Personal experience

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NSPA members work in partnership across society. Below are examples of their work with people with personal experience of suicide.


      1. Designing support services with autistic people
      2. Finding the Words
      3. Gloucester Cathedral – a day of remembrance and celebration
      4. Helping young people bereaved by suicide R.O.A.R
      5. Mind’s Blue Light Programme – Sam's story: Run4Ray
      6. #Thisismyhand and the Blue Light Programme
      7. Working with Funeral Directors to support families bereaved by suicide

Designing support services with autistic people

NSPA members: Samaritans and Autistica

Autistica are funding one of the first studies in the world to find out why autistic people are more likely to die by suicide than non-autistic people and to find ways to better support them.

Samaritans and Autistica are working together to make support more accessible for autistic people. In August, Autistica connected Samaritans with autistic people who have experienced suicidal thoughts to help them design a new online self-help tool. The Samaritans team are now reviewing the results to see what a prototype service could look like.

Samaritans are exploring new ways to support people struggling with suicidal thoughts who may not be able to, or may not wish to, discuss them with a Samaritans volunteer.

You can read about Autistica’s research and campaigning on suicide prevention on their website:

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Finding the Words

NSPA members: Meadows Communications and Support After Suicide Partnership

Partners: Judi Meadows Memorial Trust, UCL Division of Psychiatry, Maxine Roper, Medical Research Council (MRC)

Medical Research Council-funded research undertaken at the University College London (UCL) found that people bereaved by suicide often encounter extreme social awkwardness among peers and colleagues, leaving them feeling stigmatised and unsupported.

The Judi Meadows Memorial Trust decided to co-produce a lay guide called Finding the Words to explain how to support someone bereaved by suicide, targeting anyone who knew someone who had lost a friend or relative to suicide.

The guide includes advice on what to say or do to help after a suicide loss, using illustrative quotes from the UCL research work with people bereaved by suicide, and the experiences of a co-author with personal experience of suicide loss. The guide has been recommended by organisations such as the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, the McPin Foundation, The Alliance of Suicide Prevention Charities, and the Bereavement Alliance. It has now been distributed to all Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) practitioners at Outlook South West (Cornwall), all Waller Trainers at the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, and all headteachers at the annual conference of the Junior School Collaboration. It is being sent out to Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust staff in their post-suicide packs, and to Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust senior nurses to use as part of their post-suicide response.

“I am a great fan of this document, it is excellent and very necessary.  A year or so ago I was working with a bereaved family and one of the sisters of the man who died asked me if there was any guidance for those supporting the bereaved. Her husband was finding it hard to know how to support her. I emailed her this via her mother when it came out and I am sure her family and many others will greatly benefit.”

Karen Lascelles, Nurse Consultant in Suicide Prevention at Oxford Health NHS Trust

This project addresses one of the two objectives of the suicide prevention strategy for England - improving support for people bereaved by suicide – and benefits a newly-identified at-risk group for suicide. It is hoped that educating the public in this way will improve the support available to people bereaved by suicide, reduce the stigma they experience, and buffer the negative impact of suicide bereavement on mental health and suicide risk.

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Gloucester Cathedral – a day of remembrance and celebration

NSPA member: Gloucestershire County Council

Partners: the Gloucester branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, Gloucester Cathedral, 2gether NHS Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund, Cruse, Samaritans, Gloucestershire Police, and local mental health charity Lifting the Blues.

“They’ve pulled together an extraordinary event which provided perspectives, insight, celebration, inspiration, testimony, comfort and support all surrounded by the most glorious uplifting words and music…. All of that combined to form a second treasured moment in my journey of healing.”

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day 2017, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) worked with the Gloucester branch of Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), the Heritage Lottery Fund and Gloucester Cathedral to hold a service to celebrate the lives of those lost to suicide, the support received by those bereaved, and those who work to prevent suicide.

The service included readings from those bereaved and a piece of music composed by a local young man who died by suicide. Two choirs from 2gether NHS Trust and Gloucestershire Police led hymns, with Lifting the Blues supporting performances by Kyla Brox.

A memorial wall was erected on the day to allow people to display photographs and memories of their loved ones. Volunteers from organisations including Samaritans and Cruse attended the event to form a ‘support team’ on hand for those who needed it.

Alongside the service, the Cathedral also launched a display of artwork by students of Creative Connections, a project by Gloucester Cathedral and GCC's Adult Education Service, supporting adults in recovery and managing mental illness.
The service was an important part of GCCs work to improve postvention support and, alongside the art project, affirmed the Cathedral as a place of solace for people affected by mental illness and suicide.

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Helping young people bereaved by suicide R.O.A.R

NSPA member: Mind in Taunton and West Somerset

Partners:  Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support Service, Somerset Public Health, Cruse, and Samaritans.

Set up in 2012, the Somerset Suicide Bereavement Support Service offers emotional and practical support to people bereaved by suicide. It is funded by Somerset Public Health and run by Mind in Taunton and West Somerset in partnership with Cruse and Samaritans. Following the success of an adult peer support group, and an increase in demand from young people, the service has developed a new peer support group for young people aged 14 years and over.

The support group is called R.O.A.R. – Relax. Open. Accept. Receive. The intention is to provide a safe, facilitated space for young people to share their experiences and seek help and support from others who understand the traumatic grief they may be experiencing. The group uses creative tools and is based around a six-week rolling programme covering topics such as: self-esteem, memories, funeral process, coping with grief, and further support. The group is facilitated by an experienced young people’s suicide bereavement support worker and young people with personal experience who have been trained in group work. The young people meet staff before attending R.O.A.R. to gauge their suitability for a group environment.
The group is in its early stages of development and it will be monitored with its impact evaluated. Further details can be found on their website.

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Mind’s Blue Light Programme – Sam's story: Run4Ray

NSPA member: Mind

Partners: Blue Light Programme, Run4Ray

"It’s Monday 1st May 2017, it’s 6am and I’m about to finish my last night shift of the set. Here I am though, sat in our briefing room with all of my team after being summoned by our guv’nor. He walks in with the Sergeants, all with a pained look on their faces. He stands at the front and delivers the news that will rock the world of every officer there - our colleague, no, our friend, PC Ray Thwaites had the evening before lost his battle with mental health. 

"First there’s silence, then there’s tears. Complete shock. How can that be. He’d returned to work just last week and seemed to be doing well. I went home, numbness took over me. We go to those kind of calls, but surely it shouldn’t happen to one of our own!

"Sunday 25th February 2018 at around midday, and I’m about to finish the Brighton Half Marathon. I’ve been raising money for Mind and the Blue Light Programme along with over 30 of my team. We lost Ray, it’s been tough, but as a team we pulled together. We wanted to do something positive. We wanted to keep Ray's memory alive. We want to make sure that no family, be it blood or work, have to ever go through what us and Ray's wife and sons have been through since that day."

Sam, part of the Run4Ray team

Mind's emergency services save lives every day. Their Blue Light Programme is there to support people with their mental health. Visit for more information.

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#Thisismyhand and the Blue Light Programme

NSPA member: Mind

Partners: #Thisismyhand, Blue Light Programme, and Oxfordshire Mind

#thisismyhand is a simple message of support, that was shared across the emergency services after the loss of two colleagues in 2016. What started as a simple gesture evolved into a campaign which is still going strong today. Last year I hosted a mental health awareness day, which brought staff together from across the services and included a presentation from Oxfordshire Mind on our local service and the Blue Light Programme. Following this day, four of us walked 136 miles through Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire raising more awareness and culminating in a joint service ‘final leg’ with 75 colleagues finishing the charity walk in Didcot where we held an emergency service open day. I continue to support the work of Mind and I’m currently working on projects for next year.

#thisismyhand has shown me how important it is to work together and show everyone that it’s ok to talk about mental health, it’s ok to get help with mental health. No matter how dark it may seem, how hopeless and lost you feel, there will always be someone who can help, so reach out, tell someone and never feel alone.

Rob, #thisismyhand

Find out more about #Thisismyhand at and the Blue Light Programme support for emergency services here.

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Working with Funeral Directors to support families bereaved by suicide

NSPA member: Support after Suicide Partnership

Partner: Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors

“I was so unaware of how many people are impacted by just one such death and I have never stopped to think about the extra burden that a family may feel in these circumstances. If you can ever be prepared for this - at least this initiative will help the industry be more aware - thank you.”

Carolyn Woolcock, Funeral Administrator

The Support after Suicide Partnership (SASP) has developed a strong relationship with the Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), to improve the support families receive when they visit a SAIF funeral home. Together, they have worked to:

  • Ensure funeral directors across SAIF’s 1,500 branches are aware of the resources Help is at Hand and Finding the Words, their importance for families, and where they can get copies.
  • Raise awareness of the SASP, through an article in INSIGHT magazine, blogs, and a webinar that was circulated to all 870 members.
  • Understand and address the challenges funeral directors face with suicide.
  • Collaborate on submitting evidence to the Scottish Government’s new Suicide Prevention Action Plan in March 2018.

There has been a positive response from members of SAIF, and they have made a direct impact on the families who arrange their funerals through them. The funeral homes all have access to Help is at Hand, and information and support. SASP has also begun a culture of staff looking after each other when working with a family bereaved by suicide. Funeral directors are often longstanding members of their local communities and have excellent local knowledge and relationships. SASP has used these connections to help families, suggesting funeral directors may want to have an arrangement with local childcare centres, schools, police, and businesses, to help a family deal with bereavement in whatever way they need.

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The NSPA would like to give particular thanks to the staff of their members Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Kidscape, Mind, PAPYRUS, Rethink, Samaritans, STORM Skills Training, and Thrive London for their time and effort as part of the World Suicide Prevention Day 2018 working group.