After Life is Almost Lost

Depression PTSD and substance abuse linked to homicide survivorship

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In television series such as Law and Order and CSI, producers tug at the heartstrings of viewers with scenes encapsulating the grief of victims and their loved ones, yet how many understand the real implications of such devastating trauma?

In a recent study, doctors and researchers from the National Crime Victim’s Research and Treatment Center (NCVC) investigate the aftermath of murder, and findings report a significant increase in mental health issues within adolescent homicide survivors.

"Encourage homicide survivors to seek treatment for mental health struggles.   "

“If the results from this study are generalizable to the U.S. population, roughly 1 in 5 American adolescents may be impacted by homicide,” states Alyssa Rheingold, Ph.D., lead author on the study and psychologist at the (NCVC). “Further, adolescents exposed to such a loss are at increased risk for mental health sequelae.”

Published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, the 2005 National Survey of Adolescents was used to compile the data.  From the survey, the study sampled 3,614 adolescents between ages twelve and seventeen connected to an attempted or completed homicide.

Structured telephone interviews assessed their mental health in order to determine the consequences of sudden loss, assessing for alcohol use, drug use, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Within the sample, nine-percent lost loved ones to criminal homicide, seven-percent to vehicular homicide, and two-percent lost loved ones to both.

Of those surveyed, homicide survivors reported the majority of mental health dilemmas. According to Dr. Rheingold and her team, “homicide survivors were significantly more likely to report depression, drug use, and alcohol abuse.”

These findings are supported with a past study performed by Rheingold and available through the National Institute of Health.  

Dr. Rheingold previously found, “The prevalence of homicide survivorship was 15.2%. African Americans were more highly represented among criminal homicide survivors. Logistic regression analysis found that homicide survivors were at risk for past year post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive episode, and drug abuse/dependence.”

These results should encourage friends and family of homicide survivors to understand the psychiatric discomfort a homicide may impart and to suggest professional treatment to those suffering from mental health issues.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 26, 2011
Last Updated:
December 27, 2011