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Problems For Survivors

Those who experience the suicide of a significant other are known as survivors. Survivors have great difficulty coping with the death, perhaps more so than those whose significant others die of natural causes. In some cases, it is the family members who discover the body of the suicide, often greatly disfigured by the suicide. For example, Leicester Hemingway, Ernest's brother, was only thirteen when he found his father dead from a firearm wound. Leicester was one of the three children who later completed suicide.

Furthermore, the grieving process after a suicide is different in significant ways from the grieving after natural deaths. There is more anger felt toward the suicide and guilt over what the survivors might have done to prevent the suicide. Group therapy is particularly helpful for survivors whether led by peers or by professionals (Farberow 2001).

In recent years, survivors have banded together to form organizations to help one another and to work for the prevention of suicide in general. There are survivor groups in many countries and, in some countries, in every region. In the United States, the American Association of Suicidology maintains a directory of these services and, inter-nationally, Befrienders International has services (usually under the name The Samaritans) in more than forty countries.


Adler, A. (1958). "Suicide." Journal of Individual Psychology 14:57–61. Many countries have networks of telephone crisis centers,such as this one, staffed by volunteers. The crisis centers function twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for individuals to call during times when they are most distressed. MARY KATE DENNY/PHOTO EDIT Beck, A. T.; Rush, A. J.; Shaw, B. F.; and Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford.

Cantor, C. H., and Slater, P. J. (1995). "Marital Breakdown, Parenthood, and Suicide." Journal of Family Studies 1:91–102.

de Castro, E. F., and Martins, I. (1987). "The Role of Female Autonomy in Suicide among Portuguese Women." Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 75:337–343.

Durkheim, E. (1897). Le Suicide. Paris: Felix Alcan.

Farberow, N. L. (2001). "Helping Suicide Survivors." In Suicide Prevention: Resources for the Millennium, ed.
D. Lester. Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.

Girard, C. (1993). "Age, Gender, and Suicide." American Sociological Review 58:553–574.

Gove, W. (1972). "Sex, Marital Status and Suicide." Journal of Health and Social Behavior 13:204–213.

Henry, A. F., and Short, J. F. (1954). Suicide and Homicide. New York: Free Press.

Hoyer, G., and Lund, E. (1993). "Suicide among Women Related to Number of Children in Marriage." Archives of General Psychiatry 50:134–137.

Isacsson, G. (2000). "Suicide Prevention: A Medical Breakthrough?" Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 102: 113–117.

Johnson, B. D. (1965). "Durkheim's One Cause of Suicide." American Sociological Review 30:875–886.

Lester, D. (1989). "Experience of Personal Loss and Later Suicide." Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 79:450–452.

Lester, D. (1998). Suicide in African Americans. Commack, NY: Nova Science.

Lester, D. (2000). Why People Kill Themselves, 4th edition. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford.

MacMahon, B., and Pugh, T. F. (1965). "Suicide in the Widowed." American Journal of Epidemiology 81:23–31.

Maris, R. W.; Berman, A. L.; and Silverman, M. M. (2000). Comprehensive Textbook of Suicidology. New York: Guilford.

Mastekaasa, A. (1993). "Marital Status and Subjective Well- Being." Social Indicators Research 29:249–276.

Meerloo, J. A. M. (1962). Suicide and Mass Suicide. New York: Grune and Stratton.

Mishara, B., and Daigle, M. (2001). "Helplines and Crisis Intervention Services." In Suicide Prevention: Resources for the Millennium, ed. D. Lester. Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge.

Phillips, M. R.; Liu, H. Q.; and Zhang, Y. P. (1999). Suicide and Social Change in China. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 23:25–50.

Richman, J. (1986). Family Therapy for Suicidal People. New York: Springer.

Rosenbaum, M., and Richman, J. (1970). "Suicide: The Role of Hostility and Death Wishes from the Family and Significant Others." American Journal of Psychiatry 126:1652–1655.

Other Resources

American Association of Suicidology. (2002). Available from http://www.suicidology.org.

World Health Organization. (2002). Available from www.who.int.


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Social IssuesSuicide - The Epidemiology Of Suicide, Theories Of Suicide, Marital Status And The Family, The Protective Effect Of Children