Substance Use Disorder and Suicide-related Behaviour Around Dates of Parental Death and Its Anniversaries: A Summary

|

Losing a loved one is a very painful process that one has to endure during their lifetime. Since death is an inevitable part of our lives, so are grief and mourning. It is said that grief is a natural response to losing a loved one. It is a mental and emotional agony you feel when someone or something special to you is taken away from you. Most of the time, this feeling can overwhelm you and make you experience all sorts of difficult emotions, which can make it difficult for you to eat, sleep or think straight.

As you undergo the stages of grieving, you’ll have profound emotional responses, which may include anxiety attacks, fatigue, depression, and even some suicidal thoughts that can be difficult to handle alone and could potentially lead to unhealthy ways of coping, such as substance abuse. Interestingly, a study analyzed the impacts of parental death and its anniversaries on the risk of substance use disorder and suicide-related behavior in bereaved adolescents and young adults. This study helps understand how the death of a loved one, specifically how the death of a parent, impacts the mental and emotional well-being of grieving adolescents and young adults and how the risk of substance use disorder and suicide in young people changes over time after parental death. In this article, we will summarize the important findings from the study that will give you crucial ideas and an understanding of the grave impacts of grieving on one’s mental and emotional health.

Introduction

A parent’s death early in life is a traumatic experience for any child, resulting in several negative impacts. A study found that there is an increased risk of substance use disorder and suicide-related behavior several years after parental death has been recorded among bereaved children. A recent analysis also found that a parent’s death through suicide is linked to a twice higher risk of suicide attempts and three times higher risk of suicide in grieving individuals.

Further evidence of the mental and emotional struggles brought by the death of a parent or loved one states that;

  • Traumatic experiences, including parental death and its anniversaries, can produce critical responses among adolescents because their capacity to handle such situations is less developed than that of adults.
  • Anticipation of death anniversaries can potentially trigger grief-related distress since anniversary reactions are conceptualized as psychological and behavioral responses to the triggers of an anniversary of an important past event.
  • The time after the death of a parent or the week before their death anniversary also represents a period of a heightened risk of psychological distress since the bereaved individuals might reminisce some memories of their deceased parents and potentially give them intensified emotions after rituals during the anniversaries have ended.

Although there are lots of studies that tackle the psychological distress brought by parental death and its anniversaries, it is said that there is little to no study conducted on how the risk of substance use disorder and suicide-related behavior increases around the time of parental death and its anniversaries among adolescents and young adults. Hence, a 2022 study entitled “Substance use disorder and suicide-related behavior around dates of parental death and its anniversaries: a register-based cohort study” was conducted to bridge the gap.

Implications of Parental Death Anniversaries on Substance Use Disorder and Suicide-related Behaviour

After a thorough examination of 1,858,327 individuals who were older than 12 years

in 2001 for the analysis for substance use disorder and 1,860,809 for suicide-related behavior, the study found the following meaningful findings:

  • 2.3 percent of the participants for the substance use disorder analysis and 2.4 percent for the suicide-related behavior analysis had a parental death.
  • In the first anniversary month, there were 9.5 drug use disorder occurrences per 1000 person-years among the bereaved male participants, as opposed to an average of 3.2 events per 1000 person-years among the non-bereaved male participants.
  • Compared to non-bereaved female participants, bereaved female participants experienced 6.5 incidents of behavior related to suicide per 1000 person-years.
  • Male and females showed a different pattern of anniversary associations.
  • Only in the month following the loss of a parent and on the first anniversary did male participants exhibit an elevated risk of substance use disorder and behavior connected to suicide.
  • On each of the four anniversaries evaluated, female participants had a higher risk of substance use disorder; this risk was consistently higher in the month before the anniversary and less frequent in the month of the anniversary or the month after.
  • There is a higher risk of suicide-related behavior among the female participants in the month around the first and second death anniversaries.
  • The risk of substance use disorder and behaviors associated with suicide remained in the final period for grieving male individuals. Such observations are in line with research demonstrating that people who experience the early death of a parent have a long-term higher risk of substance use and suicide.
  • The likelihood of both outcomes could rise as time goes on if witnessing parents’ suffering creates personal anguish.
  • Alternately, a parent’s early death, living conditions (such as poverty and a dangerous environment), or mental or behavioral traits may expose children to a greater risk of substance use disorder and behavior related to suicide.

A Call for Action

The study found specific periods potentially important for preventive measures on substance abuse and suicidal behavior linked to grieving and emphasized the importance of addressing the needs of bereaved young individuals at other times. More so, developing a mental health problem at a young age might affect an individual’s entire life. Therefore, finding ways to help minimize the distressing impacts of such traumatic experiences as the death of a loved one is very important.

Brief interventions can help prevent mental health issues, such as group discussions from exchanging experiences and counseling for the grieving child or the remaining parent issues or devastating loss. Therefore, taking preventative measures and receiving assistance during the months preceding and following anniversaries may help to lower the risk.

Key Takeaway

The study has several substantial findings that can help improve understanding of how grief from parental death at a young age can impact an individual’s entire life. Although the study has some limitations, it effectively started to fill the gap it wished to fill and provided a starting ground for further studies in this matter.

In conclusion, the study discovered that, in both male and female participants, the risk of substance use disorder and behavior associated with suicide increased around the time of parental death and its first anniversary, largely triggered by non-fatal occurrences. Female participants had a higher risk of substance use disorder around all four anniversaries studied, continuously during the month before the anniversary and less frequently during the anniversary month or the following month, whereas male participants did not show an elevated incidence after the first anniversary. Additionally, female participants have a higher risk of suicide-related behavior during the first and second anniversary months.

The results imply that suffering people, particularly women and girls, could benefit from preventive actions to lessen suffering connected to anniversaries of a parent’s death, even though the number of people who experienced the consequences was modest.

Journal Reference

Hiyoshi, A., Berg, L., Saarela, J., Fall, K., Grotta, A., Shebehe, J., Kawachi, I., Rostila, M., & Montgomery, S. (2022). Substance use disorder and suicide-related behaviour around dates of parental death and its anniversaries: A register-based Cohort Study. The Lancet Public Health, 7(8). https://doi.org/10.1016/s2468-2667(22)00158-x 

Related Content
© 2023 KellySearch