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Deliberate self-harm

Self-harm can sometimes look like attempted suicide. When this happens, use the phrase deliberate self-harm.

If a student’s life is in danger call 000.

Do not leave the student without support. Make sure they are safe and not alone.

Listen and stay with them.

Call for help.

Most of the information in these guidelines is about how to respond to the traumatic death of a student.

Some of the advice can still apply when someone has deliberately harmed themselves.

Aboriginal students

If the student is Aboriginal, work with Aboriginal staff from the start. Talk to mental health professionals about the best way to support this student.

Who to contact

Mental health support and advice

If the student does not need first aid, for advice contact:

If the student is Aboriginal, let the services know so the student can receive a specialised and culturally appropriate response.

Parents or carers

Contact the student’s parents or carers. Support the student until family members can take over. Do not leave the student alone.

Make sure this is the appropriate support person for the student. Check the relationship with the parent or carer does not make the student feel worse.

Sector office

Contact your sector office. Convene your school’s emergency response team.

Limit the spread of information

Containing the spread of information can help reduce the impact on students. Discuss this with the family as soon as possible.

It’s possible to contain the spread of information in the school if the deliberate self-harm happened:

  • outside of the school, or
  • without other students knowing.

Who needs to know

Any communication with staff, students, parents and carers must only be ‘need to know’. The people who decide this are:

  • the student
  • student wellbeing leaders or school counsellors
  • mental health professionals
  • the student’s parents or carers.

Limit how many people are given this information. This is so the student is kept safe and supported at the school.

Social media

Keep a check on social media for potential concerns and risks, including:

  • inappropriate comments
  • inaccuracies
  • rumours.

If information starts to spread, act on it, but have compassion for everyone involved.

If information has already been shared widely

If people already know what happened, think carefully about how you communicate.

Schools should seek advice from their sector office if they are unsure about their communication responsibilities.

Liaising with the family and community

Critical areas for sensitive discussion with the family are:

  • what information is given to which sections of the school community
  • the support plan for their child’s return to school
  • the support for any siblings in the school
  • the support for siblings at another school
  • liaison with the mental health professional
  • potential impact of social media.

Contact a mental health professional

Someone from your school’s emergency response team must liaise with CAMHS or other mental health professionals who support the student. If you have a mental health professional on the team, they can help with liaison.

When the student comes back to school, you should have a support plan in place. Prepare this with:

  • an identified staff member (usually the student wellbeing leader or school counsellor)
  • the student
  • the family
  • appropriate mental health professionals.

Identify and support other vulnerable students

Schools must not underestimate the impact of an event like this on other students. How you support and monitor these students is just as important as after a traumatic death.

Out of hours support

Call for help or advice if it is out of hours and you are seriously concerned about the student’s wellbeing.

Who to call

Emergency Mental Health Service at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital on 8161 700.
Ask to page the Emergency Mental Health Clinician.

If the student is Aboriginal, talk with local Aboriginal education staff, if available and appropriate. They can give culturally appropriate support.