Certified Interfaith Pastoral Counseling, Coaching and Trauma Relief Service

People easily understand the need to provide comfort and support to family and friends after the suicide of a loved one.  But they may not realize how many others are affected by that death…or for how long afterward.  In this talk, Ken Norton discusses the role of “postvention” not only as a response to what has happened, but also as protection against and preparation for what could happen. Mr. Norton describes how a community can come together to keep its members safe.

Transcript of SPARK Talk on “Suicide Postvention as Suicide Prevention” Speaker: Ken Norton, LICSW, Executive Director of NAMI New Hampshire 

I’m here to talk about postvention as part of suicide prevention planning and postvention is a not so user-friendly term, but what it means is responding or being prepared to respond in a way that’s helpful after a suicide death. And the goal of postvention is to promote healing and reduce risk after there’s been a suicide. And that’s a really important piece because one of the things that we know is that one of the highest risk factors for suicide is when we know somebody who’s died by suicide so after there’s been a suicide death of someone we know, statistically we become at higher risk for suicide. One important consideration for responding after a suicide death is cultural issues and it’s particularly important given the, the relationship of cultural and religious issues to death and ah and they can be very different for different cultures and understanding them and having sensitivity to that is a really key component of suicide postvention efforts. 

Suicide death is the proverbial pebble in the pond. And it’s important to have an effective response that treats the immediate first wave that impacts on family and friends as well as working around those ripples that flow out from there into the community and into the larger society and how that might impact through media and social media. Particularly for young people we can see that um situations where um how that person is memorialized may lead to suicide contagion, and contagion is a term that’s used for when several suicides occur or suicide attempts occur after a suicide death. 

One of the areas where the research is very strong is, around how the media reports on suicide and the media can reduce risk or they can increase risk and contribute to contagion if they glamorize suicide, they report it repeatedly, they go into graphic details about the suicide death. And so this becomes a little bit more complicated, but allowing families to memorialize their loved one in a way that is respectful is really important. But it’s also important that they try to do so in a balanced way that doesn’t inadvertently romanticize or glamorize the death. 

At the community level and the systems level, one of the challenges is that oftentimes people don’t feel like they need to prepare for a suicide death. While they understand that suicide occurs--because it occurs so infrequently--there’s sort of a belief that it will never happen here, and so when a suicide death does occur they’re often unprepared and/or not trained about how best to reduce risk and promote healing. 

One of the challenges in promoting healing and reducing risk after a suicide is working with first responders and providers who themselves are so typically focused on giving and leading a response that they lose the importance of self-care and the potential impact that this suicide death has on them. And for community members who have relied on law enforcement on guidance counselors on mental health providers on faith leaders, um we oftentimes don’t check back with them to make sure that they’re getting the support that they need. 

Another challenge that often is part of um thinking about responding to a suicide death as part of a comprehensive suicide prevention effort is--when there are limited resources and funding--many people feel that it’s best to put the money towards prevention efforts and they don’t understand or consider that postvention really is prevention and that’s important for them to understand and think about that as part of their planning process. So part of what we encourage people to think about is to develop policies and procedures or protocols for what to do in the event of a suicide death. 

Unlike suicide prevention efforts where we really want everybody to understand the risk factors and warning signs, with postvention we’re really looking at those key providers like funeral directors and faith leaders and law enforcement and mental health providers to understand what that postvention response is. So it’s not a universal method it’s something that we would have targeted to specific populations. The overall goal for a response after a suicide death is about being prepared, identifying pathways for communication and sensitivity around communication to the family, and then implementing that in a response that is effective and timely.

Come Join Our Support Group!

"Arms Of Support" created by: TUFF Services Ministries, is a support group that was created for family members and friends who have lost their loved ones to suicide. We understand the special needs of those who have suffered this difficult kind of emotional loss and struggle.

Our goal is to help survivors cope with the death of their loved one so they can move forward in their lives in a positive and productive way. They have a safe place to share experiences and learn from others, ask questions, and disclose feelings that they are often unable to express elsewhere. Most important, participants find a place where there is no shame, no stigma and no isolation involved in being a survivor.

Our support group is an interfaith (non-denominational) based ministry for men and woman and includes all suicide survivors from all walks of life. We will cover many specific topics and will provide some special speakers at our group meetings.

Our "Tuff Arms Of Support" Program Description:

  • Typically composed of 6 to 10 participants
  • Meet: 2nd and 4th Friday of each month from: 6:00pm – 7:30pm
  • The program allows participants to develop safe, secure bonds with each other, thereby improving the healing process
  • Provide Education And Information
  • Provide motivation and inspiration
  • Provide encouragement for Biblical Believers and Non-Believers
  • Questions and answer opportunities
  • Provide a What's on your mind discussion (Tell Your Story)
  • Facilitated by a survivor who has lost a loved one to suicide, and volunteers his or her time to help others.
  • New Group and Location To Be Advised Shortly!

The TUFF Services Ministries Mission:

"To provide the educational tools and resources within our communities, that will create more awareness of the warning signs and symptoms of suicide and to provide hope, healing and support to survivors -children, youth, and adults who have experienced loss"

Reasons To Join A Support Group

Surviving the suicide of someone close to you is one of the most traumatic experiences a person will ever endure. For a time it seems that the pain is unending. Losing a loved one through suicide is an especially devastating loss. The survivors left behind have a difficult array of emotions to overcome on their journey in learning how to cope with their grief.

A suicide death is usually unexpected and sudden, even if the person had been talking about suicide in the past. The method is often violent and it's difficult for survivors to think about their loved one inflicting this violence on himself. Unfortunately, suicide carries a stigma in our society and friends and family members are often at a loss for what to say. For many people, losing a loved one to suicide causes feelings of abandonment with thoughts like, "my loved one chose to leave me!" All of these issues make the grieving process more difficult.

A recent medical study examined what suicide survivors found most helpful to their healing, rated "Talking one-to-one with another suicide survivor" (100%) and participating in a "Suicide grief support group" (94%) as the two most helpful activities for survivors. Participating in a suicide support group allows you the opportunity to experience both of these activities at once.


Please use the e-mail form below to sign-up for our Survivor Support Group. Questions? Call: (800) 649-0925

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If you are in crisis, 
call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline