Student suicide tops concerns as schools open

Administrators step up awareness and training programs while some states struggle to grasp the extent of the problem
By: | August 29, 2019
Student-led #AztecStrong student suicide awareness 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 student suicide awareness 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.

Six students in one Utah high school committed suicide in a single year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Student athletes in one Florida county help a “Laps for Life” swim-a-thon to raise money for awareness in the wake of the recent suicides of four high school swimmers.

In California, new a law requires schools to print suicide prevention hotline numbers on the ID cards of all students in grades 7-12. But an investigation in Florida has found that most districts don’t even track student suicides.

These contrasts highlight the complexities inherent in one of the most serious challenges administrators face as parents and students across the country report an unprecedented rise in stress, anxiety and depression.

Many district leaders have over the last few years implemented mental health screening for all students. Many administrators have also begun to train teachers and staff in mental health first aid techniques that enable educators to spot early warning signs of a student in distress and provide immediate assistance.

Some of these programs focus exclusively on LGBTQ youth, who are four times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people.


Read more: Mental health care tops pillars of school suicide prevention 


An increasing number of schools also now train students to watch for warning signs in their peers.

In the edtech realm, a few districts have adopted software that allows teachers to practice discussing depression and other difficult topics with virtual students.

“Make sure that mental health is incorporated into all things that happen throughout the year,” Daniel J. Reidenberg, a psychologist and executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, told DA in April. “People can’t just talk about mental health in response to something bad happening.”