Have you ever been in a situation where you and a friend (co-worker, family member, neighbor, etc.) had a similar sickness and they became disabled or even died? Have you wondered why you survived? Have you ever felt guilty about it?
There is something called “survivor guilt” and it occurs in other situations like tragic car accidents or in the military during combat. While not everyone has this feeling of guilt (why did I survive?)…. it is completely normal.
I recently read about the death of Robin Williams and his suicide which was thought to be brought on by severe depression. It is thought that he had survivor guilt- as a number of his friends in the acting business had died recently (for example, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman).
As social workers, we should be aware of these feelings as we work with and treat patients who are facing a serious health crisis. For those who survive, we need to follow-up with them- months and years after they are in the recovery phase. This is important as a means to check on their mental health and well-being.