School operations

Self-Harm and Attempted Suicide Response

Managing external communication

Support from the Media Unit

The department’s Media Unit is available to provide support and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week about media to principals, including managing media enquiries on their behalf. This team of media experts supports principals to respond to newspaper, radio and TV requests and manage social media issues. The media unit can be contacted on 03 8688 7776.

Importantly, the Media Unit works closely with key areas of the department including the Legal Services Division and the Schools and Regional Services Group to ensure that public comments do not breach any laws.

In the event that the school is contacted by the media following a self-harm incident, it is recommended that the principal contact the senior education improvement leader (SEIL).

Refer to the department’s Managing Trauma: a guide to manage trauma following a critical incident (PDF)External Link (staff login required) for more information about preparing for media interest.

Managing media

The media are sometimes interested in reporting on youth self-harm and suicide and may contact the school for comment. Schools should never feel obliged to immediately respond to a request from the media. Taking time to prepare a response and seek appropriate guidance and support will ensure the communication is concise and accurate and minimises the risk of further harm.

If a media outlet contacts the school, it is important to:

  • ask for their name and the media outlet they represent
  • record their contact details (phone, email)
  • ask for the timeframe they would like the information by
  • request that they provide the questions in writing – this will allow time to consider the response
  • contact the media unit for support. For more information, refer to: Media Requests and Attendance at Schools.

It is recommended that one person manages the liaison between media and the school. While it is generally the principal who is asked to speak on behalf of the school, another senior member of the school’s leadership team may take on the spokesperson duties if appropriate.

Managing social media

Content posted to social media can significantly increase the risk of exposure to a self-harm incident among people.

While it can be difficult to ascertain what information has been posted online and how to restore safety, educators are encouraged to listen out for references and engage with students regarding what they have seen and heard.

Understanding what has been posted online can provide schools and external services (such as police) with timely information about levels of risk to enable additional supports or interventions to be offered.

For information about managing social media, refer to: CybersafetyExternal Link . For advice about reporting or removing inappropriate posts, refer to: eSafety CommissionerExternal Link .

Supporting resources

The eSafety CommissionerExternal Link has a range of tools and resources to help parents and young people have safe and positive experiences online.

#ChatSafeExternal Link is an initiative of OrygenExternal Link developed in partnership with young people. It provides tools and tips to support safe online communication about suicide.

Guidance chapter on managing external communication

Reviewed 10 January 2023

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