Postvention is a form of intervention psychotherapy used specifically for survivors of a suicide that put them at risk, and for the loved ones of someone who recently committed suicide. Modern suicidology, which includes prevention, intervention, and postvention, has only come into effect since about 2009, but the practice of postvention after a suicide has been around for decades. The grief that one experiences as a result of a suicide is usually much more intense than as a result of a more natural death, so extra precautions need to be taken into consideration. On top of the sadness experienced from the loss itself, many people will feel confused, question themselves, become angry, and have a hard time dealing with the suicidal choice that was made. Therefore it is important to recognize the significance of postvention.

Goals of Postvention

The goal of postvention is to support and assist those who are suffering from suicide bereavement. Postvention works to help the bereaved get over not only the suicide at hand, but also any similar unforeseen events that may take place in the future. It also works to lower distress and the risk of suicide contagion, as many people who lose someone close to suicide may become suicidal themselves. Working to reach a healthy recovery of the community of individuals affected by a suicide, postvention counselors follow procedures which promote support and comfort for a healthy grieving process.

When is Postvention Used?

Postvention is strictly used for those suffering from suicide bereavement. This means they are a either close friend, family member, peer, or co-worker of someone who recently committed suicide, or they are a survivor of a suicide in which they themselves were put at risk. These victims experience intense grief in the forms of denial, fear, blame, shame and stigma, exhaustion, headaches, guilt, anguish, anger, isolation, depression, crying, despair, relief, disconnection, disturbed sleep, shock and numbness, searching, disturbing images, listlessness, and thoughts of “if only”/”what if”, and suicide ideation (thoughts of committing suicide themselves).

How Postvention Works

Postvention generally occurs within 24 hours of a suicide, but should never exceed 72 hours. Postvention is usually offered at the workplace as well as schools, and just about any authority figure can be trained in postvention counseling. The postvention counselor should always provide the bereaved with additional resources of support such as mental health services. The job of the postvention counselor is to help people not just on an individual level, but also at an organizational level.

One structure that postvention counselors use is the ACT model. A is for acknowledging the trauma that has taken place, C is for communication with competence and compassion, and T is for transitioning the workforce back to a positive environment by pinpointing an expectation for resiliency and recovery, and by keeping up a mindset of prevention.

It is important for the postvention counselor to realize that grief affects everybody differently. Most people may feel the need for things to get back to normal after a couple of days, finding a way to lament while taking on their responsibilities, but unfortunately this is not going to be the case for every person affected. Especially if the deceased was a family member, it could take much longer. The postvention counselor should be able to decide what changes need to be made to accommodate the bereaved such as time off of work, whether they will be attending a funeral, or simply lightening their normal workload. The postvention counselor will make sure they address each person in the room (assuming this is a group) in order to check on how they are handling the situation.

The postvention counselor holds the responsibility of bringing the environment (work, classroom, etc.) back to its normal daily functioning. It can be difficult for them to find a good balance between resuming everyday order and comforting those who are still in the grieving process.

A huge part of the recovery process for the bereaved is for them to feel completely supported, secure, and cared about by the postvention counselor. Leadership is an important trait in a postvention counselor because if they do not elicit sincerity, compassion, and confidence to someone in need, they risk at least some loss of trust with that person. A successful counselor should be able to improve the quality of the environment by means of productivity, strength, and cohesiveness. It helps for the postvention counselor to explain how he or she was personally affected by the suicide as a means of being more relatable and gaining trust.


VandePol, B. (2003). The High Cost of Workplace Trauma: Leading Employees Through Crisis. Retrieved from:

Schneidman, E.S. (1981). Postvention: The care of the bereaved. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol 11(4), 349-359.

Campbell, F.R., Cataldie, L, McIntosh, J, Millet, K. (2004). An Active Postvention Program. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, Vol 25(1), 30-32. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.25.1.30

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