Does your community have a postvention plan in place?
A postvention plan is how a community begins to heal when a tragedy, such as a suicide, occurs. Having a postvention plan in place will help community members act quickly to support grieving family an friends.
Key components of a postvention plan includes understanding safe messaging, key members of the crisis intervention team, healing, and more.
When the unthinkable happens
After a suicide occurs, it is critical to have a care support team and a crisis response team available to step in as their training has taught them. The team should consist of local people plus trained professionals, even if they are outside of the community. The team should identify others who may be at risk and have trained Gatekeepers on standby to respond. Talking circles needs to be held so that family and community members can being to process what had happened. The team should help arrange for private funeral services. Any memorials should be done in private so as to limit the suicide ideation in others who are also experiencing suicidal thoughts. Then it is important to begin the healing process by seeking spiritual guidance. It is best to avoid any public announcements on Facebook or the VHF. This news should be shared privately in order to avoid clusters from occurring.
Survivors of a loss to suicide, victims of crime, and any at risk individuals need to know about suicide prevention resources and how to participate in efforts that support their own healing. Wellness Ambassadors can focus on providing access to tools to support those most impacted by a loss with an emphasis on natural organic responses within the community. This could include a Survivors’ Support Group or finding ways to incorporate cultural traditions to help survivors share their experiences and support long term healing. Rural villagers have a strong sense of community and have a strong ability to take care of each other. Postvention is a natural method of caring that is already informally being done. However, through a more formal Survivors’ Support Group educational resources, such as the Alaska Suicide Postvention Guide, can be distributed more easily.
Building a Postvention Plan
There are other task forces, coalitions, and wellness committees around the state and in your region that can help you to get started on your postvention plan. Be sure to contact your closest suicide prevention group when you start postvention planning. Not sure how to find it? Call the statewide suicide prevention coordinator, 907-465-3370.
The Alaska Suicide Postvention Guides suggests the following.
The plan should include ways to:
- identify vulnerable individuals at risk of suicide contagion and connect them to needed services;
- give accurate information about suicide;
- provide ongoing healing activities;
- help people:
- frame their thoughts about the suicide so they see suicide as NOT normal or acceptable, but something they CAN talk about
- feel comfortable talking about their feelings and seeking help.
A postvention plan might include healing activities such as:
- offering grief counseling for families and close friends;
- debriefing with first responders such as health aides and police;
- teaching people how to talk about suicide safely;
- coordinating support from local faith communities, and organizing talking circles at schools, churches or community centers with a moderator who understands how to talk about suicide safely.
These can happen at work, school, church… anywhere people gather.
- Statewide Suicide Prevention Coordinator, 907-465-3370
- Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, 888-464-8920
- Alaska Suicide Postvention Guide
- Alaska 2-1-1 is a free and confidential line that connects people with community resources, like emergency food and shelter, disability services, counseling, senior services, healthcare, child care, drug and alcohol programs, legal assistance, transportation needs, educational opportunities, and much more. Dialing 211 is your first step toward solving everyday problems or when you face difficult times. The website, www.alaska211.org, is available 24/7; the call center is open 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Alaska 2-1-1 is a service of the United Way of Alaska.