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Keep checking on students and refer if needed

Watch for changes

It’s not possible to prevent every traumatic death, but we can notice changes in behaviour.

We can also recognise a crisis that might bring about suicidal behaviour.

If staff know the warning signs and risk factors it can help. Staff can step in if something looks to be destructive. They can take action and refer on.

Your duty is to take whatever reasonable steps you can to minimise how often destructive behaviour happens. By doing this you can reduce the risk of injury or harm.

Refer for assessments to mental health professionals

You must work with mental health professionals, for example CAMHS or headspace Schools.

Student wellbeing leaders or school counsellors should also be involved.

Check back in on:

  • close friends of the student
  • any students who saw what happened
  • students in a state of distress.

The next steps are to identify other students of concern. You can then develop safety and support plans.

Steps to take

1. Identify students who are immediately or already at risk

  • Siblings of the deceased student.
  • Students who:
    • have a history of deliberate self-harm
    • experience depression or suicidal ideation
    • show risky behaviours
    • use mental health services
    • have grief or trauma (because of other deaths, accidents, catastrophes, family breakdown or emotional, physical or sexual abuse).

2. Identify other students who might be deeply affected by the death

Think about who might have strong feelings about the student’s death.

Friends and romantic interests

  • Friends and romantic partners.
  • Students with a romantic interest in the deceased student.
  • Friends or partners who go to other schools.

Student wellbeing leaders or school counsellors can have a confidential conversation with their wellbeing colleagues at other schools. Follow the information sharing guidelines for this.

Other students and friends

This could be someone who:

  • chatted with the student in their last hours
  • had negative communication with the deceased student
  • expresses guilt about messages sent or received
  • feels like they should have acted on a message, or shared it with an adult
  • did activities with them, for example peer groups, sporting teams, chess club or student leadership
  • feels close to them, even if they don’t appear to have had any relationship
  • has a shared cultural background.

3. Students who belong to higher risk groups

Give extra thought to students who belong to an identified high-risk group. This includes:

It is important to:

  • create a supportive environment
  • encourage and support help-seeking.

4. Identify other students of concern via referrals from staff, students, parents or carers

Use your school’s communications to families to encourage them to contact you with any concerns about a specific student.

Staff can refer students to you, as the site leader. Read about the guidance given at debrief meetings for more information.

5. Develop safety and support plans for all vulnerable students

Create a support plan with the student, school, family and mental health professionals. To do this:

  • work with mental health professionals – they can provide suicide risk screening, if appropriate
  • contact the parents or carers
  • refer to education support services – or contact headspace Schools.

Only mental health professionals should assess students for suicide risk.

Staff need to be caring listeners and observers. Their role is to support and refer.