Student mental health and suicide response

Promoting positive mental health can substantially improve the social and emotional wellbeing of young people.

Schools can help address mental health problems by implementing preventative strategies as outlined in the Framework for Student Support Services, which helps school communities build safe and supportive environments for students.

Support in responding to an attempted suicide or suicide by a student

A student's suicide or attempted suicide is a traumatic event for schools and the broader community. A great deal of prevention and early intervention work is already occurring in school communities in partnership with support agencies.

There are a range of supports in place for schools when suicide or attempted suicide occurs, to assist in managing these difficult events. Appropriate response can go some of the way towards easing the pain for affected members of a school community.

Guidelines to assist in responding to attempted suicide or suicide of a student

The guidelines below are designed to assist school staff in responding to attempted suicide or suicide by a student, and provides a checklist of the immediate and longer term steps that should be taken.

The guidelines should be seen as a resource that complements schools' efforts to promote positive mental health, and that supports and reflects schools' critical incident management processes. They are supported by considerable information and a policy context that provides school support structures for vulnerable students.

The document should be read in sequence and school leaders and emergency response teams should re-familiarise themselves with the information in the guidelines as soon as they are aware of a suicide or attempted suicide.

For more information, see:

headspace school support program

The Department works in partnership with headspace to provide on the ground support to schools in instances of attempted suicide or suicide.

headspace is Australia’s national youth mental health foundation, and its suicide postvention program is an evidence-based world first program which supports Australian secondary schools affected by suicide.

headspace School Support:

  • is an initiative funded by the Federal Government Department of Health and Ageing
  • is committed to working with schools and school systems to reduce the risk of suicide occurring and the consequential impact on families and communities. Suicide postvention is critical, and evidence indicates that schools who have prepared for the event of a suicide can reduce the impact of grief and trauma on the school community, shorten the period of recovery, and reduce the likelihood of further suicides, suicide 'contagion' or clusters of suicides.
  • has the skills and resources to help prepare schools on how best to respond to a suicide of a young person in their school community. This includes being able to provide extensive advice and coordination of necessary services and supports and working directly alongside the Principal and staff to manage the response and recovery phase in the immediate, short, and long term.
  • aims to work closely with education systems, principals, school wellbeing staff, and teachers to appropriately respond to the suicide of a young person.
  • works in collaboration with government departments, youth health agencies and education peak bodies to facilitate and implement a coordinated approach for Australian secondary schools affected by suicide. headspace School Support works alongside existing emergency management protocols to ensure the best possible outcomes for schools.

Contact headspace School Support

Online professional learning

Further support for schools is available in the form of online professional learning modules. The modules aim to build the capacity of school staff in dealing with the impact of traumatic events and equipping children and young people with the recovery skills they need (not restricted to suicide or attempted suicide of a student). The modules focus on Psychological First Aid, and Skills for Psychological Recovery.

Psychological First Aid is a compassionate and caring response that addresses basic needs in the hours, days and weeks following a school crisis, emergency or disaster. At the most basic level, PFA aims to alleviate a survivor's painful emotions and promote healing.

The Skills for Psychological Recovery modules aim to equip teachers to assist students build on their own recovery skills following a traumatic event.

These modules should be considered for use by all staff in government, Catholic and independent schools. The training can be accessed using the below details:

Government school or government employees

Website: DET wellbeing portal
Username: deecd
Password: wellbeing

Catholic and independent school employees and any other non-DEECD users

Website: DET wellbeing portal - external
Username: deecd
Password: external

Suicide prevention

Suicide prevention in Victoria sits within the Framework for Student Support Services in Victorian Government Schools. It is based on international and local research that indicates that a population based preventative approach that aims to build resilience in young people, is far more effective than simply focussing on intervention based approaches.

It must be stressed that a whole school approach to building resilience is critical and schools should not employ a narrow approach that focuses only on suicide. The following resources will assist with this:

Information about suicide prevention curriculum can be found on page 17 of the following resource. Dealing with unsafe behaviour information can be found on pages 44-45.

Pages 31-33 of the following resource contains information on suicide intervention:

Mental health resources

For more information about mental health for young people in Victoria, see: