“Evidence suggests the personal and social costs of suicide in Australia are immediate, far-reaching and significant on families, workplaces and communities”.
– Joint Submission to the 2009 Senate Inquiry
Suicide and suicide attempts can cause not only immense distress to individuals, but also vicarious trauma among the wider community. Individuals in a workplace, for example, often witness and experience the impact of a suicide and are typically left at a loss, asking themselves “how to help”, “why could I not see the warning signs” and “what they could have done/said to prevent the tragedy”.
Those close to the deceased will often blame themselves for the decision of the individual to take their own life. The combination of grief, guilt and remorse can remain for years.
The impact of a suicide attempt on first responders, such as police, ambulance and fire brigade, should also not be underestimated.
These reactions frequently result in secondary losses for many individuals. For example, loss of trust in their relationship with deceased; loss of confidence and self-esteem; and loss of social support networks and friends who may not be able to cope.
The responses to suicide are further complicated by community stigma and perceptions of the act of suicide as a failure on the part of either the deceased (to deal with circumstances) or the family (for not having intervened or prevented the suicide).