Campaign to raise awareness of the needs of bereaved children and young people in the UK

Children’s Grief Awareness Week, which takes place annually between 16 November – 23 November, is designed to raise awareness of the needs of bereaved children and young people in the UK, and the importance of supporting them at a vulnerable time in their lives.

Bereavement by suicide is different to other types of death. The suicide or attempted suicide of a parent or carer can have a devastating and long-term impact on their child. It can make it three times more likely for that child to end their own life, so giving them the correct support is crucial.

NHS Greater Manchester’s long running Shining a Light on Suicide campaign, aims to bring suicide out of the dark and ensure that everyone affected by suicide gets the advice and support they need. That’s why, alongside Luna Foundation CIC, NHS Greater Manchester has been working to provide training to those who work with children to be able to better support those bereaved by parental suicide.

Earlier in the year, sessions were delivered to professionals working with children in education and care settings across Greater Manchester, such as teachers and classroom assistants. The training equipped staff with the knowledge to support children after the death of a parent or primary caregiver. This included information on how to talk to young children about suicide, learning how young children make sense of death and how you can help them, and what further resources are available to support children and their families.

During Children’s Grief Awareness Week, these training sessions were expanded and delivered to early years professionals working in nurseries and pre-schools, as well as childminders. Evidence suggests that children who lose a parent to suicide aged between 2-and 5-years-old face a significantly increased risk of suicide themselves as a result, without the correct support factors in place. The training is a first of its type in the UK, specifically addressing the unique impact losing a parent or primary carer to suicide can have during early childhood and how important timely and effective support is.

Adele Owen, NHS Greater Manchester Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Support Lead, said: “Losing a parent to suicide can have a profound impact on a child’s life at the time of their loss and throughout their lives.

“At NHS Greater Manchester, we want to make sure that children bereaved by suicide and their families get the support they need as soon as they need it. Equipping those who work with children and young people with the skills and knowledge they need to provide the best support so that they can help reduce long-term emotional and psychological impact faced by children after suicide bereavement.

“We know that children who lose a parent to suicide are at greater risk of suicide themselves. The right support at the right time can help to mitigate these risks.”

As well as the training offer, NHS Greater Manchester has also partnered with Luna Foundation CIC to provide a range of resources to support young children, including a guide for professionals, information for families on how to tell a child what has happened and how to support them now and in the future, as well as a guide with a vast range of resources such as books and activity books to help families and people working with children. Manchester Central Library have supported this work by stocking all the recommended books for a variety of ages to be borrowed.

Those affected by suicide can also access support via the Greater Manchester Bereavement Service, which is there for anyone who has been bereaved or affected by a death. The service has dedicated suicide bereavement practitioners to ensure that those bereaved or affected by suicide can speak to someone who will have a greater understanding of what they may be going through and help them find appropriate support.

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