What schools and further education settings can do

A disclosure of suicidal feelings or thoughts should always be taken extremely seriously, and never dealt with alone.

What schools and further education settings can do

If you are at all concerned about a child or young person, you should always speak to your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority. They will be able to advise on suitable next steps, and speaking to them about any concerns should always be the first action you take, ahead of any of the suggestions on this page.

Although the suggestions on this page are broadly split into primary and secondary age groups, the majority of the advice can be applicable for all ages. All children and young people are different, and it’s important to understand the needs of the individual child and young person when looking for ways to support their mental health and wellbeing.

What primary schools can do

Ensure you have robust safeguarding procedures in place

All schools have a duty to safeguard childrenand should have safeguarding procedures in place to manage situations where children articulate such thoughts and feelings and are at extreme risk. Schools also have a duty to ensure that staff are fully up-to-date with these procedures.

Inform others

Responses to suicidal feelings should always involve a holistic approach. Whilst being sensitive to the child’s needs, it should seek to engage key people in the child’s life (e.g. parents, carers, school staff and professionals). School staff should never feel that they have to take sole responsibility for supporting the student.

Develop social and emotional skills

By helping children routinely develop social and emotional skills and resilience and through identifying children with low mood and getting them help early, schools can help prevent escalating suicidal thoughts.  

What secondary schools and further education settings can do

Ensure you have robust safeguarding procedures in place

Have clear safeguarding procedures in place in case of a disclosure of suicidal thoughts, and ensure all staff are up to date with it. Share information with parents, if appropriate.

Refer to external services where necessary

Consider a specialist referral if needed, for example to a GP or CAMHS. You can also phone your local CAMHS duty team for advice.

Speak to them and involve them in your plan

Speak to the young person about your concerns and let them know what you have observed – once you have spoken with your safeguarding team. Listen to the young person and work together with them to make a plan, and then share this with the appropriate people. Keep the young person updated and involved with the plan continuously, so that they don’t feel that they are being excluded from the process.

Inform parents/carers

Inform the young person’s parents or carers as soon as possible. School staff should not feel that they have to take sole responsibility for supporting the student, a parent/carer may have a better understanding of other factors impacting the young person. You will need to handle this sensitively as a young person may not want their parents informed, but it’s important to do so.

Identify protective factors

Work with the young person to identify protective factors and things that they find helpful for their mental health.

Creating a suicide safety plan

A suicide safety plan is a tool used to help someone who may be experiencing suicidal feelings or thoughts. The safety plan is completed by the young person, and is then referred to in times of distress. While a safety plan can be a useful support tool for a young person, it’s important that schools do not take on the responsibility of assessing or managing suicide risk in a student, and should always refer to specialist or emergency services if necessary.

UK suicide prevention charity, Papyrus, have a template safety plan on their website designed for children and young people.

Concerned about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority, who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child or young person is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

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