Parental bereavement and youth suicide: An assessment of the literature


Myfanwy Maple is a PhD candidate, School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia and an Australian Postgraduate Award holder (2001–2004).


Suicide among young people in Australia remains at unacceptably high levels. Government financial contribution to the National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy in the late 1980s and 1990s has assisted in raising the profile of this issue. Although there has been a recent slight decline, young people continue to commit suicide. For each suicide death it is estimated that up to six people are directly affected. Yet, these ‘suicide survivors’ remain isolated in grief, with their experience rarely understood by those unaffected. A review of the literature suggests conflicting reports, with little detailed information gleaned directly from parents, about this experience. Often as frontline workers in suicide death, social workers are uniquely placed to appreciate the familial experience of suicide. This paper presents a review of the research literature that informs current knowledge of parental and family bereavement through suicide, highlights gaps in knowledge, and the relevance of social work practice with this group.