May 26, 2022

Over the past few years, youth mental health and suicide have received growing attention. For example, the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported an increasing percentage of youth experiencing hopelessness and making suicide plans, and in 2021, the Surgeon General issued an advisory on a youth mental health crisis. There have also been legislation, policies, and activities asking schools to play active roles in student mental health.

While many youth have suicidal thoughts, most will find help and hope. But the earlier we can identify and intervene with youth who are struggling, the better their outcomes. Schools sit in prime spots to help prevent youth suicide.  

What can schools do to prevent youth suicide? A variety of resources and programs are available to support school suicide prevention. But efforts are more successful when schools take a systemwide approach and have suicide prevention policies and strategies in place before they need them.

Here are six key steps for creating a systemwide approach to school suicide prevention:

  • Develop written protocols for helping students at risk for suicide: School protocols can guide interventions and follow-up when a student shows warning signs of suicide. The Model School District Policy for Suicide Prevention provides guidance on prevention protocols. 
  • Develop written protocols for response after a suicide: A school’s response after a suicide can lessen mental health risk for other youth and support the family’s and community’s need to grieve the loss. After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools offers guidance on suicide loss protocols.
  • Connect with community partners: Relationships with community stakeholders, such as mental health providers and community advocates, are key. Partners provide access to local resources and experts who can support protocol development and implementation of prevention strategies. Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools includes a chart of community partners.
  • Identify at-risk youth: Many evidence-based strategies are available for identifying suicide risk—including screening tools and trainings on the warning signs of suicide. Be sure to choose strategies that fit your school culture, context, and capacity. SPRC.org has resources to help you recognize and support youth who are at risk for suicide.
  • Promote protective factors: School efforts to promote student mental health, develop life skills, and strengthen healthy student relationships with peers and adults create protective factors that reduce students’ suicide risk. SPRC.org offers information on promoting life skills and social connectedness in youth.
  • Engage key school stakeholders:  School teachers, administrators, parents, and others play vital roles in suicide prevention. Schools can engage staff and families in suicide prevention planning and provide stakeholders with information on suicide prevention protocols and resources. For information on engaging families, see Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools.

A systemwide approach to suicide prevention ensures that the entire school community understands the role they play and is prepared to support students. To learn more about creating a comprehensive approach to school suicide prevention, visit EDC Solutions.

Shawna Hite-Jones is a training and technical assistance associate and project manager with EDC Solutions. Dedicated to suicide prevention, mental health promotion, and community empowerment, Hite-Jones supports schools in implementing a systemwide approach to suicide prevention.
Julie Goldstein Grumet provides strategic direction to systems to improve the identification and treatment of people at risk for suicide. She has expertise in behavioral health transformation, state and local community suicide prevention, and quality improvement practices.
Behavioral, Physical, and Mental Health

4 Replies

Comments


Replying to:
Mirembe Deniz
Love the article. I will use it in my school and community

Replying to:
Shawna Hite-Jones
Thanks for the kind words! Do take advantage of the free resources we linked to in the post as you engage in your local efforts! Best wishes, Shawna

Replying to:
Vedaste
Très interessé sur par cet article, ça peut nous aider dans plusieurs Cas de la vie et dans nos different milieu social et scolaires.

Replying to:
Scott Poland
Great article Please check out the Florida STEPS school tool kit for educators to prevent suicide that we wrote. Available at www.nova.edu/suicide prevention Grants and donations have allowed me to provide multiple copies for every school district in Florida and I currently have a Florida blue foundation grant to do training on it for the next three years.

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