The police department in the county of Gloucestershire, England, "is believed to be the first in the country to produce guidelines designed to help officers deal with people when a loved one has taken their own life," according to a report in the local newspaper.
Gloucestershire Police Commissioner Martin Surl explains the importance of the guidelines for law enforcement:
"It's a sad fact, and surprising in this day and age, that ... the [suicide] bereaved are not immediately offered support in the same way as victims of crime. As a result, they may not always receive the help they are entitled to, and this is an area where I hope we can help. Very often a police officer is the first 'official' person they come into contact with, so it's very important [that the police are] equipped to deal with what is always a very difficult and sensitive situation."[Editorial Comment: I am hopeful that this blog post on the work in the U.K. raises awareness about this vital need among law enforcement officers and prompts collaborative efforts in the United States to identify and develop guidelines that can be implemented systematically across the country to help meet the needs of survivors of suicide loss in the immediate aftermath of a death.]
The article on the Gloucestershire initiative outlines the essential components of the guidelines being implemented there after a successful pilot program. They help police officers at the scene of a suicide with the following:
• How to break the newsTrish Thomas, who is affiliated with the U.K. organization Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, calls implementation of the guidelines "a ground breaking development in how people who suffer the devastation of suicide are treated." Noting that she is now promoting nationwide implementation, Thomas says,
• How to respond if children are affected
• Dealing with extended family and next of kin
• Handling property
• Accounting for specific faith or beliefs
• What happens next and the role and function of relevant agencies
"It is a long overdue recognition of the needs of family members and friends who have experienced the trauma of a loved one taking their own life. We owe Gloucestershire Police and 2gether Trust a great deal of thanks for the time they have invested in this and for leading the way."The 2gether Trust supported development of the guidelines.