After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools | 14 Helping Students Cope In the aftermath of a suicide, students and others in the school community may feel emotionally overwhelmed. This can make it difficult for the school to return to its primary function of educating students and can also increase the risk of prolonged stress responses and even suicide contagion. A school’s approach to supporting students after a suicide loss is most effective when it provides different levels of support depending on the students’ needs. It is critical that an opportunity to meet in smaller groups be given to students in need of more in-depth support, augmenting the support given to all students. Key Considerations Adolescence is a time of increased risk for difficulties with emotional regulation given the intensification of responses that come with puberty and the structural changes in the brain that occur during this developmental period. Most adolescents have mastered basic skills that allow them to handle strong emotions encountered day to day. But these skills may be challenged in the face of a suicide. Young people may not yet have learned how to recognize complex feelings or physical indicators of distress, such as stomach upset, restlessness, or insomnia. It is therefore important for schools to provide students with appropriate opportunities to express their emotions and identify strategies for managing them, such as in group and individual counseling sessions. Schools can also help students balance the timing and intensity of their emotional expression. Staff can use the information in the tool Tips for Talking about Suicide to help students understand and manage their emotions. If there are concerns about a student’s emotional or mental health, the parent(s) or guardian(s) should be notified, and a referral should be made to a mental health professional for assessment, diagnosis, and possible treatment. Mental health resources that may be available in addition to school-based mental health professionals (e.g., school psychologists, counselors, social workers) include community mental health agencies, emergency psychiatric screening centers, and children’s mobile response programs. Pediatricians and primary care providers can also be a source of mental health referrals. In addition, it may be useful for school staff to identify and reach out to families of students who are not coming to school. When implementing these strategies, leadership will most likely be provided by the school psychologist, counselor, social worker, school nurse, and/or possibly a community mental health partner, all of whom may be members of the school’s Crisis Response Team and likely trained in culturally competent counseling strategies. However, all adults in the school community can help by modeling calm, caring, and thoughtful behavior. Schedule Meetings with Students in Small Groups Schools will likely need to adjust the regular academic schedule to allow time for helping students address their emotional needs. It is preferable to reach out to students in a deliberate and timely way, rather than allow the emotional environment to escalate, and to do so in homerooms and small group meetings. All students should be provided with the opportunity to go to a small group meeting where they can express their feelings about the death of their classmate and obtain support. This type of group would be optional for students and should take place outside their classroom in private offices within the school. Ideally, these groups would be facilitated by a school mental health professional or another person experienced in postvention. However, if that is not possible, it is important that the staff who meet with students are comfortable with students’ grief and know the school’s