Suicide Bereaved Network AGM 2017

With a title like “Where to Start with Suicide Bereavement Support” it came as no surprise that all the attendees at our inaugural AGM on Saturday October 14th were bereavement support volunteers, whether working in suicide, hospice or general bereavement. In all we welcomed thirteen volunteers to spend a Saturday afternoon at Carrs Lane Conference Centre, Birmingham, discussing the issues that are important to them in their volunteering roles.

We started with a quick overview of suicide bereavement support in the UK, a topic too broad to be squeezed into the allocated twenty minutes, but which set the scene for the remainder of the afternoon’s proceedings.
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The business of the AGM itself was brief, comprising the Chair’s and Treasurer’s reports, and it concluded with a show of hands to elect our new Trustee Abbie Mitchell. Abbie brings with her a wealth of voluntary and professional experience in providing support for young people affected by mental health issues and we are very fortunate to welcome her to the Board.
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We then threw the proceedings open to the during our “Open Mike” session so that everyone had an opportunity to contribute their ideas and concerns. A huge thank you to everyone who participated. Emerging themes included isolation, reconnecting with normal life, fighting stigma and the importance of language (always a controversial topic). The first Mind Map shows a summary of the ideas shared at the “Open Mike” session, and gives an indication of the range of topics that emerged. The concluding session of the afternoon, “Supporting the Supporters” was more focused, asking people to think about their own support needs as volunteers. The second Mind Map allocates the ideas into two broad themes: volunteer peer support and organisational support. Volunteer peer support includes suggestions for a “buddy system” and having a variety of volunteer roles so that group organisers do not have to do everything themselves. Organisational support included ongoing training, supervision and involving trustees in supporting frontline volunteers.
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An emerging theme was the common ground between suicide bereavement and general bereavement support. There were similar challenges faced by volunteers in both areas, and any type of bereavement can bring up other painful issues from the past, as the bereaved person tries to come to terms with their loss.
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There is plenty of food for thought in the ideas gathered at our first AGM. We hope that these ideas will form an important element of our agenda over the next year. We look forward to reporting on progress at AGM 2018.
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Nina Kennedy,
Chair
14th November 2017

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