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Memorials and Gatherings

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When someone close to us passes away suddenly, our natural reaction is of shock, disbelief and emotional pain. A common reaction is to want to do something to remember and celebrate the life of the person who has died. Some people may wish to hold remembrance events or memorials to celebrate their loved one’s life. While this can help people to grieve, it is important to note that, when someone has taken their own life, the impact on their family, friends and community can leave people very vulnerable.

Family or a friend

Vulnerable People Support

It is normal that those associated with the person would experience emotional pain at their loss. It is important to check with the person how they are feeling.

Representing a community group

Search for a missing person

It may be frustrating and hard to understand but by setting up searches by yourself it can ultimately slow down a search process. Let agencies do their job and guide you through the process

Part of the community or want to be better informed

Shared Pain

There is clear evidence that the presence of memorials increases the risk of further suicidal behaviour and tends to attract the attention of extremely vulnerable individuals.

A representative or reporter

Elected Representatives

It is normal that those associated with the person would experience emotional pain at their loss. It is important to check with the person how they are feeling.

Vulnerable People Support

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When someone close to us passes away suddenly it can be difficult to process everything that is going on around you. When someone dies by suicide or suicide is suspected it can be even more complex and difficult. It is important to consider:

  •  When anyone dies our relationship to grief is very individual but even more so with suicide it is very normal to experience a wide range of emotions, including confusion, anger, guilt, shame and feelings of isolation.
  •  It might help to look at what might happened in the coming days, weeks and months. Support after suicide has a timeline that might help you through process that may happen for you and your loved one in the coming months.
  •  Look for support, think about what support might be helpful.
    • Close to home – family, friends and loved ones.
    • Community – religious advisors or support groups
    • Formal – more formal support such as counselling can be very helpful following the loss of a loved one, your GP can help you access this support.
    • Charities - Bereavement charities such as the Samaritans or Family Voices Forum have support for yourself or if you are worried about another adult, as well as a wealth of resources on their website.

Searching for a missing person

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If someone has gone missing, it can sometimes be tempting to organise searches by yourself with community members and friends. However, this can be very dangerous - it can impede professional search efforts, require resources to be shifted away from the search, as well as attract negative media attention and attract vulnerable people to unsafe places.

As the organiser, you can also be legally responsible should any harm come to one of the volunteers whilst out searching.

Whilst sometimes it can seem frustrating, there is a process to searching and the professionals are always working with knowledge and experience. Speak to a search coordinator to understand how you can help the professionals during a search.

  •  Speak to the search coordinator, ask them to explain the plan and what you and family, friends could do to help.
  •  Designate a point of contact within the family, a family advocate, someone who can be contacted 24/7 with updates. This person should also be happy and know who to share this information with first.
  •  People searching can make it difficult for CCTV operators or other people trying to keep the area safe to see someone who might be vulnerable or need additional support. Speak to a coordinator about how you can, help, stay visible and keep others safe.

Shared pain

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When we have lost a loved one, it is natural to want to remember them. However, bear in mind that placing items or memorials in public locations (such as flowers, banners or shoes) can have a negative impact on the community and can even be harmful to vulnerable people who might see them.

Instead, think about remembering through other means such as celebrating their life:

  •  Celebrate an activity they enjoyed,
  •  Hosting an event with the help of supporting organisations,
  •  Supporting a charity or organisation they valued,
  •  Sharing resources that might help others,
  •  Producing a remembrance book that people can add to.

Elected Representatives

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At a time of heightened suicide concern it is common for elected representatives and politicians to be approached to speak. Like anyone, politicians don't have all the answers, but can be a useful voice to help support families and communities.

This platform has a useful section for elected representatives to ensure they are saying the right things, but it's also important that they speak to a family and community advocate before speaking to anyone else. At this time, you may be approached by politicians who are looking to support - this isn't a time for political messaging, but more to support the community in a time of heightened emotions.

Do's and Dont's?

  •  Take time before you speak to them to decide what you would like to say, remember anything you say might be spoken about by the representatives to a larger audience.
  •  If you don’t feel ready to speak to an elected representative (or anyone else for that matter) you can ask for more time, postpone or cancel the discussion.
  •  Elected representatives can be really helpful as helping to move things forward, amplifying your voice

About Us

Over the last decade there have been growing challenges around stakeholder and community communication during and after a time of heightened suicide activity. Whilst there is plentiful information out there for families, friends, communities and representatives during a time of heightened suicide concern, it is often text heavy and difficult to digest, especially at a time of heightened emotions.

This can lead to frustration and communication breakdown between families and friends of loved ones and agencies and community representatives, which in turn can lead to unsafe messaging, media and memorialisation.
Comkit tries to address these challenges by developing an empathic communication toolkit to support families, communities, agencies and representatives in what to do and say at a time of heightened suicide concern.

This toolkit has been developed for Northern Ireland through a co-design process involving:

  •  Over ​​30 industry professionals and academic experts through co-design workshops.
  •  Six 1-to-1 sessions with people with lived experiences through different groups from Families Voices Forum and other organisations.
  •  Presentations to Protect Life Groups across Northern Ireland.
  •  Building on over 5 years of work in the area.

The project builds on challenges identified through the ‘Our Future Foyle’ and ‘Relink’ projects in Northern Ireland.

The voices you hear are from local people with lived experience of losing someone to sucide.

Urban Scale Interventions has produced this tool with support from the Public Health Agency.

For more information contact:

Contact us