The Spaces of Peer-Led Support Groups for Suicide Bereaved in Denmark and the Republic of Ireland: A Focus Group Study

Lisbeth Hybholt*, Agnes Higgins, Niels Buus, Lene Lauge Berring, Terry Connolly, Annette Erlangsen, Jean Morrissey


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Research has shown that people bereaved by suicide have an increased risk of mental health problems, suicidality and associated stigma, as well as higher rates of sick leave and increased rates of receiving disability pensions. Peer-led suicide bereavement support groups are perceived to enhance people's recovery by enabling shared experiences with others who are bereaved in similar circumstances. The aim of the research was to explore the viewpoints of participants living in Denmark and the Republic of Ireland on these peer-led support groups. This study focused on how the participants experienced being part of the peer-led support and how the participation affected them. We conducted four focus groups, two in Denmark and two in the Republic of Ireland, and two individual interviews, involving a total of 27 people bereaved by suicide. Data were analyzed thematically. The participants' experiences in the peer-led support groups were in contrast to what they had experienced in their daily lives. They felt alienated in daily living, as they believed that people could not comprehend their situation, which in turn led participants to search for people with similar experiences and join the peer-led support groups. While peer-led support groups may not be helpful for everyone, they created 'supportive spaces' that potentially affected the participants' recovery processes, from which we generated three key themes: (i) 'A transformative space', describing how the peer-led support group created a place to embrace change, learning and knowledge about suicide and suicide bereavement and the making of new connections; (ii) 'An alternative space for belonging and grieving', describing how the participants felt allowed to and could give themselves permission to grieve; and (iii) 'A conflicted space' describing how it was troublesome to belong to and participate in the peer-led support groups. In conclusion, despite the two cultural settings and different organizational approaches, the experiences were comparable. Peer-led support groups can, despite being a conflicted space for some, provide supportive spaces aiding the participants' recovery process.

TidsskriftInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Udgave nummer16
Antal sider15
StatusUdgivet - 11. aug. 2022


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