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, which is the largest suicide prevention research department internationally.  During her time at the university, 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) and first of its kind internationally.

Sharon’s research has been referred to in two parliamentary debates (Hansard, 2012, 2015) with Ministers being advised to read her research and consider her views on how those bereaved by suicide should be cared for. She has been a member of the Public Health England advisory group involved in the revised handbook ‘Help is at Hand: Support After Someone May Have Died by Suicide’ (PHE, 2015) and the ‘Support after Suicide: A Guide to providing Local Services’ document (PHE, 2016).  Sharon has received several awards for public engagement in this field.


  • 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.


  • Honorary Research Fellow, The University of Manchester.
  • Winston Churchill Fellow

Paul Higham - Finance Director

Paul Higham is the Finance Director of Suicide Bereavement UK. Prior to working for Suicide Bereavement UK he worked for British Telecom for 47 years.  Paul oversees and manages the following:

  • all financial aspects of the business
  • the delivery of the PABBS training
  • Suicide Bereavement UK’s annual international conference.


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

Andrea is a crisis intervention specialist. She works in several countries as a critical incident manager. In Germany uniformed crisis interventionsts (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. Not only largescale disasters are considered critical incidents; many calls are suicide-related. Andrea is very experienced in immediate suicide postvention. She coaches first responders and supports the bereaved during the first hours. Andrea is currently writing a book on Suicide Postvention for Hachette/JK Publishers.

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