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Youth Suicide Prevention

Depressed teen Did you know that for people ages 10-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death? Suicide rates for girls ages 15-19 have even doubled between 2007 and 2015. Mental health is often a topic that's overlooked and is sometimes referred to as “the silent epidemic.” Some people may think that talking about bullying, suicide, and mental health may increase the frequency among students but however, the reverse is true. Opening up the discussion and providing training can help spread awareness on these topics. Think about a problem you may have had recently. Did it help to talk about it with someone else? Did it relieve some anxiety or stress about the issue? Sometimes being a good listener and creating a positive, supporting environment can make all the difference in a student’s life.

As an educator, you interact with children every day so you might be the first to notice a change in a student's behavior or overall demeanor. Most youth suicides can be prevented. School staff members who are trained and aware can often make the difference between life and death.

Dr. Scott Poland, a nationally recognized school safety expert and SafeSchools Training author, shares some tips that schools can implement to improve their suicide prevention efforts. He urges schools to take a leadership role in suicide prevention. Doing so can help prevent incidents and, most importantly, save a student’s life.

  • Be familiar with legislation in your state requiring suicide prevention in schools. Approximately 25 states have such legislation with the Jason Foundation leading the way as the Jason Flatt Act has passed in 20 states. More information is available at www.JasonFoundation.com. Additionally, legislation has been passed in all states requiring schools to increase bullying prevention efforts.
  • Ensure that your school has a comprehensive suicide prevention policy that specifies annual training for all staff on the warning signs of suicidal behavior. Your suicide prevention plan should also provide training on suicide assessment for key school support personnel including counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. Policies should be developed to ensure that suicidal students are properly supervised and that their parents are immediately notified that their child is suicidal.
  • It is strongly recommended that schools post information about warning signs of suicide, who to contact at schools if you know someone is suicidal, and national crisis hotline numbers throughout their building, on their website, in handbooks, parents letters, etc.
  • Provide mental health presentations for parents that include information about depression and suicide prevention. Help parents understand that if they notice pervasive behavior changes in their child that affect their school, home, and social life that have persisted for two or three weeks, they need to seek professional help for their child.
  • Emphasize to everyone that depression is treatable. It is important that students understand that suicide is not fate, inherited, or destiny, and that the intervention of any one person can make the difference.
  • Create a suicide prevention task force that involves both school staff and community resources and agencies.
  • Designate a suicide prevention expert at your school and get them credentialed in school suicide prevention from the American Association of Suicidology.

Schools are often the logical place to intervene with suicidal youth to get them through a difficult day, notify their parents and secure mental health treatment. Teach everyone the warning signs of suicide and what to do if you or someone you know is suicidal. It is imperative that when school staff know that a student is the victim of bullying that they do not hesitate to ask them questions about hopelessness and suicide, which are often the results of repeated bullying.

How SafeSchools Can Help

Our mission here at SafeSchools is to make schools a safer and more inclusive environment for both staff and students. We believe children should go to school free of fear and that’s why we developed programs to help school communities keep their kids safe. Our SafeSchools Online Staff Training System offers many courses to help educate your staff on bullying prevention, suicide awareness, and more. Course topics include:

We also offer SafeSchools Alert, our bullying reporting system. Students, staff, and parents can confidentially report safety concerns, including bullying, weapons, and threats of violence, to your administration 24/7 via phone, text, email, and website. Every tip is immediately logged in your custom Alert system and appropriate staff members are notified via email. Workflows automate many of the steps involved in tip resolution and administrators can easily delegate tips to colleagues who can investigate and manage tips to resolution. Free customizable fliers, posters, parent letters, and handbook copy help you communicate this valuable resource district-wide.