Topic: Blog

NSPA Members’ Survey 2019: what we learned

76 organisational members completed the survey this summer, which is nearly half of our membership – thank you very much to those that took the time, it has been very helpful.

Our key findings include:

When asked about their top 3 achievements in 2018-19:

  • 43% of members mentioned delivering suicide prevention training in their communities and for other organisations, while 14% provided training to their own staff and volunteers
  • 32% of members were involved in campaigning and awareness-raising activities
  • 31% provided bereavement support or postvention advice
  • 23% made improvements to their organisational strategies or policies
  • 23% developed and delivered new services while 18% grew existing services
  • 19% worked in new partnerships and collaborations and
  • 4% believe they achieved changes in policy through their influencing and lobbying work

“Delivering suicide prevention training to 400+ people across [our area].    Providing 1:1 intensive mental health support for 1000+ beneficiaries … through our … service.   Delivering training to workplaces.”

“Produced an … intervention pack and resources to give guidance and support to senior managers, HR, line managers following a sudden death or suicide.  Suicide awareness and suicide awareness plus training.  Free mental health workshops for our supply chain where suicide stats and prevention is covered.  Run World suicide prevention day campaign annually.”

“Reviewing our local suicide action plan in line with the National and [local] Suicide Prevention Strategy.  Launched the Bereaved by Suicide support service.   Worked with all our key local partners to identify possible [high frequency location]. Starting work with workplaces to reduce stress and [improve] mental health.”

When asked about their priorities for 2019-20:

  • 55% of members plan to grow and improve the services they deliver
  • 37% will engage in campaigning and awareness-raising
  • 32% will be providing bereavement support services
  • 27% of members plan to deliver training outside their organisation, and 13% will train their own staff and volunteers
  • 15% will work on improving the data they have on local deaths by suicide and the impact that will have on improving and better focussing their services, many of these mentioned implementing or continuing real-time surveillance

“1. Maintain [our] campaign for everyone in our community in collaboration with [volunteers], partners and our local community. 2. Reach at-risk groups through targeted campaigns focusing on men and particularly Eastern European men in [our area]. 3. Continue to equip local people and professionals with suicide prevention skills for free through training.”

“Continue to increase public awareness of (and willingness to call) our 24-hour support line. Train over 1500 additional people in suicide prevention. Make long term and sustainable changes to strategic policies and clinical pathways.”

We also asked about the challenges they are facing in 2019-20:

  • 55% identified financial pressures as an issue for them, which may well be linked to the 53% who are facing an increase in demand for their services and the 37% who mentioned staffing issues
  • 20% were concerned about the external environment, including Brexit, and how that would impact them

“We are a small team. It has been a challenge continuing to run the service whilst making significant changes in our service delivery to meet funders requirements for areas such as reporting.”

“[Our area] has one of the highest levels of social deprivation in Northern Europe and has relied heavily on EU funding which will not be replaced by Westminster.  This is having an indirect impact on social programmes, housing and community initiatives to promote wellbeing.  There is no hard evidence that the current political situation and Brexit is having a detrimental impact, but it is probably having an indirect impact on the increased number of suicides in [our area] across all age groups.”

We asked members what they found valuable about being members of our alliance:

  • 63% mentioned how much they value that we keep them informed of news and research, provide useful resources, and enable them to learn
  • 45% value the opportunities to network and collaborate that we provide, with 13% specifically mentioning our conference and members’ meetings
  • 34% appreciate that we share good practice from others, with 13% also valuing the opportunity to share their own good practice via the NSPA
  • 16% talked about how lonely the work can be, and how much they value the support from the NSPA team
  • 13% appreciate our ability to influence at a national level

“It is so important to feel connected with other people working in the same field, so that we can learn from one another, share our experience and knowledge, and grow stronger together in our aims and mission to prevent suicide. Being a member of such an important body, also raises our status as an organisation and we feel welcomed and supported.”

“Being part of a wider family, all of whom are trying to achieve the same goals. Sharing of best practice and the evidence base. Relationships. Simply not being alone when one needs to reach out.  Contacts.”

“Ability to share practice and learn from other. Also working purely in the field of Suicide Prevention is very isolating and long term – hence difficult to keep up motivation. The support from the NSPA either in events or personal has been so positive and supportive it keeps you focused.”

When we asked how else the NSPA could help members in their work or if they had any other comments nearly 50% said thank you and that we were doing good work.  However, there were various suggestions that we will reflect on, including holding more events outside London, using online discussions or webinars more, and how we can support the work our members do even more.

Thank you again to everyone who took the time to complete the survey, your feedback is invaluable. If you would like any further information on our findings, please email us at

NSPA Annual Members Meeting 2019

“Thank you for one of the best events of the year”

Our Annual Members Meeting took place on 11th June at NCVO, London. A wide range of organisational members attended from across the public, private and voluntary sectors alongside individual members.

A selection of NSPA members presented about their work on the day, alongside updates on real-time surveillance and the review of local authority suicide prevention plans.  All attendees also spent time discussing topics such as local plans and local multi-agency groups, workplace suicide prevention, and suicide prevention in children and young people, and sharing ideas of good practice and working with people with lived experience of suicide.

Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive, with many attendees commenting on the value of sharing ideas, challenges and hopes in such a diverse group who all care so much about suicide prevention and bereavement support. Thank you to those members who came along and made it such a fantastic day.

Below is information on each of the presentations from the day, please click on the title to view the slide sets.

Update from the NSPA

Penny Fosten (NSPA Executive Lead) updated members on some of our work in 2018-19, including the launch of our Resources Hub, the growth of our national conference, our World Suicide Prevention Day activities, and the increase in our social media presence. She also outlined plans for the coming year including how best to share information and support cross-sector collaboration whilst continuing to enhance connections and communication with and between members and represent our members nationally.

Institute of Mental Health at the University of Birmingham – Working alongside young people to develop and deliver mental health-related research

Maria Michail (Senior Birmingham Fellow), Niyah Campbell (Youth Participation Lead) and Layne Boyden (Member of the Youth Advisory Group) spoke about their work to establish a Youth Advisory Group as part of the Institute, which can contribute to their aim to create a transformational change in our understanding, conceptualisation and response to self-harm and suicide prevention in research, clinical practice, policy-making and community practices.

Rural Community Council (Leicestershire & Rutland) – The RCC’s role in suicide awareness

Mike Wilbur (Delivery Manager Community Wellbeing) presented on the community-based work of the RCC in suicide awareness raising and tackling taboo. He spoke about the Start a Conversation initiative which aims to encourage people to be more open about their worries and show them where to seek help and to break the stigma around suicide.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue – Effective emergency service employee health and wellbeing support

Kelly Patterson (Senior Occupational Health Officer & Psychological Therapist) and Mark Thomas (Group Manager) talked us through the ground-breaking implementation of Mental Health First Aid and Critical Incident Stress Management undertaken by their fire service and the positive impact it has had on staff and the service as a whole.

Mental Health Foundation

(no slides used)

David Crepaz-Keay (Head of Empowerment and Social Inclusion) spoke about the about the progress made in attitudes and approaches to mental health in the 70 years since the Mental Health Foundation began its work.  He also stressed the vital importance of “less focus on illness and broken individuals, more focus on communities and relationships”.

Jonathan’s Voice – Workplace engagement – working with the legal sector

Graham McCartney (Trustee) talked about their road to becoming a charity and what drives the work of Jonathan’s Voice. He also spoke about outreach and raising awareness through their networks in the legal sector.

Real-time suicide surveillance – review of current practice and recommendations for future development

Jonathan Ling (Professor of Public Health, University of Sunderland) gave an overview of the findings of the Public Health England-funded research exploring 2 questions:

  • Whether a police and/or coroner led RTSSS could lead to earlier more effective monitoring and improved support for people bereaved by suicide and
  • What action is required to implement a RTSSS across the UK effectively?

Samaritans – Local suicide prevention planning in England – research findings

Jacqui Morrissey (Co-Chair, NSPA and Assistant Director of Research and Influencing, Samaritans) gave a preview of research findings from the Samaritans joint report with the University of Exeter which provides the first ever nation-wide view of the breadth and depth of suicide prevention planning within local authorities in England. You can access the full report here.


NSPA response to NICE suicide prevention quality standards consultation

Last week we submitted our response to NICE’s (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) consultation on suicide prevention quality standards.  We were very pleased to see that NICE have taken on board the comments from ourselves and our members in drafting the quality standards, particularly in relation to: the inclusion of people with lived experience on local multi-agency groups; more use of real-time surveillance; supporting professionals to ask about involving family or carers when someone is feeling suicidal; and better support for those bereaved by suicide.

The key areas we believe could be improved in the draft quality statements are:

  • More focus on a diversity of people with lived experience participating in local multi-agency suicide prevention groups
  • More effective support of those with lived experience who are involved in local multi-agency suicide prevention groups
  • Stronger reference to professionals acting upon permission to inform the family or carers of someone with suicidal thoughts, not just asking about it
  • Ensuring that support for those bereaved and affected by a suspected suicide is timely – within 72 hours

You can read our full response here.

Many thanks to the NSPA members who helped us with our response.

Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: Developing a new training programme for suicide prevention

Following the award of funding from Health Education England, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have spent 2 years developing a new training programme for suicide prevention, with co-production at the heart of every stage of the process.

The training programme was developed by setting up a co-production working group consisting of different professional staff groups, people who had lived experience of thoughts and feelings of suicide, and families, friends and carers who had been affected or bereaved by suicide.

Collectively it was decided to create a new programme tailored to specific needs. The training content was determined by designing three levels of training, all with very similar content but specific to the project group. The following tiers of training were developed:

  • Recovery College (2 hour session x 4)
  • Mental Health Clinician Level (1 full day)
  • GP Level (90 minute seminar x 2)

The training sessions cover several topics, and include video examples, case discussions, and real-life stories of people’s experience; and are very interactive in nature. Some of the topics covered across the training programmes include:

  • How it feels to be at the point of suicide
  • Having conversations around suicide
  • Safety planning, and crisis and contingency planning
  • Risk assessment and identifying those at high risk from suicide
  • Understanding data around suicide
  • Supporting families, friends and carers

In the training design, co-production was included at every level to ensure that all benefited from the value of lived experience. Opinions from all perspectives were treated equally when determining training content and format, and the training was formatted by someone with lived experience.  The training was filmed using a specialist film company with lived experience of mental health, and there was a lived experience consultant on hand to support and advise the actors. The Recovery College level training is co-facilitated between a clinician and between someone with lived experience.

Since successfully piloting and rolling out this training within the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, over 450 people in Surrey have been trained across these three levels. Everyone, across all levels has rated the training as good or excellent.

At Recovery College level training, everyone who attended achieved their self-set goals, and saw an improvement in their feelings of wellbeing, alongside a reduction in their self-rated levels of personal distress. Some of the feedback comments from Recovery College course participants include:

“It made me aware of people who are struggling and how to help”

“This was of great value and importance to me”

“Course is fantastic and can only evolve”

In relation to training delivered to GPs and to mental health clinicians, there has been the biggest pre and post training shifts for staff in the following areas:

  • Knowing how to talk to people who use services about suicide
  • Doing a risk assessment and formulation
  • Writing safety plans and crisis and contingency plans

Some of the comments made on course evaluations include:

“I feel more confident in dealing with the risks of suicidal ideation after today”

“All parts of the training were extremely good and useful”

“Videos were really useful and it was good to talk about the breakdown of demographic factors”

Following this incredibly positive feedback, Health Education England are helping to roll out this training more widely. Initially, the training packages (with local adaptations) will be rolled out across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. A dedicated trainer has been recruited for each region to support this roll out.

In October 2018, Health Education England published the first competency framework on what is required for suicide prevention and self-harm training, and all the training levels have been successfully mapped against the requirements listed in this framework.

To find out more about the training, please follow the progress via twitter @Qi_team_sabp and if you have any questions, please email or send a message via twitter.

Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: Suicide Prevention Information Network (SPIN)

SPIN (Suicide Prevention Information Network) events are half-day information sharing events that shine a spotlight on different key areas of suicide prevention, currently particular identified high-risk groups who are at an increased risk from suicide. Local speakers and local services are used where possible to showcase what they are doing, and to raise the profile of what is happening around suicide prevention in our local communities. Information stands are present, and people can take information away for further reflection.

At the end of each event, people are asked to write a “pledge”. This asks them to reflect on what they have been inspired by during the event, and to make a commitment to themselves to take something away. This is important as it ensures people are active participants and are learning from the presentations and speakers and think around what they may like to do differently. This helps people leave feeling energised to make things better, and with an idea of where they can start.

Pledges from previous events include:

“I will think more about how we include families, friends and carers in our initial assessments”

“I will not feel afraid to ask people about suicide”

“I will think more about ensuring I am asking open ended and inclusive questions”

“I will pay attention to the role of demographic factors in my assessments”

SPIN events occur every quarter and are open to everyone who wishes to book a place. There are up to 100 spaces available, and places are always completely free, enabling rich and varied audiences. These include clinical staff, staff from other sectors and from charitable organisations, people with lived experience of suicide, families, friends and carers and students. These varied audiences ensure discussions and questions come from a variety of perspectives, further contributing to the impact of the events. Plenty of breaks are scheduled, ensuring there is time for people to reflect, meet each other and discuss the topics – many key connections have been made during this time.

SPIN events are mindful of psychological safety because of the nature of the topics that are being discussed. At the opening of each event, we always talk about how we keep ourselves safe during the event, ground rules, and what to do if anyone becomes distressed. Staff are on hand to provide support should this occur, and there is a designated “quiet room” – a safe space where people can go to reflect at any time during the event. It is set up with comfy chairs, refreshments, and plenty of tissues! A trained member of staff will check in with anyone who uses the quiet room and see if they want to be alone or if they would like to talk to someone. However, so far the quiet room has been used very little. People report finding the events very safe and supportive, and although they can be emotional and impactful at times, the ethos of the events feels positive and people report leaving the events feeling hopeful and empowered.

At the end of each SPIN event, people evaluate their experience of the event, and, to date, the events have only ever been rated as good or excellent. Regardless of the perspective they are coming from, people have said how valuable they find the events, and how they like the balance of speakers from different viewpoints. People also suggest topics that they would like covering in the future, and we use these to shape future plans and agendas.

Topics covered so far this year in relation to suicide in high risk groups have included:

  • Suicide prevention in men
  • Suicide prevention in the LGBTQI population
  • Suicide prevention for perinatal women
  • Bereavement by suicide

Topics planned for the rest of 2019 are:

  • Suicide prevention for veterans and for those in the military
  • Suicide prevention in older adults
  • Suicide prevention for children and young people

Samaritans of Cornwall – more than a listening service

Samaritans of Cornwall at Truro have been providing emotional support to the people of Cornwall and beyond since 1970, and today provide almost 24/7 listening support through a team of 120 volunteers. The branch is the only one located in Cornwall and covers almost all of the county, with volunteers travelling up to an hour from as far away as Launceston in the east and St Just in the west to cover their shifts.

The branch is located in the county’s only city, Truro, however the team try to get out to the more remote areas through the provision of outreach services in some of the most deprived areas in Europe. The branch is supported by a market stall that operates three days a week, selling ‘pre-loved goods’. The stall brings in about one third of the branches annual running costs.

In addition to providing support to over 53,000 people via phone, text and email each year, Samaritan volunteers in Cornwall play an active role in trying to reduce the very high level of suicides in the region. Cornwall has an average of 14.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 of population compared to the national average of 10.1.

Working with partners to prevent suicide

  • The branch is an active member of the Multi Agency Suicide Prevention Group (MASPG) and has collaborated and presented at three Towards Zero Conferences, including running workshops on listening skills. As part of the MASPG they were involved with the postvention planning for schools and education, helping to devise a pathway of support available to students, teachers, parents and the wider community.
  • Volunteers worked with Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust, St Austell Brewery and BBC Radio Cornwall on the Don’t Flush Your Life Away campaign to provide posters to pubs, sports clubs and workplaces raising awareness of mental health in places like men’s toilets. The pictures focus mainly on men, but new versions are published regularly addressing different sectors of the community. This initiative has been picked up in other regions throughout the country.
  • The branch collaborates with other local and national initiatives to raise awareness of the need to reach out for and provide emotional support, and to remind people that Samaritans is there in times of crisis.

Providing support

  • The branch has volunteers who work with local public spaces to provide support in the event of a suicide and to raise awareness, they currently have a stand at a local station promoting Brew Monday in January and had one in July promoting Time to Talk.
  • On Friday nights, two volunteers take part in an outreach programme at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust A&E from 10pm to 1.30am providing emotional support for staff, patients and their families/carers.
  • There is a monthly outreach programme at the Plant Eat and Teach project in Penzance where volunteers work alongside people who have experienced major life events and mental health issues, or who are struggling to cope with life.
  • The branch provides third party referral support to the Psychiatric Liaison Team, Cornwall Housing, Newquay Community Orchard, Camborne, Pool and Redruth Foodbank, Penryn Campus student services and the Community Adult Social Care Team.
  • There is an active educational programme, organising talks at schools and colleges throughout the county, as well as a busy Talks Team who go into workplaces and community groups, WI’s, Rotary etc to raise awareness of their services.

What does the future hold for the branch?

The next initiative is to open a satellite branch on Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter and Falmouth University aimed at raising awareness of Samaritans support, and to attract volunteers from the staff and student bodies. Initially this will provide phone, email and text support as part of the wider organisation, but once there are sufficient volunteers the aim is to provide a face-to-face drop-in at weekends.

Alongside this, the team have reviewed their current premises and agreed they aren’t fit for purpose for the future. A major fundraising and awareness campaign has been launched and the search is on to find a new home that will provide better access for volunteers and callers, be more economically efficient to run and potentially provide an income to reduce the requirement for fundraising.

NSPA members’ newsletter, October 2018

If you would like to receive our monthly newsletter, please join the alliance as either a member or supporter via this link.

In this month’s newsletter:

  1. NSPA news and activities
  2. New alliance members
  3. Updates from our members
  4. Top suicide prevention stories
  5. The latest research news
  6. Funding opportunities
  7. Upcoming Events

NSPA news and activities

Save the date: NSPA annual conference, Tuesday 5th February 2019, London

Our national suicide prevention conference brings together over 200 people with a professional and personal interest in suicide prevention to share the latest research and good practice, promote collaboration and enable networking.


The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Suicide prevention across the life course’. We will reflect on preventing suicide in children and young people, those of working age, and older adults – hearing from academics and practitioners about their understanding and experience of working with these different groups. In our workshops you can hear more detail about suicide prevention and bereavement activities from across the country, and explore how to take that learning back to your own work.


Confirmed speakers include:
Professor Louis Appleby, Chair of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy Advisory Group and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manchester
Professor Nav Kapur, Head of Research at the Centre for Suicide Prevention at the University of Manchester
Lisa McNally from Bracknell Forest Council talking about their social inclusion approach to suicide prevention

Bookings will be open soon, so you can let us know you’d like to attend by emailing us and you can find out more on our website.


New alliance members

Since our last newsletter Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, Butterflies Bereavement Support, Changing Lives Through Changing Minds and Health and Care Working Together in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw have joined the NSPA. Please join us in welcoming them. If you’d like to learn more, click their logo below to visit their membership page.


Updates from our members

Equally Well from the Centre for Mental Health

The life expectancy of someone with a mental illness is 15-20 years shorter than average, and while some of this is due to suicide, the main cause of premature loss of life is poor physical health. People with a severe mental illness are at least twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, and if they have cancer they are more likely to die from it.

Equally Well UK is a new collaborative that seeks to bring about significant and sustained change to this. Based on the Equally Well collaborative that has been running for four years in New Zealand, Equally Well UK is bringing together organisations that have a part to play in supporting the physical health of people with a mental illness. That includes health and care providers of all kinds (not just those specialising in mental health care), commissioning bodies, local authorities, education and training organisations, charities, user and carer organisations and many more.

So far more than 50 organisations have come forward to join Equally Well UK and agreed to sign up to the Charter for Equal Health.

Equally Well comes with three essential principles. The first is that no one should experience poorer physical health, or less than good care, just because they have a mental illness. The second is that everything they do will be co-produced and co-designed between people with lived and professional expertise. And the third is that Equally Well is a genuine collaborative of equal partners, all of whom have a unique part to play, but who together can achieve more than if they work in isolation.

Help become a part of the change. To find out more visit and follow them on twitter @EquallyWellUK.

Suicide Bereavement UK conference

Suicide Bereavement UK held their 7th annual conference, Breaking the Silence, in Manchester on 26th September. Over 400 delegates heard from a range of speakers including those who had been touched by suicide or had academic insight into the field.

The conference provided a platform for Dr Sharon McDonnell to share the preliminary findings for the national suicide bereavement survey, which attracted over 7,700 responses from UK residents. Analysis of the demographics of participants included their age, gender, ethnicity, employment status and their relationship to the person bereaved. A report of the survey findings will be officially released at next year’s Suicide Bereavement UK conference in Manchester, which you are able to book onto here. Dr McDonnell will also be providing a further update on the findings at the NSPA conference in February next year.

Support after Suicide Partnership: Invitation to tender 

The Support after Suicide Partnership is inviting expressions of interest from people or organisations who could lead a piece of work to help them develop the idea of a central hub of resources, information, evidence and guidelines to make it easier to set up local suicide bereavement support services.

They would like help to define the scope of the hub, set out how it might work in practice and propose the structure required to develop and sustain it.

You are able to read a brief of the tender here. Proposals are to be submitted no later than Friday 12th October 2018. 

Please direct your submission or any queries to the Support after Suicide Partnership Chair, Hamish Elvidge.

Bereaved children in Bristol to receive crucial support thanks to new Winston’s Wish service 

Winston’s Wish, a charity that supports children, young people, and their families after the death of a parent or sibling, is set to expand their successful face-to-face services to Bristol.

Every day, more than 100 children are bereaved of a parent in the UK, 260 children are bereaved of a parent each year in the city of Bristol alone. It is also notable that the suicide rate in Bristol is above the national average. Winston’s Wish supports bereaved children with services across the country and the new service in Bristol will offer bereaved children, their families and the professionals who look after them a range of face-to-face support.

For bereavement support, or to find out more about what services the charity offers, visit or call the National Freephone Helpline 08088 020 021.


Top suicide prevention stories

New NICE guidelines for suicide prevention in community and custodial settings

Public Health England worked alongside the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to launch NICEs new guidelines for suicide prevention in community and custodial settings. The guidelines cover ways to reduce suicide and help people bereaved or affected by suicides. It aims to:

  • help local services work more effectively together to prevent suicide
  • identify and help people at risk
  • prevent suicide in places where it is currently more likely.

You can read the guidance on the NICE website.


The latest research news

Childhood abuse and neglect increase the risk of self-injury and suicide attempts

McMahon, Hoertel, Olfson, Wall, Wang, and Blanco (2018) Childhood maltreatment and impulsivity as predictors of interpersonal violence, self-injury and suicide attempts: a national study. Psychiatry Research Vol 269

This large study from the U.S found that a history of childhood abuse and neglect increased the risk of suicide attempt, self-injury and violence towards others. Findings suggest abuse/neglect has a stronger effect on self-injury and suicide attempt than on violence; also sexual abuse increases risk more than other types of abuse/neglect. The authors suggest this association may be explained through the association between childhood abuse/neglect and depression, self-criticism, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and difficulty in maintaining positive feelings and wellbeing.

Suicide-related Twitter posts receive more replies and a faster response than non-suicidal posts

O’Dea, Achilles, Larsen, Batterham, Calear, and Christensen (2018) The rate of reply and nature of responses to suicide-related posts on Twitter. Internet Interventions Vol 13

We know that Twitter is used by people to communicate suicidal thoughts and intentions, but we didn’t know how people respond to suicide-related posts. This study compared replies to suicide-related posts with replies to non-suicidal posts. Suicidal posts received more replies (although 1 in 5 did not receive a response), had a faster rate of reply, and fewer retweets or likes than non-suicidal posts. The majority of first replies were potentially helpful (e.g. discouraging suicide, caring or clarifying), but some were dismissive or encouraging of suicide. The authors highlight that further research is needed to understand the effects of replies on suicidal thoughts or intentions, and to explore whether Twitter could be used to intervene, increase help seeking, or provide anti-stigma campaigns.


Funding opportunities

Suicide prevention in high risk groups research funding

The PHR Programme launched a new fund on World Suicide Prevention Day. It funds research to generate evidence to inform the delivery of non-NHS interventions intended to improve the health of the public and reduce inequalities in health. Our scope is multi-disciplinary and broad, covering a wide range of interventions that improve public health.

The primary aim of the programme is the evaluation of practical interventions. They will fund both primary research (mainly evaluative, but also some preparatory research) and secondary research (evidence synthesis); precise methods will need to be appropriate to the question being asked and the feasibility of the research. The deadline for applications is 19th March 2019, and you can apply via this link.



Upcoming events

Don’t forget to take a look at the NSPA Events page.
Updates this month include:

Date/Time Event Location
07/10/2018 Walking Out Of Darkness 2018 – Birmingham Victoria Square, Birmingham
17/10/2018 ManChat Conference The Showroom, Lincoln
30/10/2018 NHSE/PHE/NHSI Midlands & East regional Suicide Prevention conference- ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ Leicester City Football Club, Leicester
14/12/2018 Towards Zero Suicide: Preventing Suicide, Saving Lives De Vere West One Conference Centre, London,Marylebone
18/12/2018 Can Anyone Hear Me? One day summits run by and for young adults on mental health Imperial College London, LONDON
05/02/2019 NSPA 5th Annual Conference – suicide prevention across the life course The Kia Oval, London
25/09/2019 Suicide Bereavement UK’s 8th International Conference Mercure Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester

Norfolk and Suffolk suicide prevention collaboration

Why are you collaborating?

A priority of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Suicide Prevention Strategy 2017-2022 was to play a key role into taking action to reduce suicide in our community. As part of the Five-Year Forward Plan for Mental Health each county is working to a multi-agency suicide prevention plan supporting a 10% reduction in suicides nationally. We have a shared ambition to prevent suicide in Norfolk and Suffolk, which includes people who have been in contact with mental health services and those in the wider community without a mental ill health diagnosis.

This approach affirms the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s commitment to the Zero Suicide Ambition where we are able to share our knowledge and learn best practice from others around the county, in turn strengthening the way all organisations work together to reduce suicide within our community.

What and who does the collaboration involve?

Both counties of Norfolk and Suffolk have separate multi-agency suicide prevention steering groups and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is an active member of both these. We work alongside other partners at these meetings to share best practice, provide regular updates and an overview of progress to plan joint approaches to training, events and our engagement at a national and regional level.

In addition to these priority meetings all three Suicide Prevention Steering Groups are represented at the “Suicide Prevention Leads for East of England Network Meeting” hosted by Public Health England which meets bi-monthly. This provides the Suicide Prevention Leads a valuable opportunity to meet with and learn from other regions.


  • Joint planning and involvement in events and promotions. Most notable examples are an NSFT lead Men’s Mental Health conference (held in both Norfolk and Suffolk), Suicide Prevention Learning Events (Norfolk Public Health led) and promotion of Suffolk Life Savers work.
  • Integrating the approach between the countywide strategies of Norfolk (I’m OK / I’m not OK) and Suffolk (Suffolk Lives) and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust suicide prevention strategy.
  • Collaborating on sharing of data and information which we hope will enable us to learn more about areas where suicide risk is higher.
  • Ensuring NSFT and other partners are represented at all decision-making groups.


Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has invested in a dedicated Suicide Prevention Lead which has enabled flexibility and representation at local and national suicide prevention groups along with ensuring that suicide prevention is at the fore front of planning and delivering services for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. An important aspect of the position is to have local knowledge across a wide, geographical area with differing economic, political and social infrastructures. Much of this has been established through actively visiting different areas and attending meetings in person to allow those local relations to be established and respected.


  • Five CCGs in Norfolk and two CCGs in Suffolk means there are different services commissioned and operational depending on geographical location within Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. For instance clinical pathways to access crisis support, psychiatric liaison services and services for children and young people will vary across the two counties and even between localities.
  • In June 2018 Norfolk received additional funding under the first wave of the Suicide Prevention Transformational Funding. This is in response to Norfolk having a statistically higher rate of suicide than Suffolk. This will allow for more investment in services within Norfolk aimed at Suicide Prevention – some of this Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust will benefit from and it will be a challenge to replicate this funding in Suffolk even though the perceived need is there.
  • Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has adopted the Zero Suicide Ambition and a further challenge will be aligning priorities for suicide prevention between the trust and the wider community.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all again?

From Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s side I would insist on a greater representation of service user, carer and those bereaved by suicide from the start when planning future care delivery. Those with lived experience are already active members of our Suicide Prevention Panel and contributed to the formulation of the Suicide Prevention Strategy but that is not to say we cannot continue to improve how we listen and respond to those effected by suicide. We are currently reviewing the Suicide Prevention Training which is delivered to the professionals providing Clinical care to those who work for the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Those with lived experience are being actively consulted from the start in the planning of the training alongside the educational department and clinical leaders. It is hoped that success from this will not only be a rewarding experience for those involved but will deliver effective, fit for purpose training with the aim that this training will be co-delivered. Those effected by suicide need to be involved at the start of any change or review of our services.

The City of London Corporation’s suicide prevention work

The National Suicide Prevention Alliance recognises the importance of promoting good mental health at work, and the vital role this can play in suicide prevention. The City of London Corporation, a member of the NSPA, is raising awareness of workplace well-being in the city, promoting help seeking and providing practical support.  You can read about some of the important work they are doing below.

The City of London Corporation

Poor mental health – including stress, anxiety, depression and suicide – is recognised as one of the biggest local issues in the Square Mile, as it is across London and at a national level. Stress at work (whether work-related or otherwise) is one of the main reasons for sickness absence in the UK.

The City of London Corporation is the organisation with local authority responsibilities for the City and over the past few years has been targeting its local resident, worker and visitor populations to provide a coherent place-based approach to mental health and wellbeing across the Square Mile – the UK’s financial and business hub. Almost half a million people come into the City of London every day to work, from across London and the South East.

In the context of the workplace, Business Healthy is an award-winning programme delivered by the City Corporation’s Public Health team. It supports local employers to improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce, providing signposting, access to resources and guidance and hosting expert-led events.

The City Corporation has taken a strategic approach to promoting good mental health in the City, which covers the following areas:

  • Awareness-raising and fighting stigma
  • Creating a dialogue within the City around mental health
  • Opening a physical space to help people to de-stress and build mental resilience
  • Taking a partnership approach to suicide prevention
  • Establishing a Street Triage service

Awareness-raising and fighting stigma, through marketing, local campaigns, and strategic partnerships with businesses and the third sector

The City of London Corporation launched the City’s first-ever mental health and suicide prevention campaign in June 2017, called “Release the Pressure”. Based on a successful campaign developed by Kent County Council, the Release the Pressure campaign is ongoing and is aimed at those working, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It encourages people to recognise day-to-day stresses that could trigger poor mental health and to seek help for them. By advertising in high-footfall areas in the City and sharing campaign resources with the local business community, the campaign has seen much engagement and led to a tenfold increase in views of the list of mental health support services on the City Corporation’s website.

The City Corporation and Business Healthy supports, resources and promotes other local campaigns and initiatives to local businesses, residents and workers (including the City Corporation’s own 3,000-strong workforce). These include the local CCG’s “5 to Thrive”, the Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s “This Is Me” and green ribbon campaigns, the City Mental Health Alliance and most recently the Samaritans’ Wellbeing in the City tool. All of these are aimed at eradicating stigma attached to mental health – particularly in the workplace.

Creating a dialogue within the City around mental health, parity of esteem, and the role of employers in safeguarding employees’ mental health

A partnership with local businesses is in place, facilitated through the City of London Corporation’s Business Healthy network. Two-way flows of information and best practice are facilitated, including face-to-face and online, and events on mental health in the workplace are hosted for member organisations and their staff, including regular Samaritans’ led Suicide Prevention Awareness Training workshops.

Opening a physical space to help people to de-stress and build mental resilience

Business Healthy has facilitated a collaboration between Mental Fight Club, Barbican and Communities Libraries and Output Arts to open Dragon Café in the City in February, which is based on the successful Dragon Café that has been running in Southwark for the past five years. Funded by the City Corporation and Carnegie UK and the Wellcome Trust’s “Engaging Libraries” scheme, Dragon Café in the City is a six-month pilot and is hosted in a library in the Square Mile. It hosts free activities to help visitors de-stress and build mental resilience, referencing “Release the Pressure” as a key theme. Based on the concept of positive mental wellbeing, it addresses common mental health conditions, such as stress, depression and anxiety. Dragon Café in the City also provides a local platform for Thrive LDN’s Problem-Solving Booths.

Taking a partnership approach to suicide prevention and disruption of suicide attempts

The City Corporation has been leading on a long-term suicide prevention programme, bringing together the City of London Police, Samaritans, RLNI, the local CCG and primary mental health service and other organisations, to reduce suicides among City residents, workers and visitors. This work – focusing on helping those at crisis point – includes placing Samaritans signs on bridges crossing the Thames, distributing suicide intervention guidance to 10,000 commuters, and engaging with the local business community through Business Healthy, to deliver suicide prevention awareness training at a low/ minimal cost (see above).

Establishing a Street Triage service, to divert people in mental distress from being detained

The City of London Corporation and the City of London Police have developed a “Street Triage” programme (launched May 2017) with the local mental health primary care service. Initially introduced as a pilot, it addresses the large number of those detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. The triage moves those at crisis away from police detention to a more care-focused approach, reducing the large amount of resource used to detain those at-risk under police supervision. Mental health professionals join police patrols overnight four times a week, determining the best support for those in crisis on the spot. The evaluation of the first seven months of the triage found that 41% of all potential Section 136s were avoided. Most police officers agreed that the force had given a far better level of care to people in crisis since the triage began. Ongoing funding to expand the triage to seven nights a week has been secured.

To find out more about the work that the City of London Corporation is doing, please get in touch with Tizzy Keller – Strategy Officer and Suicide Prevention Lead, or Xenia Koumi – Project Lead for Business Healthy.

Annual Members Meeting 2018

Regent's Canal from our meeting room, interior shot of 'cabaret' layout and view of NCVO from other side of Regent's Canal    

Our Annual Members Meeting took place on 2nd May at NCVO, London.  NSPA members and supporters came together to hear about the work of the NSPA over the last year, to discuss issues such as the impact of Brexit on suicide prevention and what our priorities should be for the next few years, to learn more about each other’s’ work, and to network.  A wide range of members attended with representatives from the private, voluntary and public sectors, as well as individual supporters.

We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the event, with participants valuing the opportunity to share ideas, challenges and hopes in such a diverse group who all care so much about suicide prevention and bereavement support. Thank you to those members and supporters who came along and made it such a great day.



Below is information on each of the presentations from the day, please click on the title to view the slide sets.

Update from the NSPA

Penny Fosten, NSPA Executive Lead, updated members on some of our work in 2017-18, including new resources for local suicide prevention work, our national conference, World Suicide Prevention Day activities, and government engagement and influencing. She also welcomed the 37% increase in membership in the last year, and how much it strengthens our collective voice. Penny outlined plans for the coming year, including significant improvements to the resources available on our website, enhancing connections and communication with and between members, and continuing to represent and advocate for our members nationally.

Farming Community Network – The potential impact of Brexit on the farming community

Glyn Evans talked about the potential impact of Brexit in the farming community. Farming is an inherently risky and volatile industry to work in and Brexit means more uncertainty.  The FCN are encouraging farmers to build resilience to change and to prepare for the effects of change on business and personal lives, and continuing to provide them with support and advice.

Highways England’s Suicide Prevention Strategy (slides not available publicly)

Nicola Tweedie from Highways England (who are responsible for operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads) shared their suicide prevention strategy, which includes prioritising high-risk locations and training and supporting their staff to have the skills and confidence to identify and talk to a suicidal person.

PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide – The class of 2018 

Ged Flynn presented PAPYRUS’ current campaign ‘The class of 2018’ (you can view the campaign films in the slide sets). Over 200 children are lost to suicide every year in the UK, and suicide is the leading cause of death in young people. Papyrus are committed to building safer schools and colleges, and have developed resources for schools, you can download these here.

Suicide Bereavement UK: National Bereavement Survey

Dr Sharon McDonnell talked about this survey, which is supported by the Support After Suicide Partnership and the University of Manchester.  It aims to help our understanding of the impact a death by suicide may have on the lives of those who are bereaved or affected by the death, to establish the support people bereaved or affected by suicide received, how the support was helpful, and identify where support is lacking.

Over 4000 people have already completed the survey.  If you would like to take part you can do so here.

NW Counselling Hub – Domestic Abuse and Suicide

Naomi Watkins presented their work in domestic abuse. One incident of domestic abuse is reported to the police every 30 seconds and every day almost 30 women attempt suicide as a result of experiencing domestic abuse. NW Counselling hub works with survivors of domestic abuse, they provide counselling, encourage help seeking and assist survivors with vital safety plans.

Recent Research

Dr Alexandra Pitman, Senior Clinical Lecturer, UCL Division of Psychiatry, provided an overview of some recent research in suicide prevention and high-risk groups, including construction workers, LGBT youth, people with access to lethal means and people bereaved by suicide.

Annual Members Meeting 2017

NSPA members and supporters gathered at NCVO in central London last month for the Annual Members Meeting. Attendees heard what the NSPA has been doing over the last year, and some showcased their own recent projects and findings in a series of presentations. The meeting – open to all members and supporters – happens every year and is a great opportunity for people working in all areas of suicide prevention to network and share challenges, experiences and ideas with each other.

There were also morning and afternoon table discussions sessions. The first allowed people to think and share about how the last year has been for them and how NSPA can help them further. In the afternoon the table discussions were on: men and suicide, working in a small organisation, successful campaigns, and how to better enable and empower people with lived experience.

We are very grateful for everyone who attended, contributing valuable insight into suicide prevention.

Here is a summary of the presentations throughout the day. Click the headings to download PDF versions of presentations slides

NSPA Review 2016/17

Over the last year the NSPA has delivered events such as our conference, local suicide prevention planning masterclasses, and mental health champion training; and we have produced resources including the Local Suicide Prevention Planning guidance, a suite of resources on postvention support, and resources for World Suicide Prevention Day a few weeks ago that reached far beyond our alliance members. All of these activities have contributed to a 32% increase in membership to 92 organisations and nearly 100 individual supporters. Over the next year we intend to: continue to grow and support our membership, with more special interest groups and regional events; enhance the website with more resources and information; and continue to be a strong voice that represents our members.

David Mosse, from the Haringey Suicide Prevention Group, then talked about how the loss of his son to suicide lead him to set up this multi-agency group to lead on suicide prevention planning and delivery across the borough.

The Bridge Pilot

Nicole Klynman, from the City of London, and Will Skinner, a Samaritans volunteer, talked about the challenges of suicide prevention in the City and how they have worked together with the police and health services on the ‘Bridge pilot’, which involved putting signs up on London Bridge, giving out leaflets to pedestrians to raise confidence in helping someone they think might be at risk, and delivering suicide awareness training to front-line staff and people who work near the bridge. They are now working on similar work for Southwark, Tower and Blackfriars Bridges.

Lived Expertise of Suicide: Inclusion, Engagement and Strategic Partnerships

Gill Green, from STORM Skills Training, and Jacqui Morrissey, from Samaritans, talked about an Australian initiative – Roses in the Ocean – which works to “engage and empower people with a lived experience of suicide in order to change the way suicide is spoken about, understood and prevented.” Their definition of lived experience includes having had suicidal thoughts, having been bereaved by suicide, and caring for someone who has suicidal thoughts, and they work to include a diverse range of people and ensure they are supported and trained, and their voices valued. It felt that there was support for the idea of this or a similar model existing in the UK, and the NSPA will continue to work on this.

Suicide and Autism

Jon Spiers, from Autistica, shared their research data on autism and suicide. Findings include higher levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and higher rates of suicide in people living with autism. The research also highlights how challenging it is to find appropriate support when one finds it very difficult to identify or discuss emotions, work in groups, or call helplines.

Building Collaboration, Investing in Communities

Bianca Hegde, from STORM Skills Training, talked about how they invest money back in to communities through free training and education for front-line staff, running their social change campaign #HeyAreYouOK?, and working pro-bono for organisations including State of Mind and the Greater Manchester Fire Brigade.

Emerging Themes – contact us for more info

Victoria Sinclair, from the Nightline Association shared their data on the challenges faced by students, the themes coming up regularly (including sexual violence, loneliness, self-harm, suicide and the transition to and from university) and their focus on how to support specific groups of callers better, particularly post graduates, international students and male students.

Suicide Prevention Masterclasses

Helen Garnham, from Public Health England talked about the 2017 Suicide Prevention Planning Masterclasses, particularly what was learned from them, which included how extra funding might be better invested, the desire for more examples of good practice, the benefits of wider collaboration, and the need for more workforce development.


Learning points from Churchill Fellowship Research for National Suicide Prevention Alliance


Last year I was privileged to be awarded a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship to visit Australia, New Zealand and Ireland to meet with organizations and individuals who support families after they have been bereaved by suicide. As a child bereavement practitioner, and until recently a manager of services for bereaved children, especially those bereaved by suicide, I have long been aware that children are often overlooked in the quest to provided better services for those bereaved by suicide.

Children are affected by the death of a family member, especially when the person has died by suicide, with all the added complications that brings. Adults, both parents and professionals, often feel at a loss as to how to talk to children about suicide. Children need to be involved in the processing of what has happened in order to develop into resilient adults. Children bereaved by suicide are more vulnerable as they grow up, so it makes sense to put in place services for children that may prevent mental health issues in adulthood.

There are many developments in relation to support after suicide in the countries I visited that are cited as good practice. My Fellowship looked at how children are supported within these different models and services, and how specialist child bereavement services relate to these. I hope it will increase the understanding of what will most benefit suicide bereaved children in the growing partnership of organizations that are seeking to develop a national response for support after suicide in the UK.


Funding is obviously vital to the development of every service and across the range of my visits I saw how proper funding can enable services to become well grounded and grow. In Australia there is substantial government funding for services related to suicide prevention and bereavement, and I wanted to know why. Jaelea Skehan, Director of the Hunter Institute of Mental Health in Newcastle, Australia, doesn’t think funding is necessarily obtained through the logical way of running a pilot, evaluating it, showing its worth and applying for funding. It’s as much to do with developing relationships with the right people in government or other positions of influence and convincing them of the need for services, so they can apply pressure or influence where policies are made and funding decided.

Those who have been most influential in driving the agenda forward have had a personal interest in, or experience of, suicide. In the most recent Australian elections the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that ‘addressing suicide and mental illness would be a “vital national priority” for a re-elected coalition government.’ This statement was in response to a challenge by an alliance of leading mental health advocates to all political parties to announce what they would do to address the rising toll of suicide and self harm.

In NZ the Travellers programme for the prevention of suicide was funded by the New Zealand government and the Mental Health Foundation. At the time the minister was Jim Anderton, whose daughter had died by suicide, making him sympathetic to funding.

Headspace’ is a youth mental health initiative which was established by the Australian government in 2006 and is fully funded by the Federal Government. It emphasised evidence based intervention and was founded by Patrick McGorry, who as Australian of the year gave a big push to youth mental health.

Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have all run successful campaigns to highlight that deaths by suicide are often greater than road deaths. In New Zealand road deaths have been greatly reduced by a big campaign of posters along roads, proving that funding can be effective. Organizations related to suicide prevention are now using this as an argument for funding. Estimates of the total cost of road deaths to New Zealand society were put at around $3.6 billion each year. The national road safety campaign is based on a high level of research.

In Ireland the 3Ts( turn the tide of suicide) charity lobbies governments, raises awareness of suicide and provides grants and funding for research and support, highlighting that 3 times more people die by suicide in Ireland than die in road traffic accidents. Recognizing the need for research into suicide to help inform national suicide prevention strategies it funded the ‘Suicide in Ireland Survey’.  It states that ‘If adequate state funding for suicide prevention is unavailable, then we need a Suicide Prevention Authority similar to the Road Safety Authority, an independent authority to oversee a dedicated National Suicide Prevention Programme.’

The following example shows how, with commitment from those in government, a real difference can be made to the support available after suicide. Working in partnership in the UK is therefore vital in order bring maximum pressure to bear on those in government who can influence financial decisions.

In Australia an audit of 28 electorates between 2009 and 2012 found suicide rates exceeded the road toll in every seat. Between 2004 and 2014 suicide rates rose almost 20%.

Electorate 2009-2012                        Suicides                                Road toll

Canning WA                                          90                                             54

Longman, Qld                                      162                                             68

Cunningham, NSW                                91                                             37

Boothby, SA                                         64                                             13

Corangamite, Vic                                 111                                             65

The shadow Mental Health minister, Katy Gallagher, stated labour’s commitment to a 50% suicide reduction target over the next 10 years and the establishment of 12 suicide prevention pilot projects.


In July 2010 the Prime Minister Julia Gillard said a labour government would spend $277 million to help Australians at risk of suicide, with a priority on providing services for men.

  • The Lifeline counselling hotline would be expanded
  • The Beyond Blue organization would be given funds to target men with depression Programmes would be made available to students through schools.

Money was given for research and a proposed service model was drawn up and launched in 2012, initially as a recovery programme, which then led on to a recognition for the need for preparedness. There is now a coordinator in every state and territory.

In Dec 2014 Julia Gillard joined the board of ‘Beyond Blue’. She said “as the daughter of a psychiatric nurse, I have always understood the need to talk openly about mental health and respond to those in need”.

Funding and Services

It is not surprising that large well organized agencies attract more funding. Australia has well developed mental health services and a lot of government funding has gone into organizations like Headspace, Beyond Blue and MindMatters, all of which seek to address the mental wellbeing and resilience of young people, either as a preventative to suicide or as a support after suicide. Headspace in particular has grown rapidly with its full government funding, with 100 Headspace centres nationally, 200+ staff in the head office and 2000 schools it has worked with. But these large services are often about facilitation and information and there is a lack of services to refer on to for direct support. One person I met in New Zealand commented that there are ‘leaflets, leaflets, loads of glossy leaflets, but no one actually works with families’. Large national organizations are better funded and often highly manualized. They have less understanding of direct work and less ability to connect with the local community, although they attempt to overcome these by referring on and by embedding the service in local organizations.

Those organizations that do work directly with children and families, such as the Jesuit Social Services Support after Suicide, and the Centre for Childhood Grief in Australia, Barnardos in Ireland and The Grief Centre in New Zealand, have a wealth of knowledge and experience in supporting children, but are small and find it difficult to attract funding.

It was striking that where Government funding has continued, albeit on a year to year basis, in Australia and Ireland, suicide support services have thrived, whereas in New Zealand promising initiatives and projects have floundered through lack of funding, and experienced staff have become demoralized or lost their jobs. The Ministry of Health is presently discussing the next 10 years for the Suicide Prevention Strategy in New Zealand and many professionals are waiting for the outcome of this. It is problematic that in New Zealand there is a political argument between government departments as to whether suicide is social or a mental health issue. I was told that no government department wants to be responsible for suicide prevention. They have done the research, written a document and an action strategy, but leave District Health Boards to put this into practice, which has led to a fragmentation of suicide support services in New Zealand.

What I have learnt from this is that in the UK we need to try and get a balance between large scale facilitation, which can co ordinate services at the national level but will be less responsive to local needs, less personal and more bureaucratic; and small scale direct work, which can provide very good practice,  expert knowledge and a high level of satisfaction for both those who receive and deliver services, but which find it hard to attract funding or offer services over a wide geographical area.

I was informed by a number of people that the Australian government is keen to fund e-programmes. One example of these is eHeadspace, which enables young people equal access to a service where they can email, phone or skype with qualified mental health professionals. Similarly in New Zealand 185 of 300 secondary schools are signed up for the ‘Travellers’ resilience programme developed by the child bereavement organization ‘Skylight’. Schools are trained to run the training and the whole cohort of year 9 pupils complete an online survey. On the basis of this high scoring pupils are offered counselling, medium scoring pupils are offered the Travellers course and low scoring pupils have anything of concern addressed.

Academic Rigour

Governments need convincing with evidence and good collection of data and successful projects are often evaluated by external bodies, such as universities or research institutes and have research evidence to highlight the need and show that costs of preventative services are less than the costs of doing nothing, e.g. hospital admissions, working days lost, and mental health. A good example of this is an influential study in Australia that did exactly this and helped deliver funding to the national organization StandBy. (‘Cost Effectiveness of a Community Based Crisis Intervention Program for People Bereaved by Suicide’. Tracy Comans, Victoria Visser and Paul Scuffham). In Ireland the National Suicide Research Foundation in Cork is an independent research unit which undertakes research into topics relating to suicide to provide the knowledge base for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention strategies.

In Australia there is a strong connection between research and practice, this makes the sector very vibrant and services well grounded in evidence and theory. The Hunter Institute of Mental Health in Newcastle, Australia focuses on research on the development of services that have a practical application in mental health, developing projects in relation to organizations on the ground that can carry them out. Jaelea Skehan, the director, is passionate about translating evidence into practice and finding better connections between research and practice. She believes there should be a middle ground between practitioners and researchers with a constant flow in both directions. The Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffin University in Brisbane has a taught Masters degree and Diego De Leo, it’s Director from  1998-2015, has been influential for a number of practitioners in their work in suicide pre or postvention. Griffin University in Brisbane Directs the WHO Collaborating Centre on Research and Training in Suicide Prevention.

This has also been true of the Irish National Suicide Research Foundation, which has worked in conjunction with those who are developing services for support after suicide in Ireland, while In New Zealand Chris Bowden, lecturer and researcher at Victoria University of Wellington  worked with Skylight to develop the Waves psycho-education programme, while also completing his own PhD on young men’s experiences of losing a close male friend to suicide, and Annette Beautrais and Prof David Fergusson at Otago University were joint authors of the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy 2006-16 and were involved with the Christchurch Suicide Project.

On the service side in Australia there is a high academic level among practitioners, with many having Masters in Suicidology or a PhD related to their work in suicide. Some are working towards professional doctorates at the same time as working. Several PhD students are being supervised by Dr Myf Maple, associate Professor in the School of Health at the University of New England (UNE). The UNE works with four other universities and a local health district as part of a Collaborative Research Network (CRN) on mental health and well being, which has attracted $4.8 million funding from the Australian government. This means that research is joined up and has a strong profile. As mentioned in the blog of Sharon McDonnell, Honorary Research Fellow at Manchester University and Churchill Fellow, on April 4th 2014, ‘it is possible to suggest that Myf’s postvention department is a virtual one, in that many of her staff are PhD students and study via distance learning. It is commonplace to hold meetings via a video link’. This is a practical response to the vast distances in Australia.

I believe this interrelationship between research and practice, with movement in both directions has greatly helped practice to be grounded in research and research to be based in practice, and has given credibility to both. Governments are more likely to fund joined up working and more likely to be convinced of the importance of funding research that leads into the development of services that are effective, and the efficacy of funding practice that is evidenced by research.

Working in Partnership

I came across many examples of collaborative working which must inevitably aid the development of good joined up services for those who are seeking support after a suicide. Organizations working at a national level, such as StandBy and Headspace, do so by having a Memorandum of Understanding with local partner organizations and arrangements whereby coordinators of services meet together and train together. In the district around Melbourne Headspace do more general work in schools but refer children to the Jesuit Social Services Support after Suicide for direct work with individual children. This not only encourages cooperation but also develops an understanding of each other’s services. In Australia information about The Centre for Grief and Bereavement is given to families by funeral directors.

In all three countries the fact that coroners report deaths by suicide to those organizations providing services makes an enormous different to their ability to offer services, as people are less likely to fall though the net.

  • The Centre for Childhood Grief in Australia works together with the local coroner to run a ‘Support after Suicide Group’ with social workers from the coroner’s office. This group is funded by the coroner, who also provides the venue.
  • StandBy was initiated by the coronial service and the police, which has meant an ongoing positive working relationship between the different agencies.
  • The Department of Forensic Medicine in Newcastle works closely with coroners.
  • As a Regional Suicide Postvention Coordinator in Wellington New Zealand Jennie Jones is informed of every suicide by the coroner, who gives basic information, and by the police who share more details through an encrypted site.
  • Victim Support, who offer a service to those bereaved by suicide in New Zealand, also commented on the enormous advantage of being informed of deaths by the coroner.

This is an area that clearly needs a lot of attention in the UK, where contact with local coroners is patchy and sensitive.

Many different professionals are involved after a suicide, e.g. fire service, police, ambulance service, clergy, GPs and funeral directors. The most successful organizations had worked to get each profession onboard at a high level, in order that cooperation and good working relationships percolated down throughout the organization, and maintained these by good networking, joint training, clear guidelines and protocols. These are often brought together in manuals. Having a facilitator whose task it is to put all these things into practice seems also to be the mark of a successful service.  Prime examples of this are StandBy, the Mayo project in Ireland and the work of the Suicide Postvention Coordinator in Wellington.



Developing a Model

Those organizations that have been most successful in growing and attracting funding have developed clear models of working based on research and evidence.

Services for the prevention of suicide and support after suicide are gradually being coordinated and strengthened in the UK through the coming together of different working partnerships, some in local areas and some nationally. Decisions need to be made on finding models of working that are most effective in our own circumstances in the UK.

As the provision of support after suicide in the UK is developed it is vital that the partnerships of organizations involved have clarity around the models that evolve from their collaboration, with clear theoretical underpinning, evidence for the efficacy of the model from pilots or other examples, and hold fast to best clinical practice as far as possible.

I saw several different models in the course of my Fellowship.

Direct work with families and children

For example,

  • Jesuit Social Services Support after Suicide in Melbourne.
  • The Centre for Grief and Bereavement, Melbourne
  • The Centre for Childhood Grief, Sydney
  • Skylight in New Zealand
  • Barnados in Ireland
  • The Mayo Project, Ireland

The mark of these organizations is high quality work, long standing experience and a real knowledge around suicide and it’s affect on individuals, families and society. These organizations are small and find it difficult to grow because of precarious funding and are fearful they may lose out to other organizations ‘that are better funded, better marketed and more glossy.’

The use of professionals who have another main job but an interest in suicide

These professionals are paid to offer counselling or run groups. This enables organizations to get input from professionally qualified people, but sometimes means these professionals have less experience in working with those bereaved by suicide.

StandBy refers children who need a level of expertise beyond what they can offer to specialist child counsellors they have an ongoing working relationship with. They provide training around the impact of suicide for these counsellors. They provide similar training to those who provide supervision to staff.

Chris Bowden, lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, helped Skylight develop their group programmes and supervises students who are doing Masters on the work of groups. He co facilitated the Waves adult grief education programme for many years and now conducts research on the programme and its impact. He is now researching similar programmes for children. He will also work with individual families if needed.

The Grief Centre in Auckland contracts self employed counsellors to work with bereaved adults and young people.

Offering qualified professionals internships

This is a model used by The Centre for Grief and Bereavement in Australia. Professionally qualified interns go through an accredited grief training which is run by the paid counselling team of the organization. It gives interns access to training and 80 hours of supervised individual work, and it gives the organization a stable, qualified workforce, especially as many of those trained stay on with the organization to work as volunteers.

Through the use of volunteers

This seemed to work well where volunteer numbers were small, well trained, well supervised and integrated into the team. e.g. Barnardos in Ireland.

It appeared to provide a poor experience for those receiving a service when there was an unmanageable number of volunteers who were not sufficiently trained, prepared or supported, or given appropriate work, e.g. Victim Support, where volunteers may attend the scene of death and families report poor experiences.

Setting up national Drop In Centres

This is a model used by Headspace designed to offer easy access for young people to local services. It is often run by a local lead agency that is familiar with the local area and resources.

Community Postvention Response Model

These are services specifically set up as a community response to a suicide and is their main aim and function. StandBy in Australia, the Regional Suicide Postvention Coordinators in New Zealand and the Mayo project in Ireland are all examples of this type of model.

Features of this model are:

  • a clear protocol for responding to a suicide
  • the coming together and coordinating of all responders to a suicide
  • the gathering and sharing of information in order to make a coordinated response
  • a coordinator to drive forward and coordinate the response to avoid duplication or confusion.
  • work with the local community to train and support those around the bereaved e.g. families, workplace, neighbours, community, school, local professionals
  • a standardised information pack for the bereaved
  • a clear structure that is replicable


Each organization that tries to address the needs of those bereaved by suicide has grown from different roots and has a different emphasis, and all are influenced by the level of funding they can attract. Some approach it from the angle of mental health, some are influenced by their geographical location, some have evolved into a specialised service from other more general services and some have developed an area of expertise within a specialization of working with children. The Community Postvention Response Models stand apart in being set up with the sole aim of providing postvention support, and drawing in all the different agencies and professions to provide maximum support at the grass root level. Because it has protocols and a coordinator it can respond immediately with an ever increasing knowledge and experience base. It has the capacity to provide training at different levels and support to those who respond, and because it is embedded in the community knowledge is hopefully disseminated and resilience is built up.

My Fellowship was primarily aimed at researching how children are supported within the models that have been developed in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Those who had most knowledge and experience of supporting children after a suicide were small specialist organizations undertaking direct work with children. Large national organizations felt they lacked the expertise to support children, although may have specialist counsellors or therapists who work with children to refer on to. Most interventions were aimed at adults, with the hope that it would percolate down to benefit any children in the family. More organized responses are available for schools after a death.

In New Zealand there is a worrying acknowledgement of lack of skills to support children, and lack of confidence to develop these skills. One centre said they wouldn’t know who to refer children to and that it is difficult to maintain standards as there is no solid base of training. In Ireland it appeared that better support is available for children after a suicide in organizations orientated towards children e.g. Family Centres and Barnados, where there are specialist children’s therapists. Family Centre therapists in Mayo who work in the same venue as the Suicide Liaison Officer (SLO) have agreed to prioritize suicide bereavement referrals, and the SLO is confident in their work.

As a result of my visits to a large number of different organizations I am now convinced that in developing services that support people after a suicide in the UK we need to work towards more interaction between adult and children’s services, so that the learning embedded in children’s bereavement services can be utilized by those supporting adults, to the benefit of the many children who may be part of those families but not receiving a service in their own right.

Liz Koole

Churchill Fellow 2015