You will need to understand the scale and shape of local need for your service. In addition, placing this in the context of national priorities helps you to build your local case for support.
There are a number of resources already existing to help you make a start. SASP, The National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) and Public Health England has a range of resources designed and developed to support local areas in this task. Make sure that you consider the demographics of those affected by suicide in your area, patterns and trends in data and the geography of the region your service will cover.
Suicide bereavement support requires the input, support and collaboration of a very wide range of stakeholders. It is important to engage these partners from the very start of the planning process. There may already be a multi-agency suicide prevention group in place locally, which is the best place to begin relationship-building.
SASP and the NSPA list a comprehensive range of organisations likely to be important in your area in these guidelines. But be prepared to involve and engage partners from health, mental health, police, coroner’s office, housing, education, criminal justice, funeral services and across the spectrum of voluntary organisations.
It’s good to start as you mean to go on – in partnership with the right local stakeholders. Planning and hosting a meeting between agencies working in, or planning to work, in this area helps to further develop your case for support and ensures an agreed shared vision for the service.
Some of the key points to include at this meeting would include discussion and ideas on the governance, shape and structure of the service. Also, an exercise to agree your bespoke journey of support will help potential partners to identify their role in delivery and to agree ways of working.
Once the local context, stakeholder engagement and vision are in place, the next stage is to define the service in consultation with partners. Your service will likely be configured to address local gaps in service, complement already existing support – or indeed may be an entirely new service.
It is useful to look at existing practice and delivery elsewhere to understand the wide range of possible configurations for your service. While local need will fundamentally drive the shape of your offer, there is a community of practitioners doing this work who will be very happy to share what they’ve learned along the way.
This is a by no means exhaustive list of possible service offers, but it will hopefully give you some ideas to explore with your partners.
Establishing or expanding a suicide bereavement support service will of course require funding and investment. We will keep you informed via this hub of funding opportunities and tenders, and again, talking to existing services will give you some pointers on potential funding streams.
As well as financial support, you will need physical space for the service administration, materials, training and staff. Your partnerships and working relationships may help you to identify ways to share space and staff, at least at the outset until you are more established.
We have put together information to help you to clearly articulate the business case. This is a growing body of evidence supporting the need for bespoke support after a suicide. We will add to this case as more and more services are developed, delivered and evaluated for best practice.
Guidelines from Public Health England include a map of a potential service user journey, from the moment of initial contact through to months and even years later. We recommend that you use this as your framework and discuss the stages of support with partners.
Working with police and Coroner’s offices is essential, especially at those first crucial stages of contact and support. There are a range of resources already existing that can be given to people at the moment of bereavement so that they feel supported from the outset.
Many services have appointed a suicide bereavement support officer to specifically manage this journey. We have included a template job description for this role to help you to identify the core competencies and experience that candidates should hold.
We cannot emphasis enough the importance of consulting and involving those with lived experience in the development of your user journey, and the service itself.
Specific training in suicide bereavement support is a growing area. We will be working with providers to grow the range of training opportunities and will continue to highlight these through this hub.
We strongly recommend that professional training and practice is given to all people who will come into contact with those bereaved or affected by suicide. Understanding the distinct nature of suicide bereavement is key to reducing risk in bereaved people.
A pilot phase of activity will give you an opportunity to test what you have put in place; your delivery model, your networks and partnerships, your responsiveness and your user satisfaction. Any pilot activity should be evaluated thoroughly before making decisions on the future shape of the service.
Putting in place regular review points with your governance or steering groups will help you to strengthen the case for expansion and further development or redefining of the service. Again, seeking input and feedback from those using the service and those with lived experience of suicide bereavement is essential. You can ask:
A 12-step evaluation process has been developed by the NSPA and Public Health England, offering a detailed look at how services have been using evaluation and monitoring to constantly improve and develop their offer.
Evaluation, and sharing your learnings, will help us to develop the growing body of evidence on what works, and we invite you to stay in touch with SASP to help us to build a community of excellent practice in suicide bereavement support.