Bereaved Through Suicide (BTS)
Run by people who themselves have been bereaved through suicide, BTS supports those in the community who have been close to someone who has taken their own life – partner, child, relative, friend or close acquaintance.
The Group was the initiative of Mr Harold Jones and Miss Veronica (Roni) Honour, two bereavement educators who were running classes for a funeral service in Adelaide, South Australia. Throughout the early 1980s, a period of increasing sensitivity in Australia to the need for community aid, they noticed there were a number of people bereaved through suicide in their classes. These people were struggling with issues unique to a suicide bereavement and for whom there was no specific community support.
The structure of the Group was based on the model of Solace Inc., the successful nation-wide support group for widows and widowers. A professional advisory council of relevant local professionals was set up to offer advice about establishing and running the group as well as to provide advocacy among the local services and community. The first Professional Advisory Council included a psychiatrist, a GP, a senior Sergeant at Coroner’s Office, a funeral director and a bereavement educator. Soon after this a social worker, accountant and advertising professional were added to the council.
Following a successful public meeting to solicit the general support among the bereaved and service providers, the group was established and incorporated as a registered charity by the Australian Taxation Office.
Purpose of the group
The group was established with the following aims:
• Give support and care to those grieving the loss of someone through suicide;
• Provide an understanding of the grief process;
• Help with healing and recovery; and
• Increase the understanding of suicide grief in the community through education and research.
Main activities of the group
• Regular support meetings held in an open format that bereaved people could enter and leave the group as they wished with no termination date;
• A telephone support service provided by the support workers;
• Community meetings and grief education were offered to rural communities, provided for by support workers;
• The running of workshops and seminars for the purpose of raising awareness, providing education, and fund raising;
• Liaising between the professional loss and grief service providers and the bereaved.
Roles within the group
There are various levels of support within the structure of the group:
• Support workers, who are people bereaved by suicide and who have undergone bereavement education training, provide most of the services to the group.
• A counsellor, usually a member of the Professional Advisory Council, provides backup for group meetings either in person or via phone.
• The Professional Advisory Council advises on matters such as safety and facilitation of group meetings, publicity, finance and advocacy.
• An elected committee of bereaved members is responsible for the group’s activities, AGM and liaison with the Professional Advisory Council at regular intervals.
• A Chairperson, elected at the AGM, manages the committee.
Particular care was taken in selecting the words ‘bereaved’ and ‘suicide’ for the title as it was felt important that the title should be specific to those for whom the group was intended . Elsewhere and especially in the US the term ‘survivor’ is taken to apply to the bereaved, but in Australia it was felt this term could equally apply to those who had survived a suicide attempt. Helping those who had attempted suicide was not within the skill range or the purpose of the group and this distinction was important.
Only persons bereaved by suicide, and their accompanying support people, were eligible to attend the group or work as volunteer support workers for the group. However all suicide-bereaved, irrespective of their relationship to the deceased person be it distant relative friend, partner or colleague, were welcome.