Bereaved by Suicide Support Worker
What does your role involve?
The Bereaved by Suicide Project is an initiative put in place by the Northern Trust in recognition of the devastating effect suicide can have on family members and friends. The project aims to generate awareness of the wide range of support organisations and individual counselling services across the Trust area that people can turn to if they have been bereaved in this way.
I am involved in promoting and providing support services for families and friends struggling to come to terms with bereavement due to suicide across the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area.
I work with local community and voluntary organisations to increase awareness of existing local support services and were gaps in services are identified I will encourage the development of a new group.
The service I provide is for people over 18. Anyone can access the service by contacting me directly or by logging on to the Northern Health and Social Care website, where they will find the bereaved by suicide leaflet and booklet.
Did you always want to work in this sector in some capacity?
The area of suicide prevention has always interested me - when I was 18 I became a volunteer with the Samaritans. This opportunity allowed me to listen and to talk to people who were in distress or despair. This was an enormous learning curve for me. I have also been a Cruse volunteer for three years. I have found listening to others talking about their lives and helping them to discover ways of coping with their thoughts and feelings very challenging but extremely rewarding.
How did you get into the position in the first place?
When the opportunity arrived at the Northern Trust for the support worker, I applied for the job and was fortunate to be given the chance to prove myself.
What training or previous experience do you have that has helped you in your current role?
I have a HND in Care Practice, an Advanced Diploma in Counselling, a certificate in Mental Health Services and a GNVQ in Health and Social Care.
I have also completed some short courses; Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), mental health first aid, Cruse Bereavement training, Level 5 Certificate in Management and Leadership, Community Development and Facilitation training.
What is your organisation's role in the local community?
The Northern Health & Social Care Trust provides a range of health and social care services, to the ten local council areas within our locality – Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Cookstown, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle and Newtownabbey - a population of approximately 443,000.
We provide community based health and social care services including day centres, health centres and residential care and acute services from Antrim Area Hospital, Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, the Mid Ulster and Whiteabbey hospitals. Services are also provided from the Braid Valley, Dalriada, Moyle and Robinson hospitals.
And how does your role fit in as part of this?
Within the Northern Trust I work within the Health Improvement & Community Development Service. The service supports a range of organisations and groups in the local community to develop and implement programmes and initiatives aimed at improving local health. Health issues include - increasing good mental health, smoking cessation, reducing obesity or lowering alcohol-related harms.
My role focuses on people who have been bereaved by suicide. Being bereaved by suicide can leave family and friends with unanswered questions and not knowing where to turn or who to talk to. The Bereaved by Suicide Project was set up to encourage the development of a range of support structures that family and friends can turn to after bereavement.
What sort of personality and qualities do you need to do your job successfully?
As this is a caring profession you need to be interested in the work and the people you are dealing with. I feel that you need to be friendly, approachable, a good listener, genuine, honest and kind. If you display these qualities it allows relationships to develop easier and people to benefit more from the project.
What are the biggest rewards of the job? And the biggest challenges?
Dealing with bereavement through suicide is challenging due to the range and depth of emotions experienced. This is often accompanied by questions as to 'why' it has happened.
Each client has their own unique journey and it is an honour for me to be invited to share that journey with them. I feel rewarded when I make a difference to people in need. I am also very fortunate to work with some lovely caring people who help make my work easier. My job is very rewarding and I really enjoy it.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
To make the most of every day because you never know what is around the corner.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the same job?
I would tell them to get as much voluntary experience in this line of work. It will also give them the opportunity to learn vital skills and decide if this is really the right career path for them.
If they are interested in suicide prevention they can complete the ASIST course, which is a two day course that provides suicide first aid skills to anyone who may come into contact with a person at risk.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
As my job can be stressful I like to engage in activities to relieve stress, like walking, catching up with friends and family or shopping.
Looking after yourself is very important when working in a challenging role and it is an important aspect of stress management. If I relieve myself of personal stress I can provide a better service to those in need.
I also am the chairperson for Cookstown and Dungannon Women’s Aid, which provides support to women and children suffering from domestic violence. I find this role very rewarding and it allows me to give something back to my community.