University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

A critical exploration of staff experiences and roles following a student death by suicide within two United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions

Causer, Hilary (2020) A critical exploration of staff experiences and roles following a student death by suicide within two United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

Text (PhD Thesis)
PhD Thesis - Hilary Causer.pdf - Submitted Version

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Wider networks of people are affected by a suicide death than originally thought. These networks include people whose job-role brings them into contact with the death by suicide of another person, for instance, staff members in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The impact of student suicide within United Kingdom (UK) HEIs is unexplored and the experiences of staff members following a student death by suicide are unknown. Postvention encompasses activities or support designed to facilitate recovery after suicide. To meet the needs of people in wider networks, it is necessary to understand their experiences. Postvention support offered to staff members within UK HEIs currently lacks a context-specific evidence base.
This thesis asks: How is a student suicide experienced by staff members within a UK HEI and what are the features of that experience? Do staff members undertake specific postvention roles following a student suicide, if so, what kinds of role, and are there any staff needs attached to delivering them? Two studies address these questions. Firstly, a qualitative research synthesis explores the experiences of health, social care, and education professionals following the death by suicide of a client, patient, service user, or student. Secondly, a two-phase, mixed-methods study, explores the experiences of staff members across a range of job-roles in two UK HEIs following a student suicide. Data were collected by electronic survey (n=19) and semi-structured interviews (n=10). Survey data were analysed to give descriptive statistics; open text survey data and interview data were subject to a constructivist grounded theory analysis. A social constructivist paradigm positions this research within the field of critical suicidology.
Novel findings demonstrate that HEI staff experience perceptions of impact that are more diverse and intense than expected and can include a sense of being bereaved. Staff members undertake a broad range of tasks, from crisis response to the long-term support of students who are bereaved by the death. A complicated sense of entanglement and tension sits between the doing of tasks and the experiencing of feelings. Personal traits shape help-seeking and experiences of support. A ‘sense of community’ within the HEI nurtures the concept of ‘belongingness’ and the construction of perceptions of closeness to the student who died. These concepts may explain the heightened perceptions of impact experienced by staff members. Findings can be applied to the development of postvention support for staff in UK HEIs, and to the provision of community based postvention to wider networks.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University’s
requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Worcester, 2020.

A pdf file of this thesis is available to download from this WRaP record.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: student suicide, Higher Education, staff members, postvention support
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Allied Health and Community
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Hilary Causer
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2021 13:23
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 13:23

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