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Immediate response

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This information helps when you hear about a student’s traumatic death.

Exposure to a student death is a traumatic experience. Anyone immediately affected should not be left alone, until parents or carers can support them.

If it happens at school: make it safe

If a student death takes place at school, make sure everyone is safe.

Follow emergency medical care practices. For example, avoid contact with blood or other body fluids - use protective gloves.

Call emergency services on 000 for medical advice, ambulance or police.

Alert your school’s emergency response team.

Report incident to your sector office.

Look after witnesses

Identify everyone who was present.

Move witnesses to a safe location. Make sure staff, or school counsellors are there to support and supervise.

Keep witnesses there until police have taken statements or advised other actions. Do not ask questions unless absolutely necessary. Give people time to cope with what just happened.

Protect the location

Isolate the location from unauthorised student or staff access. For example:

  • use screens
  • block corridors.

Do everything possible to protect others from viewing the site without disturbing the area. The police will need to assess it.

Do not remove or disturb items from the location until police are finished. Wait until they let you know it is no longer a secured area.

If it happens off-site: verify any information

Verify reports of traumatic death

Reporting made by people other than direct family members should be verified. If the reports are not confirmed by the sector office, you should verify with:

  • the local police
  • hospital staff, or
  • the family (with sensitivity).

Do not ignore rumours, messages or emails about possible suicide. Follow up straight away.

Verify rumours

Contact your sector office to verify any rumours. For example, if you hear a student at another school has died.

If a student is missing and you are concerned about them

If a student that has expressed thoughts of suicide is missing, contact the parents or carers immediately.

If the parents or carers do not know where the student is:

  • call the police
  • ask for the Missing Persons Unit.

If the student is found safe

If the student is found safe, contact their parents or carers and share your concerns. Always think about the student’s safety and privacy.

Organise immediate support. For example:

  • a student wellbeing leader
  • a school counsellor
  • an Aboriginal support person.

Refer the student to a mental health professional, if one is not already involved.

Talking to the family

Contact the family of the student who has died. Offer condolences from your school. Talk about any cultural or religious aspects.

Let the student’s family know you need to tell your school community about their child’s death. Talk about how you will do this. Listen to what they have to say.

Advise the family that the term ‘suicide’ will not be used when talking about the death. It will be referred to as a traumatic death.

Let them know you are using these guidelines.

If appropriate at this time talk about:

  • How the family want the school to refer to their child.
  • The damaging impact of misinformation.
  • Keeping a check on social media.
  • Notifying schools attended by any known siblings, cousins or close family and community members.
  • How best to support a child or young person’s grief.