Witness to suicide

Witnessing a suicide or finding someone after they have died, whether you know the person or not, can be very traumatic.

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) New Hampshire Chapter’s Connect program notes you may have intense feelings and reactions – normal responses to an abnormal event.

NAMI notes:

“People who have lost a loved one to suicide are typically referred to as ‘suicide loss survivors’ or ‘survivors of suicide loss.’ People who have witnessed a suicide death, have come upon the deceased’s body after the fact, or have heard or read graphic details regarding the death are called ‘witness survivors.’”

Reactions to witnessing a suicide death may include but are not limited to:

  • Shock
  • Numbness
  • Detachment
  • Sudden onset of physical symptoms
  • Change in appetite or substance use
  • Difficulty sleeping/nightmares
  • Flashbacks/intrusive thoughts
  • Preoccupation and distraction
  • Depression and/or suicidal thoughts
  • Confusion, irritability, guilt
  • Hyper-vigilance or anxiety
  • Isolating or compulsive behaviors
  • Avoidance of the area
  • Feeling time is distorted


There is no right or wrong way to react to a trauma. While not everyone experiences symptoms, some people have symptoms that rise to the level of depression, intense anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress.

If you are struggling or are concerned about someone who is, you may want to seek help. Check out our Helpful Links page, or contact the NAMI Helpline.

You might be interested in other articles in News and Research.


Published by Tim Rowden

The Grief Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of suicide loss survivors as well as information and research on suicide, mental health, advocacy and prevention. I’m a suicide loss survivor, husband, father, writer and journalist, with 33 years experience as a reporter and editor. I believe sharing our stories can help help others who are struggling, whether they are loss survivors or struggling with depression or other mental health issues. We honor them and honor our loved ones by sharing our stories.

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