Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Kevin Corcoran, PhD, JD

Second Advisor

Richard Gelles, PhD

Third Advisor

Ram A. Cnaan, PhD, MSW; Lani Nelson-Zlupko, PhD, LCSW

Abstract

SURVIVORS OF A MILITARY SUICIDE DEATH:

EXPLORING DISTRESS AND POSTVENTION PEER SUPPORT

In the past decade, as the rate of suicides among United States (U.S.) Armed Services members have steadily risen, so too has the number of survivors impacted by military suicide death. When a loved one, friend, family member, or co-worker dies as a result of a suicide, the ensuing shock and trauma -- along with unique issues accompanying suicide bereavement -- may compromise the mental and physical health of survivors. This leaves them vulnerable to a more distressing and complicated grief process. Those bereaved by suicide are at higher risk for completing suicide themselves. Peer support, an acknowledged basis of recovery from mental illness and addictions, has been clinically observed to be widely utilized by suicide loss survivors. Researchers have paid little attention to efficacious interventions for survivors of suicide loss in the general population of the U.S., even less is known about the efficacy of peer support among survivors of a U.S. military suicide death.

In order to assess this gap in clinical knowledge, fifty-two (N=52) survivors of military suicide loss were administered two self-report instruments to evaluate the association between exposure to peer support and perceived distress. This exploratory study with an at-risk bereaved population has yielded a number of new insights and conclusions. Recommendations for clinical practice and future research are discussed.