Dealing with a critical incident

As part of the 'Pupils Emotional Health and Wellbeing (PEHAW) Programme' a working group was commissioned with developing an update of the current guidance for schools on suicide and self-harm and to develop proposals for a regional approach to the management of critical incidents.

Suicide and self-harm

The current guidance for schools on suicide and self-harm “Suicide Among Young People: Managing the Issue in Schools”  was published in 1996 and there has been much change since this time.

The new guidance is being developed in line with the Department of Health's (DoH) Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Managing a critical incident

Definition of a critical incident:

“A critical incident may be defined as any sudden and unexpected incident or sequence of events which causes trauma within a school community and which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms of that school.”

The Education Authority has a critical incident response team who can be contacted to provide support to schools if required alongside other agencies for example the ICSS (Independent Counselling Service in Schools) which can provide counselling to pupils in both the primary or post-primary sector in response to a critical incident.

Experience has shown that schools which have a Critical Incident Management Plan in place will handle the situation better.  

The guidance will advise schools on how to develop an effective critical incident strategy

Guide to managing critical incidents in schools

The ‘Guide to Managing Critical Incidents in Schools’ was commissioned by the Department of Education as part of the ‘iMatter’ Programme.

The guide is based on the cumulative experience of school staff and personnel from external statutory and voluntary agencies.

The aim of the guide is to ensure a regional approach to dealing with critical incidents and is designed to help schools be prepared for a critical incident and to ensure effective management before, during and after the event.

The guide is available for download in both the English and Irish language and appendices, including some with ‘fill-in’ function, can be downloaded separately.

The guide is accompanied by a DVD produced by Based in the North Eastern Education and Library Board, is a Department of Education led web based platform linking all phases, sectors and library boards across Northern Ireland.

Please see the link to for DVD below:

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