5 keys to caring for mental health and suicide

By: | March 12, 2019
Student-led #AztecStrong support teams have formed at several schools in Arizona’s Tempe Union High School District.  The district also prints a suicide hotline number on ID badges.Student-led #AztecStrong support teams have formed at several schools in Arizona’s Tempe Union High School District.  The district also prints a suicide hotline number on ID badges.

Suicide prevention initiatives and a school’s response to a tragedy can work in tandem to encourage more students to seek help, says Daniel J. Reidenberg, a psychologist who is also managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention and executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.


Main storyMental health care tops pillars of school suicide prevention


Here are five key steps that he says district leaders must take:

 

  1. Implement an evidence-based suicide prevention program that’s also easy to use. Implementation is more effective before a suicide occurs, not as a response.
  2. Reduce stigmas around mental illness by changing the language educators use. For instance, a teacher should never call a student’s idea “crazy” or tell a child they’re “acting like a maniac.”
  3. Use events such as Mental Health Awareness Month (May) to step up activities that address social-emotional well-being. Student anxiety often increases at the end of the school year due to testing and when graduates prepare to leave home for college.
  4. How administrators respond to a suicide can also be preventative. They shouldn’t memorialize a suicide or treat it any differently from how they would treat another kind of student death. Memorializing, as well as excessive media attention, can lead to more suicides.
  5. After a suicide, administrators can set up a “safe room” where students can grieve on their own or with friends. An adult should be there to supervise and watch for students at risk, but not to offer counseling. The room should only be open for a set period of time, such as two weeks.