The role of the school in
Preventing youth suicide is an issue that naturally garners support from everyone including parents, policy makers and youth directly and indirectly affected. Schools can play a positive role in suicide prevention because they offer consistent, direct contact time with large populations of young people. There are other important reasons why schools should be involved in suicide prevention:
- Maintaining safe and caring school environments is an essential part of schools’ overall mission. All school staff have a roll in creating school environments where students feel safe and cared for by adults around them. Promoting positive mental health and suicide prevention efforts are consistent with other efforts and activities aimed at promoting student safety and creating caring environments. Many programs and activities designed to prevent violence, bullying, and substance abuse also reduce suicide risk and promote healthy, caring relationships and resilience.
- Students’ mental health can affect their academic performance.Mental health problems can interfere with the ability to learn and can affect academic performance. According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey1:
- Approximately 1 of 2 high school students receiving grades of mostly Ds and Fs felt sad or hopeless. But only 1 of 5 students receiving mostly grades of A felt sad or hopeless.
- One of 5 high school students receiving grades of mostly Ds and Fs attempted suicide. Comparatively, 1 of 25 who receive mostly A grades attempted suicide.
- A student suicide can significantly impact other students and the community overall. Youth may be deeply affected when a suicide occurs and can be susceptible to suicide contagion (copycat effect)2. Knowing what to do following a suicide (postvention) is essential to supporting other students’ coping and preventing similar tragedies.3
1Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Surveillance Summaries (2009), MMWR 2010;59
(No.SS-#). 2 Gould, M.S., Wallenstein, S, Kleinman, M.H., O’Carroll, P. & Mercy, J. (1990) Suicide Clusters: An examination of age-specific effects.
2American Journal of Public Health, 80 (211-12).
3Best Practices in School Based Suicide Prevention: A Comprehensive Approach [pdf]. (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.gov.mb.ca/healthychild/ysp/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2014].