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The General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaboration (GPMHSC)

After suicide
A resource for GPs

Post-traumatic stress disorder and bereavement

Around one-third of PTSD presentations are the result of ‘interpersonal-network traumatic experiences’, which include death of a loved one.62Most bereaved people will react to some degree when experiencing reminders of the suicide, however those with PTSD experience marked cognitive, affective and behavioural responses, which lead to considerable social, occupational and interpersonal dysfunction.63

PTSD is characterised by:

  • intrusive thoughts
  • nightmares and flashbacks of past traumatic events
  • avoidance of reminders of trauma
  • hypervigilance
  • sleep disturbance.40,63

PSTD screening is recommended for suicide bereaved individuals, but screening is only likely to be beneficial when high quality services are available.64,65The PTSD checklist (PCL-5), a 20-item self-report measure, can be used to screen patients for PTSD and monitor the severity of symptoms over time.66

Both pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy (eg cognitive behavioural therapy, exposure therapy) have been shown to have benefits in PTSD.67,68