This toolkit aims to help senior leadership in police forces to support staff after the loss of a colleague to suicide. It may also be adapted to support staff who lose a family member or close friend outside the force to suicide.
Police officers and staff from different roles across the service, as well as membership organisations, have contributed their insights and experiences to the development of this toolkit. We have also used good practice from other sectors and organisations including the ambulance service.
- What to do: immediately
- What to do: next 48 hours
- What to do: the following weeks and months
- Managing the risk to other employees
- Supporting and attending the funeral
- Helping staff who want to ‘do something’
- Reinforce and build trust in leadership
- Getting back to ‘normal’
Section 4 - reflection and learning time
- Reviewing your postvention plan and response
Section 5 - further information and resources
Effective crisis management is the result of constant evaluation and appraisal. The same applies to suicide postvention. It is important for the senior management, at the appropriate time, to reflect on how the service responded following a suicide and what lessons can be learned and shared with others.
Reviewing your postvention plan and response
All police forces are different and the appropriate time to reflect is also likely to be influenced by the circumstances of the suicide. The timing should also be sensitive to any external investigations that may be ongoing.
This reflection should have two main aims:
- to consider whether the plan was appropriate and effective in supporting affected colleagues
- to ensure that there are suitable measures in place to effectively manage colleagues’ mental health to minimise the possibility of future suicides
It is important that this reflection takes place in an atmosphere of constructive and mutually supportive engagement, with its purpose to ensure that employees receive the support they need, and not to attribute blame at any level.
The views and experiences of employees must be central to this reflection. It might be appropriate to invite an external facilitator to oversee this process, particularly if people are still affected by the suicide.
Keep in mind that policy decisions or changes made in the near aftermath of a suicide at work should be considered carefully because it continues to be a sensitive time that may impact judgment.
Postvention plan review: key questions
- Were support resources adequate and appropriate? Were staff supported? Was there a unified response across the force?
- Was the communications process effective, consistent, and coherent?
- Were external partnerships (e.g., bereavement support partners) effective in their response?
- How quickly were activities ‘normalised’?
- Could this be improved? How can the plan be strengthened?
- Were there any system-wide issues that affected efficient implementation of the postvention plan?
- Who is responsible for implementing any recommendations following the review?
- How can learnings be shared across the force, and with other organisations and external agencies?
Learnings from this process should help inform and shape ongoing mental health and suicide prevention policy work within your force.
The circumstances that led up to the suicide may never be fully established, and it is likely that no single event precipitated the death. It might not be possible to determine the extent to which work contributed to the suicide. Despite these uncertainties, it is of paramount importance for the organisation to review the effectiveness of its policy on mental health at work.
Consideration must be given to how written policies are implemented, so any disconnect between aspiration and reality can be addressed as a priority.
Consider too how you can effectively and sensitively share your learnings with other police forces, so that practice across the country can become even more effective in supporting those in need.
The death of a colleague by suicide has a huge impact on everyone in the service, regardless of seniority. Remain mindful of this while reflecting on lessons learned. Everyone will have tried to do their utmost to support each other through a difficult time, which must be recognised by all involved.
This toolkit has been funded and co-ordinated by the National Police Wellbeing Service.
Special thanks must go to all the officers and staff who shared their experiences in order to help develop this resource. In addition, thank you to our colleagues from;