The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), two of the nation’s leading suicide prevention organizations, have collaborated to produce a toolkit to assist schools in the aftermath of a suicide (or other death) in the school community.
Both organizations have often been contacted by schools in the aftermath of a suicide death. Since AFSP and SPRC do not have the capacity to provide customized technical assistance in these circumstances, this toolkit was created to help schools determine what to do, when and how. It is a practical resource for schools facing real-time crises. While designed specifically to address the aftermath of suicide, schools will find it useful following other deaths as well.
The toolkit reflects consensus recommendations developed in consultation with a diverse group of national experts, including school-based personnel, clinicians, researchers and crisis response professionals. It incorporates relevant existing material and research findings as well as references, templates and links to additional information and assistance. It is not, however, intended to be a comprehensive curriculum.
After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools includes an overview of key considerations, general guidelines for action, do’s and don’ts, templates and sample materials, all in an easily accessible format applicable to diverse populations and communities. Principles that have guided the development of the toolkit include the following:
* Schools should strive to treat all student deaths in the same way. Having one approach for a student who dies of cancer (for example) and another for a student who dies by suicide reinforces the unfortunate stigma that still surrounds suicide and may be deeply and unfairly painful to the deceased student’s family and close friends.
* At the same time, schools should be aware that adolescents are vulnerable to the risk of suicide contagion. It is important not to inadvertently simplify, glamorize or romanticize the student or his/her death.
* Schools should emphasize that the student who died by suicide was likely struggling with a mental disorder, such as depression or anxiety, that can cause substantial psychological pain but may not have been apparent to others (or that may have shown as behavior problems or substance abuse).
* Help is available for any student who may be struggling with mental health issues or suicidal feelings.
To access the toolkit online, go to www.sprc.org/library/AfteraSuicideToolkitforSchools.pdf.