UMH-funding aids the development of suicide prevention plans for schools
An (attempted) suicide of a student has enormous impact on fellow students and school employees. How can educational institutions respond adequately and responsibly in such a situation? 113 Suicide Prevention and the Trimbos Institute have developed action plans for secondary schools and institutions for vocational and higher education. These plans are based on an inventory of the experiences and needs of staff at schools where a student attempted or committed suicide, research that was funded by the UvA Centre for Urban Mental Health. The action plans offer staff guidance on how to act after an (attempted) suicide to prevent trauma and imitating behavior and are free to download.
The action plans were developed as part of the National suicide prevention agenda project 'Support for schools: how to act after an (attempted) suicide'. Project leader Elke Elzinga, researcher at 113 Suicide Prevention: "Suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 25. The impact on the environment after an (attempted) suicide is enormous. Losing a peer to suicide can be a traumatic experience for young people. Research shows that vulnerable youth in particular have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior for the two years after such an incident. That is why it is incredibly important for schools to respond appropriately. With coordinated support, educational institutions can reduce the negative impact of suicide on fellow students and staff. During the preliminary research, partly funded by the UvA Centre for Urban Mental Health, conversations with schools revealed a great need for tools in this hectic and emotional time. The action plans offer educational institutions tips and checklists they can use during a demanding period."
Tailored action plans
The basis for the action plans is a protocol for secondary schools developed last year by the Trimbos Institute. Jeroen van Baar, researcher at the Trimbos Institute: "We conducted interviews with staff in secondary schools and institutions for vocational and higher education to investigate how to tailor the content to the specific context of these institutions. Think about the age of the students, the composition of the classes and the way education is designed. In the end, we developed two action plans for each type of education: one for a suicide and one for attempted suicide."
The content of the action plans
The action plans provide clear guidance on how to act appropriately and responsibly as an educational institution after an (attempted) suicide. "The action plans offer a lot of information, but are also practical and accessible. For example, they contain sample letters that you can send to parents and students," Van Baar says. "They also clearly explain for each phase what steps you need to take. For example, what should schools do immediately after hearing the news, how to respond in the hours after and what to think about in the time between the death and the funeral? We also cover the time after the funeral and long-term aftercare."
Van Baar wants to encourage educational institutions with the action plans: "The impact of an (attempted) suicide of a student is enormous and causes a lot of distress, uncertainties and questions. What should you do and what not? You don't really want to think about it, because you hope to never experience this. But the preparation makes you better equipped if it does happen."
Do you want to learn about how to response after experiencing suicide or attempted suicide in school? On February 2nd from 16:00 to 17:30 113 Suicide Prevention and the Trimbos Institute organize a webinar for educational institutions. During the webinar, experts will speak about experiences in supporting schools in dealing with suicide and the action plans will be explained. You can sign up for free.