International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Why International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day?

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day was created to support survivors of suicide loss, or individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide. These survivors may have lost a parent, a child, a sibling, or a friend to suicide. We acknowledge their strength in enduring immense pain and loss by using the term “survivors” when referring to them. The day is meant to provide a space for survivors of suicide loss to gather and create meaningful relationships with each other, to gain understanding, and to foster hope through shared experience. This year, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is on Saturday, November 20, 2021.

Psychological impact of losing a loved one to suicide.

Those who lose a loved one to suicide may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and struggle with feelings of blame. A 2013 study research young people who had lost a friend to suicide, finding that participants reported “increased levels of stress, depression, reduced coping capacity, and prolonged grief symptoms that have continued considerably beyond the death of their friend” (Bartik, 2013). Another study compared spouses and relatives grieving loved ones who died by suicide with those who died by natural death, finding that the reported need for professional help was higher amongst those grieving a loved one who died by suicide; further, self-reported psychiatric and general health was worse for the suicide-bereaved individuals (Groot, et. al., 2006). This suggests that suicide-bereaved individuals are higher-risk populations. Furthermore, survivors often yearn for the reason behind their loss which causes further distress.

How to help.

Seeing that survivors of suicide loss are a higher risk population, mental health care and supportive communities are greatly encouraged. For those who present with PTSD or depression, medication management by a psychiatrist is highly encouraged to manage symptoms. However, a study conducted in 2018 suggests that complicated grief-targeted psychotherapy in addition to medication management is more effective than medication alone for survivors of suicide loss (Zisook et. al., 2018). It is thus encouraged to seek extra support in terms of mental health care through both psychiatric and psychotherapeutic help. While individual therapy can be helpful, group therapy spaces are popular because they normalize survivors’ experiences and provide robust support from others who have endured similar experiences.

Online Resources


Bartik W., Maple M., Edwards H., & Kiernan M. (2013). The psychological impact of losing a friend to suicide. Australasian Psychiatry. 21(6):545-549. doi:10.1177/1039856213497986

Groot M.H., Keijser J.D., & Neeleman J. (2006). Grief shortly after suicide and natural death: a comparative study among spouses and first-degree relatives. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 36(4):418-31. doi: 10.1521/suli.2006.36.4.418. PMID: 16978096.

Zisook, S. et al. (2018). Treatment of Complicated Grief in Survivors of Suicide Loss: A HEAL Report. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 79(2). DOI: 10.4088/jcp.17m11592. PMID: 29617064.