Supporting better suicide postvention

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Health Assured team

29 February 2024

Supporting better suicide postvention

Coping with the loss of someone by suicide can feel different to other bereavements. The grieving process is often complex, causing a mixture of emotions that are confusing and hard to deal with.

Suicide has a ripple effect, affecting 135 people on average for one death. It can be particularly difficult if there is a close connection, such as a partner, parent, sibling, friend, or colleague.

Leaders need to consider the detrimental effects suicide has on their people and how to appropriately manage the risks to employees should the worst arise.

In 2022, 5284 suicides were registered, 65 more than in 2021, highlighting how important it is to protect the mental health of those most vulnerable when someone takes their own life.


The ‘golden hours’ of suicide

Sue Christy, a crisis intervention specialist, explains the concept of ‘the golden hours’ in her article ‘The Silence of a Suicide at Work.

Christy clarifies, that ‘the golden hours’ refer to the period immediately after a suicide. She explains how these hours are vital in appropriately supporting colleagues and how leaders should put more emphasis on building a good postvention plan to appropriately cope and safeguard colleagues’ mental health during this traumatic period.

Christy discusses the benefits of having a strong postvention action plan if someone were to take their own life, delving into assessing risk, the emotional fallout, and taking fast action during optimal periods.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to have sturdy structures in place to be able to appropriately cope with the emotional outcome of suicide and to ensure your people’s mental health is protected.


What is suicidal postvention?

Postvention after suicide refers to the actions taken after someone takes their own life.

It focuses on supporting people left behind who are vulnerable and at risk from mental health challenges due to them having to cope with suicide, such as friends, family, or colleagues.


The benefits of a good postvention plan

Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent suicide. However, with a good postvention plan in place you can appropriately support, care for, and help your people in their recovery.

Postvention allows leaders to safeguard their people’s mental health quickly, efficiently, and appropriately, so they can reduce the risk of emotional fallout and the potential risk of more suicides.

Postvention welcomes necessary conversations and actions in supporting survivors in their recovery and the emotional consequences of dealing with suicide.

By having an open and honest conversation with the most affected people, leaders can reduce stigma, increase resilience, address root causes, build emotional strength, and boost awareness.


How can organisations support postvention?

  1. Offer Support

Offering support, such as an EAP, can help alleviate some of the pain your people feel after dealing with suicide.

Grief from suicide is complex and can induce feelings of shame, guilt, anger, loss, and sadness. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts, so extra support must be accessible for your people, especially for traumatic events or times.

Speaking to counsellors through an EAP will support the healing and recovery process for many people. Being able to talk to a professional relieves the emotional fallout when dealing with suicide.


  1. Be Prepared

It is essential to have a plan when the unthinkable happens in your workplace. It is unexpected but you should be prepared if someone takes their own life to bring out the support for the colleagues who are affected.

Action after a suicide needs to be immediate and without planning it is impossible to achieve a fast and appropriate reaction. As Sue Christy explains, the golden hours are vital in protecting the mental health of the people who are affected, so it is paramount that you have a good plan in place.


  1. Create a postvention committee

The postvention committee will have postvention at the forefront of their aims and objectives. They will plan, have a good understanding of the process, and bring their perspectives to collaborate ideas on constructing a good postvention plan.

Cooperate between teams and departments so everyone is involved and aware of the plan and procedures. All committee members should be identifiable to all, willing to hear suggestions and know their duties.


  1. Strengthen and build trust in leadership

Your people must trust in their leaders. Not only is it great for engagement and productivity in an organisation, but it also builds better relationships so support can be streamlined and easily accessible.

Trust builds connections and helps people feel as though they are secure to talk about their feelings, emotions, and mental health challenges.

Leaders who understand how their people cope with trauma are more equipped to better support their people who are recovering from a mental health challenge.


  1. Talk to each employee to gauge how they would like to be supported

Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Never assume how someone will grieve as this could trigger them even more.

It is always best for leaders to have open and honest conversations in the workplace to gauge how to best support their people.

Offer flexible help to all and support healing and recovery above everything else.


Supporting your organisation's mental health challenges

With a Health Assured Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), we can offer you practical advice and support when it comes to dealing with suicide, anxiety, and depression, and how to improve your work-life balance.

Our EAP provides guidance and supports your employees with their mental health in the workplace and at home. We can help you create a safe, productive workspace that supports all.

We support your employees' mental wellbeing with any problems they might be facing in their professional or personal lives with our 24-hour counselling helpline.


Find out more about EAPs


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