Suicide prevention in K-12 schools
About the issue
Children and teens spend significant time in school. Teachers and others who interact with students daily are in a prime position to recognize the signs of suicide risk and to make appropriate referrals. School personnel need regular training to help them build the skills and confidence to identify and assist vulnerable youth in seeking help. School policies that address suicide prevention, intervention and postvention help to eliminate confusion over educator roles and the referral process. These policies also empower and support school personnel to better support students and families at risk and those who are affected by suicide.
Where we stand
AFSP urges that states require regular suicide prevention training for teachers and other school personnel who interact with students so that they may assist vulnerable youth in accessing the services they need. Training school personnel to understand suicide risk builds the skills needed to know when and how to refer students to an appropriate health or mental health professional.
Prevention efforts must also include educating students on the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and suicide risk and empowering them to know when and how to reach out for help when they notice warning signs or risk factors in themselves or their peers.
AFSP also urges that states require schools to have comprehensive suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention policies in place. Policies guide and support school personnel in knowing when and how to refer students for additional help and in responding safely when a suicide or suicide attempt occurs in the school community.
When possible, AFSP provides educational materials as an option to satisfy training requirements and to address concerns of state and local lawmakers about adding to school budgets. AFSP also offers a free Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention to serve as a guide for districts and schools in developing new or revising existing policies on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.
To learn more, read our K-12 Schools issue brief.