Significant stress after witnessing assisted suicide

Relatives and friends of a person who commits assisted suicide have a high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to a Swiss study in the latest issue of European Psychiatry. About 20% of respondents experienced full or sub-threshold PTSD and 16% had symptoms of depression after about 19 months after the death.

“Witnessing the unnatural death of a significant person thus seems to have a strong impact on the bereaved, which may lead to severe mental health problems at 14 to 24 months post-loss. Our findings suggest that relatives and family members who witness assisted suicide need to be better informed about and prepared for its possible consequences it for their mental health. Additionally, right-to-die organizations should offer them professional help focused on trauma-related symptoms.”

The study was based on data on 146 people who died with the help of the right-to-die organisation Exit Deutsche Schweiz between October 2005 and September 2006. Of this group, 21 had died with no family members or friends as witness. ~ World Radio Switzerland, Oct 4

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