Assisting an Aviation Partner with a Suicide
-Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
“Always take your time with questions; you can save lives
through caring and empathic listening."
Founder & CEO, QPR Institute
This article is part of a series dedicated to the subject of informing and
supporting children when a family member dies from suicide. Following
the death of a pilot who died from suicide, the company provided
compassionate support for his wife, children, and both sets of their
grandparents, as well as the employee's siblings. Also, because suicide
of an employee generates a significant impact on any company’s
workforce, the organization provided support for its employees.
Care for the Employee’s Family
From the beginning, the company assigned Care Teams, employees
specifically trained to assist families of their own employees, customers
and all families involved in traumatic loss from all types of tragedies, to
assist the family with practical needs like food, transportation, household
chores, and basic needs–that are often difficult for the bereaved during
the first few days after a death. Employee teams were available to assist
the family from the first news of the death, through the memorial service.
Members of the Human Resources team were available for consultation
on corporate matters as long as the family needed. This proactive
approach to the family proved to be important to the deceased
employee's family members, and for the caring company employees
Care for Peers, Other Employees, and the Organization's
The company also brought in counselors from the employee assistance
program and provided office space for them to meet with any employee
who chose to receive counseling support. This support was available well
beyond the initial response.
Leaders of the Foundation were also invited in to support the company's
leadership team in the immediate aftermath of the loss of the valued
pilot. As with all traumatic losses, in addition to trauma counseling and
emotional support, there was a need to discuss issues around operating
the normal business in an emotionally-charged environment, and how to
move forward at the right time with appropriate post-vention measures
being put in place.
"Suicide prevention is a team effort."
-Paul Quinnett, Ph.D.,
Founder & CEO, QPR Institute
The question of how to explain their father’s death to his children came
up within the first forty-eight hours. The company leader of the Care
Team reached out to the employee assistance team for assistance. A
counselor was sent to the home who had experience and training in
working with young children on the subject of death. Keeping with best
practice, the counselor explained that a family member should be the
one to provide the information as soon as possible and with as much
candor as possible.
The counselor spent as much time as the family members wanted, in
order to answer their questions and help them as much as they felt
necessary in order to prepare for the difficult assignment. In the end, it
was the mother who sat with her children and explained how their father
had died. The conversation went smoothly, which meant that family
members, as well as the company employees, were able to go on with
their tasks, planning the funeral and memorial service and all the
business associated with such a tragic death, without fearing that
someone would say the wrong thing in front of the children.
Follow up with the company leadership team several months after the
tragedy yielded very positive feedback about the support the company
had provided the family. The children were attending school and going
on with their lives, the way that children most often do—especially when
they are provided honest information and included in the grieving rituals,
along with all of the family members.
Beyond the Intial Response
A year later, follow up discussion with the company leaders revealed that
the company has begun a very robust suicide prevention program. The
intent is to train all employees, including the leadership team, using the
QPR training program. The death of their friend and colleague, by his own
hand, had a major impact on everyone within the company–and their
decision to commit to future training is one of the many ways they
decided to honor his contribution to the company and all who knew him.
If you are interested in learning more about how to become a Gatekeeper
and becoming part of a more extensive network that is dedicated to
suicide prevention, see www.qprinstitute.com. To learn more about the
training classes offered by the Family Assistance Foundation and for
information about upcoming Gatekeeper classes and how you can
become a trainer within your workplace go to fafonline.org. You can also
contact Stephen Young at email@example.com.
Upcoming Gatekeeper Trainings
Hong Kong Gatekeeper Training
Hong Kong Train-the-Trainer
QPR Gatekeeper and Train-the-Trainer Training will be offered at
additional locations when additional dates for Foundation
Member/Partner Meetings are announced for 2019.
QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer and is a research-based
intervention that anyone can learn. The Foundation works with the QPR
Institute to customize this successful intervention for cruise lines,
aviation companies, human resources professionals and other workplace
groups. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org at the Foundation if
you would like to know more about how you can learn to be a QPR
Gatekeeper in your organization. You can also learn how you can become
a certified trainer of the QPR Gatekeeper model. Contact the Foundation
to discuss your interests.
© 2018 QPR Institute Inc./Family Assistance Education & Research Foundation
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