Suicide Prevention In Schools
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. By empowering parents, teachers and friends to recognize the warning signs of suicide and connect to further help, we can make a difference.
Schools are the primary site of education for children and youth, making the classroom an ideal setting to teach important suicide prevention information in a safe and effective manner.
Suicide Prevention Education and Training
Youth are particularly vulnerable to contagion, which refers to the increase in suicide-related behaviour as a result of inappropriate exposure or messaging about suicide. Providing safe and appropriate information about suicide helps to start positive dialogue and reduce the stigma associated.
- Ensure staff is familiar with safe messaging guidelines prior to addressing suicide.
- Offer training to ensure staff and students have appropriate evidence-based information about suicide and suicide prevention.
- Help staff and students recognize warning signs of suicide.
- Connect staff and students with available resources for help.
Some promising school programs include:
Sources of Strength – A best practice youth suicide prevention project designed to harnesses the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. https://sourcesofstrength.org/
Good Behavior Game – PAX teaches students self-regulation, self-control, and self-management in context of collaborating with others for peace, productivity, health and happiness. PAX is not a classroom management program, but it makes managing classrooms a breeze. PAX GBG is the combined science from PeaceBuilders, Good Behavior Game & other studies. http://goodbehaviorgame.org/
The only national network of young leaders transforming the way we think about mental health. https://www.jack.org/
Increasing Resiliency of Students and Staff
Due to the multifactorial nature of suicide, it’s advised that schools adopt a whole-school approach for suicide prevention, with multiple layers of activity and support.
- Schools should aim to promote an environment of openness and respect, where students feel they can talk to staff and express themselves without judgment.
- Students should feel encouraged to reach out for help when needed. This means connecting them to on-site resources, such as guidance counselors or social workers, as well as building awareness about youth-related social services and crisis services in the area.
- Students need to be part of the solution. Youth engaged peer led programs are more effective.
- Here is a great video from the First Nations Youth Life Promotion project
Great Program that works with students and staff:
Resiliency Initiatives – Engage with Schools, Communities and Organizations to develop a strengths-based culture where capacity is identified and nurtured toward positive change.http://www.resil.ca/
Engaging Website – Together To Live – An evergreen online toolkit for addressing youth suicide in your community. The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (the Centre) created this website as a tool for service providers working with children and youth to help them bring their community together to prevent youth suicide. Although created for Ontario, there are many practical examples from communities. http://www.togethertolive.ca/
Great books and speaker on Resilience:
Dr. Michael Ungar is among the best known writers and researchers on the topic of resilience in the world. His work has changed the way resilience is understood, shifting the focus from individual traits to the interactions between people and their families, schools, workplaces, and communities. He is the author of 14 books that have been translated into five languages, numerous manuals for parents, educators, and employers, as well as more than 135 scientific papers. Dr. Ungar’s immense influence comes from his ability to adapt ideas from his research and clinical practice into best-selling works like Too Safe For Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive and I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from Their Parents. http://www.michaelungar.com/
Suicide Postvention In the School Community
A suicide within a school community is a tragic experience that requires care and consideration. Action can be taken immediately following a suicide to promote healing and reduce further risk of suicidal behaviour within the school community.
- Students should be informed of the suicide in small groups, with appropriate support available for those who may become upset.
- While students should be made aware the death was by suicide (if officially confirmed), they should not be told specific details, such as means of death.
- School counselors should be available to help students identify and express the emotions they are experiencing.
- Staff should provide students with resources about suicide loss, including grief support.
- A death by suicide should be treated the same as any other death in order to reduce the stigma.
- Schools may choose to hold memorialization activities, but should set a time limit to allow the school to return to its primary function of education and avoid unintentionally glamorizing the death.
Evidence-based practice registries
- The Best Practices Registry, developed by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, identifies, reviews and disseminates information about best practices that address specific objectives of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention in the United States.
- The Canadian Best Practices Portal, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, provides a searchable list of chronic disease prevention and health promotion interventions.
- The Child Injury Prevention Tool: Selecting Best Practiceswebsite includes resources on best practices in youth suicide prevention, risk managementand postvention.
- Children’s Mental Health Ontario’s website provides a list of evidence-based tools and interventions.
- The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices is an online registry of substance abuse and mental health interventions developed to help the public learn more about evidence-based interventions that are available for implementation.
Always There – mobile APP by the Kids Help Phone. The Always There app provides a password protected space for you to log your feelings, flip through a ton of youth-submitted tips, inspirational quotes, and jokes aimed at helping you cope with stress.
You can access tipsheets offline on a variety of emotional health topics and more. The app can also connect you directly with a Kids Help Phone counsellor over the phone, or through Live Chat.. Finally, you can access our Resources Around Me tool through the app – this tool allows you to search for programs/services in your community, like Counselling and Mental Health supports, Sexual Health supports, Housing supports, and more!
Mind your Mind APP’s – 16 different apps ranging from anxiety, panic attacks, managing stress games and more! https://mindyourmind.ca/interactives/apps?page=1
Be Game Ready – great APP for athletes! Being an athlete requires not only physical strength and speed but also concentration, visualization and the ability to make the right decisions on and off the ice. You need a healthy mind to play your best because your brain controls everything you do – it’s called the mind and body connection. Use this app, take care of your brain just like you take care of your body, and you will be game ready. https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/be-game-ready/id1040520025?mt=8
The Virtual Hope Box (VHB) is a smartphone application designed for use by patients and their behavioral health providers as an accessory to treatment. The VHB contains simple tools to help patients with coping, relaxation, distraction, and positive thinking. Patients and providers can work together to personalize the VHB content on the patient’s own smartphone according to the patient’s specific needs. The patient can then use the VHB away from clinic, continuing to add or change content as needed.https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/virtual-hope-box/id825099621?mt=8