Reacting to adolescent suicide in schools – taking a resilience-based approach

Heidi Siller, Ruth Warger, Barbara Juen, Silvia Exenberger


Violence has many forms. One form of violence relates to auto-aggression, which includes self-harm, suicide attempts and suicide. In this article we will focus on adolescent suicide and how school staff and students can be supported in the context of such an event.

Adolescent suicide endangers in many ways the wellbeing of all groups involved in a school context (teachers, parents, students). Danger of a “Werther effect” forces the system to react appropriately, thus the focus should not only be on bereavement but also on future suicide prevention. The support or intervention described here focuses on the school system and suggests various steps which includes a) building and training a school based crisis support team within schools, b) crisis support in the phases (short-, medium- and long-term) after the suicide. The intervention is based on resilience building, thus how to (sustainably) activate or initiate the system to strengthen the resilience of individuals, groups and the school as a whole. Additionally, the adverse event (i.e. suicide of the adolescent), the reaction to it and the intervention will be described using intersections of power, inclusion and exclusion and gender.

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