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The Development of ‘Postvention: Assisting those Bereaved by Suicide’ (PABBS) Evidence-Based Suicide Bereavement Training for Health Professionals

Status: Completed

Research Team

Dr Sharon McDonnell (Principal Investigator)1,3, Prof Carolyn A Chew-Graham2, Prof Nav Kapur3, Prof Jenny Shaw3, Barry McGale1, Shirley Smith4 and Dr Lis Cordingley5

1 Suicide Bereavement UK
2 Research Institute, Primary Care & Health Sciences, Keele University
3 Centre for Mental Health and Safety, University of Manchester
4 If U Care Share Foundation
5 Division of Musculoskeletal and Dermatology Research, University of Manchester


Those bereaved by suicide are significantly at risk of dying by suicide. Helping to reduce the suicide rate in the UK is an important focus of government strategy. Parents are especially vulnerable, with bereaved mothers significantly at risk of dying by suicide. Studies have focused on the distress health professionals experience when meeting bereaved families, however, less attention has been paid to the ways in which professionals respond to people bereaved by suicide and how these are perceived.


To develop evidence-based training to guide health professionals supporting parents bereaved by suicide.


In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with four groups of informants: i) parents whose adult child had died by suicide; ii) the GP of the parent respondent(s); 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 after the child’s death and health professionals’ perceived needs when caring for parents bereaved by suicide. The team synthesised the qualitative data, identified best evidence methods for effective knowledge and skills training, and combined these to develop stimulus training materials, videos and interactive exercises for a one-day intensive training programme.


National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Grant Number: PB-PG-011021047 from the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme (£243K)


  • Developed PABBS evidence-based suicide bereavement training
    Findings informed the development of PABBS evidence-based and evaluated suicide bereavement training, which is first of its kind internationally (includes manual, workbook and nine film clips).
  • Four articles directly associated with PABBS training have been published in academic journals.
    1. Foggin E, McDonnell S, Cordingley L, Kapur N, Shaw J and Chew-Graham CA (2016) GPs’ Experiences of Dealing with Parents Bereaved by Suicide: A Qualitative Study. British Journal of General Practice 66, e737-e746. doi:

      Read the Academic Article Read the Plain English Summary
    2. Wainwright V, Cordingley L, Chew-Graham C, Kapur N, Shaw J, Smith S, McGale B and McDonnell S (2020) Experiences of Support and Perceived Needs of Parents Bereaved by Suicide: A Qualitative Study British Journal of General Practice 70 (691) e102-e110

      Read the Academic Article Read the Plain English Summary
    3. McDonnell S, Nelson PA, Leonard S, McGale B, Chew-Graham CA, Kapur N, Shaw J, Smith S and Cordingley L (2020) Evaluation of the Impact of the PABBS Suicide Bereavement Training on Clinicians’ Knowledge and Skills: A Pilot Study Crisis

      Read the Academic Article Read the Plain English Summary
    4. Nelson PA, Cordingley L, Kapur N, Chew-Graham CA, Shaw J, Smith S, McGale B and McDonnell S (2020) We’re The First Port Of Call’ – Perspectives of Ambulance Staff on Responding to Deaths by Suicide: A Qualitative Study Frontiers in Psychology.

      Read the Academic Article Read the Plain English Summary


  • Dr Sharon McDonnell led the NIHR (RfPB) funded study, which informed the development of PABBS evidence-based suicide bereavement training. She is currently leading the national roll out of the PABBS training to help address an unmet need, with the support of Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (NIHR Greater Manchester PSTRC).

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  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE 2018) Guideline 105 ‘Preventing suicide in community and custodial settings’ LINK Publication four from the PABBS study (Foggin et. al. 2016) is cited as evidence. Dr Sharon McDonnell also provides an expert testimony, including recommendations in this document (pg. 69)



  • Public Health England (PHE, 2016) – PABBS suicide bereavement training is referred to in a document published by PHE and NHS Health Education England which lists suicide prevention training (pg. 46)



  • Invited to write an article for The Conversation entitled ‘The Mental Health Impact on Ambulance Staff of Responding to Suicide Calls’


To learn more about PABBS, CPD accredited, evidence-based and evaluated training CLICK HERE  then include this link –

For more information contact:
Dr Sharon McDonnell sharon.mcdonnell@suicidebereavementuk.com