109.For every person who ends their life by suicide, a “minimum of six people will suffer a severe impact”; people bereaved by suicide are 65% more likely to go on to take their own life. The estimated total cost to the economy of each suicide is £1.67 million, and “60% of the cost of each suicide is attributed to the impact on the lives of those bereaved by suicide”. It is therefore appropriate that ‘providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide’ was a key area for action within the Government’s 2012 suicide prevention strategy.
110.However, as the Government admits in the third progress report on the strategy,
Delivery in this area has not progressed enough to ensure that there are good quality and consistent suicide bereavement services in every area across the country. Unfortunately, those bereaved by suicide tell us they do not always receive the support and help they need and this must be addressed.
111.We agree. We also note the importance of the timeliness of support for the bereaved by suicide. The Government reports that it continues to “provide funding to support the dissemination of the Help is at Hand guide, which was commissioned by Public Health England and refreshed in 2015 and provides valuable and compassionate guidance and advice to people bereaved by suicide.” We are pleased that the Government has committed to continuing to fund Help is at Hand, but, as we were told in written evidence, “we are a long way from having effective dissemination, which would ensure that everyone affected receives a copy, as part of a support service across all parts of the country”.
112.A dissemination plan is being developed by the Support after Suicide Partnership which aims to include coroners, funeral directors, the police, and health professionals. However, as we were told in written evidence,
The only way that dissemination will be effective is when all parts of the country have a support service, which requires the police/coroners/others to provide this resource to every family within a maximum of 48 hours, as part of a fully integrated, local support service.
113.As we recognised in our interim report, there are examples of excellent support services for people bereaved by suicide, including If U Care Share in the North East, CHUMS in Bedfordshire, AMPARO in Liverpool and SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide). However there is little funding for these services: most are charitable organisations funded by donation.
114.We recommend that ensuring high quality support for all those bereaved by suicide should be included in all local authorities’ suicide prevention plans. Bereavement support should be a key criterion on which local authorities’ plans are quality assured.
115.We recommend that those bereaved by suicide should receive a copy of ‘Help is at Hand’ within a maximum of 48 hours, but where possible when contact is first made with the family/friends of the deceased individual. Further support, including information about counselling but also support for the practical problems that bereaved individuals will face (including coroners’ inquests and incident reviews), should be offered as soon as is practicable. The next of kin should have access to a victim liaison officer to support them through the inquest.
93 Association of Directors of Public Health (SPR0049)
94 Q430 [Hamish Elvidge]
95 paragraph 115
96 paragraph 113
97 The Matthew Elvidge Trust (SPR0172), paragraph 2.2
98 The Matthew Elvidge Trust (SPR0172), paragraph 2.2