If you have lost a family member or friend as a result of a death by suicide, you undoubtedly wonder what might have happened in that loved one’s life that brought that person to the point of suicide. In a good many cases, some past trauma may be an underlying element that resulted in a loved one attempting suicide or ultimately dying by suicide.
There are some essential facts and factors you need to understand about the link between past trauma and suicide. Having this essential understanding my be helpful to your own grieving process.
Examples of Trauma That Can Cause Persistent Problems
Trauma comes in a number of different forms. Different types of trauma have the potential to cause persistent problems or difficulties in a person’s life. (These are discussed in a moment.) Examples of trauma that have been linked to a person dying by suicide include:
- Experiencing violence of some type
- Rape or other sexual assault
- Abuse or neglect as a child
- Motor vehicle or other type of accident
- Active combat in military service
- Death of a loved one
- End of a primary relationship
People Particularly at Risk of Trauma
When grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of death by suicide, appreciating that you are not alone can be at least somewhat helpful. (For example, realizing you are not alone can be helpful if shame is an issue in your situation.) Understanding that many people experience trauma that results in suicide attempts, while a grim fact, also lends perspective to the situation involving your loved one. For these reasons, we present this list of individuals who are more at risk of a death by suicide as the result of exposure to trauma:
- People with poor/deteriorating health
- People receiving ongoing medical treatment (e.g. cancer and psychiatric patients)
- Homeless people
- Indigenous people
- Children who have suffered neglect
- First responders (e.g. police, fire fighters, paramedics)
- Military personnel and veterans
- Medical doctors
It is important to stress that this most definitely is only a partial list. Again, it is intended to assist in lending some perspective in regard to the connection or link between trauma and a death by suicide (or a suicide attempt).
Common Consequences of Trauma
Trauma can affect a person in a number of different ways. Without addressing the aftermath of a traumatic event, an individual may find his or her self laboring under one or another of the more frequently occurring conditions or problems that arise from that type of life event. Some of the more commonplace effects of a trauma in a person’s life include:
- Drug abuse or addiction
- Relationship problems
- Suicide attempts
- Death by suicide
Reducing the Risk of Suicide With Trauma Informed Care
Trauma informed care is a relatively new concept designed to better address the impact or effects of trauma. Trauma informed care is described as:
Health care professionals are more aware of the effects of trauma than ever, and this has led to the creation of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) — a determined effort to implement a better approach to treating patients that takes into account the impact that previous traumatic experiences have had on an individual’s overall mental health. TIC represents a significant paradigm shift from what has been called a “deficit perspective” to one that is strengths-based.
The four primary elements of trauma informed care are:
First, an effort must be made to understand the prevalence of trauma and its impact. Second, the signs and symptoms of traumatization need to be recognized. Third, a physically and emotionally safe space must be created, a space that empowers an individual to participate in collaborative decision-making with an active (and heard) voice. Fourth, an individual’s experience must be respected through active listening, being sensitive to language used, being trustworthy, as well as by offering consistency and stability.
You Are Not Alone
As a survivor of the loss of a loved one by a suicide death you are far from alone. The reach of suicide is significant in today’s world. The reality is that nearly all adults have a connection to a person who has died by suicide. Moreover, they likely know more than one person who has attempted suicide.
With this in mind, you may be able to garner needed support and encouragement from a person already in your life that you trust. Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can provide you a link that can be helpful to you as you work through your own grief process.
In addition, there are professionals available in the form of therapists and counselors that can also be of assistance to you. There are also suicide survivor support groups in many communities across the country, groups that can be invaluable to you.