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Postvention in the U.S. Military: Survey of Survivors of Suicide Loss from 2010-2014

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Technical Report

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Defense Personnel and Security Research Center Seaside United States

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Postvention refers to any activity that aims to alleviate the psychological pain of a suicide loss survivor and to reduce the harmful effects of suicide exposure, especially suicide contagion. The goal of this study was to determine whether suicide loss survivors have any unique psychological needs compared to accident loss survivors that are currently unmet by postvention services provided by the DoD. To address this, researchers administered a survey to survivors next of kin NOK and fellow unit members of suicide or accident loss that assessed survivors usage of and satisfaction with DoD postvention programs and services as well as survivors current psychological functioning. Results indicated that NOK and fellow unit members of Service members who died by suicide from 2010 to 2014 experienced significantly higher levels of shame and stigma compared to survivors of Service members who died in accidents e.g., motor vehicle accidents in the same time frame. This association was not mediated by differences in overall postvention satisfaction. However, higher levels of postvention satisfaction were associated with better psychological outcomes for both suicide and accident loss survivors. Among NOK, suicide loss survivors reported significantly less satisfaction with their experiences around the death investigation than accident loss survivors. Among fellow unit members, suicide loss survivors reported significantly less satisfaction with unit leadership and funeral or memorial services. Open-ended items contextualized these findings and brought forward other important survivor needs. Synthesis of the quantitative and qualitative data yielded nine main findings. Recommendations include how to provide better and more consistent postvention support to survivors of suicide loss within the DoD.

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