Challenges and opportunities for suicide bereavement research: The experience of ethical board review
Moore, M., Maple, M., Mitchell, A.M., & Cerel, J.
Background: While high-quality and ethically sound research is needed to better understand and respond to the needs of those bereaved by suicide, there is a concern that ethical boards internationally raise unreasonable objections to research with those bereaved by suicide. Aims: This pilot study was conducted to examine the issues faced by suicide bereavement and postvention researchers while obtaining ethical board approval. Method: Suicide bereavement and postvention researchers from four continents were surveyed on their experiences of responding to ethical board challenges to research proposals and requests to amend their research as a result of ethical board concerns. Results: While ethical boards differ in their response to suicide bereavement research, eight of 19 researchers surveyed indicated they had had proposals challenged, with two of these eight researchers reporting having to make major changes to their proposals as a result. The researchers provided examples of how they responded to those concerns about perceived risks of their research by ethical board members. Conclusions: There are strict guidelines regarding the treatment of research study participants, and ethical boards must ensure the proposed research procedures adhere to these guidelines. Yet, in the field of suicide bereavement research it would appear that some ethical boards place restrictions or raise concerns about research being conducted in an absence of sound knowledge about the safety of such research. This ultimately may influence the design of research being conducted. Such influence in turn shapes the data generated from the research and thus what is published in the literature. It is both timely and imperative for ethical board members to be well educated on what the risks of those who are bereaved by suicide may be prior to making recommendations on research project designs.