‘No need’ for extra bereavement services

THERE is no need for the development of specialist supports for families bereaved by suicide outside of general bereavement services, a report prepared for the National Office for Suicide Prevention says.

Consultants commissioned by the office said it was inconclusive whether support for suicide bereavement was different to other kinds of bereavement support and concluded: “A separate, standalone, suicide-specific bereavement support service should not be established at this time.

“A bereavement support service should not necessarily put an emphasis on the type of death but rather concentrate on the bereaved person and the consequences of their loss,” they said.

“The appropriate development path is to enhance and strengthen existing general bereavement support structures.” However, they said existing suicide bereavement services should continue to be supported.

The report, by Petrus Consulting in association with St Vincent’s Hospital and University College Dublin, reviewed all bereavement support services throughout the country and found many were working in isolation and almost entirely reliant on volunteers, one in five of whom had no training and no supervision.

A total of 277 services responded in whole or part to the researchers’ questionnaires, and between them in a year they dealt with about 5,200 individuals and families bereaved by suicide and more than 19,000 individuals and families who had suffered other bereavements.

Their services ranged from free information provision, telephone helplines and peer group support to paid-for counselling and psychotherapy, but a little more than half classified themselves as self-help or community support groups.

They expressed concern about the lack of training and supervision in some groups and said a standardised national qualification in bereavement support should be developed in conjunction with HETAC or the National University of Ireland.

They also said supervision should be mandatory.

“Critically, those wishing to establish or join a group should be carefully assessed for suitability, particularly where they themselves have been bereaved by suicide in view of the potential for traumatisation.”

Derek Chambers, research and resource officer at the office, said the report would be discussed with representatives from 100 bereavement groups at a meeting on May 1.

“We want to find out what they think and what is workable,” he said. “You have to respect the community initiatives and the way they respond to local needs. At the same time, if there was more of a structure for them, it could assist with training and help them to look after themselves.”

A separate open forum on suicide prevention is taking place in Dublin on April 9 with a focus on the practical things communities can do to respond to suicide.

* Anyone interested is asked to register with NOSP at nospforum@gmail.com by Wednesday.

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