When to use this Guide

It is critical to confirm a death has occurred prior to enacting the school’s Emergency Management Plan (EMP) and subsequent suicide response (also known as postvention).

A suspected suicide refers to those incidents where the school has received confirmation that a death of a student has occurred and there are indications from those who have alerted the school to the information (police, mental health services, and departmental staff) is that the death is a suicide.

Without consent from the family to refer to the death as a suicide, the appropriate language to use regarding the cause of death is a ‘sudden’ or ‘tragic’ death of a student.

The school should seek support from Emergency Management and Student Support Services (SSS).

Support is also available from Be YouExternal Link .

The Guide aims to:

  • increase awareness for all school staff of the complexity of suicide and the need to access appropriately trained mental health professionals to restore safety and reduce the potential for suicide contagion
  • provide school leaders, school wellbeing teams and other members of the school’s Incident Management Team (IMT) with a set of practical tasks to guide the school’s response following the suicide of a student
  • provide school staff, school wellbeing teams (including Mental Health Practitioners, SSS, Secondary School Nurses and Doctors in Secondary Schools Program GPs) with information and relevant resources to assist in the timely identification of emotional distress and potential emerging mental health difficulties following exposure to a suicide.

The Guide is not:

  • a clinical document
  • a practice manual for undertaking a suicide risk assessment and formulating a support plan to respond to a student’s suicidal ideation and/or behaviour and subsequent distress
  • a standalone resource for supporting students in emotional distress and displaying mental health vulnerabilities, including suicidal ideation and/or behaviours
  • a resource to assist schools respond to self-harm incidents (including suicide attempts).

An evidence-informed and coordinated response to a suicide ensures that the school leadership team can identify and respond to the unique needs of the school by providing timely supports and resources to alleviate distress and reduce potential ongoing mental health and wellbeing difficulties for students, staff and the broader school community.

Guidance chapter outlining when to use the Responding to the suicide of a student: a guide to assist secondary schools

Reviewed 14 October 2021

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