Work group chairperson Doreen Marshall of Argosy University facilitated the presentation in Austin on Saturday, and she was joined by me and fellow work group member Susan Beaton of Australia's Beyond Blue.* According to Marshall, the work group intended for the principles ...
... to be less prescriptive, easy to implement, and require few resources ... We felt it was ... important to develop guiding principles by which survivors could ... evaluate the groups they were leading and attending in addition to providing some guidance toward best practices.Beaton, who played a role in the development of Australia's support group standards -- on which the AAS guiding principles are based -- said many lessons are being learned as the field of suicide grief support increasingly focuses on strengthening the effectiveness of support groups and other services. Her aspirations include ...
... further research ... to determine types and modalities of suicide bereavement support related to better client outcomes, ... a national community of practice for SBSG facilitators, ... [and] funding ... for ongoing evaluation.
During Saturday's presentation, I reviewed the 13 principles in the new U.S. document, each of which is supported by suggested practices that are currently being used in many suicide bereavement support groups. Here are the principles:1. Suicide Bereavement Support Groups have a primary mission of helping people affected by a suicide death cope with their grief.
2. The SBSG is guided by a statement of purpose that delineates, at a minimum, both the objectives of the group and the means or processes by which the group accomplishes its objectives.
3. The SBSG is conducted based on the ethical principle of "First, do no harm." The group is facilitated in a way that promotes the basic safety and well-being of participants. Groups should operate with clear agreements between members (and leaders) that what occurs in group stays in the group and is not communicated to non-group members. The group's facilitator(s) ensure that reasonable steps are taken to accomplish these ends.
4. When appropriate and necessary, the SBSG employs intake, referral, and exit procedures for group members. The primary purpose of these procedures is to ensure that those who attend the group can benefit from it and that an individual's participation will not affect the group in an adverse way. Care is taken to ensure that the needs of those who enter and leave the group are addressed in a way that considers both the individual's and the group's needs.
5. SBSG facilitators are adequately trained and sufficiently prepared to accomplish the objectives of the group.
6. Interactions between SBSG members and facilitators are primarily within the group setting or related to the group. Whenever possible, care is taken so that interactions outside of the group do not compromise the facilitator's role in the group's or members' ability to participate in the group.
7. The group maintains access to and relationships with referral resources adequate to meet the needs of both those who become members of the group and those who need assistance other than what can be provided by a SBSG.
8. Resources used by the SBSG -- or about which the group provides information or access -- include materials that are culturally appropriate for all members of the community served by the group.
9. Facilitators have access to services and information to improve their effectiveness as group facilitators and to ensure their well-being as facilitators.
10. The organizational status or affiliation -- as well as the leadership -- of the SBSG are a matter of public knowledge, and the group operates based on clearly articulated policies and practices, especially those related to its governance and financial dealings.
11. The group's services are publicized to key individuals, agencies, and organizations in the community that are likely to interact with people bereaved by suicide.
12. The group evaluates its effectiveness and regularly publicizes the results of its efforts to provide effective services.
13. The group plans for sustainability -- organizationally, financially, and in terms of adequate coverage by qualified facilitators and referral sources.
The slides from the complete presentation at AAS can be downloaded here.
More resources for suicide support group facilitators can be found in the "Guidance for Caregivers" section of the Suicide Grief Support Quick Reference (the entire Quick Reference is available at sg.sg/griefreference).*The other AAS work group members were Julie Cerel, University of Kentucky, Michael Myers, co-author (with Carla Fine) of Touched by Suicide, and LaRita Archibald of HEARTBEAT.