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.