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
- 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.
- 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.”)
- 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.
Begin 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)
- 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.