Suicide Prevention Colquitt County School System “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.“ ---Dr. Leo Buscaglia
It takes time and courage to reach out to students on a personal level, but your interest can be a lifeline to a child in crisis. Young people—especially those with emotional or family troubles—need support, and school can be a vital part of that support. School may be the last positive social connection for young people who are isolated from their peers or who are dealing with family issues.
Acknowledging that suicide is a serious risk for young people is an important step in prevention. The purpose of providing this information is to help teachers and staff understand • The scope of the problem • The risk factors for suicide • What we can do to help Purpose
Maintaining a safe school environment is part of a school’s overall mission. Suicide prevention is consistent with other efforts to protect student safety, such as bullying prevention, preventing drug/alcohol abuse, fostering student connectedness with school and future success. Reasons Why Schools Should Address Suicide Prevention
Students mental health can affect their academic performance. Depression and other mental health issues can interfere with the ability to learn. Reasons Why Schools Should Address Suicide Prevention
A student suicide can significantly impact other students and the entire school community. Adolescents can be susceptible to suicide contagion (the copycat effect). Reasons Why Schools Should Address Suicide Prevention
School systems are not responsible for meeting every need of their students,but when the need directly affects learning, the school must meet the challenge. From the Carnegie Task Force on Education Teachers and Students Need Education on Preventing Suicide
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults (ages 15–24). • From 2007 - 2009, the number and rate of youth suicide (Ages 10 -18) in Georgia doubled. • In 2010, suicide deaths of 10-14 year olds was the highest and more than two times the average of the past 17 years. • Girls attempt suicide two times as often as boys. • The suicide death rate for boys is four times that of girls. Statistics
EVERY Year - there are approximately 10 youth suicides for every 100,000 youth • EVERY Day - there are approximately 11 youth suicides • EVERY 2 Hours and 11 Minutes - a person under the age of 25 completes suicide Statistics
587,043 Georgia students in 6th -12th grade completed the survey. • 55,850 reported they had harmed themselves on purpose in the last 12 months (9.5%) • 31,346 reported they had seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months (5.3%) • 54,859 reported they had attempted suicide in the last 12 months (9.3%) 2014 Georgia Student Health Survey Click for more Health Survey Findings
3274 Colquitt County students completed the survey. • 318 reported they had harmed themselves on purpose in the last 12 months (9.7%) • 314 reported they had seriously considered suicide in the last 12 months (9.5%) • 192 reported they had attempted suicide in the last 12 months (5.8%) 2014 Georgia Student Health Survey
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.“ -- Theodor Seuss Geisel
As a teacher or school staff member, you have day-to-day contact with many young people, some of whom have problems that could result in serious injury or even death by their own hand. You are therefore well-positioned to observe students’ behavior and to act when you suspect that a student may be at risk of self-harm. Your school administrators and counselors support your efforts to safeguard the health and safety of students.
Very few suicides, or suicide attempts, take place in schools. But many young people who are at risk of suicide attend school and exhibit warning signs that, if recognized and acted on, could prevent death or injury and reduce emotional suffering.
In a welcoming and tolerant school environment, students and staff are sensitive to others’ Feelings Actions Changes Threats Situations Know the FACTS-Warning Signs of Suicide From: Society of Prevention of Teen Suicide
Feelings: • Hopelessness-feeling like things are bad now and they won’t get any better • Fear of losing control, going crazy, harming self or others. • Helplessness- a belief that there’s nothing anybody can do to make life better • Worthlessness- feeling like an awful person and that people would be better off if you were dead • Hating self, feeling guilty or ashamed • Being extremely sad and lonely • Feeling anxious or worried or angry all the time
Actions: • Drug or alcohol abuse. • Talking or writing about death or destruction. • Aggression – getting into fights or having arguments with people • Recklessness- doing risky or dangerous things.
Changes: • Personality- behaving like a different person- becoming withdrawn, tired all the time, not caring about anything, or more talkative, outgoing. • Behavior-can’t concentrate on school, regular tasks. • Sleeping pattern-sleeping all the time or not being able to sleep at all, or waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep • Eating habits-losing appetite and or overeating and gaining weight. • Losing interest in friends, hobbies, and personal appearance or in activities or sports that were previously enjoyed. • Sudden improvement after a period of being down or withdrawn.
Threats: • Statements- like “How long does it take to bleed to death?” • Threats- “ I won’t be around much longer.” Or “Don’t tell anyone else…you won’t be my friend if you tell!” • Plans- giving away favorite things, studying about ways to die, obtaining a weapon or a stash of pills. • The risk is very high if a person has a plan and the means to carry it out!! • Suicide attempts- overdosing, wrist cutting.
Situations: • Getting into trouble at school, at home or with the law • Recent loss- through death, divorce or separation, the break-up of a relationship, losing an opportunity or a dream; losing self-esteem • Changes in life that you feel you can’t cope with • Being a victim of bullying or being a bully • Harassment for sexual orientation • Being exposed to suicide or the death of a peer under any circumstances
When you observe behavior that indicates that there is a problem—whether the student is acting out, withdrawing, committing destructive or aggressive acts toward him- or herself or others, or exhibiting a fixation with death or morbid themes—take note and take action.
Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) parents are generally required to provide consent before school officials disclose personally identifiable information from students’ educational records. There are exceptions to FERPA’s parental consent rules, such as disclosures related to health and safety emergencies. FERPA
This provision in FERPA permits school officials to disclose information on students, without consent, to appropriate parties if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. When a student is believed to be suicidal, or has expressed suicidal thoughts, school officials may determine that a significant threat to the health or safety of the student exists and that such a disclosure to appropriate parties is warranted under this exception. (U.S. Department of Education, 2010) FERPA
If a student, teacher, or staff member has concerns about a student’s feelings, actions, changes, threats, or situations, those concerns should be reported to the school counselor. Any written or verbal threat of suicide or harm to others must be reported to an administrator or the school counselor.
Administrators must inform teachers, staff, and students that they should report any concerns about a student’s safety to administration or the counselor. A report will initiate a counselor’s contact with the student and his or her parents. • When a teacher or staff member has direct knowledge about a risk of suicide or a student has communicated a suicide threat verbally or in writing, the staff member should make contact with the counselor or an administrator to come to the student OR should take the student directly to the guidance office. • The student should NOT be left alone. Other staff should be ready to cover a teacher’s class as needed. • The teacher/staff member should remain in the counselor’s office until the counselor has the opportunity to get necessary information about the exact nature of the threat. Colquitt County Schools Protocol in the Event of a Threat of Suicide
The counselor will speak with the student and assess the situation. It is not the role of the school counselor to assess the seriousness of the threat but whether, in fact, the threat was made. • The counselor will share the assessment with the building principal. • The student will not be left alone during this time. • The principal or counselor will contact the parents or guardian. • The student must be turned over to care of parents as soon as possible. The parent and counselor will begin documentation of the threat and the requirement that the student must be evaluated by a mental health professional. • The student cannot return to school without documentation of assessment and clearance by a mental health professional. Colquitt County Schools Protocol in the Event of a Threat of Suicide
Ask the Tough Questions: Do not be afraid to ask a student if he or she has considered suicide or other self-destructive acts. Research has shown that asking someone if he or she has contemplated self-harm or suicide will not increase that person’s risk. Rather, studies have shown that a person in mental distress is often relieved that someone cares enough to inquire about the person’s well-being. Your concern can counter the person’s sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Be Persistent:A student may feel threatened by your concern. The student may become upset or deny that he or she is having problems. Be consistent and firm, and make sure that the student gets the help that he or she may need. Be Prepared to Act:Know what to do if you believe that a student is in danger of harming him- or herself. Follow the protocol and let the student know these are procedures in place to keep him or her safe. Before Help Arrives
Offer Reassurance that Help is Available: • “Together I know we can figure something out to make you feel better.” • “I know where we can get some help.” • “I can go with you to where we can get help.” • “Let's talk to someone who can help. Encourage the Student to Identify Other People Who Care and Can Help: • Parent/Family Members • Favorite Teacher • School Counselor • School Nurse • Minister or Youth Group Leader • Family Doctor Before Help Arrives
Take responsibility for the children in your care: • Identify the risk • Listen • Refer The Educator’s Role
The student’s counselor should discuss with the student and parents what information should be disclosed to those who work closely with the student. It is also important that the student's counselor gets consent to read the student's discharge plan and recommendations as well as to speak with the outside therapist. This helps the student by building a safety net for the return to school. Returning to School
The return to school requires individualized attention and regular follow up. If the attempt or threat isn't public knowledge, not everyone in the school needs to know the details around the student's absence. The counselor can help the student decide what to say about the absence, and faculty and staff who have direct contact with the student, should be part of the safety net that monitors continuing risk. Returning to School
Ideas for Teachers: • Treat the student's return to school as you would had the student been out sick for a few days. • Let the student know you are glad they are back, "Good to see you.” • Please respect the student's wishes for the way in which his absence is discussed. • Discuss missed class work and homework and make arrangements for completion. Adjust expectations for the first days and weeks. Let her know that she can come to you for help with the work or assign a student to help her catch up. • Provide regular feedback to parents, counselors, and administration. Returning to School
Keep an eye on the student's academic performance as well as her social interactions. If you see that she is isolating or being shunned by peers or is falling further behind in assignments you can follow up with the students and other teachers as well. • A 504 plan may be needed to specify the ways the student's assignments, schedule and test taking might be adjusted until the student is stabilized and can once again participate fully in school routines. • Pay close attention to further absences, lateness and requests to be excused during classes. If you are concerned please alert the appropriate staff resource at your school. • Encourage the student to use the school counselor for additional support. Returning to School
“Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.” -- Norman B. Rice
Promote a school culture that is inclusive and supports student diversity • Build a school culture where students feel safe from bullying and harassment. • Consistently impose discipline sanctions for bullying • Ensure that students and staff: • Don’t bully or harass • Interrupt it when they see it • Report it What Else Can Schools Do?
Reach out to lonely or harassed students • Say hello and form a connection • Model tolerance and support • Strengthen protective factors for students at school • Ensure that all students have access to positive experiences • Build academic achievement • Build a strong sense of community • Respect the cultures of all students What Else Can Schools Do?
Colquitt County Schools Crisis/Suicide Prevention Information. Available on the Administrators’ Toolbox: http://www.colquitt.k12.ga.us/Departments/HumanResources/AdministratorsToolbox/tabid/9252/Default.aspx • Georgia Student Health Survey II, 2011-12: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/Pages/Home.aspx (Enter Search Term: Georgia Student Health Survey) • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: http://www.sptsusa.org/ • Sources of Strength:www.sourcesofstrength.org • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: www.samhsa.gov • Teaching Tolerance: www.tolerance.org Resources