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Suicide Risk within Education

The pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us for multiple reasons. The worries around physical health, new measures such as social distancing, implementing huge change in public with the wearing of masks and, of course, the extreme levels of isolation faced by some, have all had a real impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Suicide and suicide risk continues to be a global pandemic and public health crisis on it’s own, including increased risks for young people. It is too early to discuss this immediate impact in the midst of the pandemic, however, the impact of suicide has potentially already been felt within your education setting. Samaritan’s, a national charity supporting those with suicidal thoughts, published these suicide-related statistics over the last two years:

  • rising suicide rate in under 25’s across England and Wales
  • the suicide rate for females under 25’s increased by 93.8%, the highest recorded level
  • men aged 45-49 have the highest rate of suicides
  • suicide rate among young people (15-24) in Scotland increased by 52.7%, the highest recording since 2007.

Behind every statistic is a real human tragedy and a family impacted by the loss of a loved one. There are real concerns around how the lockdown period will impact those having thoughts about suicide or experiencing a deterioration in mental / physical health, particularly when the following factors are taken into consideration:

  • social disconnectedness from others
  • loneliness and isolation
  • diminished social supports or networks
  • worries around finances at home
  • potential parental unemployment
  • falling behind in education due to distance / blended learning
  • disruption in social, academic and daily structure
  • loss of loved ones or anticipated milestones
  • increased alcohol consumption
  • increased drug use
  • increased concerns around domestic abuse

Some people have experienced a number of these adversities for the first time whilst others within our communities will have faced these challenges pre-Covid-19, and now find their situation potentially worsened as a result of the pandemic. Within your education setting, it is important to note that suicide can be just as likely within a young person as it can be a member of staff ; try and have an understanding that the risks are wide-ranging.

NHS (Scotland) have produced several resources to support suicide prevention, including video animations listed below. These animations are in relation to the “ask, tell, save a life” campaign and you will find ways to communicate with people and the role any bystander can play to prevent suicide. Links:

Supporting Life: https://vimeo.com/338176393

Ask, Tell, Have a Healthy Conversation: https://vimeo.com/338176444

Ask, Tell, Look after your Mental Health: https://vimeo.com/338176495

Supporting your education population following a suicide can be a very difficult and heart-wrenching task. Nobody likes to think about the death of a young person or a colleague, however, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people in the UK and schools, colleges and universities play an essential role in supporting recovery for others by preparing and responding to each situation appropriately.

Papyrus, another leading suicide prevention charity, advise that 200 school children are lost to suicide every year. They have a range of resources and tool kits on their website, including apps to support wellbeing, a HopeBox, safety plans, conversation starters, coping strategies, distraction techniques and a contact line for 1-1 advice for professionals. The website can be found here: https://www.papyrus-uk.org/help-advice-resources/

Samaritans have produced a step-by-step approach for Education services when placed in a situation like this. Their “Help When We Need It Most” resource aims to:

  • reach out to high risk people and communities to reduce the risk of further suicide;
  • support a school or education community to prepare for, respond to and recover from an attempted or suspected suicide;
  • provide information and support to help the education community come to terms with what has happened and prevent stigma and isolation within it.

The resource can be downloaded here: https://media.samaritans.org/documents/samaritans-help-when-we-needed-it-most.pdf

Suicide prevention is everyone’s priority and every death is one too many. The resources within this section, including the links to the specialist organisations, will help to support any anxiety you have as a member of staff within education when trying to support others with concerns around suicide or suicide risk. It is imperative that you look after yourself during these types of discussions and the link to our teacher wellbeing section is here:

Further Reading

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