Responding to attempted suicide

While suicide is the second most common cause of death among young people aged 10—24, most suicide attempts do not result in death*. Young people may return to school following a suicide attempt, and schools should not underestimate the impact of this on other students.

It is imperative that anyone who has attempted suicide is appropriately referred to and cared for by mental health professionals.

Mental health professionals will be able to work alongside the school in the following key areas:

  • Planning support for a student who has attempted suicide.
  • Helping meet the immediate counselling needs of affected students.
  • Identifying other vulnerable young people.

Containing the Spread of Information

If a school is informed of an attempted suicide that took place away from the school or the attempt occurred without the awareness of other students, there is a small possibility that the spread of information may be contained. If complete containment of information is a real possibility, it should be discussed with the family as soon as possible. In such circumstances, any communication with staff, students and parents will be on a "need to know basis" only, in consultation with the young person, their family and appropriate mental health professionals.

If details are already known in the school community

If the details of the attempted suicide are already known in the school population, schools may understandably be anxious about addressing this. Advice should be sought from the mental health professionals caring for the young person as they may be able to provide considerable assistance. It is essential that a support plan is developed and approved by an identified staff member (the school counsellor if the school has one), the student, the family and the mental health professionals before the student returns to school.

Meeting the young person’s family

When meeting with the young person’s family, critical areas for sensitive discussion are:

  • What information is provided to which sections of the school community.
  • The support plan for their child’s return to school.
  • The support for any siblings in the school.
  • Liaison with the mental health professional.


How can Step by Step help?

Step by Step postvention advisors can support the Senior Leadership Team in understanding how best to respond depending on the situation in your community. Call the team today  0808 168 2528* or email

At this difficult time it is also really important to take care of yourself, seek support and talk to others about how you are feeling.

Samaritans are available around the clock, every single day of the year.

* The World Health Organisation states that "…suicide attempts… are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicide." downloaded 3 December 2012.