Postvention Guidance Published to Help NHS Employees Affected by Colleague Suicide

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Death by suicide can be an extremely distressing experience for those affected, leaving a profound impact on colleagues, friends, family, and communities. To help people process this trauma better, the NHS has developed a postvention guidance, aiming to assist organisations in coping with the aftermath of a colleague’s suicide.

The guidance provided by the NHS offers practical advice on how to effectively respond to suicide and establish support systems within the organisation. It encompasses a comprehensive checklist of what workers can do, including reaching out to relevant professionals, providing information on bereavement services, creating appropriate memorials or tributes, and communicating sensitively with staff about the incident.

This Guidance is a Call to Action for All of Us

A lot of time and effort has gone into creating this guidance as the people involved understand how much suicide can impact a person. Christina McAnea, UNISON’s general secretary, adds “We must work together to build organisational and workplace cultures that break down stigma around suicide and ensure staff receive compassionate support and time to grieve as a team following such tragic events”.

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Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers also reiterates how much a colleague committing suicide affects other colleagues and managers. He says, “This independent study and practical guidance provides a welcome spotlight to better understand the impact on, and support needs of, NHS staff following a colleague’s suicide – helping us to continue to learn and improve”.

The guide has been developed by a team of researchers from the universities of Surrey, Keele and Birmingham in collaboration with clinicians and other NHS staff. The NHS has conducted a systematic review of the literature on the impact of colleague suicide on organisations. The review found that organisations should be prepared for both the immediate and long-term effects of suicide, including the potential risk of further suicides.

Postvention Guidance – Strategies and Resources

In addition to the NHS guidance, organisations can access various resources for handling death by suicide.

Campus suicide prevention experts offer support and advice for university settings, while specialized employee assistance programs (EAPs) tailor their services to help employees affected by suicide. Community-based organisations also provide bereavement services for those grieving after a suicide.

It is important that organisations take seriously the impact of staff suicides on their communities and ensure adequate postvention procedures are in place. This includes having a clear action plan in response to current or future suicides. It also requires providing appropriate educational materials about suicide risk factors and creating an environment where open communication is encouraged.

Give Employees the Time They Need to Grieve

To better support those affected by suicide loss, it is necessary to ensure that they have access to appropriate mental health resources and to establish clear policies in place for those who need time off work due to their experience. In addition, organisations should consider offering financial compensation for those who have been directly impacted by a colleague’s death.

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It is also important to recognize that while each individual person will process their own grief in their own way, there are certain factors which can increase the risk of attempting suicide in individuals who have been bereaved by suicide. These include having a history of depression or other mental health issues; being young; or having experienced past trauma. Organisations should ensure that staff members are aware of these risks.

Lastly, it is essential to remember that not all suicides can be prevented, and some will inevitably occur. The goal of postvention is to create a supportive environment for those affected by suicide and to facilitate healing in the aftermath of a tragedy.

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