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Postvention

Postvention refers to interventions for bereaved survivors, community members, caregivers, and health care providers to destigmatize suicide, assist with the recovery process, and serve as a secondary prevention effort to minimize the risk of future suicides due to complicated grief, contagion, or unresolved trauma. The goals of postvention are to:

  • Support those impacted by the suicide
  • Identify those at risk for suicide and refer them to care
  • Reduce situations where people identify with suicide victims and model behavior
  • Provide appropriate and accurate information about the suicide

Postvention plans should be in place prior to a suicide. Then, in the event of a suicide, key stakeholders can be involved in the response, support can be evenly distributed, and efforts are concerted rather than driven by emotions. Postvention activities should normalize anger and minimize self-blame, help survivors find meaning in the victim's life, avoid providing too much information about the manner of the death, be sensitive to cultural differences regarding suicide, and should avoid glorifying, sensationalizing, or vilifying the victim.

Implementation Considerations

Grief after a suicide can cause shame and guilt in those left behind, can be traumatic for family and friends, and can have a ripple effect on communities. Considering the tight-knit nature of rural communities and their many overlapping social networks, news of a suicide can travel fast and can affect a greater percentage of residents and affect them more deeply than in urban areas. Clinicians can also be severely impacted by the suicide of a patient. Therefore, it is important that rural communities, health care organizations, and other settings such as schools have a process in place to support clinical providers, staff, and community members in the aftermath of a suicide in order to prevent future suicides.

Resources to Learn More

After a Rural Suicide: A Guide for Coordinated Community Postvention Response
Document
Supports rural counties, public health agencies, law enforcement, and suicide prevention programs in developing a formal, coordinated, locally controlled response in the aftermath of a suicide.
Organization(s): California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)
Date: 08/2016

Find a Support Group
Website
Lists virtual and in-person suicide bereavement support groups that can be filtered by location and proximity. Includes support groups both internationally and in the United States.
Organization(s): American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines
Document
Presents recommendations for developing suicide postvention plans for individuals or populations who are in contact with, care about, or are impacted by a suicide loss. Includes an overview on suicide exposure and the negative effects. Discusses the postvention needs of schools, workplaces, and organizations. Offers information on the delivery of effective crisis response services to those affected by suicide.
Organization(s): National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
Date: 04/2015