Social and cultural dimensions of loss of a military colleague by suicide or traumatic death: A retrospective veteran study

Sacha Kendall Jamieson, Julie Cerel, Myfanwy Maple

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1 Scopus citations


Veterans who have been exposed to suicide or traumatic death of a colleague experience heightened suicide risk, particularly where they report a close relationship to the deceased. There is a dearth of qualitative studies investigating the experience of loss of a military colleague to inform responses that veterans perceive as helpful. This study addresses this gap, thematically analysing fifty-one semi-structured interviews conducted in 2013–2014 with veterans in the U.S. Commonwealth of Kentucky about their experiences of loss of a military colleague and what was helpful and unhelpful to them in the response. We found that veterans contextualised their experiences to military cultural norms and values. Coping without support was a cultural norm and expectation that could lead to deaths not being acknowledged and stigmatisation of expressing grief and help seeking. Veterans said clearly that this cultural norm does not supplant the responsibility to officially honour the deceased. Official acknowledgement of soldier deaths was important for honouring the deceased and supporting survivors. Opportunities to collectively honour a colleague and grieve were valued. These findings suggest that veteran suicide prevention and postvention practices should be framed in response to the cultural values held by veterans. Further, there is a need to dismantle the entrenched norms and expectations in the military context that act as barriers to being able to grieve the loss of a military colleague and seek support at times of distress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100160
JournalSSM - Qualitative Research in Health
StatePublished - Dec 2022

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© 2022 The Authors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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