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How to find meaning in the wake of suicide

As the nation’s suicide rate tragically increases, Dr Colleen Carlon says it’s important society supports the people bereaved by suicide.

The lived experience of being bereaved by suicide is the focus of new research by ECU academic Dr Colleen Carlon.

Drawing on her own personal experience, Dr Carlon is exploring the meanings embedded in our public discussions around suicide.

“Community engagement with suicide prevention is known to support meaning-making processes for people bereaved by suicide,” Dr Carlon says.

“My research of the experience of being bereaved by suicide seeks to inform our capacity as a community to talk about suicide and suicide grief.”

Dr Carlon presented her preliminary findings at the National Suicide Prevention Conference 2017, hosted by Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA).

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) is a national organisation that works to provide leadership and capacity‑building for suicide prevention.

A central goal for the organisation is to “develop a community that knows how to ask for help and how to give help”.

Vital to reaching this goal is recognising the value that people’s ‘lived’ experience of suicide brings to the community’s understanding of suicide and suicide prevention.

Close to home

As a person bereaved by suicide, Dr Carlon used three narratives from her personal experience – two of media reporting of suicide and one of community-based suicide prevention messages – to explore the role societal discourses play in shaping the everyday experience of people who grieve a person’s death by suicide.

“The research is about questioning the meanings that society attaches to suicide, to add to the ways in which we can support people bereaved by suicide in their own meaning-making processes,” Dr Carlon says.

“Meaning-making for the bereaved is important and it’s critical that society acknowledges this as an ongoing process, an everyday experience, instead of viewing it as something that needs to be treated for a period of time.”

Dr Carlon is keen to collaborate with government and industry to ensure her research is relevant and has the potential to improve policy and services.

“I’ve been approached by a support service provider who may be interested in working together to develop the research further and see how it can benefit the broader community,” she says.

For more information, visit Suicide Prevention Australia:

If this story raises personal issues, please telephone Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for crisis support and suicide prevention.


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