Cover Image
close this bookPreventing Suicide: How to Start a Survivors Group (WHO, 2000, 50 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentForeword
View the documentThe importance of self-help support groups
View the documentSurviving a suicide
View the documentImpact of suicide
View the documentSources of help for the bereaved
View the documentHow to initiate a self-help support group for survivors of suicide
View the documentDeveloping the operational framework for the group
View the documentIdentifying and gaining access to resources to support the group
View the documentGauging success
View the documentPotential risk factors for the group
View the documentSurvivor support in developing countries and rural areas
View the documentSurvivor support through “involvement therapy” in other activities
View the documentBack cover

Potential risk factors for the group

There are several principles that are worth remembering when working with groups.

· Groups are made up of individuals, and individuals all have differing personalities; this can at times result in conflict. A strong group will learn to welcome healthy tensions and overcome conflict.

· The group process of setting the framework and structure in place and establishing the “code of ethics” will serve as a safety net to use if problems arise.

· Not every bereaved person works out as a good support group member. People with extensive complications in the process of their grief or a history of serious emotional problems may be better suited to individual professional counselling.

· Avoid “burn-out” (the depletion of one's energy and enthusiasm for the task at hand), which is an occupational hazard for support group leaders. Facilitating a group can be an emotionally draining experience. Doing this on a regularly scheduled basis can eventually become wearing and tiring; the facilitator becomes less effective and somewhat disconnected from the group. While this may not be a universal reaction, it has been reported often enough to warrant highlighting as a distinct possibility. Frequently mentioned ways to avoid or deal with “burn-out” include taking time away from the task and involving others as co-workers or relief persons. Involving others as co-workers has the advantages of (a) allowing them a chance to “give something back” for the help they have received from the support group and (b) showing the group that people move on in the recovery process to the point where they can become group leaders.

· All survivors and facilitators are potentially vulnerable at any time to being overwhelmed by the latent emotion of the suicide of a loved one. This is true whether the suicide occurred three weeks or 30 years ago. A wave of emotion can break over a survivor at any time and any place, without warning. Implicit in the advice to survivors to meet their own needs is the idea of avoiding stress, overwork, unduly high expectations and loss of sleep: they should take care of themselves first, so that they are fit enough to take care of others.

The box below gives a sample of some of the risk factors that may arise in groups.

Potential risk

Management strategy

1. Group members are becoming reliant on one or two members to perform the bulk of the tasks for the group. Some of the group members are feeling drained.

1. Dedicate a portion of a meeting to discussing the way the group is functioning. Discuss the issue openly and ask for suggestions as to the best way to share the tasks.

2. A group member tends to dominate the meeting, takes more than a fair share of time and interrupts other speakers.

2. The group rules are read out at the start of every meeting and members are reminded if they overrun their time. Clear time-limits may need to be set.

3. A group member appears to be stuck in his or her grief and is having a negative effect on other group members.

3. The group member needs to be spoken with individually. Discussion should focus on the point that the group does not seem to be meeting the person's needs and that individual counselling and support may be more beneficial. Recommend where the person may seek that help.

4. The group seems not to be progressing or moving forward.

4. Discuss with the members within the group and redefine the group's needs with a view to making necessary changes.

5. All within the group need to be aware that those bereaved by suicide are themselves at risk of taking their lives.

5. Discuss this topic within the group. Reach agreement on how the group and its members can safeguard each other.