Suicide Prevention Resources
News & Announcements
Resource Available to Develop Local Policies to address Suicide in Virginia’s Public Schools
The Suicide Prevention Guidelines for Virginia Public Schools-This is a PDF document., adopted by the Board of Education in June, 2020, provides information to assist local school boards in revising policies to help prevent suicide and procedures to intervene when suicidal threats are present, and how to manage the crisis response when a death by suicide occurs in the school community.
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.
Overview of Resources Provided
The resources provided below are organized into three overarching concepts:
To support school divisions implementing the new Suicide Prevention Guidelines for Virginia Public Schools, we have developed webinars to assist with staff training and training for suicide risk assessment teams/school-based mental health providers.
Additional webinars are available on the VDOE’s Office of Student Services Learning and Resource Center.
Training for School Staff
Suicide Prevention for School Staff
Suicide Prevention for School Staff, Part 1
Suicide Prevention for School Staff, Part 2
Training for Suicide Risk Assessment Teams or School-Based Mental Health Providers (SBMH)
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
- Trainings to Recognize and Respond to Students at Risk-This is a Word document.
Comprehensive Prevention Strategies
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.
Resources for Schools
- LGBTQ Suicide and Suicide Risk (from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- 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
- Resources for Suicide Prevention (from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Model School Policy for Suicide Prevention (from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools (from SAMHSA)
- Preventing Suicide: Guidelines for Administrators and Crisis Teams (from NASP)
- K-12 Toolkit for Mental Health Promotion & Suicide Prevention (from HEARD Alliance)
- Promoting Youth Connectedness (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Tips Sheets for Caregivers and Students
- What Families Need to Know(from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center)
- Not My Kid(from Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide)
- Talking to Your Kid About Suicide (from the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide)
- Suicide and Social Media, A Tip Sheet for Parents and Providers
- Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators
- Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Suicide
- #chatsafe: A Young Person’s Guide to for Communicating Safely Online about Suicide
- I Serve 2 Card for Children in Military Families (DBHDS)
- Preventing Youth Suicide, Tips for Parents and Educators (In Spanish) -This is a PDF document.
- Suicidal Thinking and Threats: Helping Handout for Home-This is a PDF document.
- Lock and Talk Virginia – Lock Meds. Lock Guns. Talk Safety.
State and Local Resources
- Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS)
- Virginia Department of Health (VDH): Suicide Prevention
- 2020 Virginia Suicide Prevention Resource Directory (from the Virginia Department of Health)
- Suicide Prevention Electronic Tool Kit for Schools
- What Every Parent Should Know About Preventing Youth Suicide (from VDH)
- VA Chapter: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Campus Suicide Prevention Center of Virginia (For Colleges and Universities)
A questionnaire or other screening instrument is given to all students to identify students that may require further assessment and treatment. Repeated assessment can be used to measure changes in attitudes or behaviors over time, to test the effectiveness of a prevention strategy, and to detect potential suicidal behavior. SAMHSA's Ready, Set, Go, Review: Screening for Behavioral Health Risk in Schools-This is a PDF document. provides guidance for mental health screening in schools. Examples of evidence-based screening measures can be found in Mental Health/Suicide Screening in Schools-This is a Word document..
Responding When Students are Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts
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. *
- HIPAA/FERPA Information Sharing Guide for Virginia
- Safety Planning Guide (from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center)-This is a PDF document.
- Risk Assessment Wallet Card-This is a PDF document.
- Know How to Help
- Suicide Assessment Five-Step Evaluation and Triage (SAFE-T) (Pocket Card)-This is a PDF document.
- Mental Health Facilities in your area (SAMHSA)
- Checklist and Planning Guide for Suicide Response Teams
- Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)-This is a Word document.
- Columbia Screening Tools-This is a PDF document.
- Sample Follow-Up Meeting Form-This is a Word document.
- Suicide Risk Assessment: Planning Guide and Checklist-This is a Word document.
- Suicide Risk Assessment: Parent Notification Form-This is a Word document.
- Suicide Risk: Tips for Making Parent/Guardian Contact-This is a Word document.
- Suicide Risk Assessment: Documentation Form-This is a Word document.
- Student Safety Plan-This is a Word document.
Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety Resources
- Threat Assessment in VA Public Schools: Model Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines-This is a PDF document.
- School Crisis, Emergency Management and Medical Emergency Response Plan
Postvention, After a Suicide
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-This is a PDF document. (from APA)
- How to Talk with Children After a Loss (from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement)
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Postvention Guidelines-This is a PDF document. (from SPRC)
- Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After a Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines-This is a PDF document. (from National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention)
- After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools-This is a PDF document. (from AFSP, SPRC & EDC)
- How Schools Should Respond After a Suicide-This is a PDF document. (from MHTTC)