Suicide prevention strategies may include, but are not to be limited to, efforts to promote a positive school climate that enhances students’ feelings of connectedness with the school and each other, and is characterized by caring staff and harmonious interrelationships among students.
1. Student Health Education Program
The district’s comprehensive health education program will promote the healthy mental, emotional, and social development of students including, but not limited to, the development of problem-solving skills, coping skills and self-esteem. Developmentally appropriate suicide prevention instruction will be incorporated into the health education curriculum and designed to help students: Identify and analyze signs of depression and self-destructive behaviors and understand how feelings of depression, loss, isolation, inadequacy and anxiety can lead to thoughts of suicide;
a. Identify and develop coping and resiliency skills;
b. Learn to listen, share feelings and get help when communicating with friends who show signs of suicidal intent; and
c. Identify trusted adults, school resources, and/or community crisis intervention resources where youth can get help and recognize that there is no stigma associated with seeking mental health, substance abuse and/or suicide prevention services.
2. Student Responsibility
The district will encourage students to notify a teacher, principal, counselor or other adult when they are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student’s despair or suicidal intentions. Where appropriate, the district will use students to help educate their peers to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior and to get a suicidal student adult help.
3. Staff Training
The district’s suicide prevention training will help staff identify and respond to students at risk of suicide. The training will be provided by district and school-based staff in collaboration with community mental health, public health agencies and or institutions.
a. Identifying risk factors such as previous suicide attempts, history of depression or mental illness, substance abuse problems, bullying and harassment, family history of suicide or violence, feelings of isolation, interpersonal conflicts, a recent severe stressor or loss, family instability and other factors;
b. Warning signs that may indicate suicidal intentions, including changes in students’ appearance, personality or behavior;
c. School and community resources/services; and
d. District procedures for assessing when a student attempts, threatens or discloses the desire to die by suicide or displays other indicators.
4. Principal/Designee Prevention Planning
School administrators will designate a team that may include school counselors, social workers, nurses, mental health providers or other designees. This administrative team may also contact the student’s parent/guardian, local law enforcement or mental health agencies when there is a suicide threat.
Whenever a staff member suspects or has knowledge of a student’s suicidal intentions he/she will take proper steps to support the student, promptly notify the principal or school counselor and request that appropriate school staff conduct an initial risk assessment. Interventions provided by the team often include the following: developing a safety plan, contacting parents, referral to mental health resources and/or connecting with current mental health provider. Additionally, the principal or designee will ensure the student’s physical safety by one of the following as appropriate:
1. Secure immediate medical treatment if a suicide attempt has occurred;
2. Secure emergency assistance if a suicidal act is being actively threatened;
3. Keep the student under continuous adult supervision until the parent/guardian and/or appropriate support agent or agency can be contacted and has the opportunity to intervene;
4. Document the incident and disposition in writing as soon as feasible;
5. Follow-up with the parent/guardian and student, in a timely manner, to provide referrals to appropriate services as needed;
6. Provide access to counselors or other appropriate personnel to listen to and support students and staff who are directly or indirectly involved with the incident; or
7. Provide an opportunity for all who respond to the incident to debrief, evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies used and make recommendations for future actions.
8. The team (usually the counselor, principal, social worker) may develop a reentry plan, including a student/staff support plan for use after a suicide attempt.
- Parent/Guardian Communication and Engagement
If a student is determined to be at risk, the principal or designee will contact the parent/guardian and:
1. Ask the parent/guardian whether he or she is aware of the student’s mental state;
2. Ask the parent/guardian how he/she will obtain mental counseling or appropriate support for the student;
3. If circumstances indicate, ask the parent/guardian if student has access to lethal means (weapons, knives, medications, poisons etc.) in the home and devise a plan to remove or lock up items.
4. Provide names of community counseling resources, if appropriate, and offer to facilitate the referral;
5. Determine the parent’s/guardian’s intent to seek appropriate services for the student; and
6. Discuss the student’s reentry into school.
In the event of a suicide, the principal or designee will follow the crisis intervention procedures contained in the school safety plan. After consultation with the Superintendent or designee and the student’s parents/guardians about facts that may be shared-in accordance with the laws governing confidentiality of student record information-the principal or designee may provide students, parents/guardians and staff with information including counseling and/or referrals to community agencies as needed. School administrators may receive assistance from school counselors or other mental health professionals in determining how best to discuss the suicide or attempted suicide with students and staff. The district will also assess the impact within all schools and the local community and provide appropriate information and support.
The district’s suicide prevention policy and procedure and the crisis intervention plan will be available for all staff, students and community. All requests for specific information regarding an incident will be directed to the building principal or designee.
The district will utilize school counselors, the crisis telephone hotline, physician/health care providers, mental health specialists, coaches and youth leaders, parents/families and community leaders as resources for prevention and intervention. The district has partnerships with community organizations and mental health agencies who come to our schools to provide students services. Community resources are located on our district website.
Highline School District 401
Adopted by the Superintendent: January 2020