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Roots of Hope Promising Practice Exchange Case Studies – Spotlight on Wellington County, Ontario

THE WELLINGTON COUNTY COMMUNITY

Waterloo Region:

  • Population: 587,165
  • Long-term care homes: 24
  • Mental health care services:
    • Cambridge Memorial Hospital: acute, post-acute, inpatient
    • Grand River Hospital: acute, inpatient, mental health, adult and child
    • Grand River Hospital Freeport Campus: post-acute

Wellington County:

  • Population: 241,026
  • Long-term care homes: 12
  • Mental health care services:
    • Homewood Health Centre: public and private in-patient

COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS

To minimize potential risks following a suicide death, the Roots of Hope community in Wellington County has focused on designing and implementing a postvention community plan that includes a Here4Hope support after suicide team.

Postvention is a planned intervention undertaken after a death by suicide that seeks to stabilize the affected environments (e.g., schools, workplaces), reduce the risk of contagion, and facilitate the grieving process.

Who is impacted by suicide deaths?

According to the circles of vulnerability model, those geographically, psychologically, and socially connected to the deceased are the most likely to be impacted and be at risk for suicide contagion:

  • Geographical: Those in physical proximity (e.g., eyewitnesses, first responders)
  • Psychological: Those who relate to the victim in some way (e.g., similar culture or identifiers)
  • Social: Those who have had relationships with the diseased (e.g., family, friends)

Once identified, these individuals can be screened, assessed, and offered appropriate supports.

Who is impacted by suicide deaths?

One model orders the potential impacts of a death by suicide along a continuum, ranging from general exposure to those experiencing long-term bereavement. Each category correlates to different kinds of postvention support to promote healing and reduce negative consequences (e.g., suicide risk).

What typical reactions to death by suicide can include:

  • Stress: temporary, acute, and post-traumatic
  • Crisis: mental health-related and suicidal
  • Grief: shock, moving through grief stages, and complicated grief

Suicide contagion

For vulnerable individuals, being present at the time of a suicide death, directly exposed to the suicide of a close relative or friend, or indirectly exposed through media and social media coverage or portrayals of suicide can lead to increased suicidal behaviour. This type of contagion, which is most often associated with the youth population, can lead to multiple suicides over a specific timeframe (mass clusters) or geographic area (point clusters).

Implementing proactive postvention supports following a death by suicide can help to reduce the risk of contagion.

How we implement postvention activities

At the scene of a death by suicide, a Wellington OPP officer or victim services volunteer sends a referral to the Here4Hope support after suicide team. The team is then activated and proactively reaches out to all those involved to provide necessary information and supports.

Our postvention community plan is guided by five tailored responses:

  • Families
  • Witnesses/first responders
  • Targeted community (e.g., workplaces, teams)
  • Whole community (only if the suicide is very public or we are responding to a cluster)
  • Media and social media

COMMUNITY IMPACT

In addition to providing direct support to individuals impacted by suicide death, the support after suicide team and activities have been able to increase awareness of postvention across the community.

Read all Roots of Hope Case Studies

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