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Policy to Prevent Suicide in Grade Schools

  1. General Policy

Suicide and self-harm in grade schools have been increasing in recent years. Many schools across the states affected by this topic have incorporated programs into their school districts in an attempt to reduce suicide rates in their students, but many are still sweeping the problem under the rug. If all schools in the United States were required to adopt the same program into their schools, then they would be more likely to get help or report other students who may be at risk. These programs would include things like training for staff members on how to address these kinds of situations and how to identify someone who is at risk. Most importantly, it would educate students on how to find help for themselves or someone else and that there are thousands of others who have felt the same and there is someone out there who can help.

  1. Current situation

Since students spend most of their adolescent lives in school, it makes the most sense to start by addressing the problem there. The longer we wait to take action, the more students go without the proper help and guidance.

1)    According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4,600 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 take their own lives every year (Chen, G.).

2)    Nearly one-fourth of high school students report thinking about suicide, 13 percent report having a plan, and 8 percent report having attempted suicide in the last 12 months in America (Chen, G.).

3)    Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among adolescents and the second leading cause of death among college students (Chen, G.).

Although, those who fall a victim of suicide can be any age. Many mental illnesses need to be caught and addressed before it’s too late. Stakeholders include not only the students who are losing their lives but their classmates, teachers, friends, and family who must cope with the loss of them.

  1. Nature of the problem

As children and teens spend a significant amount of their young lives in school, those who interact with them daily are in the best position to recognize the signs of mental health conditions and the suicide risks. To be able to do this, they will need effective training to acquire the necessary skills and confidence to intervene with youth at risk, and mandated training is one way to ensure that all school personnel has a baseline understanding of suicide risk and the referral process (StateLaws).

Teachers and other school personnel must not only be well-equipped to identify and communicate with their students about suicidal behaviors, but they must also be able to accurately discuss these issues with each other.  While school staff and faculty should not be expected to make clinical diagnoses, they should be able to recognize developing signs and symptoms associated with suicide risk, mental health conditions, and substance abuse.  Providing these professionals with the skills, vocabulary, and techniques to be comfortable with these issues through specific training could enhance these providers ability to provide support to individuals at risk and make appropriate referrals,” (StateLaws).

Policy Alternatives

1)        A district level suicide prevention coordinator shall be designated by the Superintendent. This may be an existing staff person. The district suicide prevention coordinator will be responsible for planning and coordinating implementation of this policy for the school district. All staff members shall report students they believe to be at risk for suicide to the school suicide prevention coordinator.

2)        All school personnel (including teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, support staff, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers) who interact with students on a regular basis should receive annual professional development on risk factors, warning signs, protective factors, response procedures, referrals, postvention, and resources regarding youth suicide prevention.

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3)        In situations where a student is assessed at risk for suicide or has made a suicide attempt, the student’s parent or guardian will be informed as soon as possible by the principal, designee, or mental health professional. If the student has exhibited any kind of suicidal behavior, the parent or guardian should be counseled on “means restriction,” limiting the child’s access to mechanisms for carrying out a suicide attempt. Staff will also seek parental permission to communicate with outside mental health care providers regarding their child.

4)        School personnel, including psychologists and counselors, should support students at risk of suicide with counseling, monitoring, and follow-up services. School personnel, including psychologists and counselors, should support students at risk of suicide with counseling, monitoring, and follow-up services (HowSchools).

5)        Schools will create a comprehensive school crisis preparation and response plan. This will help respond to any emergency, from a natural disaster to violence in the school community. Such a plan should include procedures for addressing students who try to harm themselves as well as those who are only contemplating it. It should also provide some guidance for the role of individual teachers in identifying and responding to potential suicidal or violent behavior in students, and how to respond when actual violence takes place (HowSchools).

6)        Implement school-based mental health services. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health reported that “School-based [mental health] programs offer the promise of improving access to diagnosis of and treatment for the mental health problems of children and adolescents.” They offer a set of recommendations for mental health programs that may help reduce the rates of suicide and other problems among children (HowSchools).

7)        All of the following will be incorporated into curriculum K-12

  • The importance of safe and healthy choices and coping strategies.
  • How to recognize risk factors and warning signs of mental disorders and suicide in oneself and others.
  • Help-seeking strategies for oneself or others, including how to engage school resources and refer friends for help.
  1. How does this address the need?

Preventive measures like these have been used in school districts all over the United States and have shown plenty of improvement. There is no way to know for sure, but from school districts including these regulations into their schools, they could have possibly saved a child’s life.

  1. Cost

This would be the best solution because many schools lack the funds to implement expensive programs. To use this program would cost next to nothing and still be effective, leaving money for things that are important to the students such as sports and extracurricular activities.

  1. Conclusion

Requiring schools across the United States to follow the same or similar guidelines to prevent suicide in their schools will provide necessary skills that will affect their children and families for long after they graduate, following them to collage and into their adult lives. This program will create a generation of strong-minded individuals, that know how to take care of their mental health and giving them a better opportunity to become successful.

 



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