Areas of specialism

Suicide postvention. Workplace wellbeing. Critical methodologies. Qualitative methods.

My qualifications

BSc (Honours) Social Science.
Open University
MSc Counselling Psychology
University of Worcester
PhD A critical exploration of staff experiences and roles following a student death by suicide within two United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions
University of Worcester

Previous roles

27 September 2021 - 30 June 2022
Research Fellow
University of Birmingham


Hilary Causer; Johanna Spiers; Nikolaos Efstathiou; Stephanie Aston; Carolyn A. Chew-Graham; Anya Gopfert; Kathryn Grayling; Jill Maben; Maria van Hove; Ruth Riley (2022) The Impact of Colleague Suicide and the Current State of Postvention Guidance for Affected Co-Workers: A Critical Integrative Review

People bereaved by suicide are affected psychologically and physically and may be at greater risk of taking their own lives. Whilst researchers have explored the impact of suicide on family members and friends, the area of colleague suicide has been neglected and postvention guidance for supporting surviving colleagues is often poorly developed. This critical integrative review explored the impact of colleague suicide on surviving co-workers and reviewed postvention guidance for workplaces. Systematic searches found 17 articles that met the inclusion criteria. Articles were appraised for quality and extracted data were analysed using a thematic network method. Article quality was moderate. Two global themes were developed: impact of a colleague suicide comprised themes of ‘suicide loss in the workplace’; ‘professional identities and workplace roles’; ‘perceptions of professional uniqueness’; and ‘professional abandonment and silencing’. Postvention following a colleague suicide comprised ‘individualised responses’; ‘the dual function of stigma’; and ‘complex pressure on managers’. A unifying global network ‘after a colleague suicide’ describes the relationships between all themes. A series of disconnects between existing postvention guidance and the needs of impacted workers are discussed. This review demonstrates the need for robust, systemic postvention for colleagues impacted by the complex issue of colleague suicide.

Hilary Causer, Eleanor Bradley, Kate Muse, Jo Smith (2021) Bearing witness: A grounded theory of the experiences of staff at two United Kingdom Higher Education Institutions following a student death by suicide.

Wider networks of people are affected by a suicide death than originally thought, including those whose job-role brings them into contact with a death by suicide of another person. The impact of student suicide within United Kingdom (UK) Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is unexplored and the experiences of staff members remain unknown. It is not known whether staff members have specific postvention needs following a student death by suicide. Any postvention support currently offered to staff members within UK HEIs lacks a context-specific evidence base. This study asked ‘How is a student suicide experienced by staff members within a UK HEI and what are the features of that experience?’ Staff members from diverse job-roles in two UK HEIs responded to a qualitative survey (n = 19) and participated in semi-structured interviews (n = 10). Data were transcribed and subjected to a constructivist grounded theory analysis. Participants’ experiences informed the development of a core category: ’Bearing witness’, which encompassed six further categories: ’Responding to a student suicide’; ’Experiencing a student suicide’; ’Needs and fears’; ’Experiences of support’; ’Human stories’; and ’Cultural stories’. The resulting grounded theory demonstrates how participants’ perceptions of impact are informed by their experiences of undertaking tasks following a student suicide within the community of their HEI. Processes of constructing perceptions of closeness to the student who died are evident amongst participants who did not know the student prior to their death. Tailored postvention support is required to respond to the range and complexity of HEI staff needs following a student death by suicide.

Darelle Villa, Hilary Causer, Gerard Riley (2020) Experiences that challenge self-identity following traumatic brain injury: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research


To systematically review and synthesise the qualitative literature on experiences that challenge self-identity following traumatic brain injury (TBI).


Four electronic databases were searched systematically for qualitative research published between 1965 and August 2017, investigating subjective experiences of identity change following TBI. Papers which met the inclusion criteria were evaluated using the Critical Skills Appraisal Programme (CASP) tool and synthesised using guidelines by Thomas and Harden (2008).


Of the 1965 papers retrieved, 36 met inclusion and quality criteria. Synthesis resulted in six themes: (1) awareness of change in physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning; (2) autobiographical memory loss; (3) responses of other people that highlight change; (4) loss of autonomy; (5) comparing old me and new me–loss of valued roles and activities; (6) social rejection and stigma.


An in-depth understanding of the experiences that challenge self-identity after TBI can inform rehabilitation to support individuals to negotiate these processes with less distress and more successfully.

Hilary Causer, Kate Muse, Jo Smith, Eleanor Bradley (2019) What is the experience of practitioners in health, education or social care roles following a death by suicide? A qualitative research synthesis.

Recent research has highlighted that the number of people impacted by a death by suicide is far greater than previously estimated and includes wider networks beyond close family members. It is important to understand the ways in which suicide impacts different groups within these wider networks so that safe and appropriate postvention support can be developed and delivered. A systematic review in the form of a qualitative research synthesis was undertaken with the aim of addressing the question ‘what are the features of the experiences of workers in health, education or social care roles following the death by suicide of a client, patient, student or service user?’ The analysis developed three categories of themes, ‘Horror, shock and trauma’, ‘Scrutiny, judgement and blame’, and ‘Support, learning and living with’. The mechanisms of absolution and incrimination were perceived to impact upon practitioners’ experiences within social and cultural contexts. Practitioners need to feel prepared for the potential impacts of a suicide and should be offered targeted postvention support to help them in processing their responses and in developing narratives that enable continued safe practice. Postvention responses need to be contextualised socially, culturally and organisationally so that they are sensitive to individual need.

Hilary Causer (2021) Responding to the Needs of Staff Impacted by a Student Suicide

The purpose of this chapter is to: - explore the experiences of professional workers who are exposed to a death by suicide because of their job role - report the experiences and needs of staff at two UK universities following a student death by suicide - provide guidance in resonding to staff needs following a student death by suicide.

Ruth Riley, Hilary Causer, Johanna Spiers (2022) Giving staff opportunities to talk about suicide also tackles stigma

The suicide rate among health professionals is 24% higher than the national average, with figures showing that 430 practitioners took their lives in the four years from 2011 to 2015 (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2017). This article outlines the need for evidence based postvention guidance so that the NHS can support staff members who are affected by a colleague death by suicide.