Suicide postvention is defined as activities that are designed to reduce risk and promote healing in the aftermath of a death by suicide, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. There are a set of principles associated with suicide postvention. These postvention principles are:
- Public health problem
- Appropriate grief process
- Proper suicide prevention actions
- Suicide prevention extends to people of all ages
- Importance of cultural factors
- Importance of collaboration and communication
Public Health Problem
A key principle associated with suicide postvention is to understand that death by suicide is a public health problem. It is akin to any other type of death and should not be set apart in a manner that causes survivors of suicide loss to feel shame. As part of a suicide postvention process, it is likely that there will need to be an effort made to educate survivors of suicide loss on the fact that death by suicide is a public health problem.
Appropriate Grief Process
Another core principle associated with suicide postvention is for survivors of this type of loss to be able to undertake and experience an appropriate grief process. With this in mind, there are some facts associated with healthy grieving following a death by suicide that needs to be borne in mind:
- Each individual survivor of suicide loss will have his or her own unique grief process and experience.
- Because of the nature of being a survivor of suicide loss, the prospect exists that such a survivor may have to address a sense of shame as part of the grieving process. In fact, a person is not likely to be able to work through his or her grief until a sense of shame is addressed.
- Also as a result of the unique challenges associated with grief and suicide loss, a survivor of this type of loss may need to access professional support and assistance. This can include individual grief counseling or participation in a grief support group. In this day and age, there are even grief counselors that work specifically with survivors of suicide. Similarly, there are now grief support groups specifically geared to survivors of suicide loss.
Proper Suicide Prevention Actions
A principle that is at the heart of suicide postvention is proper associated actions. The bottom line is that the primary purpose of suicide postvention is prevention. A reality is that a notable number of survivors of suicide are at a greater risk for suicidal thoughts, ideations, and attempts in their own right.
When it comes to proper suicide prevention actions, a key objective is to know the signs of suicide. On a related note, it is important to educate others connected to a death by suicide of signs of suicide. The most commonplace signs of suicide are:
- Talking about death
- Talking about suicide
- Feelings of hopelessness
- A person believing or saying he or she is a burden
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Losing interests in activities that were once enjoyed
- Extreme mood swings
- Giving away valued possessions
- Saying goodbye to family and friends in an unusually definitive manner
Suicide Prevention Extends to People of All Ages
Another important suicide postvention core principle is an understanding that suicide prevention extends to people of all ages. For example, when a student dies by suicide, postvention efforts need to include not only young people in the deceased individual’s peer group but others as well. These include people of varying ages like:
- Other school staff members
- Parents of the deceased youth
- Other parents in the school
- Parents and others in the community more broadly
Importance of Cultural Factors
Cultural and associated factors also come into consideration in regard to suicide postvention. In the aftermath of a death by suicide, cultural and religious traditions are considerations directly associated with the deceased individual. They also come into play in regard to those people who are affected by the death of someone by suicide.
Certain cultural factors have the ability to increase the risk of suicide among survivors of suicide loss. Other risk factors that need to be recognized include:
- Family history of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- History of mental health issues, including depression
- History of alcohol or substance abuse or addiction
- Suicide contagion
Importance of Collaboration and Communication
Finally, a key suicide postvention core principle is recognizing the importance of collaboration and communication. When it comes to collaboration, access to all available resources should occur. For example, if a death by suicide involves a student, not only should resources of a school or school district be accessed but an active collaboration should take place that involves other associated community resources.
In addition, suicide postvention necessitates appropriate communication about the death itself. Appropriate communication includes being factual about the death but not in an unnecessarily detailed manner. It includes avoiding romanticizing the death of a person by suicide, among other objectives.
By understanding these core suicide postvention principles, you are in a better position of understanding how you can address the challenges associated with the death by suicide of a loved one or someone else with whom you have had some type of connection. These principles aid in better ensuring a healthier grieving process. In addition, an awareness of these key principles are vital components in lowering the risk of future suicides among people who are themselves survivors of suicide loss.