The Development of the StandBy Response Service for those Bereaved by Suicide
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It was a real honour to meet Jill Fisher as she is recognised as one of the leaders in the field of postvention. Jill has received several accolades in recognition of her contribution to this newly developing field and include the following:
- 2011 International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) Norman Farberow award for her work in postvention; and
- 2013 Suicide Prevention Australia Leadership and Innovation Award for exceptional leadership and innovation towards making suicide prevention a higher national priority.
StandBy Response Service
Jill Fisher is the National Coordinator for the StandBy Response Service (SRS), which has been developed by United Synergies Ltd in 2002. SRS is a community-based suicide bereavement response service that provides an immediate 24 hour co-ordinated response to people/communities that are bereaved or affected by suicide. This service is currently funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and considerable donations from organisations and individuals. StandBy has been operational since 2002 and works closely with the coronial system and the police to help identify those bereaved by suicide within local communities.
United Synergies work with communities in Australia that wish to develop a StandBy site. Due to practical reasons StandBy sites are often developed in partnership with other charities that serve a particular community that is interested in developing a site (e.g. Lifeline, which is a national charity that focuses on suicide prevention). Currently, there are 17 sites across Australia.
During the early stages of developing a StandBy site, Jill Fisher and her team work closely with the local community to help them identify and enlist the support of existing government, emergency, health, and social services, charities (e.g. Lifeline, Men’s Sheds), businesses, professionals and volunteers who ‘buy in’ to the concept of creating a locally based StandBy team that will support people bereaved or affected by suicide within their community. An individual within the local community is allocated the task of leading the StandBy site once it has been developed. United Synergies provide ongoing training, mentoring and assistance to the development and maintenance of each site and the staff leading it.
Each StandBy site provides a single point of contact for those bereaved by suicide and those in their community who wish to support them. This involves co-ordinating existing services, to enable an immediate response to a family bereaved by suicide. Those bereaved are able to receive face-to-face support from a member of the StandBy crisis response team and/or can be referred to a centrally coordinated system of local support services matched to their needs.
People bereaved by suicide have a diverse range of needs, however, StandBy have identified that many have a tendency to request practical support/guidance during the very early stages of their loss, such as requiring temporary accommodation (e.g. if the person has died in their home); dealing with the media; guidance on financial issues if they are unable to afford a funeral or just help with basic tasks (e.g. sending a cooked meal to their home) or even providing paint for their home if the death has resulted in a room needing painting etc. Gill informed me that many communities/business are very receptive to supporting the bereaved families and often StandBy’s initial task is to help enable and empower members of a community to identify ways in which they might play a role in supporting the bereaved families. The above mentioned examples demonstrate how different agencies, third sector organisations and the general public can work together to support/care for those bereaved by suicide within their community. It seems the key is providing a mechanism/service such as ‘StandBy’ that enables and empowers local communities to achieve this.
In simple terms it is my understanding that StandBy help communities to support those bereaved by suicide, by
- helping a community identify what they have actually got in place to support these vulnerable people (often a community has more than they realise);
- create an environment whereby multi-agency working can take place;
- understanding and valuing the important role a community can play in supporting the bereaved;
- enlisting charities/volunteers who might be able to provide some of the more simple practical tasks;
- provide evidence based postvention training and support to those who sign up to such an initiative (i.e. government agencies, charities and volunteers); and
- develop a national organisation that effectively liaises/manages/supports such an initiative and the sites that provide this service.
I personally think one of StandBy’s biggest achievement is developing an environment where multi agencies are receptive to working together alongside the community that they serve. If we only learn how StandBy achieved this objective, it would be a step in the direction to providing future support services for those bereaved by suicide in the UK.
Click on the following link for more information about StandBy and the postvention services that they provide
I would like to thank the following people who spent a considerable amount of time with me to inform me of their role in StandBy and the issues that need to be considered when developing a new site:
- Christopher John (CEO of United Synergies);
- Jill Fisher (National StandBy Response Service Coordinator);
- Susan Vaughan (Expansion National StandBy Response Service Quality Assurance Coordinator);
- Hanna Raun National StandBy Response Service Office Administrator)
I would also like to thank Jill and her husband Kerry, for inviting me to their home for my first ever Aussie barbeque. Now I know how they are supposed to be done : – )