Resources

Resources

Prevention Resources

Prevention involves taking action to prevent mental health issues that may lead to suicidal thoughts, as well as educating people about the warning signs of suicide and how to help.

It is extremely important all staff, including teachers, aides, custodians, and lunch workers are trained in what to look for and how to help students. Education for students may occur in a health class by a school nurse, school psychologist, counselor, or social worker. Creating a safe and non-threatening environment for all students is one of the important stages to begin with. All education and training should address the factors that contribute to suicidal thoughts in students. Schools should not have assemblies about suicide. In large groups, it is difficult to see how students are being affected by the content. Some who are already dealing with mental health issues may be triggered and put at increased risk. It is better for training to be done in classroom settings so students feel more comfortable talking about suicide. Source

 

PTA meetings, community council, and other types of meetings in a school setting may present an opportunity to educate parents and the community about depression and suicidal behavior. Outside mental health professionals should be given the opportunity to discuss their programs with students to increase awareness of services.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10–24. For most people, the thought of wanting to take one’s own life is incomprehensible. The factors that lead to a suicide attempt are complex and usually involve multiple internal and external issues. Typically, the person is in extreme emotional pain and sees suicide as the only solution. But when schools, communities, and mental health organizations come together for suicide prevention, they can give young people the support they need to find hope and choose life.

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Protective factors are circumstances or characteristics that protect against suicide ideation. They include skills, strengths, and resources that increase resilience and the ability to handle stress. Positive resistance to suicide is not permanent, so programs that support and maintain protection against suicide should be ongoing. Source 

 

Internal Protective Factors

Resilience

Problem-solving skills and conflict resolution

A sense of personal control over actions

Sense of purpose and self-esteem

A healthy fear of risky behavior and pain

Hope for the future

 

External Protective Factors

Safe home and school environment

Positive connections to family, friends, and the community

Cultural and religious beliefs discouraging suicide

Responsibilities at home or in the community

Access to healthcare and clinical treatment

Restricted access to lethal means Source 

 

One of Hope Squad’s primary roles is to increase protective factors, such as connectedness, which benefits everyone in the school community.

Risk factors are situations or events that increase the risk someone will die by suicide. By decreasing risk factors in someone’s life, you help decrease the chance that they will consider suicide as an option. By being aware of risk factors, you can be on alert for warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

 

Predisposing risk factors

-Mental or physical illness

-Family history of suicide

-Previous suicide attempt

 

Long-term risk factors

-Victim of bullying

-Unfulfilling or toxic relationship

-Lack of social connection and support

-Family conflict

-Familial and social expectations

-Abuse or neglect

 

Life event risk factors

-Loss of a loved one

-The end of a relationship

-Parents’ divorce

-Exposure to someone’s suicide

-Sexual harassment or assault

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One in five Americans live with a mental illness. Mental illness can be caused by environmental stresses, genetic factors, and chemical imbalances. They change the way people think, feel, or act, and can cause minor and major disruptions in their lives. 

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While the majority of people with mental illnesses do not consider suicide, research shows that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental illness. Illnesses closely linked to suicide risk include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, substance use disorder, and eating disorders. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and help-seeking is one of the greatest ways you can support someone living with a mental illness.

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Half of mental illnesses develop by age 14, and the earlier a young person can access mental health care, the more effective it can be. If possible, schools should partner with trained community mental health professionals to bring mental health services into the school.

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National Alliance on Mental Illness: resources and information about mental illnesses

Mental Health America: online mental health screening

 

Hope Squad educates students on mental illness and trains them to recognize and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness in their schools.

“Bullying is ongoing aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” 

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While there is not enough research to conclude that bullying causes suicide, children who bully and are bullied are at higher risk of suicide-related behavior. 

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The following traits and circumstances can put someone at risk for bullying. 

  • Few or no friends
  • Substance use
  • Being perceived as different from peers (race, sexual orientation, physical features, disability, etc.)
  • Unable to defend him or herself (vulnerable)
  • Is depressed, anxious, or has low self-esteem
  • Does not get along well with others

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Keep up with technology. Bullying often takes place in areas hidden from adult supervision. Cyberspace has become such an area.

Pay special attention to the needs of LGBTQ youth and young people who do not conform to gender expectations.

Use a comprehensive approach. Reducing the risk of bullying and suicide requires interventions that focus on the individual’s mental health as well as school and home environments. 

Research evidence-based bullying intervention strategies. Research has found that restorative justice is a promising approach, while zero-tolerance policies may actually cause more problems

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Bullying prevention is one of Hope Squad’s five areas of focus and a key component in elementary Jr. Hope Squads.

What to Say and Do

  • Talk with young children about their feelings. Help them label their feelings so they will better understand and be more aware of what is going on inside them. You might ask: “How are you feeling? Are you feeling sad or angry? Do you feel sad or angry only once in awhile or do you feel it a lot of the time?”
  • Encourage young children to express their feelings. Talking to them helps to strengthen the connection between them and you. It also lets them know they can share feelings safely with adults they know. Teach that feelings of hurt and anger can be shared with others who can understand and give support.
  • If a child does not seem to feel comfortable expressing feelings verbally, support other ways to express feelings, such as writing, drawing or being physically active. Give young children healthy ways to express themselves and work through feelings.
  • Explain to young children that being sad from time to time is normal. Sadness is the emotion people feel in times of loss, disappointment or loneliness. Teach children that talking about feeling sad or angry, and even shedding tears or being upset, is OK. Be clear that they should talk to others or do something else when feeling sad, but should not seek to harm themselves in any way.
  • Take steps to ensure that young children do not have easy access to materials they could use to harm themselves. Be certain knives, pills and particularly firearms are inaccessible to all children.
  • Focus on active involvement with young children that provides them with a focus for their feelings and energies. Play games, participate in sports, visit playgrounds and do other activities together. Stay closely connected to them so you can intervene and provide support if necessary.

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Unfortunately, even in Utah, students in elementary school attempt suicide. It’s important to remember that younger children express feelings more through actions than words. Play therapy is an excellent resource to use when working with younger children. Be sure to contact your local mental health agency for assistance.

Talking to Young Children (Ages 9-13)

What to Say and Do

  • Be aware of depression and its symptoms in adolescent children. Depression often does not go away on its own and is linked to risk of suicide when it lasts for periods of two weeks or more. Talk with individuals who have knowledge of depression in children to further understand the symptoms and how to intervene.
  • Adolescents have many stressors in their lives and sometimes consider suicide as an escape from their worries or feelings. Be aware of your adolescent’s stressors and talk with him or her about them. Let your child know you care and emphasize that “suicide is not an option; help is always available.” Suicide is a permanent choice.
  • Assist adolescents so they don’t become overwhelmed with negative thoughts, which can lead to thoughts of suicide. Help them learn to manage negative thinking and challenge thoughts of hopelessness. If needed, treatment or therapy can help an adolescent deal with negative thoughts.
  • Emphasize that alcohol and drugs are not a helpful source of escape from the stressors of an adolescent’s life. An adolescent who is suffering from depression and also turns to alcohol and drugs is at a greater risk of attempting suicide.
  • Be attentive to risk factors in an adolescent’s life, as suicide is not always planned at younger ages. Recognizing the warning signs that might be leading to suicide is important.
  • Encourage adolescents to talk about and express their feelings. Provide a listening ear and be a support so they can visit with you about how they feel. Adolescents deal much better with tough circumstances when they have at least one person who believes in them.
 

What to Say and Do

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in teens. These may include feelings of sadness, excessive sleep or inability to sleep, weight loss or gain, physical and emotional fatigue, continuing anxiety, social withdrawal from friends or school, misuse of drugs or alcohol and related symptoms. Intervene and get professional help and resources if necessary.
  • Ask teens about what they are feeling, thinking and doing. Open communication helps teens talk freely about their concerns and seek support. Make yourself available to talk with teens often. Avoid being critical or judgmental; listen, don’t immediately “fix” the problem.
  • Provide support if a teen expresses thoughts related to suicide or shares stories of suicide attempts. Stay with him or her and seek additional help. Guide the teen to professional therapists who can give assistance.
  • Listen to teens and pay attention to language related to hurting themselves or others, wanting to “go away” or “just die,” or similar ideas. Such expressions always should be taken seriously. Respond with support for the teen and access resources to provide further counseling or guidance.
  • Encourage teens to be attentive to their peers and quickly report to a respected adult any threats, direct or indirect, that suggest the possibility of suicide. Teens often are aware of such threats among their peers before others and can serve to support peers and provide resources. Talk about the idea that being a true friend means not keeping secrets that could lead to someone being dead. 

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Bullying may be a concern for students in this age category leading to at-risk behavior and depression. Assessments are helpful to determine the most at-risk students. Peer to peer programs are most successful in preventing bullying and assisting at-risk students.

LGBTQ+ youth across the nation face challenges every day. Hope Squad seeks to help the LGTBQ+ community by being compassionate, understanding and supportive of every individual. 

Hope Squad aims to change the dialogue and support the mental health of ALL teens.  Every individual is a worthwhile person and deserves to be treated with respect and love. Positive environments are important to help all youth thrive. However, the health needs of LGBTQ+ Youth can differ from their heterosexual peers and often face additional pressures and concerns. In comparison to the mainstream population, LGBTQ+ youth experience higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behavior. Often alienated from family and school, LGBTG+ youth struggle against stigma and discrimination. However, it is important to remember that most LGBTQ+ youth who experience these stressors do not consider suicide.

 

Educators must provide a safe non-threatening school environment for all students, ensuring that LGBTG+ students are not bullied, victimized, or excluded.  Caring adults must take the lead in creating safe places for all students through the following efforts:

  • Become aware of issues for LGBTQ+ youth within and outside of the school community.
  • Ensure that LGBTQ+ youth who need behavioral health services are connected with providers who have experience offering services to LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Model appreciation for all youth, condemn any discrimination, and promote an advocacy role for all youth.
  • Respect youths’ decisions about coming out to others.
  • Promote protective factors such as family support and acceptance, safe schools, caring adults, high self-esteem amongst youth, and positive role models for youth.
  • View LGBTQ+ students as a part of, and not separate from, other persons and groups.
  • Allow students to openly discuss the topic in a courteous, respectful, and professional manner.
  • Create safe spaces where LGBTQ+ youth can receive support.
  • Serve as a resource to families by providing accurate information on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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LGBTQ+ Lifelines

LGBTQ+ National Youth Hotline (to age 25): 1-800-246-7743

Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386

Trevor Text: Text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200

Trevor Chat: thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now

LGBTQ+ National Hotline (all ages): 1-888-843-4564

 

The Trevor Project: lifeline, chat, and support center. The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

 

GSA Network: trains youth leaders to educate and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights

 

It Gets Better ProjectThe mission of the IGB Project is to give LGBT youth across the world hope that things do get better. In response to raised incidents of students committing suicide after being bullied in school, syndicated columnist Dan Savage created the organization to provide both inspiration and resources, including pledges and educational videos.

 

Q Card Project: The Q Card is a simple and easy-to-use communication tool designed to empower LGBTQ youth to become actively engaged in their health, and to support the people who provide their care.

 

Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Teens: Facts for Teens and Their Parents: If you’ve ever wondered if you’re gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you’re not alone. Many teens ask themselves this question, and here are ways to find some answers.

For parents and caregivers, finding out your son or daughter is gay, lesbian, or bisexual can present challenges. Learn more about how to be supportive.

 

CenterLink: Founded with the mission to build sustainable LGBTQ community centers, this organization now has over 200 locations in 46 states and five countries. Aside from strengthening local LGBTQ communities, the organization also provides networking, technical assistance and training, and capacity building services.

 

Resources for youth and family

 

Responding To Children's Questions on LGBTQ Topics

 

Improve School Experiences for LGBT Youth

The Role of Teacher and School Personnel

It is not the responsibility of teachers or school personnel to counsel at-risk students.  Teachers and school personnel may refer these students to the appropriate helping resource, as directed by the school’s policy or protocol. Most often, schools instruct teachers to relay concerns about individual students to a counselor, a school nurse or another support person in the school. In some cases, teachers may be encouraged to talk directly to a student’s parent or guardian about changes in behavior that may suggest a problem. Teachers and school personnel are encouraged to obtain a copy of their school’s policy or protocol for referring students in need of mental health services.

Source – Click Here

Teachers and school personnel have day-to-day contact with students and are well positioned to observe students’ behavior and to act when they suspect a student may be at risk of self-harm. Schools need to create a structure of support for teachers and school personnel outlining steps for identifying and assisting at-risk students.

How to Identify Students in Distress and At Risk for Suicide

Any sudden or dramatic change affecting a student’s performance, attendance or behavior should be taken seriously, such as:

  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • An overall decline in grades
  • Decrease in effort
  • Misconduct in the classroom
  • Unexplained or repeated absence or truancy
  • Excessive tobacco smoking or drinking, or drug (including cannabis) misuse
  • Incidents leading to police involvement and student violence.

Source – Click Here

These signs help identify students at risk for mental and social distress, which may cause thoughts of suicide and ultimately lead to suicidal behavior. If a teacher or school personnel identifies any of these signs, the school team should be alerted and arrangements made for a thorough evaluation of the student.

National Association of School Psychologists Tips for Teachers

  1. Know the warning signs!
  2. Know the school’s responsibilities. Schools have been held liable in the courts for not warning the parents in a timely fashion or adequately supervising the suicidal student.
  3. Encourage students to confide in you.  Let students know that you are there to help, that you care.  Encourage them to come to you if they or someone they know is considering suicide.
  4. Refer student immediately. Do not “send” a student to the school psychologist or counselor.  Escort the child yourself to a member of the school’s crisis team.  If a team has not been identified, notify the principal, psychologist, counselor, nurse or social worker. (And as soon as possible, request that your school organize a crisis team!)
  5. Join the crisis team. You have valuable information to contribute so that the school crisis team can make an accurate assessment of risk.
  6. Advocate for the child. Sometimes administrators may minimize risk factors and warning signs in a particular student.  Advocate for the child until you are certain the child is safe.

Source

Click Here
From the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

Intervention Resources

Intervention involves recognizing when someone is at risk for suicide and referring the person to appropriate treatment.

It is critical that school districts and the schools establish guidelines for identifying, protecting and assisting students who exhibit suicidal or other dangerous behavior.

 

School administrators are encouraged to identify at least one staff member to be an on-site mental health coordinator. This individual could be a school counselor, psychologist, social worker, or school nurse. Rural schools may select a teacher.

 

Schools are encouraged to develop a “crisis response plan” outlining procedures for school personnel to follow when working with students exhibiting suicidal behaviors. This plan should be developed by the school administration and should consider input from faculty and staff.

 

School districts are encouraged to create a crisis team that includes local mental health agencies.  When needed, mental health professionals outside the school may assist the school crisis team.  All crisis team members, including professionals from mental health agencies, hospitals, private providers and law enforcement would receive training. 

 

Guidelines for Administrators and Crisis Teams

Most people who attempt suicide gave signs of their intention. Recognizing these warning signs are key to intervention. The following are common warning signs:

  • Talking or writing about death or wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, including sudden happiness after a long period of depression, which indicates relief at choosing to die

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Hope Squad members are trained to recognize warning signs of suicide in their peers, reach out, and refer their peers to trusted adults.

Tips for Parents

Know the warning signs!

Do not be afraid to talk to your child. Talking to your children about suicide will not put thoughts into their head. In fact, all available evidence indicates that talking to your child lowers the risk of suicide. 

Respond with belief and compassion. If your child discloses suicidal thoughts, do not say things like, “You don’t really feel that way” and “But you have so much to be grateful for!” 

Suicide-proof your home. If you have any concerns about your child, make knives, medications, and firearms inaccessible. 

Use school and community resources. This can include your school psychologist, crisis intervention personnel, suicide prevention groups or hotlines, or private mental health professionals.

Take immediate action. If your child indicates he/she is contemplating suicide, or if your gut instinct tells you they might hurt themselves, get help.  Do not leave your child alone. Even if he denies “meaning it,” stay with him. Reassure him. Seek professional help. If necessary, drive your child to the hospital’s emergency room to ensure that she is in a safe environment until a psychiatric evaluation can be completed.

Listen to your child’s friends.  They may give hints that they are worried about their friend but be uncomfortable telling you directly. Be open. Ask questions.

Source

Teens and Suicide: What Parents Should Know

Talking to Your Kid About Suicide

How To Talk To Children About Suicide: An Age-By-Age Guide

School personnel should not counsel at-risk students. If concerned about a student’s behavior and safety, they should refer the student to a trained resource, as directed by the school’s policy. These resources may be a counselor, a school social worker, a school nurse, or another support person.

Source

Besides the warning signs already listed, any dramatic change affecting a student’s performance, attendance, or behavior should be taken seriously, such as

  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • An overall decline in grades
  • Decrease in effort
  • Misconduct in the classroom
  • Unexplained or repeated absence or truancy
  • Substance use
  • Incidents leading to police involvement and student violence

Tips for Teachers

Know the warning signs!

Know the school’s responsibilities. Schools have been held liable in the courts for not warning the parents in a timely fashion or adequately supervising the suicidal student.

Encourage students to confide in you.  Let students know that you are there to help, that you care.  Encourage them to come to you if they or someone they know is considering suicide.

Refer the student immediately. Do not “send” a student to the school psychologist or counselor. Escort the child yourself to a member of the school’s crisis team.  If a team has not been identified, notify the principal, psychologist, counselor, nurse, or social worker. (And as soon as possible, request that your school organize a crisis team!)

Join the crisis team. You have valuable information to contribute so that the school crisis team can make an accurate assessment of risk.

Advocate for the child. Sometimes administrators may minimize risk factors and warning signs in a particular student.  Advocate for the child until you are certain the child is safe.

Source

Preventing Suicide: The Role of High School Teachers

Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention

It can be scary if a friend talks about suicide, or acts in a way that you think he or she might be in danger. Your friend might have even told you not to tell anyone. But you cannot help your friend on your own. You must tell a trusted adult. Some examples of trusted adults could include your parents, your friend’s parents, a teacher, or a school counselor. You can also also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741, and the responder will talk you through how to help your friend.

Source

Best Practices Registry from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper training for Suicide Prevention from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

Guide to Engaging the Media in Suicide Prevention from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

Training: What Gun Owners Can Do to Prevent Suicide Presented by Paul Quinnett, Ph.D. The QPR Institute has partnered with injury prevention experts at Dartmouth and Harvard universities to produce a research-based online training program on what gun dealers, ranger masters, and gun owners can do to prevent suicide.

The training is based on extensive research on the role of firearms in suicidal behavior, and how and why restricting access to firearms by people in emotional crisis can save lives. The training is not anti-gun. Rather, it focuses on what gun dealers and gun owners can do in a “foreground check” — not a “background check” – to prevent inappropriate access to firearms and their misuse.

Postvention Resources

Postvention happens after a suicide occurs. It involves helping those who were affected by the suicide cope with the loss and reduce the risk of further suicides. 

After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools is an excellent, comprehensive resource. 

 

In the event of a suicide, Hope Squad members receive training that will help them cope with grief, support their peers, and stay connected to those who can help.

Click here for one-sheet guides for students, parents, educators, counselors, Hope Squad members, and Hope Squad parents. They include reminders and tips about self-care and how to support students and peers.

Crisis Response Checklist

Click on the link above for a sample checklist and timeline for how to address a student suicide with administration, faculty and staff, students, crisis response team, student government officers, Hope Squad, and the family of the deceased.

 

Procedures

  1. Get the Facts – consult with law enforcement to confirm the cause of death. Source
  2. If the Cause of Death is Unconfirmed – If the body has not yet been recovered or if there is an ongoing investigation, schools should state the cause of death is still being determined and that additional information will be forthcoming once it has been confirmed. Acknowledge that there are rumors (which are often inaccurate), and remind students that rumors can be deeply hurtful and unfair to the missing/deceased person, their family, and their friends. If there is an ongoing investigation, schools should check with local law enforcement before speaking about the death with students who may need to be interviewed by the authorities. Source
  3. Keep the school open – The school is a magnet in times of crisis.  Collaborate with the district office to establish bell schedules, crisis centers and provide services for students, staff, parents, and witnesses. Source
  4. Contact the family – A visit from the principal and the district’s crisis response coordinator will give added support to the family and provide communication about the district’s postvention procedures.  If the death is a suicide but the family does not want it disclosed, the principal and district representative can explain that students are already talking about the death amongst themselves, and that having adults in the school community talk to students about suicide and its causes can help keep students safe. Source
  5. If the family dos not want the cause of death disclosed – If the family refuses to permit disclosure, schools can state, “The family has requested that information about the cause of death not be shared at this time” and can nevertheless use the opportunity to talk with students about the phenomenon of suicide: “We know there has been a lot of talk about whether this was a suicide death. Since the subject of suicide has been raised, we want to    take this opportunity to give you accurate information about suicide in general, ways to prevent it, and how to get help if you or someone you know is feeling depressed or may be suicidal.” Source
  6. Crisis Team – Assemble the crisis team at the school to discuss the facts, review the postvention procedures and assign responsibilities. Source
  7. Provide fact sheets – Keep parents informed as to warning signs, activities, services and support available at the school. Faculty fact sheets should also include information on bell schedule, debriefing meetings, and crisis center locations. Source
  8. Determine intervention groups – Groups might include the deceased student’s classes, friends, siblings (and their schools), teachers/staff, parents, and community. Source
  9. Grief counseling – Students should be given every opportunity to express their grief in whatever setting is most comfortable: individual or small groups (in the crisis room); in classroom discussions with their teacher and crisis facilitator(s).  Provide for ventilation of feelings and validate all expressions of grief. No large group assemblies.  Provide referrals of community agencies and other available services. Source
  10. Media – Refer media to district’s spokesperson. Intervention and prevention efforts should be emphasized. Additional information – http://www.afsp.org/media, http://www.sprc.org/library/at_a_glance.pdf
  11. No memorials/dedications/plaques – Appropriate activities include donations and letters to the family, charity, or suicide prevention efforts; establish support programs at the school. Additional information – Click Here
  12. Emphasize no one/thing is to blame – Suicide is very complex and cannot be simplified by blaming individuals, drugs, music, or the school. Source

Postvention Preparation – District Office

  1. Designate a crisis response coordinator – this person would be responsible to assist schools when a crisis arises.  They would go to the school and consult with the school administration on appropriate actions.
  2. Create a community crisis team – effective crisis teams are comprised of mental health professionals from local mental health agencies or hospitals.
  3. Designate media spokesperson – this person would assist the school administration in preparing appropriate media response.

Postvention Actions

  1. District office crisis coordinator and school administration meet to:
    1. Confirm the cause of death
    2. Meet with the deceased’s family
    3. Determine needs of the school
  2. Assemble the crisis team
  3. Meet with faculty and staff as soon as possible:
    1. Introduce the crisis team
    2. Review details of death
    3. Read statement that will be given to teachers to read in the classrooms
    4. Allow discussion, questions and grieving
    5. Offer crisis team assistance for teachers who may not be able to read statement or go to class
    6. Explain plans for the day, including locations of crisis counseling rooms and how to refer students that need assistance
  4. Alert counselors at other schools where siblings are enrolled.
  5. Provide counseling, paying particular attention to friends of the deceased and those students with recent losses or a history of suicide threats or attempts. Some students will need to be seen individually, others may benefit more by sharing in a group.
  6. Prepare a fact sheet for telephone inquiries
  7. Prepare and send out a parent letter giving the facts.
  8. Relay additional information (funeral arrangements, etc.) as it becomes available.
  9. Permit students to attend the funeral with written permission from their parents
  10. Request assistance from the district should additional adults be needed to help in classrooms during the funeral.  Teachers should not be responsible for taking students to a funeral.
  11. Do not glorify suicide with memorials (planting trees, yearbook page, etc.)
  12. Prepare to hold a community meeting in the evening if necessary
  13. At the end of the day hold a second faculty meeting to debrief with the crisis team.
  14. Provide necessary follow-up counseling for students and staff.
  15. Call appropriate departments to delete student’s name from rosters, etc.
  16. Invite parents to clean out their child’s locker.
  17. Log all decisions and actions taken.

  1. Call 911
  2. Secure the area surrounding the incident moving students to a neutral site
  3. Isolate any witnesses for police interviewing
  4. Decide if it would be best to restrict class movement (no bells), or continue normal schedule.
  5. Send school representative to the hospital (if the victim is transported) to meet with the family and friends who may congregate there.
  6. Inform the staff and student body. Using the public address system or holding an assembly to announce a death is not recommended.  Memos may be sent to the teachers or crisis team members may visit classrooms to convey the information.
  7. Permit students to leave the campus only with parental permission.  Release students to only authorized people.

For more information:  Click Here

Recommendations for Media when Reporting a Suicide

Suicide is a public health issue. Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy. However, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help seeking.

Suicide Contagion or “Copycat Suicide” occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.

Important Points when Covering Suicide

  • More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage.
  • Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.
  • Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.

Source

Schools are encouraged to share the above information with local media. Schools have the right to allow the media on campus during a crisis. Communication between schools and the media builds a relationship of trust.

To be provided to local media outlets either upon request or proactively.

School personnel were informed by the coroner’s office that a [__]-year-old student at [________] school has died. The cause of death was suicide.

Our thoughts and support go out to [his/her] family and friends at this difficult time.

The school will be hosting a meeting for parents and others in the community at [date/time/location]. Members of the school’s Crisis Response Team [or mental health professionals] will be present to provide information about common reactions following a suicide and how adults can help youths cope.

They will also provide information about suicide and mental illness in adolescents, including risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and will address attendees’ questions and concerns. A meeting announcement has been sent to parents, who can contact school administrators or counselors at [number] or [e-mail address] for more information.

Trained crisis counselors will be available to meet with students and staff starting tomorrow and continuing over the next few weeks as needed.

Source

Allow at least one hour to discuss the following goals:

  1. The school administrator should welcome everyone and introduce the crisis team members.
  2. Share accurate information about the death.
  3. Allow staff an opportunity to express their own reactions and grief. Identify anyone who may need additional support and refer them to appropriate resources.
  4. Provide appropriate faculty (e.g., homeroom teachers or advisors) with a scripted death notification statement for students. Arrange coverage for any staff who are unable to manage reading the statement.
  5. Prepare for student reactions and questions by providing handouts to staff on Talking About Suicide and Facts About Suicide and Mental Disorders in Adolescents.
  6. Explain plans for the day, including locations of crisis counseling rooms.
  7. Remind all staff of the important role they may play in identifying changes in behavior among the students they know and see every day, and discuss plan for handling students who are having difficulty.
  8. Brief staff about identifying and referring at-risk students as well as the need to keep records of those efforts.
  9. Apprise staff of any outside crisis responders or others who will be assisting.
  10. Remind staff of student dismissal protocol for funeral.
  11. Identify which Crisis Response Team member has been designated as the media spokesperson and instruct staff to refer all media inquiries to him or her.
  12. Encourage those students who may be interested to write down their positive memories about the student to be collected and delivered to the parents. The school administrator and crisis team should evaluate these before being delivered.

Source

If a death occurs after school hours, it is helpful to contact the faculty and staff in the evening to invite them to the morning crisis meeting.

End of the First Day

It can also be helpful for the school administrator and crisis team to have an all-staff meeting at the end of the first day. This meeting provides an opportunity to take the following steps:

  • Offer verbal appreciation of the staff.
  • Review the day’s challenges and successes.
  • Debrief, share experiences, express concerns, and ask questions.
  • Check in with staff to assess whether any of them need additional support, and refer accordingly.
  • Disseminate information regarding the death and/or funeral arrangements.
  • Discuss plans for the next day.
  • Remind staff of the importance of self-care.
  • Remind staff of the importance of documenting crisis response efforts for future planning and understanding.

Source

This meeting is also an excellent opportunity for teachers and staff to share their concerns about students who may need additional support.  Also, remind teachers and staff that the school will not be closed for the funeral.  However, students and staff who wish to attend the funeral will be excused from school.

When the Death has been Ruled a Suicide

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that one of our students, _________, has taken [his/her] own life. All of us want you to know that we are here to help you in any way we can.

A suicide death presents us with many questions that we may not be able to answer right away. Rumors may begin to circulate, and we ask that you not spread rumors you may hear. We’ll do our best to give you accurate information as it becomes known to us.

Suicide is a very complicated act. It is usually caused by a mental disorder such as depression, which can prevent a person from thinking clearly about his or her problems and how to solve them. Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; in other cases, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs. One thing is certain: there are treatments that can help. Suicide should never, ever be an option.

Each of us will react to _____’s death in our own way, and we need to be respectful of each other. Feeling sad is a normal response to any loss. Some of you may not have known ______very well and may not be as affected, while others may experience a great deal of sadness. Some of you may find you’re having difficulty concentrating on your schoolwork, and others may find that diving into your work is a good distraction.

We have counselors available to help our school community deal with this sad loss and to enable us to understand more about suicide. If you’d like to talk to a counselor, just let your teachers know.

Please remember that we are all here for you.

Source

Help teachers and staff understand that sharing their emotions as they read a statement can help grieving students. Crisis team members may read statements if too difficult for teachers and staff. Students should be allowed to express feelings.

When the Cause of Death is Unconfirmed

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that one of our students, _________, has died. All of us want you to know that we are here to help you in any way we can.

The authorities have not yet determined the cause of death. We are aware that there has been some talk about the possibility that this was a suicide death. Rumors may begin to circulate, and we ask that you not spread rumors since they may turn out to be inaccurate and can be deeply hurtful and unfair to _______ as well as [his/her] family and friends. We’ll do our best to give you accurate information as it becomes known to us.

Each of us will react to _____’s death in our own way, and we need to be respectful of each other. Feeling sad is a normal response to any loss. Some of you may not have known _____ very well and may not be as affected, while others may experience a great deal of sadness. Some of you may find you’re having difficulty concentrating on your schoolwork, and others may find that diving into your work is a good distraction. We have counselors available to help our school community deal with this sad loss. If you’d like to talk to a counselor, just let your teachers know.

Please remember that we are all here for you.

Source

Teachers and staff should not feel compelled to rush through daily routine and avoid discussions about the death.  Listening to students’ concerns and feelings will assist them through their grieving process. Teachers need to be cautious and used good judgment to not allow rumors or descriptions of the death that may re-traumatize students. Crisis team members may assist with questions from teachers and staff on how to help students through their grieving process.

When the Cause of Death is not Disclosed

When the family has requested that the cause of death not be disclosed

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that one of our students, _________, has died. All of us want you to know that we are here to help you in any way we can.

The family has requested that information about the cause of death not be shared at this time.

We are aware that there has been some talk about the possibility that this was a suicide death. Rumors may begin to circulate, and we ask that you not spread rumors since they may turn out to be inaccurate and can be deeply hurtful and unfair to ______ as well as [his/her] family and friends.

We’ll do our best to give you accurate information as it becomes known to us. Since the subject has been raised, we do want to take this opportunity to remind you that suicide, when it does occur, is a very complicated act. It is usually caused by a mental disorder such as depression, which can prevent a person from thinking clearly about his or her problems and how to solve them.

Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; in other cases a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs. One thing is certain: there are treatments that can help. Suicide should never, ever be an option.

Each of us will react to _____’s death in our own way, and we need to be respectful of each other. Feeling sad is a normal response to any loss. Some of you may not have known ______very well and may not be as affected, while others may experience a great deal of sadness.

Some of you may find you’re having difficulty concentrating on your schoolwork, and others may find that diving into your work is a good distraction. We have counselors available to help our school community deal with this sad loss. If you’d like to talk to a counselor, just let your teachers know.

Please remember that we are all here for you.

Source

Many times information about the death has spread among students.  If students try to share details in the class, teachers need to remind the students to respect the family’s request to not share information about the death at this time.

When the Death has been Ruled a Suicide

I am writing with great sadness to inform you that one of our students, ________, has died. Our thoughts and sympathies are with [his/her] family and friends.

All of the students were given the news of the death by their teacher in [advisory/homeroom] this morning. I have included a copy of the announcement that was read to them.

The cause of death was suicide. We want to take this opportunity to remind our community that suicide is a very complicated act. It is usually caused by a mental disorder such as depression, which can prevent a person from thinking clearly about his or her problems and how to solve them. Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; other times, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs. I am including some information that may be helpful to you in discussing suicide with your child.

Members of our Crisis Response Team are available to meet with students individually and in groups today as well as over the coming days and weeks. Please contact the school office if you feel your child is in need of additional assistance; we have a list of school and community mental health resources.

Information about the funeral service will be made available as soon as we have it. If your child wishes to attend, we strongly encourage you to accompany him or her to the service. If the funeral is scheduled during school hours, students who wish to attend will need parental permission to be released from school.

The school will be hosting a meeting for parents and others in the community at [date/time/location]. Members of our Crisis Response Team [or mental health professionals] will be present to provide information about common reactions following a suicide and how adults can help youths cope. They will also provide information about suicide and mental illness in adolescents, including risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and will address attendees’ questions and concerns.

Please do not hesitate to contact me or one of the school counselors with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, [Principal]

Source

When the Cause of Death is Unconfirmed

I am writing with great sadness to inform you that one of our students, ________, has died. Our thoughts and sympathies are with [his/her] family and friends. All of the students were given the news of the death by their teacher in [advisory/homeroom] this morning. I have included a copy of the announcement that was read to them.

The authorities have not yet determined the cause of death. We are aware that there has been some talk about the possibility that this was a suicide death. Rumors may begin to circulate, and we have asked the students not to spread rumors since they may turn out to be inaccurate and can be deeply hurtful and unfair to _______ as well as [his/her] family and friends. We’ll do our best to give you accurate information as it becomes known to us.

Members of our Crisis Response Team are available to meet with students individually and in groups today as well as over the coming days and weeks. Please contact the school office if you feel your child is in need of additional assistance; we have a list of school and community mental health resources.

Information about the funeral service will be made available as soon as we have it. If your child wishes to attend, we strongly encourage you to accompany him or her to the service. If the funeral is scheduled during school hours, students who wish to attend will need parental permission to be released from school.

Please do not hesitate to contact one of the school counselors or me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, [Principal]

Source

When the Cause of Death is Not Disclosed

I am writing with great sadness to inform you that one of our students, ________, has died. Our thoughts and sympathies are with [his/her] family and friends.

All of the students were given the news of the death by their teacher in [advisory/homeroom] this morning. I have included a copy of the announcement that was read to them.

The family has requested that information about the cause of death not be shared at this time. We are aware that there have been rumors that this was a suicide death. Since the subject has been raised, we want to take this opportunity to remind our community that suicide, when it does occur, is a very complicated act.

It is usually caused by a mental disorder such as depression, which can prevent a person from thinking clearly about the problems in his or her life and how to solve them. Sometimes these disorders are not identified or noticed; other times, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs.

Members of our Crisis Response Team are available to meet with students individually and in groups today as well as over the coming days and weeks. Please contact the school office if you feel your child is in need of additional assistance; we have a list of additional school and community mental health resources.

Information about the funeral service will be made available as soon as we have it. If your child wishes to attend, we strongly encourage you to accompany him or her to the service. If the funeral is scheduled during school hours, students who wish to attend will need parental permission to be released from school.

Please do not hesitate to contact the school counselors or me with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, [Principal]

Source

Give accurate information about suicide. Suicide is a complicated behavior. It is not caused by a single event. In many cases, mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or psychosis, or a substance use disorder are present leading up to a suicide. Mental health conditions affect how people feel and prevent them from thinking clearly. Having a mental health problem is actually common and nothing to be ashamed of. Help is available. Talking about suicide in a calm, straightforward way does not put the idea into people’s minds. 

Address blaming and scapegoating. It is common to try to answer the question “why?” after a suicide death. Sometimes this turns into blaming others for the death. 

Do not focus on the method. Talking in detail about the method can create images that are upsetting and can increase the risk of imitative behavior by vulnerable individuals. The focus should not be on how someone killed themselves but rather on how to cope with feelings of sadness, loss, anger, etc.

Address anger. Accept expressions of anger at the deceased and explain that these feelings are normal.

Address feelings of responsibility. Help students understand that they are not responsible for the suicide of the deceased. Reassure those who feel responsible or think they could have done something to save the deceased.

Promote help-seeking. Encourage students to seek help from a trusted adult if they or a friend are feeling depressed.

Source

Helping Children Cope with Grief - ChildMind Institute

Tips broken down into a range of ages and experiences, and information about what to say, who should say it, what to look out for, and how to help.

 

Addressing Grief - NASP

Tips for caregivers, teachers, and administrators, as well as a list of books recommended by grief and crisis experts to use with children who have been affected by the loss. 

 

Lifeline Online Postvention Manual - Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Information about how to distribute information and resources, monitor comments from individuals connected to the deceased, and honor the deceased in a safe way on social media.

After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools -  AFSP, SPRC, EDC

Developed primarily for administrators and staff in middle and high schools, this comprehensive toolkit focuses on how to respond in the immediate aftermath of a suicide of a student. 

 

After a Suicide: Answering Student Questions - Scott Poland, Co-Director of Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University

Commonly asked questions by students after a suicide and how to respond. 

 

Memorials After a Suicide - Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

Answers common questions about memorials and how to safely honor a student who has died.

 

The Anniversary of a Student Death by Suicide - Jennifer Wright-Berryman, PhD

Suggestions for safe school-based activities to honor a student on the anniversary of his or her death, as well as what kinds of activities to avoid.

Helping a Child Cope with Loss and Grief -  Rebecca Dion, M.S.S., L.C.S.W., Q.C.S.W., C.E.A.P. 

A guide to talking about the loss, answering difficult questions, and helping young children and teenagers cope.

 

When a Child’s Friend Dies by Suicide - Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

Information for parents about how to deal with personal grief and support a child who has lost a friend to suicide.

 

How to Answer Questions Teens Ask About Suicide - Parents Trauma Resource Center

Questions students may have about suicide, how to help a peer who they believe is at risk for suicide, and what to do if a peer jokes about or threatens suicide.