Suicide bereavement is a risk factor for adverse outcomes related to grief, social functioning, mental health and suicidal behaviour. Consequently, suicide bereavement support (i.e., postvention) has been identified as an important suicide prevention strategy. However, little is known about its effectiveness. To redress this gap, this review aimed to assess the evidence of effectiveness of interventions for people bereaved by suicide, and appraise the quality of the research in this field.
We conducted a systematic review according to PRISMA guidelines. Searches of peer-reviewed literature in Medline, PsycINFO, Embase and EBM Reviews identified 12 papers reporting on 11 relevant studies conducted between 1984 and 2018.
Across studies, there was a wide variety of intervention modalities, study populations, control groups, and grief, psychosocial and suicide-related outcome measures. Overall, the quality of studies was weak. While there was some evidence of the effectiveness of interventions for uncomplicated grief, evidence of the effectiveness of complicated grief interventions was lacking. Based on this scant evidence, interventions which seem to show promise include supportive, therapeutic and educational approaches, involve the social environment of the bereaved, and comprise a series of sessions led by trained facilitators.
There is a clear need for additional methodologically sound studies in this area. Specifically, selection procedures, sample sizes, randomization, and the use of appropriate measures are crucial. As people bereaved by suicide are at-risk of adverse grief, mental ill-health and suicidal behaviour, further research across the life-span is essential to prevent grief and mental health ramifications.