The Diary of Dr. Sharon McDonnell

Aged 53 and 3/4

26th July, 2020

Dear Diary

I find this skit about Northerners travelling around London really funny.  However, joking apart, us Northerners’ are so much more than talkative and friendly.  We are innovative, creative, dare think out of the box, are able to work with very little and achieve a lot! Our warmth, compassion, friendliness and sheer determination serves us well during times of adversity.

There are many examples, of how we in the North, translate tragedies into hope, for the benefit of others.  I can relate to this, on a personal level.  For those that are not aware, I specialise in suicide bereavement research, as a direct result of losing my brother to suicide and the sense of isolation and lack of support my family were subjected to, many years ago. It is fair to say that my work is both personal and professional and my drive to make a difference for those bereaved by suicide, is second to none!

I can confidently say that we in the North are leading in the field of suicide bereavement. Here are a few examples to demonstrate this.

  • I led the research team that developed Postvention: Assisting Those Bereaved by Suicide (PABBS) evidence-based and evaluated training, which is first of its kind internationally;
  • My organisation[ is currently rolling out PABBS training nationally to address an unmet need (take a look at the testimonials);
  • We are currently developing evidence-based Emergency Services Postvention Response (ESPR) training[, which is informed by a study which has explored the experiences and perceived needs of emergency services responding to suicide and bereaved families, in several countries.  This will be first of its kind internationally;
  • I am currently leading a national suicide bereavement survey to identify the experiences and needs of those bereaved or affected by suicide (including professionals).  Over 7,000 people have participated, making it the largest suicide bereavement survey internationally.  This study is a collaboration between the University of Manchester and Support After Suicide Partnership. The whole team, including myself, have worked on this study pro-bono for four years, due to lack of funds. A report will be launched later this year. Findings will be of national and international importance;
  • I have published in this field and presented across four continents; and
  • Last but definitely not least.  I host an international suicide bereavement conference in Manchester, which is now in its 9th year.  Over 400 people from 15 countries attended last year.

So if you would like to learn more about my work, you can either visit Suicide Bereavement UK’s website or come up North and attend Suicide Bereavement UK’s annual international conference[.  Here you will receive a warm welcome, where people will say ‘hello’.  However, it comes with a warning.  If you attend once, you will want to come again – You have been warned!  I hope to see you there.

Dr. Sharon McDonnell is the Managing Director of Suicide Bereavement UK and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester

© Suicide Bereavement UK 2020