Suicide Prevention for Educators

Educators are in a unique position to spot red flags and warning signs for students who are at-risk for suicide. The following are warning signs of someone who may be considering death by suicide. These must be taken very seriously.  When a student: 

  • Talks or writes about suicide or expresses it through art
  • Expresses feelings that life is meaningless
  • Mentions feeling trapped or suffering unbearable pain or  feels that he/she is a burden to loved ones
  • Is more likely to stay by themselves than hang out with family and friends or withdraws from participating in social activities
  • Shows increased dependence on alcohol or drugs
  • Acts recklessly and aggressively
  • Starts giving prized possessions away
  • Calls loved ones to say “goodbye”
  • Researches ways to end their life
  • Has difficulty adjusting to their gender identity
  • Hearing that a student has obtained a weapon or boasts about a weapon  

While teachers are not mental health professionals, they can refer students and their families to suicide prevention resources.

Suicide Prevention Hotline

There is a new 988 suicide prevention hotline that anyone can call when they are having a mental health crisis.

Behavioral Therapies and Counseling

Counseling and behavior therapies are the primary approaches towards treatment of a person who may have attempted suicide or has suicide ideations. In many situations, thoughts of suicide come when a person is not able to find solutions for difficult life situations. Counseling can help find and provide alternatives.

Adolescents who have borderline mood disorders, personality disorders, or depression that leads to repeated attempts at suicide might be treated by dialectical behavioral therapy. Teenagers might be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Medical Care

In specific instances, the doctor attending to a student brought in for a suicide attempt might advise hospitalization. In this way, they keep the child under close observation, while providing a safe and secure environment. It allows time for the medical team to analyze the situation, conduct assessments, do testing, and identify if there are any other related medical issues.

A suicide attempt or ideation by a student may be treated with medication to stabilize mood swings. These could include antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, or lithium. Care should always be taken to ensure that medication is given under supervision so that there is no room for misuse or overdose of prescribed drugs.

Suicide Prevention Support Groups

Students who have tried to die by suicide need to know that they are not alone in trying to deal with their issues and that there is support to get through their situation.

A counselor or a therapist outside of school may create a support group consisting of family members, close friends, and other primary stakeholders to talk through issues a student may be facing. Additionally, some communities may have a suicide support group for people recovering from suicide ideation.

Learn more about supporting at-risk students with Suicide Prevention online PD for teachers

About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through, and Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD.