Lysa Toye, social worker, psychotherapist, talks about how tragedies provide an entry point to building compassion together.(3:22)Video transcript
“It felt surreal to be driving past her house and knowing that I would never stop there again to pick her up. I just couldn’t believe it. Friday afternoon I dropped her off and said, ‘Have a good weekend Beth.’ Monday Beth had died by suicide. I wish I had known something, anything, any sign I could have alerted the school to”. – Bus driver
A death from suicide affects everyone in your school community, even those who weren’t close to the person who died. It’s important to provide a respectful and compassionate response to all student and staff grief. Below are three suggestions to help in supporting your students, colleagues and yourself after a student suicide.
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Feelings of guilt, anger, shame, and regret are common in grief, and feelings tend to be magnified when a death from suicide occurs. As a result, those bereaved through suicide may need skilled help above and beyond the regular support provided at school. Students and staff may feel immense guilt for not recognizing that someone was contemplating ending their life. If possible, engage professionals, including a crisis response team, who are experienced in providing skilled support following a death from suicide.
Students benefit from learning about grief as well as coping strategies, both for navigating their response to the death and other difficult life events. Providing all students with access to additional supports is a way to encourage talking about grief or emotional distress. Be prepared that not all students will feel grief and loss following the death of a fellow student. They may not have known the student, or they may have disliked them. Such feelings are normal, and these students also need support and understanding. It’s vital that you encourage all students to seek out whatever support they may need.
Your school’s administration should hold regular staff meetings during the first days and weeks that follow a death by suicide. These meetings provide opportunities to reflect and debrief with your colleagues about the death; and to develop shared strategies for supporting your students. Another key focus should be for you to receive information, guidance, and support about how to identify and support vulnerable or at-risk students who might be particularly affected by the death. Developing these skills must be a priority.