California is not the only state to mandate suicide prevention training for teachers and other school staff. Currently, 25 states in the U.S. mandate suicide prevention training, while 14 additional states encourage this training for staff (Hatton, Heath, Gibb, Coyne, Hudnall, & Bledsoe, 2017).

Teachers are frontline gatekeepers to campus resources and supports for students (Hatton, et. al, 2017). Ensuring teachers understand the resources available on their campus as well as how and when to refer a student for support, will help teachers feel more confident in their ability to respond to students presenting with suicidal thoughts.

Teachers are critical members of the school’s suicide prevention efforts. Therefore, teachers need to be given an opportunity for active participation in suicide prevention education, training, and policy development.

Teachers would benefit from suicide prevention and intervention training that emphasizes the following key points:

  • Warning signs of suicidal behavior
  • Risk and protective factors
  • What to say to a student who expresses suicidal thoughts
  • What to do when a student expresses suicidal thoughts
  • Campus resources available for students
  • School district board policy on suicide prevention

Best practices for training teachers and school mental health staff on responding to a student expressing suicidal thoughts include:

  • Understanding clinical factors related to suicide
  • Applied practice of talking to a student expressing suicidal thoughts
  • Follow-up practices

Training that includes a mix of direct practice and active learning have the best chances of information retention (Hatton, et. al, 2017).

The Staff section has resources for teachers to learn about suicide facts, warning signs and how to create a positive school climate in their classroom and school.

Resources

Toolkit for Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention

This Toolkit, from the Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression, assists schools with promoting mental health, intervening in a mental health crisis, and supporting members of a school community after a loss to suicide.


Resilience Guide for Parents & Teachers, American Psychological Association

Resilience Guide for Parents & Teachers provides introductory information on development of resilience in children from preschool to adult.

Behavioral Health, An Adolescent Provider Toolkit

This kit takes a closer look at common substance use and mental health issues among adolescents and includes: screening and assessment tools; 12 mental health and substance use issue briefs; evaluation and treatment algorithms for general behavioral health concerns, depression and Attention Deficit; Hyperactivity Disorder; counseling guidelines; and Health education materials for teens.

Trauma and Resilience, An Adolescent Provider Toolkit

This kit provides materials, resources and best practices related to trauma and development of resilience.

References:

Hatton, V., Heath, M. A., Gibb, G. S., Coyne, S., Hudnall, G., & Bledsoe, C. (2017). Secondary Teachers’ Perceptions of their Role in Suicide Prevention and Intervention. School Mental Health, 9, 97-116. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12310-015-9173-9

The SPRC and SAMHSA have culturally competent information regarding suicide and suicide prevention for various ethnic groups.

PBS Suicide Prevention

For students from 7-12th grade. It takes one or two 50-minute periods for activity plus 30 minutes for viewing the PBD video. (Free)

PBS Videos

Videos include In the Mix: Depression On the Edge and Dealing with Death.

Kids Health Grades 9-12 Suicide Prevention

Lesson plan for grades 9-12. (Free)

Kids Health Grades 6-8 Suicide Prevention

Lesson plan for grades -8. (Free)

Directing Change Suicide Prevention Lesson Plan Guide

Teaches warning signs and how to offer or gain help. Includes optional activities. The PowerPoint presentation and lesson plan can also be accessed at http://www.directingchangeca.org/schools/ (Free)

Choices 2: Reaching Out

Crisis Centre video and workshop package prepares youth to reach out to get help for themselves and their peers to overcome suicidal feelings. Includes young adults whose lives were touched by suicide. (Cost Involved)

A Cry for Help

For middle and high school, A Cry for Help educates young people to recognize the signs of depression and suicide in their peers. It includes a video and resource guide. (Cost involved)

Response (Columbia Care)

Response is a comprehensive high school based suicide prevention program designed to increase awareness, heighten sensitivity to depression and suicidal ideation, change attitudes, and offer response procedures to refer a student at risk for suicide. It includes: an Implementation Manual; video; four 50-minute lesson plans; and an In-Service Manual for delivering a 2-hour staff training. (Cost involved)

Student short films for lessons