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Anneli Silvén Hagström

About me

I am a social worker, psychotherapist and Associate Professor in Social Work. My main research area is children’s and young people's narration, meaning-making and self-formation in relation to traumatic and stigmatizing life events.

In my research, I investigate what and how children and young people narrate about their experiences of having lost a parent through suicide and of growing up with substance dependent parents, their strategies for coping, and their needs of social and professional support. In addition, I investigate how cultural means, such as for example “research-based theater”, can affect young people's meaning- and identity constructions in relation to the above life circumstances as examples of so-called “stigmatized trauma”, and potentially counteract stigmatizing attitudes to social problems.

I am currently leading a 4-year project financed by FORTE [2018-01052] 'Children and youths exposed to "stigma-related trauma": Narration, agency and support needs'.



Silvén Hagström, A (2021) A narrative evaluation of a grief support camp for families affected by a parent's suicide. Frontiers in Psychiatry (published online).

Silvén Hagström, A (2020) Research-based theater and "stigmatized trauma": The case of suicide bereavement. Frontiers in Psychology (published online).

Silvén Hagström, A & Forinder, U (2019) 'If I whistled in her ear she'd wake up': Children's narration about their experiences of growing up in alcoholic families. Journal of Family Studies (published online)

Silvén Hagström, A (2019) Childhood narratives about the experience of growing up with alcoholic parents. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 36(3): 299-301.

Silvén Hagström, A & Toft, T (2019) 'TOGETHER WE ARE UNBEATABLE': Young sisters' narration of a sibling's cancer in personal blogs on the Internet. International Journal of Qualiative Studies on Health & Wellbeing, 14(1).

Silvén Hagström, A (2019) Why did he choose to die?: A meaning-searching approach to parental suicide bereavement in youth. Death Studies, 43(2): 113-121.

Silvén Hagström, A (2017) Breaking the silence: Parentally suicide-bereaved youths’ self-disclosure on the Internet and the social responses of others related to stigma, Journal of Youth Studies, 20(8): 1077-1092.

Silven Hagström, A (2017) The ‘Suicide stigma’ re-negotiated: Storytelling, social support and resistance in an Internet based community for the young suicide bereaved, Qualitative Social Work 16(6): 775-792.

Silvén Hagström, A (2017) En förälders självmord: Ingen hemlighet att bära ensam [A parent's suicide: Not a secret to keep to oneself], SocialPolitik, nr 1.

Silvén Hagström, A (2016) To mourn and resist stigma: Narration, meaning-making and self-formation after a parent’s suicide, Doctoral thesis, Department of Social and Welfare Studies/Social Work, Linköping University.

Silven Hagström, A (2014) 'The self-murderer from Orminge': A bereaved daughter’s remonstrance to ’rescue’ her Self through a performed memoir of revolt, Narrative Inquiry, 24(2): 218–238.

Silvén Hagström, A (2013) 'The stranger inside': Suicide related grief and ’othering’ among teenage daughters after the loss of a father to suicide, Nordic Social Work Research Journal, 3(2): 185–192.

Doukkali Berg, E., Winterling, J., Eriksson, L. E., Lampic, C och Silvén Hagström, A., and Wettergren, L. (2013) Adolescents' and Young Adults' Experiences of Childhood Cancer: Descriptions of Daily Life 5 Years After Diagnosis, Cancer Nursing, 36(5): 400–407. I conducted telephone interviews with the participants in the study and contributed to the writing of the article.

Silven Hagström, A. (2013) Att vara 'sårad av livet' eller 'inträngd i ett hörn': Diskussioner om självmord i nutida Japan [To be ‘hurt by life’ or ‘cornered without exit’: Discussions about suicide in contemporary Japan]. Orientaliska Studier, 133, Stockholm University: 74–139.



Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • 'If I whistled in her ear she'd wake up'

    2019. Anneli Silvén Hagström, Ulla Forinder. Journal of Family Studies


    This article aims to investigate what it means to grow up in an alcoholic family environment. Nineteen children aged 6–11 who participated in a psycho-educational programme in the 1990s for children living with parents who misuse alcohol were interviewed about their experiences in a longitudinal study. A narrative analysis of their life stories demonstrates how, on the one hand, they positioned themselves as ‘vulnerable victims’ exposed to their parent’s alcoholism and to situations of severe neglect, domestic violence and sexual abuse. This position was characterized by a sense of powerlessness and lack of resources for coping with emotional distress and risk, as well as an urgent need for protection and care. On the other hand, the children positioned themselves as ‘competent agents’ who had developed purposeful strategies for managing their life situation, such as trying to reduce their parent’s drinking and undertaking the role of a ‘young carer’. The children primarily tried to normalize themselves in their social circle in a position of ‘silenced and invisible victims’. However, the alcoholism was usually exposed and the children occasionally also found themselves in the position of ‘help-seeking victims’ obliged to disclose the ‘family secret’. Remarkably, this rarely changed their situation very much. Instead, the children were commonly left in the position of ‘visible but unprotected victims’.

    Read more about 'If I whistled in her ear she'd wake up'
  • Research-Based Theater and “Stigmatized Trauma”

    2020. Anneli Silvén Hagström. Frontiers in Psychology


    Background: Existing research shows that family members who suffer the loss of a loved one through suicide often experience self-blame and shame, and that this limits their grieving process. It can also lock them into stigmatized positions and the notion that either somebody or a dysfunctional family is to blame for the suicide.

    Aim: This article investigates from a narrative perspective how a theater play might counteract the stigma that surrounds suicide bereavement by contributing destigmatizing understandings of suicide.

    Methods: A theater play was performed in a churchyard theater in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2019. Audience members were asked to write down their free reflections on a form distributed at the theater. In particular, they were asked to assess whether they found the play related to their own lives and, if so, how; and to describe what they had learned. Their written reflections [N = 41] were analyzed from a narrative methodological perspective to investigate their responses to the play. Three categories of audience member were identified from their responses: people with their own suicide bereavement experiences; people with similar but different experiences of stigmatized trauma; and people who did not report any experiences of suicide or stigmatized trauma.

    Results: The suicide-bereaved generally reported familiarity with the thematic performed, in particular the “why question,” the blame and shame responses and the silenced family communication. Most of these aspects were also shared by those affected by other types of stigmatized trauma. Respondents from all categories emphasized how they had learned that suicide is a desperate rather than a deliberated act, caused by overwhelming emotional pain or depression. Ultimately, suicide was perceived as an involuntary death caused by complex interacting factors linked to both inner vulnerabilities and stressful life events, for which no one was to blame.

    Conclusion: The results show that research-based theater isa time-limited and cost-effective method of introducing alternative meanings and identities to both individual mourners and the broader cultural context from which stigma originates, and how it can have destigmatizing effects on a stigmatized trauma such as suicide bereavement.

    Read more about Research-Based Theater and “Stigmatized Trauma”

Show all publications by Anneli Silvén Hagström at Stockholm University