Helping young people affected by a friend’s suicide

Published 19 March 2009

youngResearchers at the University of New England are talking to young people about their experience of losing a friend to suicide.

By gaining an understanding of their experience, the researchers hope to develop a framework for understanding similarly bereaved young people in future, and to develop a tool for use in schools and in health and community services to assist in services after a suicide occurs.

Mr Warren Bartik from the NSW Department of Health, Dr Myfanwy Maple from UNE’s School of Health and Dr Helen Edwards from UNE’s School of Education are seeking young people, aged 12 to 24 at the time they experienced the death, who would be willing to share their experiences of the suicide death of a friend.

Dr Maple has conducted award-winning research over the past six years that is helping to support the parents of young people who have died through suicide. This new project, she said, was encouraging bereaved young people to talk about their grief, and how a friend’s death had affected their lives. “To date, responses to youth suicide have primarily focused on prevention,” she explained. “While preventative work is vital, such a focus ignores the experiences of those most intimately involved in the suicide death of a young person.”

Mr Bartik, a psychologist and mental health specialist, will be conducting interviews with participants. “Young people closely affected by suicide are able to offer a unique insight into suicide,” he said, “allowing us to challenge assumptions, develop more appropriate prevention strategies, and understand the phenomenon more broadly. As suicide is unlikely to cease entirely, it is vital that we understand the experiences of those most closely affected, whose lives are changed forever.”

The researchers said that all participants, and any information they provided to the research project, would be treated confidentially. Participants under the age of 18 will need their parents’ permission to be interviewed.

For more information on the project, or to discuss the possibility of participating, please phone Warren Bartik on 0429 100 091 or Dr Myfanwy Maple at UNE on (02) 6773 3661.