Date of Paper

5-2013

Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Richa Dhanju

Abstract

Over the past ten years, suicide has increased at an alarming rate. A loss such as this leaves behind family members and friends who often have many unresolved questions and feelings. Suicide is often not discussed as openly as other types of loss and this can affect and limit the grieving process. A review of the literature indicates a higher incidence of complicated bereavement when compared to naturally occurring losses and difficulty in meaning making of the loss. This also includes a higher incidence of physical and mental health concerns. By studying what barriers, including stigma, affect the grieving process, those in the helping profession can help those individuals who have lost someone to suicide work through the grieving process and reduce the negative impact associated with it. The field of social work also has an obligation to educate the public on mental illness to reduce or eliminate negative stereotyping and encourage those who have been affected by it to seek help. Members of three suicide support groups in the Twin Cities were asked to complete a survey discussing perceptions regarding the loss of their loved ones. This included their perception and dominant feelings toward the person who died, perceptions of themselves and how others may perceive them, and how this may have affected their World View. Members were also given an opportunity to make suggestions to practitioners how they can help an individual who has lost someone to suicide. Results indicate those who lost someone to suicide did not perceive the person who died differently, but felt others may perceive them differently. Their World View was maintained as generally positive, with an increased realization of life’s fragility and higher sense of spirituality. Implications for social work were also discussed in providing more education around mental health help as a means of reducing stigma.

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