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PAPYRUS - prevention of young suicide
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Meeting the needs of families
 

These needs extend to all those who are directly involved with a suicidal person - including partners, friends and carers.

These are just some of the needs identified by families who have experienced suicide. Although in general they relate to young people, many of the issues raised are relevant to other age groups.

When coping with suicidal behaviour families need:


Emotional support

Family members are often living with the worry of suicidal behaviour on a daily basis. They need to be emotionally strong to cope with it, and to be able to respond appropriately to a range of situations which may possibly arise.

Knowledge and information about depression and anxiety.

Not everyone who feels suicidal is mentally ill. However thoughts of suicide can sometimes develop when a person is depressed or anxious. Suicidal thoughts can be very frightening. To know that others have experienced the same thing and have recovered can lessen the fear. As with everything in life, greater knowledge brings understanding and therefore better management for all concerned.
see PAPYRUS booklet: ‘Thinking of Ending It All?’

Advice on how to manage a suicidal person.

Those around the person who is feeling suicidal can be pivotal to that person's recovery.
see PAPYRUS booklet: 'Not Just a Cry for Help'
For telephone support, information and practical advice ring

HOPELineUK 0870 170 4000



Contacts who can offer support

during this very worrying time. See links pages here. Many parents have told us that when they were worried about their child they ‘didn’t know where to turn for help’. Useful advice from a sympathetic professional or from a voluntary organisation can make all the difference.

Immediate help in a crisis.

A crisis does not always happen between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday!! People need to know how they can access immediate help should a suicidal crisis occur.

Intervention when requested by the family.

Families are often in the best position to judge when things are bad. Many of the parents who are members of PAPYRUS have spoken of their 'gut feelings' prior to their child's suicide.

Fast track referral

to other professionals by GPs. When general practitioners feel that further intervention is necessary they need to be able to access appropriate services quickly.

Appropriate responses

Whilst we are constantly telling people how important it is to talk through suicidal feelings, it is equally important that those who are listening respond sympathetically in a non-judgemental or critical way. Anything which could lead to further erosion of self esteem should be avoided since it will compound the negative feelings which may have brought the person to a suicidal crisis in the first place.

Professionals who have received specific training

- including examples of good practice in suicide prevention - to enable them to deal appropriately with suicidal people.

Information about the 'patient'

from the professionals who may be involved. In a life threatening situation vital pieces of information and advice can be communicated to the family without compromising confidentiality. Information from family members (who are not bound by confidentiality issues) can often be of value to the professional in assessing the 'bigger picture'. Services need to discuss issues of confidentiality and capacity prior to it becoming a ‘hot’ issue. With young people limited confidentiality due to their safety needs / child protection issues may be in their best interests.

Information about medication.

Families and those who are ill need to know how often their medication should be taken, how long it will take to have an effect and how to recognise any adverse reactions. When adverse reactions have been reported to the doctor he/she may then consider prescribing an alternative form of treatment.

Frequent, regular contact with the same professional

It can take a long time for trust to develop between the person seeking help and the professional. People are less likely to unburden themselves to a stranger. However, if this is unavoidable links can be made between professionals and client and / or introductions made.

Another opinion

No one gets everything right ! It is good practice for both families and professionals to consult others if there is an element of doubt about diagnosis, treatment etc.

Appropriate hospital accommodation

It is desirable that young people are admitted to wards which are appropriate for their age range and/or stage of development.

GPs to be immediately advised

of an impending discharge from hospital following a suicide attempt. The first few days following discharge is a particularly risky time. Wherever possible the GP should seek a meeting to establish a relationship with the family / person who has been suicidal, so that if another crisis occurs the family knows where to go to for help.

Readily available support

to be in place at school, college, work, university etc. with links to appropriate services.
Everyone working with young people needs to be able to recognise their emotional distress, know how to support them and know which services to refer them on to.

Better communication between everyone involved.

Often several individuals or different ‘agencies’ are involved with the one person. It is vital that everyone knows what is going on. The family is an important part of this team and should be included wherever possible.


Support after a death by suicide. People who have been bereaved by suicide are themselves a group at higher risk of suicide than the general population and therefore need ongoing support. Professionals could ensure that families are aware of the bereavement support organisations in the voluntary sector e.g. SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide). Compassionate Friends, CRUSE

see our links page here.
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