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What are the physical and psychological health effects of suicide bereavement on family members? Protocol for an observational and interview mixed-methods study in Ireland
  1. Ailbhe Spillane1,2,
  2. Celine Larkin2,
  3. Paul Corcoran1,3,
  4. Karen Matvienko-Sikar1,
  5. Ella Arensman1,2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2National Suicide Research Foundation, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Ailbhe Spillane; ailbhe.spillane{at}


Introduction Research indicates that experiencing the suicide of a relative can have a significant impact on family members' emotional health. However, research incorporating the impact of suicide bereavement on family members' physical health is sparse. This paper details the protocol for a mixed-methods study of suicide-bereaved family members. The study will primarily examine the physical and mental health needs of those bereaved by suicide. A secondary objective of the study is to describe the support service needs of family members bereaved by suicide.

Methods and analysis A mixed-methods approach, using semistructured interviews and self-report questionnaires, will be used. Interviews will be conducted with a group of 15–20 relatives who experienced suicide bereavement. This protocol will follow the COREQ checklist criteria for the reporting of qualitative research interviews. Thematic analysis will be used to examine experiences and impact of bereavement on psychological and physical health. Self-report quantitative data on well-being will be analysed using descriptive statistics.

Ethics and dissemination Ethical approval to conduct this study has been granted from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals. Pseudonyms will be given to participants to protect anonymity. It will be explained to participants that participation in the study is voluntary and they have to right to withdraw at any time. The findings of this research will be disseminated to regional, national and international audiences through publication in peer-reviewed international journals and presentations at scientific conferences. This research also forms part of a PhD thesis.

  • mixed-methods
  • suicide bereavement
  • family members
  • morbidity

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  • Contributors AS drafted the initial protocol document. AS, CL, EA and PC contributed to the design of the study. KM-S, PC and EA contributed to planned analyses. KM-S, CL, EA and PC contributed to revising drafts. All authors contributed to the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was conducted as part of the SPHeRE Programme under grant number SPHeRE/2013/1. The funding received from the Health Research Board to conduct the original SSIS-ACE case–control study, grant number HRA-2013-PHR-438, is also acknowledged.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Clinical Research Ethics Committee of University College Cork, reference number: ECM 4 (o) 19/01/2016.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The data recorded, transcribed and analysed will be very sensitive in nature. Owing to the relatively small number of participants and the specific geographic location, it would not be appropriate to consider data sharing due to the risk of people being potentially identified.

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