Chapter 4: After a student’s death from suicide
“I wanted to do this as sensitively as possible but there was no easy way to do it. The students deserved to know the truth and the family had agreed to sharing the information. So, I told them. It was hard”. - Teacher
A death by suicide is a devastating event for a school community. Talking about a death from suicide can be challenging for everyone involved. A proactive approach is to learn about the resources available within your school community prior to a death from suicide.
A death from suicide can result in families or organizations wanting to remain silent, which can lead to the development of many rumours related to the circumstances surrounding the death. Silence about a death from suicide can increase students’ anxiety and undermine their trust in the very adults who should be a source of support. Timely communication with the family to confirm that the death was from suicide is critical.
Your school will face significant challenges that will make supporting your students even more critical. Having conversations about a death from suicide can be difficult; but not having them can be damaging or even dangerous to your students. This chapter offers suggestions and resources for responding to a death from suicide.
The phrase “committed suicide” can be distressing for families because it has criminal overtones left over from times when suicide was considered a criminal act. This is no longer the case in most parts of the world. Suicide is now spoken of as “death from suicide” or “died by suicide”.