Year: 2017 Source: Canadian Journal of Public Health.(2011). 102 (1): 18-29. SIEC No: 20170130


The purposes of this study were: 1) to determine the effectiveness of suicide postvention programs on suicide attempts and suicide as well as grief symptoms, mental distress, and mental health broadly defined; and 2) to investigate their cost-effectiveness.


Computerized database searches (PubMed, PsycINFO, Cinahl, Cochrane Database, Crisis and Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior) were performed in September 2009 to obtain evaluations of suicide postvention programs and in February 2010 (Centre for Research and Dissemination Database, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PubMed, PsycINFO, and Cinahl) to obtain cost-effectiveness analyses of bereavement programs. Hand searches of relevant articles and reviews were also conducted. Publications were included in the analysis if they described an evaluation/cost-effectiveness analysis of a suicide postvention program, provided data, and were published in English-language peer-reviewed journals. There was no restriction on publication date. Studies were excluded if they were narrative systematic reviews or dissertations or if they described a postvention program but provided no evaluation. Because very few cost-effectiveness analyses were identified, articles describing “costs” of bereavement programs were also included. Studies were evaluated for quality using Centres for Evidence-Based Medicine Levels of Evidence, and for program effectiveness using Office of Justice Programs “What Works Repository” Analytic Framework.


Of the 49 studies of suicide postvention programs retrieved, 16 met inclusion criteria for evaluation of study quality and evidence of effectiveness. Three target populations for postvention programs were identified: school-based, family-focused, and community-based. No protective effect of any postvention program could be determined for number of suicide deaths or suicide attempts from the available studies. Few positive effects of school-based postvention programs were found. One study reported negative effects of a suicide postvention. Gatekeeper training for proactive postvention was effective in increasing knowledge pertaining to crisis intervention among school personnel. Outreach at the scene of suicide was found to be helpful in encouraging survivors to attend a support group at a crisis centre and seek help in dealing with their loss. Contact with a counseling postvention for familial survivors (spouses, parents, children) of suicide generally helped reduce psychological distress in the short term. There was no statistical analysis of community-based suicide postvention programs; however media guidelines for reporting of suicide and suicide attempts have been adopted by mental health organizations in numerous countries. No analyses of cost-effectiveness of suicide postvention programs were found.


Recommendations to provide guidance to policy-makers, administrators and clinicians are presented and directions for future research are outlined.

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