Kristen Douglas, headspace: The headspace School Support Program


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Kristen Douglas, National School Support Service Development Manager, headspace National Office delivered this presentation at the 2014 Child Online Safety & Protection conference in Sydney. The need to protect children online is at the forefront of parents and teachers minds. The prevalence and use of social media tools is rising and with it comes a wide range of issues which have the potential to impact our future generations.

The Inaugural Child Online Safety & Protection Conference focused on policies, programs and practices for protecting children’s privacy rights and ensuring their safety online. For more information about the event, please visit the conference website:

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Kristen Douglas, headspace: The headspace School Support Program

  1. 1. The Inaugural Child Online Safety & Protection Conference 3rd & 4th March 2014 Online Postvention Contagion Presented by Kristen Douglas National Manager of School Service Development, hSS
  2. 2. headspace is Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation headspace provides mental health and wellbeing support, information & services to young people (12 – 25) and their families across Australia The aim of headspace is to reduce the burden of disease amongst young people aged 12–25 caused by mental health and related substance use problems. headspace headspace
  3. 3. headspace headspace national services headspace centres (60 throughout Australia, growing to 90 by 2015) eheadspace - online and telephone counselling and support including etherapy; web chat and telephone 9am1am
  4. 4. headspace
  5. 5. eheadspace eheadspace
  6. 6. headspace School Support
  7. 7. headspace School Support exists to provide advice, support and assistance to school communities to reduce and minimise the devastation and impact following a death by suicide. headspace School Support does this by: • Preparing and responding • using an evidence informed approach • supporting school leadership teams to manage the impacts • providing immediate, short and longer term headspace School Support headspace School Support
  8. 8. headspace headspace Understanding postvention in schools after a suicide
  9. 9. headspace headspace Understanding postvention in schools after a suicide
  10. 10. headspace
  11. 11. Suicide Contagion
  12. 12. • Suicide contagion: process whereby one suicide or suicidal act within a school, community, or geographic area increases the likelihood that others will attempt or complete suicide • Suicide contagion can lead to a suicide cluster, where a number of connected suicides occur following an initial death • Young people are sometimes reluctant to seek help, particularly those at risk • Professionals such as teachers and school counsellors are a popular source of help (Robinson et al. 2010) therefore schools are an obvious platform headspace Rationale for a National Suicide Postvention Service for Secondary Schools?
  13. 13. headspace headspace Risk and vulnerability Social Proximity Mental health concerns Exposure and prior experiences Identification with person or circumstances
  14. 14. Process of contagion whereby one persons suicide influences another person to attempt suicide (O'Carroll & Potter, 1994) Suicide clusters are common among young people (Hazell,1993); as well as indigenous communities (Hanssens & Hanssens, 2007; Wilkie et al, 1998) Between 1-5% of youth suicides are thought to be part of a cluster (Gould et al, 1987) Contagion is thought to be a key factor in 60% of all youth suicides (Davidson et al, 1989) headspace headspace Contagion and Clusters
  15. 15. Implementing postvention strategies in Australian schools
  16. 16. Experiencing the death of someone to suicide can have a devastating effect on individuals and communities. An appropriate and timely response to suicide can reduce the impact on those affected and aid in the recovery of the school community. The provision of an evidence based postvention response can lower the risk of subsequent suicides and provide resilience to those young people at risk or vulnerable. Postvention support is prevention. headspace School Support Why postvention?
  17. 17. headspace Adapted from Emergency Disaster Planning for Principals, Commonwealth of Australia 1992.
  18. 18. Postvention Toolkit The postvention toolkit is a comprehensive guide to effectively responding to the needs of the school community impacted by suicide. The toolkit is 40 pages long and details tasks and actions to be taken:
  19. 19. • Understanding evidence based practice • School leadership teams making predictable and calm decisions decisions in unpredictable spaces • Planned and coordinated team-based response • Planned and streamlined referrals to mental health services • Minimise risk and focus on maintaining protective factors A co-ordinated and evidence based response will shorten the period of recovery and restore the wellbeing of the staff, students and families as soon as possible headspace Why schools need to be prepared to respond?
  20. 20. 1- How to talk to young people about suicide 2- Self-harm 3- Identifying risk factors and warning signs 4- Suicide contagion 5- Grief: How Young people might react to a suicide 6- Remembering a young person: how to respond to memorials 7- Suicide in schools: information for parents 8- Responding to the media 9- Managing social media following a suicide 10- Considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse YP 11- Considerations for Same Sex Attracted YP 12- Suicide Attempts 13- Returning to school following a suicide attempt 14- Suicide: How prepared is your school 15- Tips for teachers following a suicide 16- Self-care for school staff headspace Factsheets A variety of fact sheets on various topics relating to suicide
  21. 21. Online Postvention
  22. 22. Any online/social media activity that arises as a result of a suicide The speed and exchange of information can often add to the risk of contagion Social media and online activity can also be a protective factor In grief, sadness, and shock…kids want to connect!! headspace headspace Online Posvention:
  23. 23. Glamorising suicide can increase the risk of suicide However stopping memorials or information exchange is not the way to avoid glamorising If your people are talking about the suicide, schools and parents need to acknowledge the suicide and be open to discussing it (within boundaries) Safe and monitored spaces for young people should, and can, be established..inclusive of online spaces. This is where young people can discuss grief reactions and sadness, as well as learn ways to look out for friends headspace The challenge of information exchange and information trauma in a suicide
  24. 24. Understand the speed and exchange of information Understand and manage rumoured versus accurate information, information trauma can be very real Create real time information support exchanges and reinforce these messages online Manage discussions of bullying and derogatory messages of the deceased head on Consider the use of police Act with urgency to other messages of “im going to join you” and have processes of monitoring activity Use social media to spread help seeking messages and disseminate other helpful information headspace Schools managing and harnessing social media following a suicide
  25. 25. In March 2013, a year nine girl died by suicide in a metropolitan area. She had written a comment on facebook saying she was going to end her life. Within 2 hours of her death this message had been “liked” by 300 young people. Within 4 hours of her death her social group had confirmed her suicide and agreed to meet at the train line. Monday afternoon at 4pm approximately a hundred young people from over 6 schools gathered at the train line. The news of her death included accurate and rumoured information What are the responsibilities of the schools? What are the responsibilities of the parents and families? What are the responsibilities of the young people? headspace headspace Online Posvention Case Study:
  26. 26. Thank You!