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Development of an Armed Forces Suicide Bereavement Pack

Status:  The project will run between 1st April 2022 and 31st March 2023 (ethical approval granted February 2022)

Research Team

Dr Sharon McDonnell (Chief Investigator)1

Co-Investigators: Liz Koole1, Angela Samata1

1 Suicide Bereavement UK

The study is being carried out in collaboration with SSAFA, The Armed Forces Charity.


When a death by suicide occurs among military personnel (serving, or formerly serving), there are particular challenges faced by the relatives, friends and colleagues left behind. In addition to the risk of further suicide of individuals bereaved by suicide and the complicated grief that can be experienced, research outside the UK indicates that people may struggle with stigma, losing a way of life and with the demands of military death inquiries/media interest. The Armed Forces Covenant aims to remove disadvantage and ensure that the Armed Forces community, including their families receive the same support as the civilian community. However, there is little understanding of the needs of Armed Forces relatives, friends and colleagues bereaved by suicide in the UK, including military personnel civilian next of kin – for example parents of armed services personnel who may have died by suicide. This study seeks to learn from and build on what is already in place (in the UK and overseas) in a civilian and Armed Forces environment.


We aim to collaboratively produce an evidence-based suicide bereavement pack to support individuals bereaved by Armed Forces suicide. The study will cover one or more of the following:

  • Armed Forces families and friends
  • Civilian next-of-kin and friends
  • Active service men and women
  • Veterans


In Phase 1 we will conduct in-depth interviews with up to 20 relatives, friends and colleagues whose ‘significant other’ died by suicide in the last 10 years who were serving or formerly serving in the Armed Forces to identify their experiences and needs. We will also identify and collate existing sources of support that are currently available to those bereaved by Armed Forces suicide. In Phase 2 we will develop an Armed Forces suicide bereavement pack (content & design) based on insights gathered from Phase 1.


NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Armed Forces Commissioning team.

MoD Ethical Approval

Ethical approval has been obtained from MoD Research Ethics Committee (MODREC). Details are noted below.

  • Ref; 2090/MODREC/21 Version V1.3
  • Approval letter dated 10th February 2022 from MODREC Secretariat signed by Simon Kolstoe


Main anticipated outputs:

  • an evidence-based suicide bereavement pack for Armed Forces relatives, friends and colleagues
  • a research paper to disseminate findings
  • oral presentation of findings to different audiences i.e., military relatives, friends, charities and other armed forces groups; NHS and academic audiences


This study will help empower relatives, friends and colleagues bereaved by the suicide of a significant person who died while serving or formerly serving in the Armed Forces. It will also empower those who support these individuals to ensure they are:

  • made aware of help available
  • supported to seek help and remain engaged in services at a time of high risk and intense need

If you would like to take part in the study, please download the advert from the link below

Read/Download the Armed Forces Study Advert

Dr Sharon McDonnell will be presenting findings from the Armed Forces suicide bereavement study at Suicide Bereavement UK’s hybrid conference. This study is first of its kind internationally for many reasons. The presentation will focus on serving personnel, veterans, military and civilian families bereaved by an Armed Forces suicide.

To view and download the conference interactive flyer

For more information please contact: 

Dr Sharon McDonnell sharon.mcdonnell@suicidebereavementuk.com

Tel: 01706 827359

If you would like to be kept up-to-date on progress of this study, please notify admin@suicidebereavementuk.com