define passive models of postvention as those requiring victims themselves to find resources such as brochures, newspaper ads for community events like "SOS" meetings, and websites of referral agencies. Active models of postvention have been defined based on the services provided by the Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) program, which include crisis center staff and trained volunteer survivors who respond at the scene of the suicide along with traditional first respond er s (e.g., police, coroner, emergency medical personnel). Under an active model of postvention, outreach begins as close to the time of the suicide as possible and includes comforting the victims, referrals for all potential survivors, explaining the suicide investigation protocol, and answering questions.

Participants in the study included 356 suicide survivors seen at The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center (BRIC, Baton Rouge, LA) between 1999 and 2005. Of the 356 participants, 150 (42%) received the APM and 206 (57.9%) received the PP model. Secondary data analysis was conducted based on information collected from standard intake procedures, including information on survivors' current and lifetime symptoms and those of the decedent.

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