Immediate response

When a school faces a tragic incident like a suicide or suicide attempt by a student, it needs to know how to respond with care to mitigate the serious implications for its community.

When a suicide or a suicide attempt occurs, the effect on families, young people and communities is immediate and traumatic.

The list below outlines the key actions that schools can undertake immediately after being advised of a death by suicide. Many of these tasks will coincide with your critical incident management plans.

  • Contact  relevant mental health services for support.
  • If the incident happened at school, ensure the immediate safety of staff and young people — for example, provide first aid and call an ambulance and the police. Ensure the scene is secure and any witnesses are moved to an area for support.
  • If the incident happened away from school, find out as many of the facts as possible. Investigate rumours immediately. Confirm facts with the family or police.
  • Ensure those affected — young people, family and staff — are not left alone. Contact the families of young people and staff.
  • Inform the relevant representative at your state or territory education department or equivalent body.
  • Contact your Be You Consultant for support and guidance as required.
  • Contact the bereaved family. Ask how to refer to the death when informing the school community. If the family agree, use the term ‘suicide’.
  • Convene the Emergency Response Team (ERT). Refer to your postvention plan or department guidelines, and modify the plan as required for the circumstances.
  • Identify any ERT staff who are impacted and need to change responsibilities or opt out of managing the response.
  • Inform staff — in person if possible. Contact staff who aren’t on site. Don’t talk about or describe the method of suicide.
  • Identify and plan support for young people at increased risk of suicide.
  • Set up a support room for young people.
  • Inform students in small groups via a script. Don’t describe the method of suicide. Note any absent students or any students who are very distressed.
  • Inform families. Include information relating to help services. Don’t describe the method of suicide.