Suicide prevention efforts in schools are usually led by school counselors, mental health professionals, or social workers. However, it is important to know that a comprehensive suicide prevention program includes education components for school administrators, faculty, staff, parents and students. This helps to create an entire school community that is prepared to assist someone at risk of suicide.
A web-based training for school personnel is available online through STPS (Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide). This free, interactive series “Making Educators Partners in Suicide Prevention” is designed to be completed at the viewer’s own pace. It is open to anyone who is interested in reviewing current strategies for youth suicide prevention in schools. Click here to visit SPTS University. After you register, please make sure to select the 4th course listed that is specifically the South Dakota version. Click here for a brochure.
Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools is available for free download from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). It assists school personnel in designing and implementing strategies that prevent suicide and promote behavioral health.
Another toolkit available through SPRC (Suicide Prevention Resource Center) assists schools in the aftermath of a suicide or other death in the school community: After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools.
Curriculum for schools: The following are evidence based or best practice programs that have been or are currently being utilized in South Dakota schools:
Lifelines: A Suicide Prevention Program is a comprehensive, whole-school suicide prevention curriculum for implementation in middle school and high school. Lifelines addresses the whole school community by providing suicide awareness resources for school administrators, faculty and staff members, parents, and students. Information about suicide and the role of students in suicide prevention is presented in easy-to-follow lessons. This curriculum includes a program guide, a CD-ROM (which contains reproducible handouts and other resources) and two DVDs.
Students participate in role-playing exercises that teach them what to do when faced with a suicidal peer. The exercises feature an emphasis on seeking adult help and frank discussions on the warning signs of suicide. In the process of teaching students how to help a friend, students who may be suicidal themselves will learn the importance of getting help as well.
A bonus DVD, called Not My Kid: What Every Parent Should Know, is also included. In this DVD, created by the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, Lifelines author Maureen Underwood and Lanny Berman, executive director for the American Association of Suicidology, answer common questions parents and caregivers have about teen suicide.
Response is a comprehensive high school based suicide prevention program designed to increase awareness, heighten sensitivity to depression and suicidal ideation, change attitudes, and offer response procedures to refer a student at risk for suicide. The program is delivered as a School Kit, which includes:
- an Implementation Manual with step-by-step instructions for busy administrators;
- a Student Component with four 50-minute lesson plans; and
- an In-Service Manual with complete instructions on delivering a 2-hour staff training.
The Student Component and In-Service Manual come with:
- PowerPoint presentations; and
- Suicide prevention videos (DVD’s).
The program has been customized for several states including Oregon, Virginia, South Dakota and Delaware.
Sources of Strength, listed on NREPP, is a comprehensive wellness program that works to use peer leaders to change norms around codes of silence and help seeking. The program is designed to increase help seeking behaviors and connections between peers and caring adults. Sources of Strength has a true preventative aim in building multiple sources of support around individuals so that when times get hard they have strengths to rely on.
Crisis Planning for Schools
It is important for a school community to have a crisis plan in place, ideally before there is a suicide loss. This helps the school and others involved to be aware of the critical roles they play in providing resources and support and to be able to respond in an organized manner following a death by suicide or suicide attempt.
Hazelden’s Lifelines’ “Postvention: Responding to Suicide and Other Traumatic Death”, an evidence-based curriculum for high schools, contains information designed to help schools proactively plan for those tragic times when a suicide does occur in the school community.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) library has an online postvention manual from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that is available for free download that contains a sample crisis plan, letter templates and resources related to suicide loss.
The University of South Florida has a Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide available for free download, which is an evidence-based tool that provides a framework for schools to assess their existing or proposed suicide prevention efforts.
Local prevention resources are able to assist schools in adding a suicide prevention curriculum, developing a crisis plan and providing staff training or support after a suicide death.
From the SPRC, a page created for high school teachers that contains information on recognizing and responding to warning signs, resource materials about suicide prevention, including programs, as well as other suicide prevention information relevant to teachers.
This page, created for high school mental health providers, contains information on recognizing and responding to warning signs, resource materials about suicide prevention, including programs, as well as other suicide prevention information relevant to school health providers.