Intervention Strategies for Suicide

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Death generally has a profound effect on those around the person who dies. Effects are evident when the death is that of a fellow student, faculty or staff member, a relative of a student, an important community member, or a national figure. The type of death can also influence the reaction to it. Violent acts resulting in death may tend to produce a greater reaction in students.

Some death-related crises can be prevented, while some cannot. In all, the roles of general and special educators cannot be underestimated. The following are strategies for dealing with suicide and terminal illnesses.


One crisis that can be prevented is suicide. Students contemplating suicide usually exhibit:
  • Changes in behavior at school, such as skipping classes, missing assignments, or doing poorly on examinations.
  • Personality changes, such as moodiness, angry outbursts, or lack of concern about health or appearance.
  • Possible drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Depression and withdrawal from friends, school activities, or both.

General and special educators, administrators, parents, service providers, religious leaders, and businesses can help reduce the suicide rates of students. Teachers should be concerned about students who suddenly give away prized possessions such as pets, clothing, and collections, and who show signs of depression or hyperactivity. Whenever a suicide risk is suspected, a teacher, counselor, or other concerned individual should talk to the student directly.

A student who talks about suicide and has a plan for carrying it out is particularly at risk. If a student talks about suicide, the best action is to listen carefully to what is being said and to take what is being expressed seriously. The suicidal student must be given a chance to express feelings and concerns. Students who talk about suicide are often confused about whether they want to live or die. Suicide is often intended as a cry for help.

Suicide Prevention Strategies

As part of a crisis intervention plan, schools should develop a program to reduce the probability of a student choosing suicide as an option for coping with the various stresses encountered, especially those occurring during the developmental years. An adequate suicide prevention program must seek to:
  1. Help teachers and counselors identify the broad spectrum of at-risk students.
  2. Ensure that school personnel such as counselors will be available to help identified students (rather than tied up with tasks such as scheduling students, a frequent occurrence at the secondary level).
  3. Diminish the predisposing conditions of the school community.
  4. Increase the coping skills of students.
Additional suggestions for suicide prevention are:
  • Offering drama classes that focus on common teen problems.
  • Providing help for coping with depression.
  • Providing wallet cards that list coping skills and hotlines for help providing peer counseling.

Training for Suicide Prevention

Suicide training for school personnel must include:
  1. Information on acute and chronic risk factors for youth suicide.
  2. Information on behavioral manifestations in the school setting, such as depression, schizophrenia, and conduct disorders.
  3. Information and sources for referring students who are at risk.
  4. Training in communication skills to approach and engage at-risk children and their families.
  5. Developing plans for school-system response to a student death or suicide.
  6. Training in fostering positive emotional development in youths and in realizing the importance of experiences to enhance self-concept.

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