After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools | 15 procedure for addressing a student who is in distress and the importance of referring the student for help. Such small groups also provide a chance for adults to identify youth who appear in need of additional support. These group meetings can either have a structured agenda and keep to a time limit or be open-ended and focus more on addressing the students’ specific needs. It is important to provide each student with an opportunity to speak. The groups should focus on helping students identify and express their feelings and discuss practical coping strategies (including appropriate ways to memorialize the loss) so that they can return their focus to their regular routines and activities. In addition to the small groups, it might be helpful to have mental health professionals visit classrooms to: • • Give all students accurate information about suicide • • Prepare students for the kinds of reactions that can be expected after hearing about a peer’s suicide death • • Provide them with safe coping strategies they can use to help them in the coming days and weeks • • Answer questions students may have and dispel any rumors If the deceased student participated in sports, clubs, or other school activities, the first practice, game, rehearsal, or meeting after the death may be difficult for the other students. These events can provide further opportunities for the adults in the school community to help the students appropriately acknowledge the loss. Help Students Identify and Express Their Emotions Youth will vary widely in terms of emotional expression. Some may become openly emotional, others may be reluctant to talk at all, and still others may use humor. How they express their emotions may also be influenced by their cultural background. Acknowledge the diversity of experiences and the wide range of feelings and reactions to a crisis that students may have, and emphasize the importance of being respectful of others. Some students may need help identifying emotions beyond simply sad, angry, or happy, and they may need reassurance that a wide range of feelings and experiences are to be expected. They may also need to be reminded that emotions may be experienced as physical symptoms, including butterflies in the stomach, shortness of breath, insomnia, fatigue, or irritability. To facilitate this discussion, ask students questions, such as: • • What is your biggest concern about the immediate future? • • What would help you feel safer right now? It may help establish rapport to open a conversation by asking students what their favorite memories are of the student. Practical Coping Strategies Encourage students to think about specific things they can do when intense emotions, such as worry or sadness, begin to well up, for example: • • Use simple relaxation and distraction skills, such as taking three deep, slow breaths; counting to 10; or picturing themselves in a favorite calm and relaxing place • • Engage in favorite activities or hobbies, such as music, talking with a friend, reading, or going to a movie