Free Support Group Manuals Have Solid Value

There are a number of free resources available to help facilitators in their work with suicide bereavement support groups (SBSGs). Here are two that stand out for their quality and accessibility:

  • "How to Start a Survivors' Group" by the World Health Organization, which is a revised version of a resource prepared as part of SUPRE, the WHO worldwide initiative for the prevention of suicidal behavior
  • Lifeline Australia's "Practice Handbook: Suicide Bereavement Support Group Facilitation," which contains information designed to help facilitators work on practices recommended in "Towards Good Practice: Standards & Guidelines for Suicide Bereavement Support Groups"

"How to Start a Survivors' Group" begins with a definition that sets the tone for the rest of the booklet, which is designed to be used anywhere in the world by anyone interested in the topic:

Self-help support groups are groups made up of people who are directly and personally affected by a particular issue, condition or concern. They are run by their members, which means that those directly affected by the issue are the ones who control the activities and the priorities of their group. While many self- help groups obtain resources and assistance from outside the group, e.g. from professionals or other groups, the members are the decision-makers.

Basic and brief, it is a solid primer that covers every facet of SBSGs, from a concise overview of how a loss to suicide affects those left behind to the "nuts and bolts" and most essential decisions necessary to starting and maintaining a group. It includes a general but very helpful section on informational resources to support the group as well as sections that deserve to be read widely by suicide grief groups:

  • "Gauging Success" is a superb list of precepts designed to help facilitators ask general but probing questions about how their groups are operating and if they're being helpful to survivors.
  • "Potential Risk Factors for the Group" outlines a handful of the challenges faced by support groups and recommends "management strategies" to deal with them.
  • "Survivor Support in Countries without Support Programmes and in Rural Areas" offers ideas about how to start developing resources in rural communities that are as available in most rural areas of the United States as they might be in "countries without support programmes," including a checklist of grief support activities for individuals.

The Lifeline "Practice Handbook," in fact, contains material similar to what is found in the WHO booklet, but it is much more comprehensive and subjects are covered in more detail. It presents itself as an authoritative resource through its connection to the Lifeline "Standards and Guidelines" for SBSGs.

While emphasizing that its content is not prescriptive, the authors of the handbook point out that the book was "developed through wide consultation with people working with suicide bereavement support groups and with experts working in the field of Postvention."

This resource aims to provide guidance and assistance for those developing and running SBSGs, as well as a framework for reviewing and evaluating current practices by those who operate groups. The development of the Standards & Guidelines for SBSGs and Practice Handbook for SBSG Facilitation is based on existing research evidence and practice evidence available in the field. A separate literature review was undertaken and consultation with experienced SBSG facilitators provided a framework around which to develop these tools.

The book, therefore, comes closer than any other resource to representing a "best practice" guide in the emerging field of community-centered assistance for people bereaved by suicide.

It also should be noted that the appendices of the handbook provide a multitude of practical, ready-to-use tools for support groups, from an example of a screening tool for "intaking" new group members to an example of a questionnaire that can be used to get feedback from members about the helpfulness of the group.