Postvention Toolkit: Checklist
This checklist is a general guide that organizations can use when responding to a suicide death. It is meant to compliment existing policies and procedures.
Be thoughtful about who delivers information and how it is communicated.
- Notify: call ambulance and police.
- Contain the crisis: ensure immediate safety. Provide first aid, move people away from the area and, without disturbing the scene for the police investigation, erect visual barriers to block it from view.
- Identify the natural supports for those who could be at risk (victims/witnesses/family/friends/employees/the community at large)
- Support people to get the information/resources/referrals they need so they don’t feel alone (see postvention resources below).
The first 24 hours
- Convene: bring your organization’s emergency response team together.
- Connect with bereaved: If, through your communications with the Victim Crisis Unit of Ottawa Police Services/the school board/other organizations, it is determined that your organization should contact the family, express condolences; explain the reason for your call; offer support; enquire about which stakeholders may also be impacted (e.g. hockey team, place of employment, etc.); and ascertain how to refer to the death.
- Inform children/youth/young adults/families: This requires intention, caution and care. Refer to the Messages and Considerations in the appendices to deliver the message in a developmentally appropriate, and safe way. A script can be helpful. Provide the message to small groups of people. All children/youth/young adults should get a consistent message. Do not describe the method of suicide. If it is the family’s wishes, do not refer to the death as a suicide. In this case, provide a more general statement such as “a member of our ________ (club/community/team) has died”.
- Identify and support children/youth/young adults/employees who may be affected by the death. Refer and reach out to mental health organizations that can support with this phase (see postvention resources below).
- Respond to media requests: Members of the media may be in contact to learn more about the death. Prior to responding, determine if other organizations are already speaking to the media. It is important to coordinate the postvention media response in order to avoid duplication or the provision of mixed messages. If your organization speaks to the media, ensure the spokesperson follows these evidence informed practices. https://suicideprevention.ca/Media-Guidelines
- Monitor Social Media: A deceased person’s social media profile may be a central point of memorialization and rumors. Encourage people to consider the feelings of the loved ones in their posts, and ask them to encourage others to do the same. Children/youth/young adults should not be asked to monitor social media, but they should know what are harmful messages and who to contact if concerned about a post (see postvention resources below).
The First Week
- Monitor & support: in collaboration with mental health agencies, continue to support those that may be affected (see postvention resources below).
- If relevant, plan your organization’s involvement in the funeral, such as providing resources at the funeral home.
- Monitor & support: continue to support and monitor children/youth/young adults/families/employees and make referrals as needed (see postvention resources below).
- Honour: Consider planning for anniversaries, birthdays and other significant events. Please see the best practices for how to promote safety when honouring a suicide death. https://headspace.org.au/assets/School-Support/Remembering-a-young-person-memorials-and-important-events.pdf
- Orient: include the postvention response plan as an item to review as part of your organization’s employee orientation process.
- See the video below to learn more about the steps to the postvention response.