The Development of a Parental Suicide Bereavement Training Pack for Health Professionals




One of the key objectives of the Suicide Prevention Strategy in England is to identify the needs of those bereaved or affected by suicide. Parents are especially vulnerable, with mothers being significantly at risk themselves of dying by suicide. Whilst studies have focused on the distress health professionals’ experience when meeting bereaved families, less attention has been paid to their responses and the way these are perceived by those bereaved.  This study is unique as it focuses on the experiences, vulnerabilities and perceived needs of both parents bereaved by suicide and the health professionals responsible for their care


To develop training to guide health professionals how to support to parents bereaved by suicide.


Qualitative methods were used. Data were collected from four groups of informants: i) parents of offspring aged between 16-39 years who had died by suicide; ii) the parents’ GPs; iii) mental health professionals who have supported parents bereaved by suicide; and iv) ambulance staff who come into contact with bereaved parents. We explored parents’ experiences of contact with health professionals whilst caring for their (suicidal) child and after the child’s death and perceived barriers to access to good quality health services for parents bereaved by suicide, including those caring for siblings of the deceased child.  We investigated health professionals’ perspectives of their difficulties providing care for parents bereaved by suicide, including views of training needs.  Findings have been used to develop training to provide health professionals with knowledge, skills and a framework in which to guide them on how to respond and care for parents bereaved by suicide.


Parents described their perceived needs from health professionals at the time of, and after, the suicide. The majority of health professionals spoke openly about their vulnerabilities and perceived needs (emotional, practical and training) when caring for those bereaved by suicide.


The findings have informed the development of evidence-based training to guide health professionals on how to respond to parents bereaved by suicide.  Four pilot workshops have been delivered and evaluated.  The suicide bereavement training will be launched October, 2016.

Funding Body

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Research for Patient Benefit.

For more information contact Dr. Sharon McDonnell

Project Members

Dr. Sharon McDonnell
Principle Investigator, University of Manchester
Professor Nav Kapur
University of Manchester
Jenny Shaw
University of Manchester
Barry McGale
Western Health and Social Care NHS Trust
Shirley Smith
If U Care Share Foundation
Dr. Lis Cordingley
University of Manchester



Postvention, Assisting Those Bereaved by Suicide (PABBS) Evidence-based theory-driven suicide bereavement training to guide health professionals how to respond to parents bereaved by suicide.  Consists of a 60 page manual, workbook and nine film clips.


Foggin, E. McDonnell, S.  Cordingley, L. Kapur, N. Shaw, J. and Chew-Graham, C (In press) How do General Practitioners Deal with Parents Bereaved by Suicide?  British Journal of General Practice.