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After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools [downloadable]

afterasuicide457After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools was designed to help schools respond immediately in the minutes, hours, and days after a suicide as well as in the weeks and months it takes the school community to heal and move forward. Since significant numbers of high school-aged youth die by suicide across the United States every year, every school needs to be prepared to respond to such an event.

About the Toolkit

This toolkit reflects consensus recommendations developed in consultation with national experts, including school-based administrators and staff, clinicians, researchers, and crisis response professionals. It provides guidance and tools for postvention, a term used to describe activities that help people cope with the emotional distress resulting from a suicide and prevent additional trauma that could lead to further suicidal behavior and deaths, especially among people who are vulnerable.

This resource was developed primarily for administrators and staff in middle and high schools, but it can also be useful for parents and communities. Although some of the guidance can be used by schools serving other age groups, the developmental differences between students in elementary, middle, and high school, and college must be taken into account when using the toolkit to respond to a death in a school.

After a Suicide focuses on how to respond in the immediate aftermath of a suicide death of a student. Ideally, schools should have a crisis response and postvention plan in place before a suicide occurs. That will enable staff to respond in an organized and effective manner. But whether or not a school has such a plan, this toolkit contains information schools can use to initiate a coordinated response.

Toolkit Sections

The following are brief descriptions of the toolkit contents:

Crisis Response – Steps that should be taken immediately when the school learns that a student has died by suicide

Helping Students Cope – Ways that the school can help reduce the emotional trauma of an unexpected death for all students and reduce suicide risk among vulnerable students

Working with the Community – Approaches to sharing information and coordinating activities with organizations and groups outside the school, including the police department, local government, faith community, and mental health providers

Working with the Media – Helping journalists ensure that the public gets the information it needs without causing undue emotional stress, increasing the risk of contagion to other students, or violating the privacy of the deceased and his or her family

Memorialization – Appropriately remembering and honoring a student who died without contributing to additional emotional trauma or suicide risk among other students

Social Media – How to appropriately use social media to inform the community while working to limit the spread of rumors and social media content that can raise the risk of vulnerable students

Suicide Contagion – Helping vulnerable students who may be in emotional or suicidal crisis as a result of the death of another student, member of the school community, or a celebrity with whom they identify, in order to avoid additional suicidal behavior and deaths

Bringing in Outside Help – Identifying and working with postvention experts from outside the school

Going Forward – Moving past the immediate crisis and implementing a comprehensive suicide prevention plan (if the school does not already have one)

Appendix A: Tools and Templates – Sample guidelines, letters, and procedures to be used in the aftermath of a suicide

Appendix B: Additional Resources – Sources of more information and guidance on preparing for and responding to a suicide in the school community, listed by the section of the toolkit to which they are most relevant

Download the PDF of After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools. See theAmerican Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Prevention Resource Center for additional resources.

This document was funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). SPRC at EDC is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), (Grant No. 5U79SM062297
This publication may be copied, reproduced, and distributed provided the copyright notice, author credit, and website addresses for both SPRC (sprc.org) and AFSP (afsp.org) are included.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, & Suicide Prevention Resource Center | After a suicide: A toolkit for schools (2nd ed.), http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/resource-program/AfteraSuicideToolkitforSchools.pdf | © Education Development Center

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