Assessing Your Attitude About Suicide

Identifying your personal attitudes and values regarding suicide will help you to respond more effectively to at-risk students.
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Assessing Your Attitude About Suicide

In addition to knowledge, when talking about suicide prevention, we need to consider that each of us holds personal attitudes and values about the subject. They may come from our upbringing, our religious traditions, our family history, or our experience — but whatever their origin, they constitute personal feelings.

Values and attitudes are neither right nor wrong, but it is essential that we identify and own them. They affect our perception and understanding of suicide — as well as the way in which we interact with others on the topic.

If, for example, you find that your personal values define suicide as morally wrong and you cannot possibly understand why anyone would even have thoughts about it, then you're probably not the best person to approach a student who may be at suicide risk. And that's perfectly fine! What your responsibility IS in a situation like this, is to know where to refer the student for help.

Consider the following statements and whether you agree — always, sometimes, or never. Consider whether you agree with the following statements — do you always agree, sometimes agree, or never agree?

  1. I think suicide is a rational choice.
  2. I think suicide should be prevented, no matter what.
  3. Because it can be so hard to talk about, I think it is important to respect a student's confidences about suicide.
  4. I would do everything I could to prevent my teenager from dating someone who had attempted suicide.
  5. I would respect my child's choice to date someone who had attempted suicide.

One way to measure your comfort level with discussing suicide with students is to give yourself a score on a 1 to 10 scale. If you're really comfortable, you might be in the 8 to 10 point range — really uncomfortable, you might score 2 or 3.

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