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Development of an Armed Forces Suicide Bereavement Pack

Status:  Currently in the process of seeking ethical approval

Research Team

Dr Sharon McDonnell (Principal Investigator)1

Co-Investigators: Dr Pauline Nelson1, Liz Koole1, Andrea Walraven-Thissen1, Angela Samata1,

1 Suicide Bereavement UK


When a death by suicide occurs among military personnel (serving, or after service), there are particular challenges faced by the relatives, friends and colleagues left behind. In addition to the risk of further suicide of individuals bereaved in this way 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 oversees) in a civilian and Armed Forces environment.


Subject to ethical clearance, we aim to identify the experiences and needs of the relatives, friends and colleagues of the Armed Forces who have died by suicide and to collaboratively produce an evidence-based suicide bereavement pack to support these groups. The study will cover one or more of the following:

  • Veterans
  • Serving Personnel
  • Family and friends of the above


The timings will be determined by the ethical approvals needed and we have not started to gather the evidence yet


Phase 1 will comprise in-depth semi-structured interviews with relatives, friends and colleagues whose ‘significant other’ died by suicide whilst serving or after service in the Armed Forces. Phase 2 will involve the development of an Armed Forces suicide bereavement pack (content & design) based on insights gathered from Phase 1 interviews.


NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Armed Forces Commissioning team


Main outputs will be:

  • 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 military relatives, friends and colleagues bereaved by suicide and those supporting them so that these individuals are:

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

For more information or to register your interest in the work, when the study starts, please contact 

Dr Sharon McDonnell sharon.mcdonnell@suicidebereavementuk.com

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