Let’s stop the suicide epidemic!

Suicide Prevention Includes Caring for the Bereaved

I’m so glad Franklin Cook and I found each other. He’s an expert on the effects of exposure to suicide on family and friends and has been part of a groundbreaking document he discusses below. I was so deeply affected by my son’s suicide I considered suicide myself. Instead I decided to be an advocate for erasing the stigma of mental illness and helping to prevent suicide*. Looking at the effects of suicide on loved ones and working to help assuage their unique kind of grief  is one way to do that.

Please help me welcome Franklin Cook, my Choices guest today. He’s an expert on grief after suicide.


Groundbreaking Guidelines Address Grief, Trauma, Distress of Suicide Loss

By Franklin Cook

A historic document, Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines, was announced earlier this month at theAssociation for Death Education and Counseling conference in San Antonio and at theAmerican Association of Suicidology conference in Atlanta. The Grief After Suicide blog — in an upcoming series of posts — will cover a number of ways that this groundbreaking document is paving the way for reinventing postvention in America. For instance, the Guidelines:

  • Summarize research evidence showing that exposure to suicide unquestionably increases the chances that those exposed — perhaps especially the bereaved — are at higher risk for suicide as well as for numerous, sometimes debilitating mental health conditions
  • Highlight the effects of a fatality on people beyond family members of the deceased, including friends, first responders, clinicians, colleagues, and others (even entire communities) who may require support in the wake of a suicide
  • Describe a new framework for classifying people who experience a suicide (Exposed, Affected, Short-Term Bereaved, and Long-Term Bereaved) that will help focus research and guide the development of programs and services to meet the unique needs of specific populations (see the graphic at bit.ly/continuummodel)
  • Organize interventions into separate, overlapping categories:
    • Crisis response, based on mental-health crisis and disaster response principles
    • Support from the familial, peer, faith-based, and community resources that help the bereaved cope with a death
    • Clinical treatment by professionals for conditions such as PTSD, Depression, and Complicated Grief
  • Argue that suicide bereavement is unique because death by suicide is unique (i.e., it involves questions about the deceased’s volition, the effects of trauma, the degree that suicide is preventable, and the role of stigma in people’s treatment of the deceased and the bereaved)
  • Present an outline of the research needed to expand and enrich what is known about suicide bereavement and other effects of suicide (which will lead to the development of evidence-based practices in suicide postvention)
  • Assert that suicide grief support efforts ought to be informed by research and clinical advances over the past 20 years in the fields of bereavement support, traumatology, and crisis and disaster preparedness
  • Include an appendix outlining numerous, practical resources for the suicide bereaved and those who care for them (please link to the expanded, online version of the resource resource clearinghouse)

An excerpt of the Guidelines (Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Acknowledgements, Preface) is available at bit.ly/excerptsosl, and the complete document is available at bit.ly/respondingsuicide.

Franklin cookAbout Franklin: Franklin Cook, MA, CPC, is the creator of Personal Grief Coaching, providing telephone support for all kinds of traumatic grief, and owner of Unified Community Solutions in Boston, Mass., offering suicide prevention and grief support presentations and training as well as project development, management, and leadership.


*I wrote a memoir as part of my healing process. Writing was and still is the way I deal with my own grief. Here is a brief synopsis.

Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and

Original cover

Original cover

Surviving His Suicide charts the near-destruction of one middle-class family whose son committed suicide after a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder. Madeline Sharples, author, poet, and web journalist, goes deep into her own well of grief to explore her anger, frustration, and guilt. She describes many attempts — some successful, some not — to have her son committed to hospital and to keep him on his medication. The book also covers her and her family’s redemption, how she considered suicide herself, and ultimately, her decision to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother, and writer.

If you’re experiencing grief after a suicide death of one of your loved ones, I hope you’ll check it out.


PS: Don’t forget I’m walking to raise awareness and help prevent suicide in Boston the night of June 27 (we’re walking at night to bring the suicide word Out of the Darkness). If you’re in the area, please come root me on. I’d love to meet you.


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