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.
For School Personnel
Suicide Prevention Training for Teachers
A web-based training for school personnel is available online through STPS, click here for a brochure. 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. Visit STPS to register, the 4th course listed is specifically for those in South Dakota.
Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools
Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools is available for free download from SAMHSA. It assists school personnel in designing and implementing strategies that prevent suicide and promote behavioral health.
Preventing Depression: A Toolkit for Schools. This manual focuses on the implementation of a program specifically designed to address depression prevention for students in grades 7-12.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
SPRC offers a page 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.
SPRC also offers a page for high school mental health providers 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 school health providers.
Curriculum for schools
The following are evidence based or best practice programs that have been or are currently being utilized in South Dakota schools:
Good Behavior Game (GBG)
The Good Behavior Game (GBG) is a universal classroom-based behavior management strategy for elementary school that teachers use along with a school’s standard instructional curricula. GBG uses a classroom-wide game format with teams and rewards to socialize children to the role of student. It aims to reduce aggressive, disruptive classroom behavior, which is a shared risk factor for later problem behaviors, including adolescent and adult illicit drug abuse, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), violent and criminal behavior, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. (SPRC)
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, change attitudes, heighten sensitivity to depression and suicidal ideation 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
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.
SOS Signs of Suicide Middle School
The SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program (SOS) is a universal, school-based depression awareness and suicide prevention program designed for middle-school (ages 11–13) or high-school (ages 13–17) students. The goals are to 1) decrease suicide and suicide attempts by increasing student knowledge and adaptive attitudes about depression, 2) encourage personal help-seeking and/or help-seeking on behalf of a friend, 3) reduce the stigma of mental illness and acknowledge the importance of seeking help or treatment, 4) engage parents and school staff as partners in prevention through “gatekeeper” education, and 5) encourage schools to develop community-based partnerships to support student mental health. (SPRC)
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.
After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
A toolkit available through SPRC assists schools in the aftermath of a suicide or other death in the school community After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools.
The 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.
Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide
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.