We welcome today’s announcement from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that suicide bereavement support will move to an opt-out process. This change means that families bereaved by suicide will automatically be referred to specialist suicide bereavement support services and offered support within 72 hours following the suicide of their loved one.
At Support After Suicide Partnership, our vision is that everyone bereaved by suicide receives timely and appropriate support and so we are encouraged by this change in process, however, this will only affect areas of the country in which specialist bereavement support services are offered.
The current funding commitment for these services ends in 2024 and so a renewed commitment to continue funding for existing services and increased provision across the breadth of the country is needed if these changes are to have the impact we want to see.
Michelle Stebbings, Executive Lead at Support After Suicide Partnership said, “The change to the opt-in process will make it easier for families to get support but more needs to be done. Everyone affected by suicide needs to be offered support wherever they live and whenever they need it.”
While families will continue to have the option of declining support following contact, the change means that they will no longer have to opt-in and therefore will have one less decision to make during what can be a traumatic and emotionally distressing time.
The stigma that surrounds suicide can often prevent people from reaching out for help. The move to an opt-out process removes this barrier. Evidence shows that people who have been bereaved or affected by suicide are almost three times more at risk of suicidal ideation. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 people attempt suicide after losing someone to suicide and 8% drop out of work or education.
The increased risk of suicide following bereavement by suicide is mitigated by timely support. This change will increase the uptake of specialist bereavement support services and will no doubt save lives.