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Does SPTS offer additional training if a school is interested?

A school/community can choose to train their staff in the complete trilogy or any of the pieces (based on their current strengths/weaknesses). Maureen Underwood is a co-author of this training and is available to provide the training in person or another of our trainers. This can be presented as individual training sessions or in a “Train the Trainer” model.

Lifelines: A Suicide Prevention Program

This comprehensive suicide prevention program is a whole-school program. Lifelines educates students on the facts about suicide and the students’ role in suicide prevention. It provides information on where to find suicide prevention resources in the school and community. Training materials are included for faculty and staff that provide accurate and practical information on identifying and referring students who might be at risk for suicide. Lifelines also includes a presentation for parents that answers questions about youth suicide and prevention; and it involves them in the school’s suicide prevention activities.

Designed for implementation in middle and high schools, it targets the whole school community by providing suicide awareness resources for administrators, faculty and staff, parents and students. It fits easily into health class programming and lesson plans.

Lifelines Intervention: Helping Students at Risk for Suicide

Research shows that when schools implement a suicide prevention program, self and peer- generated referrals increase. Lifelines Intervention: Helping Students at Risk for Suicide is a whole-school program that educates on the ways to be fully prepared and how to address and respond to threats or signs of suicide and intervene-before it’s too late.

Lifelines Postvention: Responding to Suicide and Other Traumatic Death

The American Association of Suicidology defines suicide postvention as “the provision of crisis intervention, support and assistance for those affected by a completed suicide.” Survivors of a completed suicide often include everyone in a school community, including classmates, friends, teachers and family members.

Lifelines Postvention: Responding to Suicide and Other Traumatic Death is a comprehensive, whole-school best-practices manual specifically designed for middle and high school communities. This unique program educates everyone in the school community on how to successfully address and respond to not only suicide, but also any type of traumatic death that profoundly affects the school population.

With in-depth references and detailed plans, this resource outlines a response strategy that reflects the challenges schools face in dealing with a death within the school community.

My 12 year old daughter is cutting from what I hear from the teachers and peers at school. Not sure how to approach her. Looking for some kind of help or advice.

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I am the clinical director of SPTS and am glad to answer your questions about cutting or self-injury. The first thing I want to say is to try to keep yourself calm about this- your daughter is young and there are many girls who experiment with this behavior at that age because someone else is doing it. It could simply be peer-related behavior and may end without any intervention.That being said, however, it’s important for you to let her know someone has told you about this and you want to talk with her about it. As hard as it may be, you want to ask her calmly to tell you a little bit about it…. when did she first do it, how often does she do it, do any of her friends cut themselves, too, when does she do it, does something that happens to her during the day trigger the behavior….questions that give you a better picture of what’s going on. Listen to her answers without sharing your upsetness at what she might say -it’s really important to open the door to conversation about this in a way that will encourage her to be honest with you. You also want to ask her to show you the cuts so you can get an idea of how many there are, how deep they are, and if it looks like there have been others that have healed.

You obviously want her to know you’re concerned about her. Explain that people who cut are usually trying to express feelings they can’t talk about. Try to help her understand that cutting isn’t really helpful in the long run and that what might be helpful is to find a professional she can talk with to help her learn to express her feelings in less hurtful ways. I’d suggest you call your school’s guidance counselor or nurse, if they have one, to find out the names of local mental health resources that work with teens.

You also want to be prepared for her to tell you that you’re making too much of this- she may flat out deny that’s she’s doing it. Take her at her word but keep your eyes open. Look for signs of blood or things she might use to cut and be prepared to confront her- calmly and with love!- if you find anything to suggest the cutting may be going on. Also look for other changes in her behavior that may signal she’s just not herself and if you see anything, reach out for a consultation from a mental health professional.

As I’m sure you know, there is a lot of information available on the web about self-injury, but be careful about what you read. Some of it may be scary and it’s so important that you not read in to things- your daughter is unique and many of these websites paint the ‘worst case scenario’ as if every cutter is the same. A good site is www.helpguide.org/mental/self_injury.htm.

I hope this has helped you. Thank you for caring enough about your daughter to write us and good luck in helping her get a better handle on this.

Will you please provide some direction re: best practice when the anniversary of the date a student completed a suicide is approaching. Do we as a school recognize the date and discuss prevention? Should we allow students to commemorate the student and provide prevention resources? We are a relatively small district (approx 1000 students) in a close-nit, rural district. Any information sheets and/or hotline calling cards would be greatly appreciated.

First of all, I am sorry for your school’s loss. We recognize that while there are some guidelines, each school, each death is unique, and each carries its own sense of impact that people on the ground, in the building, are much better equipped to understand than those of us on the outside.You are wise to be thinking about the impact of an anniversary. Among the things I would consider:

Staff and faculty: A reminder at a faculty meeting, asking them to be alert to student who may have been affected. If your faculty has not yet had training on warning signs and what they should do when they see them (gatekeeper training), this may be a good time to introduce it (we can assist with this.) Remind them to think about curriculum that might have suicide related content – they should let appropriate school resource person know if they will be handling such topics during that time and possibly consider making adjustments.

Pupil Personnel and Administrators: Identify students/faculty/staff who may have been affected and/or may feel a need to commemorate and decide who is best to check in with them. I have attached a PowerPoint from Maureen Underwood, Clinical Director of the SPTS that I think you will find helpful.

Parents: Add suicide prevention resources to school website and have resources available at PTO meeting or parent night/ open house. There is also a 17 minute video from SPTS, “Not my Kid”, which is an excellent resource for a parent education night. We have some paper resources that you may find helpful. There are also some great resources on the SPTS website on the parent page.

Students: There are many creative ways that schools have handled the need that some students may have to commemorate. It would not be recommended that you have a whole school commemoration. If you identify a group of students and/or adults who have this need, I am happy to have a further conversation about some of the things school personnel have done.

Reply back to Response

I emailed you in October re: the anniversary (February 7) of a completed suicide. I want to thank you for all of your support and resources. I am sending the PowerPoint presentation to all of our teachers and putting warning sign pamphlets in their mailboxes. I’m also hoping to get approval to have all of our teachers participate in the outstanding online training for educators.

I would like to ask you for guidance re: the need for some students to commemorate. It would be a select few. Any ideas would be great.

There was also a discussion about the possibility of having a school wide assembly on suicide prevention, but I advocated for an assembly on building protective factors and resiliency. I would love to have some guidance on this issue as well. I am hoping to purchase and include the Lifelines Prevention Program in our Health Classes next school year.

Thank you for all that you do.

We had a completed suicide in our high school this past November. The boy was a senior and his parents are presently requesting that a memorial page be placed in the school yearbook.
Because we have memorialized previously deceased school/community members in the yearbook, we will honor the request. However, we would like to add a suicide prevention message to the student’s yearbook page. We haven’t asked the parents to allow this yet.

How would you go about this? Do you have any samples of how other schools have handled this?

I am the Clinical Director of SPTS and want to thank you for your question about memorialization related to your yearbook. I can understand that you have set a precedent by including memorial pages to deceased students in the yearbook and can’t change that practice just because the student death you are dealing with is a suicide. And I also appreciate that you want to send a message about suicide prevention.

Our recommendations about yearbooks are based on our concerns that calling special attention to a student who died by suicide can unintentionally send the message to at- risk kids that suicide is a way to get special attention they might not get otherwise. It’s also tricky to call attention to the circumstances of the death- it can make it seem that the student is being remembered more for the way he died than the way he lived, even though your intention is to send a prevention message.
The way other schools have handled this dilemma is to include instead a message about ‘protective factors’ – friendship, connection, being engaged in the school. What this does is highlight the resilient factors that can buffer kids from stress, which is, in fact, a suicide prevention message without using the word suicide. Schools have used tag lines like ‘friends can be bridges over troubled waters’, ‘ Be part of something that’s bigger than yourself’, ‘Reach out and Connect’, ‘Friends help Friends’.

We have a document on our website that addresses a variety of issues related to memorialization, it might also give you some other ideas.

I hope this is helpful for you. Good luck!

I work as a special educator at a middle school and feel that as a teacher at this transitional time for students, some of my students with disabilities may feel overwhelmed and friendless more than they usually can be. My question is, are there studies of kids with disabilities completing suicide and are there different types of help available to them? How does suicide prevention change and adapt to their levels, needs, and understanding?

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful question. The data on the suicide rates for students with developmental disabilities is really hard to find; because disabilities are not recorded on death certificates, the only way to get this information is anecdotally. That being said, when we think about the factors that place youth at risk for suicide, we certainly can identify kids with developmental disabilities as being at least at moderate risk, especially because their problem solving skills may be compromised. While good problem solving skills are important for all children, they are really critical for kids for whom learning may be more difficult.

If I were going to suggest how to adapt youth suicide awareness training for the educators of students with developmental differences, I’d say that you need to be sure to include problem solving in elementary school (which many schools do!). While it’s not considered ‘suicide prevention’, it is one of the critical life skills that kids need as they age. I’d also emphasize the identification of a trusted adult in whom the youth can confide and reinforce the importance of making sure the student always has someone in that position.
These also may be kids who are targets of bullying so I’d make sure to be clear with them about school policies in that regard, especially regarding cyber bullying.

For your educators and staff, I think the general awareness program is fine, especially because it emphasizes the importance of paying attention to “Changes” in a student’s behavior. These changes may be significant risk indicators, especially in classified students.

I hope this answer was helpful and again, thank you for taking the time to write!

Are children with Asperger’s and PDD more at risk to commit suicide because they have a tendency to want perfection and/or their frustration levels are quite low?

I am the Clinical Director of SPTS and I want to thank you for taking the time to write us. Your question is insightful. The research doesn’t indicate that these children are at a higher risk for suicide because, I think, their diagnosis doesn’t get reflected on either an attempt that’s serious enough to require medical attention at a hospital or on a death certificate if they complete suicide. That being said, however, if we think about suicide as an attempt to solve a problem of intense psychological pain with impaired problem solving skills, it would make sense to consider these kids at higher risk since their problem solving abilities may be compromised.

Because of their vulnerabilities and being ‘different’ from peers, they may also be singled out for bullying, which we know is another risk factor for suicide.

I think it’s important to recognize that although these children may seem different in some aspects, the bottom line is that feelings are the same for all of us, and if these kids are feeling trapped and hopeless, it’s important to treat them the same way we would any child: ask them to tell us what’s going on, raise the possibility of their hopelessness leading to thoughts of not wanting to be alive, and then getting them some professional help to teach them other ways to manage these destructive thoughts.

There are some handouts on our website that you might find instructive for these kinds of conversations with kids.

Hope this helps!
Maureen Underwood LCSW