Gloucestershire Police praised for their approach to suicide bereavement.
Gloucestershire Police have been praised for their approach to suicide bereavement.
The constabulary 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.
Until recently, police training for such tragedies only went as far as the difficult task of breaking the bad news.
Now, working with 2gether, a specialist NHS Foundation Trust which provides social and mental healthcare services in the county, Gloucestershire Police are going much further.
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Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl said "It's a sad fact, and surprising in this day and age, that because no second party is involved in a suicide, and therefore no crime committed, the 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 they're equipped to deal with what is always a very difficult and sensitive situation.
"The new guidelines have been drawn up with that in mind and I hope they will increase the public's confidence in the Constabulary's ability to meet the needs of families when they are at their lowest ebb".
As part of a pilot scheme officers were given guidance on:
• How to break the news
• How to respond if children are affected
• Dealing with extended family and next of kin
• Handling property
• Any specific faith or beliefs
• What happens next and the role and function of relevant agencies
Due to the success of the pilot, it has now been adopted as best practice across the force.
"Any death is traumatic for those left behind and it was apparent to us there was a gap in our training for helping people in those circumstances", said Insp Steve Wood who introduced the pilot in the Gloucester Local Policing Area.
"Historically, all officers are given initial training on how to deliver the news with sensitivity but they didn't always have the knowledge to answer some of the questions that followed. Being able to advise relatives as to where they might find appropriate support quickly and without fuss may seem a small thing but it's one less problem for them to worry about at such a sad time".
Gordon Benson, Assistant Director, Clinical Governance, of the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are delighted that following the success of the pilot, this approach will be adopted across the county.
"Working collaboratively with Gloucestershire Constabulary, we are able to signpost people who have experienced a suicide bereavement to a variety of both statutory and voluntary sector organisations. This will help ensure that the most appropriate support is immediately available at the time of greatest need."
Trish Thomas, who campaigns through the national charity Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide after her husband took his own life said, "This is a ground breaking development in how people who suffer the devastation of suicide are treated.
"It is to their great credit that Gloucestershire Police and 2gether recognised the need for this long before the Government published its own strategy and they should be congratulated for the measures they have put in place.
"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.
" I am now pursuing the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the hope of seeing Gloucestershire's good work extended to other forces up and down the country".