Training for Staff on how to Support Families of People with Mental Illness who have Died by Suicide
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SANE, Australia is a national charity that aims to help and support those who are affected by mental illness. Their Head office is based in Melbourne and was founded in 1986. Part of my Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship involved meeting Sarah Coker who is a Suicide Prevention Coordinator employed by SANE.
I was particularly interested in meeting Sarah as she has developed the ‘SANE Bereavement Guidelines’ on how to support family and friends of people with mental illness who have died by suicide http://www.sane.org/images/stories/Projects/1202_proj_bereavgl.pdf. They have been designed to help/guide services develop and implement a bereavement policy that will lead to improved support for family and friends when someone with mental illness dies by suicide. The guidelines can also be used to support family and friends when a person with mental illness is reported missing. These guidelines are endorsed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
In addition, Sarah has developed the ‘SANE Mental Illness and Bereavement Kit’ which is a training resource for agencies that support family and friends of people with mental illness who have died by suicide. A DVD is included in the kit (which includes four bereaved families describing their experiences) and a handbook which guides staff how to respond to the bereaved. The workshops have been running for five years. The Australian government has funded this initiative for the last four years. This is another example of how the UK can learn from those in Australia who specialise in postvention.
Relevance to the UK
- A similar resource is required in the UK for mental health services who come into contact with bereaved families after a patient with mental illness has died by suicide.
I would like to thank Sarah Coker for finding the time to meet me despite her busy schedule.