After a suicide...
There is a lot of information on this site, so please do not feel that you have to read everything at once. We have made it so that you can dip in and out as you need to, at different times or when your needs or feelings change.
If you are affected by the suicide of a family member, friend, colleague, or classmate, you may find more relevant advice in Help is at Hand.
If you feel that you need help straight away, or you feel very distressed, please contact our friends at Samaritans on 116 123. They have a huge amount of experience in listening to and helping people like you. They are always open and calling is free of charge.
Being at the scene of a suicide is incredibly shocking. We do not take your experience lightly. Many people have told us just how stressful and upsetting it can be and through their words and with their guidance, we have collected some advice and information that we hope can help you – now and in the future.
We hope that you can get help and support from this resource at what is a very traumatic time.
Throughout this site, we talk about being affected by the suicide of someone you did not know. This can relate to many different situations; seeing it happen, being first on the scene after a suicide, hearing about a suicide. If you feel affected in any way, regardless of how you were involved, this guide is for you.
“Suicide will directly or indirectly touch many of us in our lives and have profound and long-lasting effects. Being a witness to it can happen to anyone; professionally, at home or in the street.
This First Hand resource makes an important contribution to an area that is often neglected, frequently shrouded in stigma and something that people struggle to talk openly about. Its approach of using scenarios where people have witnessed suicide, with the feelings of desperation, guilt, shame, hopelessness and self-blame that they are often left with, is particularly helpful in making it as inclusive and relevant as possible.
The effect of a close experience of suicide is profound, traumatic and life changing, and can lead to a reduction in ability to function and work. Helping those affected is all our responsibility and this resource gives effective, practical advice for anyone who has witnessed this distressing and disturbing event.
By talking about suicide openly and compassionately, recognising that there is space for the feelings of grief and trauma of everyone involved, we contribute to reducing the devastation and pain that people experience in these circumstances.“
– Dr. Adrian James, President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
"I felt in those early weeks and months that I would never be able to move on, that it would always dominate my thoughts."
A note on language
Throughout this resource, we talk about being affected by the suicide of someone you did not know. This can relate to many different situations; seeing it happen, being first on the scene after a suicide, hearing about a suicide. If you feel affected in any way, regardless of how you were involved, this guide is for you.
You are likely to read this before an inquest has taken place to formally establish cause of death. We are using the term suicide here based on whether you feel this is the event you have witnessed, regardless of the eventual inquest outcome.
We have used the word trauma. Here, we are defining trauma as the reaction you have to the event you may have seen. Trauma can be short term or last a few days or weeks. It can be completely normal and doesn’t mean there is ‘something wrong’ with you.