FAQs | SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF TEEN SUICIDE
Frequently Asked Questions
- Don't programs in schools that talk about suicide make kids think about it?
- Right or wrong: There's a student in my class who talks about suicide all the time. I think he just wants attention, so my inclination is to ignore it.
- Why do teachers need to know about suicide prevention? That's not their job!
- I know there are local hotlines for suicide, but I've also seen "800" numbers listed. How can a hotline with an "800" number help me when I don't even have a clue where it's located?
No. School suicide prevention programs that approach the topic in factual, nonsensationalized ways can be effective suicide prevention tools. Since the 1980s, when school programs for suicide prevention were first put into place in a more systematic fashion, there has been a lot of confusion about this topic. Evaluation research done at that time pointed out the dangers of talking about suicide in the classroom in ways that glamorized or sensationalized the topic. Some people misinterpreted this to mean that all school-based programs that addressed suicide directly were potentially dangerous. What we have since learned according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that students can in fact benefit from programs that present suicide in a factual way. Programs that address what we call "protective factors" that can mitigate against suicide are also helpful. Even in elementary school, for example, protective strategies can be enhanced through curricula that focus on social problem-solving skills, coping strategies, and the identification of trusted adult members of the child's support system.
Right or wrong: There's a student in my class who talks about suicide all the time. I think he just wants attention, so my inclination is to ignore it.
Any student who talks about suicide, regardless of whether the threat is perceived as serious, should be referred to your school's resource staff for assessment. Suicide isn't an appropriate way to solve problems or get attention. If a youth talks about suicide as a way to get attention, then you're dealing with a student whose problem-solving skills are compromised.
Suicide awareness training provides teachers with a procedure that they can utilize when they are presented with suicidal statements or concerns. By having specific intervention tools and an understanding of their role as a teacher, training like this empowers teachers to respond to students' needs in an appropriate and effective manner. The tools that are provided in this type of training also help teachers to manage feelings of anxiety and fear, which are often manifested in these types of encounters.
Training also reinforces teachers' natural strengths as good listeners and caring/competent professionals. Teachers are helped to understand that it is good professional practice to seek out other professionals as resources while helping the student to access appropriate intervention services in a timely manner.
I know there are local hotlines for suicide, but I've also seen "800" numbers listed. How can a hotline with an "800" number help me when I don't even have a clue where it's located?
When you call the national 1-800-273-TALK hotline, your call is routed to the crisis center nearest you, based on your area code. Currently there are over 120 of those crisis centers in the country. (Back-up centers are available to make sure all calls are answered.) The trained crisis worker who answers the phone will listen to you, ask some questions to make sure he/she really understands what you're saying, and then make a referral to other services accessible to you if you need them. Emergency medical services can also be dispatched if necessary. So, although the "hotline" may be national, the services are not!