Crisis Response / Postvention

///Crisis Response / Postvention
Crisis Response / Postvention2019-04-15T07:05:04+00:00

Standby Critical Postvention Response (Geraldton, WA)

Standby Critical Postvention Response (Geraldton, WA) includes (a) Pathways to Care Workshop to identify various responders and potential support available from within the community to those bereaved by suicide loss and (b) Crossing the River postvention workshop, providing brief suicide bereavement response skills training to enable attendees to respond appropriately to the needs of those affected by suicide within a local area.

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The National StandBy Response Service is recognised as one of Australia’s main suicide postvention programs established to assist people and communities affected by suicide. It is located in seventeen regions around Australia providing postvention support in a range of different communities and contexts. A key goal is to support communities impacted by suicide and to respond to emergent community needs. StandBy has also developed the short term Critical Postvention Response (CPR). This brief rapid response model is intended for communities where there are concerns about high incidence of suicide and its effects on the community.

Community Support for Critical Postvention Response (CPR)
Promotion of in-service and community information and training events was planned and arranged via in-kind support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS), South West Development Commission (in Western Australia), cultural and service provider networks. This included dissemination of information and identified representatives and speakers at the Pathways to Care Workshop and Crossing the River suicide bereavement skills training which form the main focus of the StandBy CPR.

The Pathways to Care Workshop identified the various responders and potential support available from within the community to those bereaved by suicide loss utilising an interactive format. Contribution from local emergency, acute, social and personal support services as well as community groups and agencies provided in depth local knowledge about the impact of suicide loss and the types of support required. This investment by local community groups and individuals built on existing community strengths and increased sustainability of the initiative.

The Crossing the River postvention workshop provided brief suicide bereavement response skills training to enable attendees to respond appropriately to the needs of those affected by suicide within the Geraldton area and to build confidence and competence in the delivery of an integrated whole-of-community postvention response. Utilising local emergency responders, funeral services, coronial representation, stakeholders and community members’ contributions ensured future postvention responses would be guided by in depth local knowledge and coordinated via a single point of contact.

• The project delivers direct support to people bereaved by suicide and training for emergency and community responders;
• Conducts workshops to provide communities with the capacity to plan, lead and sustain strategies to promote community awareness around suicide and implement community suicide prevention plans;
• Provides or identifies appropriate materials and resources to meet local needs of Indigenous peoples in diverse community settings;
• Links with local “gatekeepers” and “natural helpers” monitoring communities with high levels of suicide and self-harm to facilitate a planned response (see also outcome 5.3);
• Assists communities to plan and implement a comprehensive response to suicide and self-harm including both short-term and long-term early intervention and prevention activities; and
• Ensures the local mental health services and community organisations are able to provide appropriate postvention responses to support individuals and families affected by suicide.

Based on extensive community consultation and community requests, Standby CPR was delivered to Geraldton in the mid-west region of Western Australia from February 2015 until late March 2015 in response to the widespread concerns about the higher than average incidence of suicide and its effects on the local community. Standby CPR was supported by the Australian Government, in partnership with WA Country Health Service Midwest, Mental Health Services and a number of local community organisations and local Standby CPR Advisory Group members including Geraldton Mental Health Services, Yellow Ribbon, STAY, local Government and representatives from the local Aboriginal community.

Feedback received from areas such as education, health services and community-based organisations suggested Standby CPR had been very productive and beneficial in the town. The CPR team also received many comments from training participants indicating that knowledge gained at the various workshops regarding trauma, grief and loss, caring for themselves and others following:

• enhanced feeling of safety from an understanding of their own grief and trauma reactions;
• increased confidence in being able to approach and help people following suicide and other trauma/loss;
• increased confidence that people will have assisted access to qualified and known Pathways to Care via the After Suicide Community Response Plan; and
• greater sense that the load is shared throughout the community and the response does not have to fall to only one resource. (United Synergies 2015).

A report produced by United Synergies outlines several key elements that confirm the effectiveness of the CPR.
These include:
• the confirmed widespread support and acknowledgement of need for coordinated postvention response in the community and to strengthen community understanding of postvention readiness;
• general willingness of service providers to refer on, to share information and to work collaboratively; and
• in response to indications of cumulative stress amongst service providers, the CPR team included much discussion and information about self-care when supporting or training with agencies.

Report Findings
The report states that, as the program became more embedded in the community, more information was gained about the circumstances and reactions to suicide events within the community. The use of social media and other interactions raised some concerns about creating a risk of contagion amongst some of the young people. Some community members reported that suicide attempts had occurred and community anxieties were high. Other factors initially impacting on community cohesiveness and the program outcomes include some community perceptions about lack of dedicated postvention and prevention services, with a few more well-known services and individuals ‘carrying most of the load’.
Both workshops had exceedingly high attendances and the workshop evaluation findings suggested that an overwhelming majority had learnt much from the scenario presentations and appreciated the input from the emergency responders and felt that it drew people together.

Key learnings and recommendations
The feedback from the local stakeholders and participants confirmed the importance of:
• a suitable recognised and well regarded community organisation to foster early acceptance of the program and its facilitators;
• establishing a commitment from a lead agency early in the commencement of the program;
• clear understanding of CPR team roles and responsibilities prior to commencement of the program;
• early engagement of key stakeholders – e.g. Police, Ambulance and key community members for building credibility and access within the community;
• establishing a committee that is representative of the community, with genuine commitment from the partner agency, to ensure sustainable outcomes for the program to be accepted and embedded in the community;
• further training about crisis intervention practice to allow staff and others to be able to offer basic crisis intervention if required; and
• further support and interest from the West Australian Mental Health Commission.

Importantly the National Standby CPR identified the need for, and committed to follow-up support for, the Committee to be able to identify agenda items to complement the Postvention Plan. This will provide a ready guide to be passed to any nominated lead agency to ensure a consistent approach when implementing the plan and to provide a basis for ongoing committee activity. The trauma kit will also be provided by the National StandBy Response Service for any future postvention needs.
A study by Visser et al (2014) of the StandBy Response Service indicates that it is a program that is readily adaptable to different settings. Currently in Australia, this service operates in metropolitan, rural, and remote settings. Given the same principles apply to the CPR, it is reasonable to suggest it is also equally effective.

To be provided

Based on analysis of the Final report and interviews with key Geraldton stakeholders the team consider the Standby model to be promising evidence of effectiveness and practice. It is considered both culturally appropriate and well accepted by the Geraldton community. It was effective in building awareness and strengthening the community’s capacity to respond to the devastating trauma and bereavement impacting Geraldton after a series of suicides, accidental deaths and suicidal behaviours. The Standby CPR in Geraldton encompassed many of the principles of the ATSISPEP Evaluation Framework. It highlights the importance of ensuring all relevant organisations understand communities, respect local cultures, strengths and histories, and recognise differences in social relationships and possibilities for action in rural, urban and remote settings.

Contact Us

School of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia

39 Fairway, Nedlands, WA 6009. 

+61 8 6488 1570

Acknowledgement of Country:

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the traditional custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadjuk people of the Noongar nation, and their Elders past, present and emerging. We also wish to acknowledge and respect the continuing culture, strength, and resilience of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities as well as our Indigenous members from other parts of the world.


“The terms ‘Aboriginal’, ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ and ‘Indigenous’ are used interchangeably. It is acknowledged that there are many cultural differences between and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the use of differing terms does not intend to disregard such differences.” © Copyright 2018