Having a plan in place can help you respond quickly and effectively when a critical incident arises.
Although a school can be affected by many challenging incidents, including sickness and accidental death, it is suicide that presents the unique risk of potentially being the trigger for further suicide attempts.
Preparing your school to respond to suicide
The key to coping with a crisis is to plan and prepare. It is particularly important that the school responds to a suspected suicide within 48 hours. This is necessary to maintain the structure and order of the school routine, while facilitating the expression of grief, and reducing the risk of imitative behaviour.
Schools with crisis plans in place are best equipped to deal with a suspected suicide when it happens. Good planning for the aftermath of a suspected suicide makes it easier for people to respond effectively at a time when resilience may be low.
Things to consider
A postvention1 protocol is an agreed approach to responding to a suspected suicide.
In a school setting, this protocol should ideally:
- be a written protocol, developed in advance of a suicide;
- include working with the local community;
- involve the formation and training of a postvention team – be clear about who will do what;
- include procedures for notifying staff, parents and young people about a suspected suicide;
- include guidelines on how to inform the school community and handle the media;
- identify appropriate postvention services and facilities;
- include procedures for recognising ‘at risk’ individuals (including staff) and identifying where people would be referred;
- include an evaluation of the effectiveness of the postvention and any follow-up protocol.
It is good practice that the whole school community would be aware of essential information included in the plan. This includes knowing who to tell, what to say and what not to say, and who is vulnerable.
They helped to point out the pathways, when you couldn't see the wood for the trees.