The Development of a Postvention Service Provided to Schools in Auckland, New Zealand
I met Gilli Sinclair in Auckland, New Zealand, to learn about the excellent postvention service that she has developed, which aims to support young people/schools when a pupil has died by suicide.
Gilli is a mental health nurse who works with young people. She is based in Manukau, which is a large geographical area, situated in Auckland. It has a diverse population with complex needs, especially as there is a high proportion of Maori, Pacific and Asian People who are socio-economically deprived.
Gilli has developed and implemented a comprehensive, integrated and evidence based traumatic incident postvention plan that is used in schools when a pupil has died by suicide. The service is framed around one of the seven national goals in the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy, which emphasises the importance of supporting families and others affected by a suicide. The plan is appropriately targeted to the specific needs and priorities of the school that has experienced the death of a pupil/student. All agencies work closely with the Head of the school/college, who ultimately decides what level of support is required. The aim of the intervention is to address the traumatic after-effects for those affected by suicide, including bereavement and trauma recovery, as well as education and screening efforts to reduce the risk of subsequent suicides. The intervention also works with the children’s parents who are very anxious and uncertain how to respond to their children when a pupil dies by suicide. The strength of this model is that it is immediate and proactive.
Who is involved?
The intervention involves multi agency working and can include the following:
- Ministry of Education’s (MoE) Traumatic Incident team;
- Child, Youth and Family Service (CYFs);
- Youth Justice;
- Victim support;
- Mental health service;
- Pacific and Maori health teams;
- Youth line, which is the first point of entry for young people and families to access a wide range of youth development and support services;
- Clinical Advisory Services Aoteoroa (CASA);
- Local suicide prevention co-ordinator; and
- Cultural clinical advisors (if Maori, Pacific or Asian communities are affected).
If there is evidence of contagion or clusters additional measures are adopted to prevent further suicides.
How the postvention service gets activated.
The coroner immediately advises the suicide coordinator (which is Gilli Sinclair) of any suspected suicides. This usually occurs on the day of the death. The co-ordinator advises the Postvention team and an action plan is devised. The MoE’s Traumatic Incident team is activated which can involve the above mentioned agencies. Sectors and services are advised if they are required or need to be involved. The most relevant agency leads the initiative. I was impressed to hear that there have been occasions when the postvention team have been informed of a suicide in the evening and have been at the school the following morning to support staff, pupils and their families.
The postvention service can provide the following:
- Support and advise schools on postvention;
- Training on suicide prevention;
- Access to crisis teams;
- Youth training;
- Assess young people who are not in contact with primary healthcare; and
- Additional support for young people, their families and communities.
When a suicide occurs, children protection, youth offending agencies etc are also consulted to identify other vulnerable pupils within the school. These agencies initiate contact with these children/families. Agencies are proactive and also initiate contact with any vulnerable pupils identified online. This involves mental health professionals monitoring Face book and memorial pages.
Developments in the UK
The Samaritans have recently developed a postvention service that involves supporting schools. This inv