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Social media suicide alert after death

Watching brief: Teachers are advised to search sites for inaccurate rumours and disrespectful comments. Picture: Getty Images

Teachers are being encouraged to monitor their students' social media profiles after a suspected suicide, under new Education Department guidelines.

Even though most social media use occurs outside schools, the department released guidelines for the first time on managing social media after the suicide to help reduce the risk of other students taking their own lives.

The guidelines advise teachers to search sites such as Facebook for inaccurate rumours about the death, disrespectful comments about the deceased student or posts that show other students may be at risk.

Teachers are also urged to work with a deceased student's family or friends to access their private profile pages and report or remove concerning information.

The department's School Psychology Service manager Chris Gostelow said there was often a lot of activity on social media after a suspected student suicide which could be both helpful and harmful.

"Some grieving students find comfort in using social media to seek help, support each other and share fond memories of the student," he said.

"However, schools need to watch out for messages that attribute blame or target other students.

"This can lead to false accusations and victimisation.

"If (online) messages are discovered that focus inappropriately on the method of death or speak of others also wanting to commit suicide, then schools need to act."

Mr Gostelow said by monitoring and responding to social media schools could also identify students who may need more support, minimising the risk of further suicides.

State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne said schools needed to find a balance between helping students and expecting teachers to go beyond what they were qualified to do.

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14