Suicide Prevention

  • Every year there are approximately 10 teen suicides for every 100,000 teenagers. 
    Every day there are approximately 11.5 teen suicides.
    Every 2 hours and 15 minutes, a person under the age of 25 completes suicide.  

    Based on these alarming statistics, the Centers for Disease Control ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults between the ages of 15-24.  It also ranks suicide as the fourth leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10-14.  

    Most everyone at some time in his/her life will experience periods of anxiety, sadness, and despair.  These are nominal reactions to the pain of loss, rejection, or disappointment.  However, when a person is unable to effectively handle such adverse life events, this is when he or she may contemplate the thought of suicide.  Often times, their reactions to intense emotional and/or physical pain can leave them mired in hopelessness, which is not good.  When all hope is lost, some people may feel that suicide is the only solution.  It isn't.  Suicide is a permanent solution to what is nearly always a temporary problem.  

    Signed into law by Governor Bob Riley in May 2009, the Student Harassment Prevention Act requires each school system to implement twelve standards and policies for programs in an effort to prevent student suicide.  These include the following: 

    1. Foster individual, family, and group counseling services related to suicide prevention;
    2. Make referral, crisis intervention, and other related information available for students, parents, and school personnel;
    3. Foster training for school personnel who are responsible for counseling and supervising students;
    4. Increase student awareness of the relationship between drug and alcohol use and suicide;
    5. Educate students in recognizing signs of suicidal tendencies and other facts and warning signs of suicide;
    6. Inform students of available community suicide prevention services;
    7. Promote cooperative efforts between school personnel and community suicide prevention program personnel;
    8. Foster school-based or community based, or both, alternative programs outside of the classroom;
    9. Develop a strategy to assist survivors of attempted suicide, as well as students and school personnel, in coping with the issues relating to attempted suicide, suicide, the death of a student, and healing;
    10. Engage in any other program or activity which the local board determines is appropriate  and prudent in the efforts of the school system to prevent student suicide;
    11. Provide training for school employees and volunteers who have significant contact with students on the local board policies to prevent harassment, intimidation, violence, and threats of violence; and
    12. Develop a process of discussing with students local board policies relating to the prevention of student suicide and to the prevention of harassment, intimidation, violence, and threats of violence. 

    On May 10, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the Jason Flatt Act, which focuses on youth sucide awareness and prevention.  Specifically, the Act requires all K-12 public school system employees and volunteers to receive annual training on sucide awareness and prevention.  In addition to this annual training, the Act also requires all K-12 public schools to establish a policy, student curriculum, and a list of resources for sucide prevention services.   

    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention hosts a webpage dedicated to suicide prevention, statistics, strategies, and research.  This site also includes podcasts on suicide prevention.  (Department of Health and Human Resources) 

    Suicide Prevention:  Facts, Signs and Intervention-There are a number of reasons why children, like adults, may find themselves thinking the unthinkable.  Alarmingly, in recent years, suicide has increased dramatically and, sadly, more and more of our children are choosing to end their lives rather than face the hardships the world hurls at them.  This brochure provides suicide facts, signs you must not ignore, and intervention techniques.  (Kids Peace-The National Center for Kids Overcoming Crisis)  

    Preparing for and Responding to a Death by Suicide (The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute at the University of South Florida) 

    Sample Forms for Schools

    • Announcements for Students, Faculty, and Staff
    • Notification Letter to Parents Following a Suicide
    • Formal Statement to Notify Media of Suicide
    • Sample Response Form for Incoming Calls from the Media 

    In addition to submitting the Suicide Intervention Referral Form to the Intervention Supervisor, the Safety Plan should also be completed when counseling students who have expressed suicidal ideation.

    Safety planning, which is an accepted best practice for suicide prevention efforts, allows people in crisis to focus on specific steps to take or resources to turn to which they previously identify as being meaningful for them. There are six steps involved in the development of a safety plan. They include the following:

     Step 1: Warning Signs

    List warning signs of a suicide crisis. Include specific thoughts, images, thinking processes, mood, and/or behaviors.

     Step 2: Internal Coping Strategies

    List activities that can be done without anyone else involved to cope and distract from suicidal thoughts, e.g., going online, listening to calming music, taking a walk, watching television.

     Step 3: Social Contacts and Social Settings That May Distract From the Crisis

    List individuals and safe social settings that can distract and support the individual. Discussion of suicidal feelings is not included here.

     Step 4: Family Members or Friends Who May Offer Help

    List family members and/or friends who can help with the suicidal crisis. Discussion of suicidal feelings can be included here.

     Step 5: Professionals and Agencies to Contact for Help

    List important health professionals, local ER, crisis line numbers.

     Step 6: Making the Environment Safe

    Identify how to restrict/remove access to lethal means.

     The South Dakota Suicide Prevention website supports the concept of a safety plan (or crisis plan as it is sometimes called, too) by saying: “A safety plan is a prioritized written list of coping strategies and sources of support that patients can use during or preceding suicidal crises. The intent of safety planning is to provide a pre-determined list of potential coping strategies as well as a list of individuals or agencies that [people] can contact in order to help them lower their imminent risk of suicidal behavior. It is a therapeutic technique that provides patients with something more than just a referral at the completion of a suicide risk assessment. By following a pre-determined set of coping strategies, social support activities, and help-seeking behaviors, [people] can determine and employ those strategies that are most effective.” (SDsuicide

     A Safety Plan app, which is the same as the safety plan template, may also be downloaded for free on the iPhone. Once a safety plan has been completed via the iPhone, there is the option of also sharing this plan with another person by simply entering his/her e-mail address. 

    Most eveyone at some time in his/her life will experience periods of anxiety, sadness and despair.  These are nominal reactions to the pain of loss, rejection or disappointment.  However, when a person is unable to effectively handle such adverse life events, this is when he or she may contemplate the thought of suicide.  Often times, their reactions to intense emotional and/or physical pain can leave them mired in hopelessness, which is not good.  When all hope is lost, some people may feel that suicide is the only solution.  It isn't.  Suicide is a permanent solution to nearly always a temporary problem.