Friends of suicide victims opt to suffer in silence - study

  • 02/02/2018

Young men have a tendency to suppress their emotions and suffer in silence if a close friend commits suicide, new research shows.

A study by Dr Chris Bowden from Victoria University's School of Education has found that men aged 17-25, who lose a male friend to suicide, suffered and grieved in silence.

There are four types of silence, Dr Bowden says: personal, private, public and analytic.

"Early on, the men were unable to describe what they were experiencing to others," he said.

"They also chose to keep quiet, be stoical, suppress and control their emotions and keep their grief private. In public and social situations, the words and actions of others and their fear of being judged as weak and vulnerable often silenced them."

Previous studies of suicide bereavement have focused on the experiences of parents, parentally-bereaved children, younger adolescents at school who have experience of peer suicide, and female college students.

Dr Bowden said the studies of men's experiences of suicide bereavement are largely missing and men have remained silent.

Dr Bowden conducted in-depth interviews with a group of young men over a period of a year.

These took place as "go-alongs" or "ride-alongs" while the men were working on cars, at barbecues, during events such as burnouts, and while playing PlayStation or Xbox.

"In order to understand their experience as it was lived by them it was important to build trust and rapport, and to understand who they were and the friends they had lost," he said.

He recommended that health professionals, families and friends learn to see, listen to and interpret the silence of men in order to better understand their experience and need for care and support.