The study titled “Stigma, grief, and depressive symptoms in help-seeking people bereaved through suicide” by Scocco and collaborators investigates the impact of grief and depression on the perception of stigma among survivors of suicide. The authors hypothesize that the intensity of depressive symptoms and complicated grief is linked to the intensity of perceived stigma against people bereaved through suicide, even after adjusting for sociodemographic confounders and variables related to the suicide event.
The cross-sectional study includes 240 participants who accessed an online support initiative between 2012 and 2017. The sample includes 41 men (17%) and 199 (83%) women aged 18 to 73 years. Descriptive analyses show that women scored higher than men on the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and Stigma of Suicide Survivor Scale (STOSSS).
The authors find that there is a positive correlation between ICG and BDI scores in both men and women. BDI scores are positively related to STOSSS scores in men, but this correlation is not present in women. The number of days since the suicide is negatively correlated with ICG and BDI scores and positively associated with STOSSS scores.
A cluster analysis of the variables included in the study shows that levels of complicated grief, as measured by the ICG, are not related to levels of perceived stigma against survivors, as measured by the STOSSS. However, levels of depression are positively and significantly related to levels of perceived stigma against survivors, even after controlling for demographic variables and their relationship with suicide.
The study’s limitations include a cross-sectional design, reliance on self-report tools, and a partially representative sample of mostly female suicide survivors seeking help on a specialized website.
The authors conclude that perceived stigma towards people bereaved through suicide positively and significantly correlates with depressive symptomatology and mourning duration but not complicated grief symptoms. They suggest that specific interventions designed for persons bereaved by suicide should consider the qualitative differences between psychological distress and mourning as reactions to a suicide loss. The authors also recommend that healthcare professionals should evaluate and investigate whether a patient has a history of loss by suicide, regardless of the time elapsed. They caution that patients who find it difficult to talk about their experience and minimize its consequences may be experiencing perceived stigma.
Scocco P, Preti A, Totaro S, Corrigan PW, Castriotta C; SOPROXI Team. Stigma, grief and depressive symptoms in help-seeking people bereaved through suicide. J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 1;244:223-230. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.10.098. Epub 2018 Oct 11. PMID: 30366261.