The 5 C’s of Suicide Prevention – An Action Plan for Schools

Pamela Goldberg, BSN, MS, LMFT

Pamela Goldberg, BSN, MS, LMFT

Owner / Creator at SEL for Prevention
Pamela Goldberg, BSN, MS, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a former Critical Care Nurse. Goldberg has a passion for preventing disease and trauma while developing strong mental health.
Pamela Goldberg, BSN, MS, LMFT

When it comes to suicidal behavior in students, it’s the responsibility of  teachers and school officials to intervene and provide guidance

Suicide is a serious issue among school-age kids and teens. It’s the third leading cause of death in 10-14-year-old children; almost 10% of high school students have made at least one suicide attempt (CDC).

The following is a basic action plan for teachers and school officials dealing with an individual who is displaying suicidal behavior. It should be used in conjunction with state-federal guidelines, and protocol and guidelines from national suicide prevention organizations.

The 5 C’s of Suicide Prevention

5 C's of Suicide Prevention

Click to enlarge and print / SEL for Prevention

1. Caring
  • Share what you know with the student about his or her suicidal behavior. (Ex. “I noticed in your drawings there is a lot about people dying” or “Another student shared that you were talking about suicide.”)
  • Ask direct questions. (“Are you thinking about suicide?”)
  • Keep information private from those who are not directly involved in the student’s welfare. Gossip from other students, teachers, school staff or parents of other students is not appropriate.
2. Connection
  • Use eye contact to foster a personal connection.
  • Express you care through both non-verbal and verbal communication (sit across from student, show concern with facial expressions, do not allow others to interrupt, show calmness with voice modulation).
  • Allow student to discuss his or her feelings.
  • Don’t minimize. (“It’s not a big deal” or “No worries! Tomorrow you will feel better.”)
  • Don’t generalize. (“All teenagers feel this way.”)
3. Control
  • Emphasize that his/her feelings are temporary.
  • Offer hope for the future. (“This feeling will pass with help. We will need to make a plan.”)
  • Equip with tools to change feelings. Immediate mood-changer tips could be:
    • Focusing on a simple breathing exercise.
    • Talking about any triggers that set off the feelings (bullying behavior, family crisis).
    • Writing in a journal, drawing, or listening to music.
    • Asking the student what mood-changer strategy usually works for him or her.
4. Communication

qtq80-65TKPuBegin a dialogue with the student who is exhibiting the suicidal behavior. Be calm, accepting, and encouraging of the student’s ability to get through this challenging time.

  • Inform chain of command
  • Inform parent
  • Written documentation
5. Considerations for action

Immediate risk – Hospital (inform triage)

  • Ambulance transport
  • Parent escort
  • Police check if student doesn’t arrive at Hospital

Moderate risk – Refer to:

  • Community mental health
  • Parent responsible to supervise, take to hospital if gets worse; Suggest that parent remove harmful items
  • Equip with National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Low risk

  • Notify parents
  • Strategies to reduce stress
  • Equip with Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • Connect with student frequently

Developed in collaboration with the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention, Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, STEP UP and Camp MakeBelieve Kids.