Things to consider when contacting the school community:
While it may not always be possible to immediately ascertain all of the details about the death, confirming as much information as possible is important because speculation and rumours can exacerbate emotional upheaval within the school. If the cause of death has not been confirmed to be suicide, or if the family does not want the cause of death disclosed, it can be challenging for a school to know what to communicate to the school’s community.
What do parents/carers and all staff need to know?
- In brief what has happened (see 'Breaking the news'.)
- What support the school is putting in place.
- What actions the school will take with regards to funerals and memorials.
- Where to find further information about suicide and grief.
- Where to access support for themselves.
- What to do if they are worried about someone else.
Communicating sensitively and appropriately about suicide
In order to communicate sensitively and appropriately, the information you provide to the school community in the immediate aftermath of suicide should include and reinforce:
- Facts (not rumours);
- An understanding that death is permanent;
- An exploration of normal and wide-ranging reactions to suicide (expressions of anger and guilt are entirely normal);
- An understanding that, with support, people can cope;
- An understanding that fleeting thoughts of suicide are not unusual;
- An awareness of suicidal warning signs and resources available to help;
- An understanding of funeral expectations.
Presenting the information
When discussing any suspected suicide that has occurred, it is strongly recommended that the information given:
- Is factually correct but does not include detail of the suicidal act itself;
- Does not romanticise, glorify or vilify the death;
- Does not include details of any suicide note;
- Does not include speculation over the motive for suicide.
When parents asked things that were, on the face of it, nonsensical, Samaritans answered them very calmly and never made the parents feel they were asking stupid questions - Head teacher