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Emergency Services Postvention Response Study

Status: Current

Research Team

Dr Sharon McDonnell1 (Principal Investigator) and Andrea Walraven-Thissen1

1 Suicide Bereavement UK


Over 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide annually. In most countries first responders (e.g. police, ambulance and fire services personnel) attend such deaths, coming into contact with those bereaved by suicide. The experiences and perceived needs of first responders when responding to (suspected) suicides are absent from the literature. Consequently, little is known about the perspectives of front-line staff exposed to fatal and near fatal suicide events in the course of their work, and whether they feel equipped to respond to bereaved individuals at the place of death.

Research question

What are the experiences and perceived needs of front-line emergency services staff when responding to a suspected suicide and can we develop training to meet these needs?

Aims and objectives

  • To understand more about the experiences and perceived needs of emergency services personnel when responding to a suspected suicide
  • To identify the experiences and perceived needs of staff when dealing with those bereaved or affected by suicide at the place of death
  • To establish emergency services staff needs (both met and unmet) when responding to a suspected suicide
  • To translate key findings into evidence-based emergency services suicide bereavement training to increase resilience and confidence amongst first responders who respond to such deaths


Research participants are male and female front-line emergency services staff, (e.g. police, ambulance, fire, air and sea rescue and coroner’s office staff) from various ranks and roles who have responded to a suspected suicide. Participants are aged 18 or over and work in one of the following countries: UK, Jersey, Holland and Germany. Qualitative interviews are being conducted and transcribed in English. Findings will inform the development of evidence-based Emergency Services Postvention Response (ESPR) training, which will be first of its kind internationally.

Recruitment phase

Currently recruiting in the UK and Holland. We will recruit in Germany and Jersey in 2021.

For more information contact: 

Dr Sharon McDonnell 

Email: sharon.mcdonnell@suicidebereavementuk.com