Meet the team

Dr. Sharon McDonnell - Managing Director

Dr Sharon McDonnell is the Managing Director of Suicide Bereavement UK. She has specialised in suicide bereavement for 16 years and is considered to be one of the leading researchers in this field in the UK.

University of Manchester Research Profile

Prior to setting up Suicide Bereavement UK, Sharon worked at the Centre for Mental Health and Safety at the University of Manchester, for 16 years, which is the largest suicide prevention research department internationally.  During this time, Sharon and her research team developed evidence-based parental suicide bereavement training entitled ‘Postvention Assisting those Bereaved by Suicide’ (PABBS) which was informed by a four year study funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Research for Patient Benefit Programme and first of its kind internationally.  Sharon is currently leading a national suicide bereavement survey, which is a collaboration between the University of Manchester and Support After Suicide Partnership.


  • 2006   PhD  entitled ‘ Identifying the Experiences of Parents Bereaved by Suicide or Undetermined Death: University of Manchester.
  • 1998   BSc  1st class Hons in Psychology. University of Bolton.


  • Sharon hosts an annual international suicide bereavement conference, over 400 attendees, representing nine countries attend;
  • Translated research findings into evidence-based suicide bereavement training, which is first of its kind internationally;
  • A publication directly associated with the PABBS suicide bereavement training was used as evidence for NICE suicide prevention guidelines (NICE 2018);
  • Provided expert testimony to NICE committee, developing suicide prevention guidelines in community and custodial settings (NICE, 2018);
  • PABBS suicide bereavement training is referenced in document entitled ‘Mental Health Promotion and Prevention Training Programmes’, published by PHE in collaboration with NHS Health Education (PHE, 2016);
  • Sharon’s research has been referred to in several parliamentary debates (Hansard, 2012, 2015 and 2017) with Ministers being advised to read her research and consider her views on how those bereaved by suicide should be cared for;
  • She was a member of  the Public Health England advisory group involved in the revised handbook entitled ‘Help is at Hand: Support After Someone May Have Died by Suicide’ (PHE, 2015); 
  • Member of the advisory board of the following documents :  ‘Support after Suicide: A Guide to providing Local Services’ document (NSPA, 2016) and  ‘Support After a Suicide: Evaluating Local Bereavement Support Services’ (NSPA, 2016);
  • Sharon has received several awards for public engagement and social responsibility for her work in postvention.  These include:
    • Investing in Success, Awarded by the President of The University of Manchester (2012);
    • Nominated to represent the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences at the University of Manchester (Public Engagement) category  of the Greater Manchester Clinical Trials Awards (runner up) (2015);
    • Volunteer of the Year, staff category, (2nd place) The University of Manchester (2018); and
    • Several commended certificates for public engagement and social responsibility (2015, 2016,2018).


  • Winston Churchill Fellow (2013);
  • Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Manchester;
  • Member of the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP) Specialist Interest Group, developing international postvention guidelines;
  • Member of the All Party Parliamentary Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Group
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation; and
  • Volunteer at Gtr Mcr Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) group.

Paul Higham - Co-Founder and Director of SBUK

Paul Higham is a Co-Founder, a Director and the backbone of Suicide Bereavement UK. From planning and organising the annual International SBUK Conference, attended by over 500 delegates and speakers to overseeing the daily PABBS training sessions, Paul is front and centre of all the SBUK has to offer. He is often the first point of contact for Trusts, Charities and individuals wishing to access SBUK services.
Paul developed his project management skills during his 47 years with British Telecom. As the UK Lead for the roll out of Fibre technology, Paul developed local strategic plans, overseeing their successful application nationally. While Newsites Manager for the North West, Paul was responsible for several teams, keeping the team motivated and organised, all skills that he uses everyday with the SBUK team.
When Paul isn’t looking after the day to day running of SBUK he can often be found trying out his new social media skills on SBUK’s website, Twitter or Facebook page, or representing SBUK at conferences and events across the world.


Barry McGale - Senior Suicide Prevention Consultant and Trainer

Barry McGale is a Registered Mental  Health Nurse,  Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, recently retired Suicide Liaison Officer and Suicide Prevention Trainer. Barry was responsible for setting up the first NHS postvention service in Northern Ireland and this model is currently being replicated throughout the UK. He is recognised as a leader in this field and has received several national and international awards reflecting this.  His most recent award was in 2016. He was the recipient of the American Association of Suicidology, Roger J Tierney Award for services to suicide prevention. He is the first non American to receive this award.

He is one of the authors of the Postvention: Assisting Those Bereaved by Suicide (PABBS)  training, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). 

Barry is currently an Executive Director with the National Suicide Research Foundation, Ireland, former Director of the Irish Association of Suicidology, Member of the Advisory board for ‘Cycle Against Suicide’ member of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) and Senior Coaching Trainer with Living Works, Canada. He has a wide experience of delivering training nationally and internationally.


  • RMN
  • CBT therapist


  • Florence Nightingale Fellow
  • LivingWorks, Canada

Liz Koole - Suicide Bereavement Practitioner, Trainer and Consultant

Liz specialises in working with children and their families following a bereavement by suicide and has 12 years supervised experience in this specialist field. Liz undertakes both individual and family work and has for many years run residential groups for parents and children bereaved by suicide. She is a very experienced trainer on all aspects of bereavement relating to children and their families, and has been a keynote speaker at a number of conferences on suicide, both nationally and internationally. She is a member of the Support after Suicide Partnership and attends meetings of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance.

In 2015 Liz was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to research services for families bereaved by suicide in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. As part of the project she visited a range of services that specialise in support after suicide, child bereavement and mental health, and met with researchers in the field of suicide bereavement.

Liz is a registered social worker, with extensive experience in children and families, children with disabilities and in paediatric oncology. She worked for the child bereavement charity Winston’s Wish for 12 years as a Senior Practitioner, Family Services Manager and then National Team Lead, specialising in bereavement by suicide, homicide and military deaths.


  • B.A. 1st class Hons in Anthropology, Sociology & Theology. Durham University
  • M.Sc.  Applied Social Studies. Oxford University
  • C.Q.S.W. Social Work qualification. Oxford University
  • Post Graduate Cert in Family Therapy. Institute of Family Therapy & Birkbeck College. London University.


  • Winston Churchill Fellow

Andrea Walraven-Thissen - Critical Incident Manager, Trainer and Consultant

Andrea is based in Germany and is a crisis intervention specialist and leads Suicide Bereavement UK’s crisis support service.  She has a very specialised and unique skill set, developed over more than 20 years, which involves working with and/or advising emergency services, when a critical incident occurs.  She is considered to be a leader in her field and as a direct result is due to publish a book, via Hachette/JK Publishers, entitled ‘What to Do after Suicide: A Guide to Suicide Postvention’, which will guide emergency services, how to respond to those bereaved by suicide.
Andrea’s wealth of experience, involves working in several countries as a critical incident manager. In Germany uniformed crisis interventionists (PSNV) are available 24/7 and get dispatched immediately when cases are considered critical incidents. They offer psychosocial support to first responders and civilians. Andrea trains and supervises colleagues. Andrea is very experienced in immediate suicide postvention.  She coaches first responders and supports the bereaved during the first hours.


  • 1997 Registered Psychiatric Nurse
  • Certified in several areas of Stress and Trauma Care with Military Application

Specific Skill Set

  • Approved international trainer in
    • Strategic Critical Incident Management;
    • Critical Incident Stress Management; and
    • Immediate Suicide Postvention
  • Lecturer at first responder and police academies and national crisis academies in several countries;
  • Keynote Speaker
  • Fluent in English, German and Dutch


Dzmitry Karpuk - Trauma Psychotherapist, Trainer and Consultant

Dzmitry Karpuk is registered with the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (AFT) and UK council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). He has specialised in trauma recovery psychotherapy for adults, children and families for over 20 years. He has considerable experience of working with vulnerable high risk populations, including those bereaved by suicide, refugees and asylum seekers.  His particular interests include supporting professionals working with traumatised and vulnerable clients, burnout and secondary trauma impact on professionals.   Dzmitry has significant experience of delivering trauma related training to various professions both nationally and internationally. Dzmitry is also a volunteer Family Therapist at the Leeds Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) Service since January 2014.  Dzmitry, in currently involved in research, which focusses on dreams and sleep disturbances at the University of York, He is also a trainer and team member of Blake Emergency Services, which involves emergency response planning to emergency situations which might involve mass fatalities.


  • MSc, Systemic Family Therapy, University of Leeds
  • PG Cert, Systemic Practitioner, University of Leeds
  • B.Sc./MSc, Family Counselling Psychologist, Belarus State Pedagogical University
  • BA, General Nurse, Minsk State Medical College, Belarus


  • Blake emergency services

Angela Samata - Lived Experience Advisor, Trainer & Creative Consultant

Angela Samata is a freelance Arts professional and has experience working in the field of mental health, suicide prevention and postvention. Angela’s unique skillset enables her to combine disciplines, to help raise awareness, reduce stigma, influence policy and practice. In 2018 Angela completed a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship  visiting, USA and Japan focusing on mental health and art.  She provides consultancy in suicide prevention and postvention.
Angela has personally been bereaved by suicide and represents the views of those bereaved by suicide, using various mediums. Examples include, Chair for four years, and now Ambassador, of the Survivors of the Bereaved by Suicide (SOBS), a nationwide charity offering a unique and distinct free service with online, face to face and telephone support to bereaved adults across the UK.


  • 1998 Bsc (Hons) Psychology with Geography and Astronomy. University of Chester
  • 2016  Masters in Art History and Curating. Liverpool Hope University

Specific Skill Set

  • Angela presented the BBC1 Factual TV documentary, ‘Life After Suicide’, which explored the experiences of those bereaved by suicide. The documentary was aired as part of the BBC’s Mental Health Season  #InTheMind and was watched world-wide by over 4.5 million viewers
  • Co-author of the NHS70 Parliamentary Award winning #SeeSaySignpost training, which has to date been accessed by 110,000 people globally.
  • Keynote speaker


  • BBC1 BAFTA nominated and winner of the Mind Media Award for Best Factual TV doc-umentary, ‘Life After Suicide’
  • Merseyside Woman of the Year 2016


  • Honorary Fellow, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Winston Churchill Fellow (2018)
  • Member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention
  • Ambassador of  Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) charity

Maria Roberts - Business Consultant

Maria is a is an experienced Analyst, Business Consultant, Project/Programme Manager, trainer and keynote speaker.  She also has an interest in diagramming , and has published in this field. She is a dedicated Public Servant, having worked for Salford City Council for over 16 years.  Maria  has been personally bereaved by suicide.
She is currently leading a research project in Salford gathering people’s personal experiences of being suicidal and loss from suicide.  This in-depth study seeks to advance understanding of the challenges and experiences people they have faced, to help inform and improve services in this field, within the city. This study is first of its kind in Greater Manchester.  
Maria currently sits on the Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention Advisory Group.  She has also taken part in the public consultation of the Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention Strategy and Action Plan. 


• 2000 - 1st Class (Honours) BSc Business Information Systems, University of Salford


• Consultant to Salford Clinical Commissioning Group
• Member of the Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention Advisory Board


Maria has presented her experience of being personally bereaved by suicide 
• to the Salford Clinical Commissioning Group in the form of a timeline and ‘rich picture’ which led to her involvement in the development of Salford’s Suicide Strategy and Action Plan. 
• and has helped to inform the basis of the development of the Postvention Pathway for Greater Manchester – a multi-agency pathway for the Rapid Response Team led by the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
• She has since consulted with the CCG on their Suicide PreventionAction Plan and as a direct result of her involvement, her recommendation to provide specific suicide bereavement support service within the city was actioned and the service has been developed.

Dr Pauline Nelson - Research and Publication Lead

Dr Pauline Nelson is a researcher in the organisation and delivery of health and social care services. She has over 12 years’ experience of bringing to light the perspectives of service users, carers, health professionals, service managers and policy makers about their experiences of receiving/delivering care. She has 40 publications spanning a range of international academic journals (health services/policy; psychology; medicine; primary care; nursing) and between 2015 and 2019 was Section Editor for Qualitative Research at the British Journal of Dermatology with a particular focus on the emotional and social impact of living with long-term skin conditions. She has a personal interest in improving support for those bereaved by suicide and is a key writer on several academic papers and reports related to the evidence-based ‘Postvention Assisting those Bereaved by Suicide’ (PABBS) training:

  • Nelson PA, Cordingley L, Kapur N, Chew-Graham CA, Shaw J,  Smith S, McGale B, McDonnell S. (2020) ‘We’re the first port of call’ – Perspectives of ambulance staff on responding to a deaths by suicide: A qualitative study Frontiers in Psychology
  • McDonnell S, Nelson PA, Leonard S, McGale B, Chew-Graham CA, Kapur N, Shaw J, Smith S, Cordingley L (2020) Evaluation of the impact of the PABBS Suicide Bereavement Training on clinicians’ knowledge and skills:  A pilot study Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention
  • Nelson PA, McDonnell S & Walraven-Thissen A (2019) South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw Integrated Care System Suicide Prevention Programme: Developing a South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw Approach to Bereavement by Suicide Workshop Report  Suicide Bereavement UK


  • 2010      PhD: ‘Parents’ Experiences of Children’s Treatment for Cleft Lip and Palate’ (University of Manchester)
  • 1988      Diploma in Careers Counselling (Manchester Polytechnic)                                                            
  • 1987       B.A. (Hons) French Studies 2:i (University of Manchester)