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Guidance for Educational Settings Following a Suicide or Sudden Death

We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that we’ve teamed up with suicide prevention charity, The OLLIE Foundation, to create an important new resource for schools, Guidance for Educational Settings Following a Suicide or Sudden Death. This invaluable document will be available for free download on the Tooled Up website homepage from Friday 9th September 2022.

Whilst living in a suicide free world is something that we would all hope for, tragically over 200 schoolchildren take their own lives in the UK each year. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday 10th September, we are proud to be publishing this resource, written to provide leadership teams in schools and other educational settings with the detailed guidance needed to coordinate an appropriate, helpful and safe response following the tragic event of a suicide or sudden death in their community. It can also be used to plan and inform a clear suicide response strategy just in case it is ever required. 

Much of the available literature and support resources available for schools and other educational settings focus on suicide prevention. However, effective postvention – the actions taken following a suicide or sudden death to support the rest of the community – is also absolutely vital. Research shows that young people bereaved by suicide are 65% more likely to attempt suicide compared to those bereaved by sudden natural causes – a phenomenon known as suicide contagion. An agreed, evidence-based protocol for responding to a suspected suicide is crucial in preventing additional trauma, psychological harm or further suicides or suicidal behaviour.

Guidance for Educational Settings Following a Suicide or Sudden Death is a comprehensive document that will support teams to create policies and procedures for their setting and is a practical tool to refer to in the event of a crisis. It contains reliable information and evidence-based advice to help staff navigating their way through an extremely difficult time, all whilst supporting students, families and each other, as best they can.

Debi Roberts, CEO of The OLLIE Foundation remarks that, Any death in a school creates enormous ripples across the community. Our intention in partnering with Tooled Up Education to create this resource was to create a buoyancy aid for staff who may unexpectedly find themselves needing to navigate the immediacy and ongoing impact of a sudden death. We wanted to create something that would support individual staff and teams as they support everyone else and hopefully allow those ripple effects to be managed as compassionately and as gently as possible. Nobody wants to ever need this resource, but it’s here if a school, college or university finds they do”.

It will provide guidance, exemplar materials and important considerations for every stage of the response process, including how to navigate initial conversations with a bereaved family, things to think about when informing the school community, what to expect from an inquest and how to manage memorials and press enquiries sensitively and safely. It also shares the actions that should be taken to reduce the risk of suicide contagion and how to identify and respond to a potential suicide cluster within the community.

As Tooled Up founder Dr Kathy Weston says, “We are extremely proud to have co-created this free resource with the Ollie Foundation. It is research-informed as well as practical; designed to help schools feel better prepared for the most difficult and tragic of circumstances. We hope it enables staff to feel empowered with its actionable, evidence-based tips and better informed in the event of student suicide”.

We understand that the likelihood of a suicide within your setting may seem small and distant. Hopefully, it is not something that you will ever need to respond to. However, ideally every school would have a suicide postvention policy in place, just in case a suicide occurs within the community.

We urge all schools to download this free guide when it is published on Friday, consider the advice within it and think about putting a plan in place, so that in the emotional aftermath of a sudden loss, you’ll know what to do.