Community response after a suicide

It’s a natural response to the tragedy and crisis of suicide to want to get people moving, to get the community moving and to want to address the effect of what’s happened by ‘doing something’.

It’s important that people and communities affected this way have a sense of control and that they believe the safety of the community can be restored. They also need to feel that the possibility of more suicides can be reduced.

You’ll probably feel very motivated to start suicide prevention initiatives, to provide suicide prevention training and to raise awareness about the warning signs. This might include speaking to the local media to highlight what can seem like an overwhelming crisis facing your township or region.

While this is necessary to reduce risky behaviour and prevent suicide in the longer term, it’s important first to help those affected by the suicide and try to lessen their pain and suffering.

You should also visit Conversations Matter for helpful information and tips on how to approach conversations about suicide.

Support services following a suicide

National StandBy Response Service
Phone: 07 5442 4277
Email: standbynational@unitedsynergies.com.au
www.unitedsynergies.com.au
The National StandBy Response Service provides a 24-hour co-ordinated community response to families, friends and communities who have lost someone through suicide. The service works together with other local groups and services to reduce harm and prevent further suicidal behaviour. Giving support to those who are grieving is more effective when delivered from within the local community.

headspace School Support
Phone: 1800 688 248
Email: schoolsupport@headspace.org.au
www.headspace.org.au/what-works/school-support
headspace School Support provides local support to secondary schools affected by a suicide. The service is flexible and responds to the individual needs of schools. Support is provided by working with schools and other education organisations, local headspace Centres and other service providers.

Coroners offices
The services offered can vary from office to office. Contact your nearest Coroner’s Office and ask about the support they offer after a suicide.

Things to be aware of after a suicide

  • Be aware of the range of reactions and the depth of grief and its impact on the community, especially for people
    - who have just lost a friend or loved one to suicide
    - in or outside your area who have lost someone to suicide in the past
    - who have lost someone or who are affected by other losses or traumas
    - who were involved in the initial response including emergency, health and other service providers and witnesses.
  • Be aware of the different ways people respond to suicide and the number who can be affected. This will help to make sure responses are appropriate and go beyond those with an obvious relationship to the person who has died.
  • Make sure you monitor the situation sensitively and that there is immediate crisis support for the person who has lost a friend or loved one. Follow suicide and psychological ‘first-aid’ practices and offer practical help, for example by organising food, accommodation, financial assistance, company and a shoulder to cry on.
  • Check for signs of emotional, physical, social, spiritual and mental health difficulties and suicidal ideas and plans among those directly affected by the death and other vulnerable members of your community.
  • Provide information about practical, simple self-care tips for those who have lost someone to suicide or are affected by suicide attempts. Let them know how to get support and professional help. You’ll find this guide to self-care helpful.
  • Help people to recognise and build on their own resilience and strengths and encourage them to seek community and professional support if needed. Lifeline offers self-help tools.
  • Remember that it’s valuable for people who have lost someone to suicide to talk with others who have attempted suicide or who have also lost someone. This can be informal or can be done through professional peer support arrangements.
  • Be committed to genuine, culturally appropriate action and principles by talking with cultural advisors, community representatives and leaders.
  • Respect cultural needs, including personal rituals and ways of mourning.
  • Be aware that the impacts of previous trauma or losses can delay a person’s response to grief and requests for help. Consider providing support and information for at least a year after a suicide.
  • Remember that the loss of someone through suicide affects people differently and not all those affected will want their story shared or discussed in public settings. Sharing sensitive, confidential information with the community may also have legal implications, especially if there is a coronial inquiry into a death.
  • Be careful about co-ordinating suicide prevention training after a suicide death because hearing about warning signs, perhaps for the first time, may inadvertently cause guilt and distress for those who have lost someone. They may blame themselves for actions they did or didn’t take before earlier. Offer support for these people and reassure them that it's no-one’s fault.
  • Providing time and space to grieve is a gift and helps people find a way to live with a profound loss. Your community’s respect and support for individual differences will be crucial to individual, family and community recovery and wellbeing after a death by suicide.
  • Be aware that the anniversary of a suicide, especially if it happened in the local area, can have a profound effect on the bereaved family, friends and the broader community. The community can help with this by developing an action plan to provide information and support at these times. This can help to prevent more suicides.