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Scholar's Report

An examination of suicide postvention practices in Australia for families, communities and professionals

2012/42 - Barry McGale

This report is the findings of a scholarship to examine suicide postvention practices in Australia for families, communities and professionals. The aim of the study was to ascertain if benefits are evidenced from postvention through:


Increased awareness and understanding, both of services and of the issues assciated with suicide prevention

Increased capacity of local communities to respond to suicide

Reduced physical and mental morbidity

Greater sense of connectedness to and within communities

Improved understanding of statutory and non-statutory agencies to provide assistance and increased willingness to avail of services.

It was anticipated that patients, communities and staff would benefit from the findings of the study in the following ways:



Due to the stigma surrounding suicide families/friends are apprehensive to seek help/support. By providing an active postvention service the bereaved will be helped to normalise their grief and prevent mental health issues such as depression and complicated or prolonged grief disorder from developing at a later stage.



Communities feel ill prepared to respond to suicide and often ask what can we do to help. Look at how different communities in Australia have activated community response plans and how these can be replicated throughout the UK to empower organisations to work together and to help reduce the potential for clusters/contagion.



Suicide of a patient is one of the most destructive events in the professional life of a healthcare worker. It affects them not only on the professional level but also on an emotional very personal level.


This study will recommend protocols to ensure immediate and appropriate support is offered to all staff who have been involved with a patient who takes his/her life.


By implementing a comprehensive postvention service we can, potentially, reduce the overall suicide rate and provide necessary support to all directly or indirectly affected by it.


The scholar visited Sydney to meet Suicide Prevention Australia and view the community projects addressing suicide; the University of New England, Armidale to discuss Narrative Inquiry research methods with Professor Myfannwy Maple; Brisbane to discuss using new technology with at risk groups with Professor Graham Martin; Tewantin to shadow Ms Jill Fisher, StandBy National Coordinator for Postvention Services and finally to Mount Gambier with Ms Eve Barratt CEO Lifeline to view the Prison Listener Scheme.


The scholarship concluded with the scholar delivering a presentation at the 3rd Bi-annual Postvention conference in Sydney where he also met with Ms Susan Beaton, Lifeline National Suicide Prevention Coordinator to discuss the development of Standards and training for facilitating Bereaved by Suicide Support Groups.


The scholar’s impression is that Australia has embraced the idea of Shneidman’s assertion ‘postvention is prevention for the next generation’. The scholar’s believes that much can be learned from Australia if we in the UK : work in partnership to tackle this

major public health issue; see suicide as everyone’s business and not just the preserve of health and social care; develop new ways of encouraging people to avail of services and ultimately recognise that anyone of us could be the person who needs these services.