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Responding to suicide

The process of responding to suicide is known as postvention.

This term was coined in 1972 by Edwin Shneidman (founder of contemporary suicidology) to describe interventions to ‘help bereaved persons through the grief process’. Today, postvention is also seen as a way to prevent future suicides.6–8

Postvention aims to:

  • promote healthy grieving
  • provide comfort for those who are distressed
  • minimise adverse personal outcomes, such as complicated grief, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • reduce the risk of suicide imitation
  • help restore community functioning
  • use the experience as an opportunity to educate the community about mental health, factors contributing to suicide, and the availability of resources to get help.9

You may notice that various resources refer to those affected by the suicide of another person as ‘survivors’ or as the ‘bereaved’. As the term ‘suicide survivor’ could be used to describe someone who has attempted suicide, we will avoid confusion and use the term ‘bereaved’.


  1. Aguirre RT, Slater H. Suicide postvention as suicide prevention: Improvement and expansion in the United States. Death Stud 2010;34(6):529–40.
  2. Andriessen K, Krysinska K. Essential questions on suicide bereavement and postvention. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2012;9(1):24–32.
  3. Suicide Prevention Australia. Position statement: Suicide bereavement and postvention. Leichhardt, NSW: Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009.
  4. Berkowitz L, McCauley J, Schuurman D, Jordan J. Organizational postvention after suicide death. In: Jordan J, McIntosh J, editors. Grief after suicide: Understanding the consequences and caring for the survivors. New York: Routledge, 2011.


After suicide: A resource for GPs