Develop a School Suicide Prevention Policy

Why is it important to develop a school prevention policy?

A school suicide prevention policy formally recognizes that the school is committed to student suicide prevention. A districtwide policy increases the likelihood that school suicide prevention programs will be effectively and consistently implemented throughout the entire school system. Without a school policy and support from district-level leaders, school programs are not likely to survive for the long-term. A proactive approach to suicide prevention will only be achieved when a district-level policy is in place. School-based suicide prevention and intervention programs increases significantly when schools have a written suicide policy.


How Do We Develop a School Suicide Suicide Prevention Policy?

How do we develop a school suicide prevention policy? Schools should develop specific written suicide policy that formally state that the school considers suicide prevention to be a priority. This is essential because it asserts that the school recognizes suicide as a major problem among youth which warrants considerable attention. For optimal success, school programs and policies should occur concurrently at the school level and district level. The policy should state specific strategies that the school will use to build protective factors in youth that help to prevent engagement in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Students who have a high level of school connectedness (feel positively connected to their school) are significantly less likely to engage in suicidal behavior. Therefore, the policy should state that connectedness strategies will be developed and implemented. Establishing a plan on how the school will build a sense of school connectedness among students is essential in preventing suicide. The policy should clearly describe the specific procedures faculty and staff are to take when a student at-risk for suicide is identified. School faculty and staff need to understand steps to follow after detecting a student at-risk. In so doing, students can be referred to the appropriate professionals and receive the help they need. The policy should also describe the procedures faculty and staff should take when a student threatens or attempts suicide on school grounds. It is essential that faculty, staff and students all feel safe on school grounds. Therefore, when a student threatens suicide on grounds, a detailed set of steps should be followed. Specific criteria should be established that will be utilized by school counselors and school mental health professionals to assess the lethality of a potential suicide attempt. Such information is used to determine next steps in assisting the student. The policy should describe the procedures faculty and staff should take the day after a student has completed a suicide. Various logistical steps need to be carefully considered and determined. A clear plan that is developed proactively will ensure that faculty and staff are prepared to carry out agreed upon steps with students the day after a suicide completion. The policy should detail how the suicide prevention program will be evaluated. Evaluating the suicide prevention program will help to assess the overall efficacy of all prevention efforts.