Suicide has a devastating impact on families, friends, communities and work colleagues.
Those bereaved by a suicide are at increased risk of mental health and emotional problems so receiving the right support is essential.
The impact of suicide
Sadly, in 2016 alone, 4575 people died by suicide. Depending on the situation of the individual, estimates vary on how many people are affected by each suicide – a recent study showed this could be as high as 135 people exposed.
Taking a very conservative estimate of 10 people directly affected, this gives a minimum total of almost 50,000 people annually. That’s potentially 50,000 people in need of some level of support, whether it’s having someone to talk to, taking a break from work, or simply needing a way to mentally process what has happened with support to do so.
In January 2017, the Prime Minister announced a strengthened cross government suicide prevention strategy, which set out a key objective to improve responses to bereavement by suicide and support services. In further recognition of the problem the Health Select Committee on Suicide Prevention also recommended services to support people who are vulnerable to suicide.
For PHE - this is a priority area of work and our suicide prevention planning guidance makes it clear that providing support after suicide should be a priority for all local areas to assist in real time and at ground level.
Available resources for the community
Developing support services will help to ensure that people receive Help is at Hand – a practical and emotional guide for anyone affected by a suicide or a suspected suicide.
To help deliver local support, we have worked with the National Suicide Prevention Alliance and Support after Suicide to develop Support after a suicide: A guide to providing local services – a practical guide for commissioners to understand why and how they can deliver support after suicide in their local areas.
We have also worked together to develop two further resources to support local areas called ‘Support after a suicide: Developing and delivering local bereavement support services’ and ‘Support after a suicide: Evaluating local bereavement support services’.
These include best practice examples across England such as Amparo, The Tomorrow Project and If U Care Share, who provide outreach to people bereaved by suicide by working with coroners and/or the police within days of receiving the referral and offer a wide range of support.
A new publication ‘Finding the Words’ has also been published, which provides help to support someone bereaved and affected by suicide.
Guidance for first responders
PHE has developed a new wallet sized z-card for first responders such as ambulance staff, police and healthcare workers to give to people in the immediate aftermath of a suicide, signposting to the full Help is at Hand booklet.
The impact on colleagues
Given most adults spend a third of their lives in work, death by suicide can have a profound effect on colleagues of the person involved. as they will have spent a significant amount of time with them. Organisations need to be able to respond by providing support to their employees to help them come to terms with their loss.
PHE worked with Business in the Community and the Samaritans todevelop a suicide postvention toolkit which offers practical and sensitive guidance for employers to follow in the aftermath of an employee suicide.
Of course we should do all we can to prevent people from feeling as though this is the only answer in the first place and our suicide prevention toolkit for the workplace provides guidance and advice on how to incorporate suicide prevention into an employer’s workplace health and wellbeing framework. This sits alongside the overarching Mental Health Toolkit for employers.
To further tailor and make the case for improving support for those bereaved by suicide we need to get a better understanding of numbers affected and the types of support they need.
The University of Manchester, in collaboration with the Support after Suicide Partnership (SASP), the UK’s hub of suicide bereavement organisations, are conducting a national suicide bereavement study, looking into the experiences of people who are bereaved or have been affected by suicide to identify their experiences and needs.
If relevant to you, we would encourage you to complete the anonymous online survey and/or share amongst your networks. For more information and access to the survey, please click on either of the following links: www.supportaftersuicide.org.uk/research
If you would like to look for emotional or practical support around suicide, or look for support local to you, please visit the Support after Suicide Website – supportaftersuicide.org.uk.