Following the death of 13-year-old Amber Peat, reported in the news last night, students may come to school with questions about suicide today. Whilst it is far from an easy topi to discuss, we should not avoid talking about suicide – this is an important opportunity to aid understanding and signpost support. However, we need to be careful about the types of things we say and the information we share. This is something that the Samaritans have done a great deal of work on. I have distilled and adapted their guidance on safely reporting suicide in the media to produce some clear guidance on what you should and shouldn’t do and say at school.
What you should and shouldn’t do
- Don’t provide detailed descriptions of suicide methods.
- Never suggest that a suicide method is quick, easy, painless or certain to result in death.
- Use language carefully. Try to use non-emotive language – be factual rather than dramatic.
- Don’t use dramatic or sensationalist pictures or videos when talking or teaching about suicide.
- Do not discuss or share details from suicide notes or explore in depth details such as what a person was sharing in social media in the lead up to their death.
- Do not speculate about the cause or trigger for suicide even if this is based on suicide notes or reports from close friends and family.
- Do not allow blame to be associated with suicide. For instance if someone dies leaving behind children that does not mean that they are selfish.
- Use statistics with caution. Check with Samaritans to make sure you have the most recent data and are comparing like with like if you feel it’s important to share statistics.
- Signpost sources of support, both within and beyond school. Some students will prefer to access anonymous support. (Sources of support are highlighted below).
- Discuss the importance of students telling a trusted adult if they think a friend may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings.
- Offer specific support to any students whose lives have been impacted by suicide or suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts in the past as suicide incidents in the media can leave them highly vulnerable.
Sources of support
There are some fantastic sources of support for young people experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, or concerned friends or family. Sharing helplines and websites as well as signposting the relevant routes for support at school is very important. It is helpful to make parents, as well as students, aware of sources of support. Provide clear guidance to parents as to who they should talk to at school and how, if they are concerned about their child or their child’s friend.
Papyrus is aimed specifically at preventing suicide in young people. They have a free UK helpline which provides support and advice for young people at risk or those who care about them.
Helpline: 0800 068 41 41
The Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day 365 days a year and their trained advisers are a great source of support if you need to talk to someone.
Helpline: 08457 90 90 90
Face to face: www.samaritans.org/branches
Childline is aimed specifically at young people and is a safe place for them to talk about anything that is concerning them. All calls are free and confidential.
Helpline: 0800 1111
Message boards: http://www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Boards/Pages/Messageboards.aspx
Online counsellor: www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Chat/Pages/OnlineChat.aspx
Info for adults: http://www.childline.org.uk/Pages/InformationForAdults.aspx
Students against depression
A website for students who are depressed, have low mood or suicidal thoughts
Campaign against living miserably (CALM)
Is specifically aimed at young men who are depressed or suicidal (males are less likely to share their feelings than females). They have an excellent website and a helpline too.
Helpline: 0800 58 58 58
Get connected provides free, confidential help to under 25s who are in need of support but don’t know where to turn. They talk things through with you and help to connect you to an appropriate local service.
Helpline: 0808 808 4994 (free. 1pm-11pm)
Text: 80849 (free answer within 24 hours)
Webchat: Online chat daily from 1pm-11pm