Suicide is Preventable
Schools can play a key role in suicide prevention. The task of all professionals involved in and dedicated to the education of children is to help prevent death by suicide whenever possible. When school personnel, families, and communities take an active role in suicide prevention lives can be saved.
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has partnered with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to raise awareness about the Suicide Prevention Month Educational Campaign in September. In order to extend the reach to families and communities, Virginia educators are asked to explore an electronic toolkit that was developed to house materials related to the campaign. The RecognizeTalkAct Suicide Prevention Toolkit includes educational materials and print-ready social media communication templates that schools can use. The goal of this partnership is to raise awareness about the warning signs of suicide, how to access help during a crisis, and lethal means restriction.
Understand Your Role with Suicide Prevention
- Parent-This is a PDF document.
- Teacher-This is a PDF document.
- School Counselors, School Psychologists, School Social Workers-This is a PDF document.
Know the Warning Signs
Most people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. Understanding these signs is a key part of prevention. These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Warning Sign Resources
- Suicide Warning Signs Wallet Card-This is a PDF document.
- En Español Suicide Warning Signs Wallet Card-This is a PDF document.
- Understanding Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide: A Primer for Preventing Suicide-This is a PDF document.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Risk Factors and Warning Signs
- Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) (Pocket Card)-This is a PDF document.
Respond & Support Students
If you are concerned or suspect suicide…
- Let them know you care. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior.
- Listen to their story. Talk privately. Be attentive and non-judgmental.
- Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice.
- Tell them they are not alone. Let them know there are supports and treatments available that can help.
- Ask directly if they are having thoughts of suicide.
- If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help. *
If a student says they are considering suicide or you think the possibility of suicide is high or imminent…
- Do not leave the student alone. Insure that adult supervision is maintained until the student's safety is assured. Know and follow your school's crisis plan regarding students who are at high or imminent risk of suicide.
- Remove lethal means (anything that could be used in a suicide attempt.)
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional. *
Respond & Support Resources
- Risk Assessment Wallet Card-This is a PDF document.
- Know How to Help
- *Mental Health Facilities in your area visit SAMHSA's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
Implement Schoolwide Suicide Prevention Practices & Policies
It becomes increasingly important for school personnel to consider the social and emotional climate of a school as a mitigating factor for suicide prevention. Suggestions for creating a supportive, proactive climate for suicide prevention include the following:
- fostering a school climate that is safe, secure, and comfortable for all students,
- developing activities and extracurricular programs that are inviting and inclusive,
- training and supporting staff members who help and encourage students,
- insuring service staff members are accessible to students,
- providing a regular forum in which staff members discuss students who are displaying worrisome behavior or experiencing stress,
- conducting faculty/staff gate-keeper training to identify students who are potentially at risk,
- conducting appropriate peer gatekeeper training for all students,
- cultivating relationships with public and private organizations for assessment and referral of students in crisis, and
- providing on-going support groups for students in known risk categories such as (a) students returning from psychiatric hospitalization or suicide attempts (b) students in recovery from substance abuse (c) students who are court-involved (d) students reacting to family trauma such as separation, divorce, or death of a family member.
Practices & Policies Resources
- Threat Assessment in VA Public Schools: Model Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines-This is a PDF document.
- Suicide Prevention Guidelines §22.1 – 272.1 Code of Virginia
(The VDOE Suicide Prevention Guidelines are being revised. It is anticipated that the revised Guidelines will be available in November, 2019).
- Recommendations for School-Based Suicide Prevention Screening
- SPRC Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention
- VDOE Bullying Prevention Resources
- The Trevor Project: Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention
- The Trevor Project: Lifeguard Workshop for educators, school counselors, school nurses
Coping after Suicide Loss
After a death by suicide, schools should follow the Procedures for Critical Incidents – Death or Serious Injury protocols found within their Crisis Plan.
- Tips Sheet for Grieving Adults, Children and Schools
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Postvention Guidelines
- Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines
- School Crisis, Emergency Management and Medical Emergency Response Plan
- SAMHSA After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
Tip Sheets for Adults
- Suicide and Social Media, A Tip Sheet for Parents and Providers
- Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators
Resources for Students
- Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide
- #chatsafe: A Young Person’s Guide to for Communicating Safely Online about Suicide
State and Local Resources
- Virginia Department of Behavioral Health
- Virginia Department of Health: Suicide Prevention
- VA Chapter: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention