Social support after loss to suicide

What is this research?

The McPin Foundation is supporting a PhD project based at University College London focusing on social support after a loss to suicide. Not much is known about the impact of suicide loss on a group of family and friends, or about how best they can support each other through this bereavement. To better understand this area, the project involves two studies:

  1. A systematic review of quantitative research to understand whether social support has a positive impact on those bereaved by sudden or violent deaths.
  2. Qualitative interviews with friend and family groups who have been bereaved by suicide to explore their experiences of supporting each other.

The final stage of the project involves developing the basis of a public resource to help friend and family groups support each other through their loss.

Why is this research important?

Research has shown that people bereaved by suicide are at an increased risk of poor mental health and reduced wellbeing, so it is important to provide support to people going through this loss. However, we know from studies that people aren’t very likely to access formal support (such as their GP or psychological therapies) in relation to their loss. People may feel uncomfortable accessing this kind of support or aren’t able to due to their geographical location or because of a lack of knowledge about what support is available. In the UK, support specifically for people bereaved by suicide is only provided by the charity sector.

Together, these factors make it likely that people who have been bereaved by suicide will rely on their friends and family for informal social support. This means it is important to help friend and family groups support each other in the best way possible.

Currently, we don’t know much about the best ways for friends and family to support each other after a loss. We don’t know how support works if multiple people within a friend and family group are impacted by a suicide, and what the challenges are for friends and family who are primarily in supportive roles. This project aims to develop a better understanding of each of these areas.

How are McPin and people with lived experience involved in this project?

The McPin Foundation co-funds this project using funds raised by the Gibby family in memory of along Gwyneth Gibby, along with the ESRC. Vanessa Pinfold is on the PhD supervisory panel. McPin is supporting the involvement of people with lived experience in the project. A Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) group has been involved since the beginning of the project, ensuring that the research conducted is relevant to the needs of people bereaved by suicide at each stage and that it is carried out sensitively.

Currently, the PPI group is advising on the data analysis to ensure that the results are reflective of the real-life experience of people bereaved by suicide. They are also advising on the development of the public resource to ensure that its format and content will be accessible and useful to people bereaved by suicide.  

What is the current status of the project?

The PhD is now finished. Consultation for the development of the public resource is due to take place over summer and autumn 2020.  

The first peer-reviewed publication from this project is available to read online:

 A systematic review of studies describing the influence of informal social support on psychological wellbeing in people bereaved by sudden or violent causes of death

Where can I find more information?

For more information about the project you can contact Hannah at

You can also get in touch if you are interested in being involved in the PPI group for this project.