LET'S TALK

Role of schools, parents in suicide prevention

Create an environment where students feel safe sharing about their struggles without feeling judged.

In Summary
  • Young people who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress.
  • Parents, teachers and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help.
Depression and other mental illnesses have been linked to suicide.
Depression and other mental illnesses have been linked to suicide.
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

The sole purpose of World Suicide Prevention Day is to create awareness about suicide prevention and the warning signs.

The mental health of our students is of utmost importance, hence the involvement of Crawford International School in the campaign. Our theme this year is ‘Let’s Talk’, a rallying call to teachers, parents and friends to start conversations around a topic that most people find both difficult and uncomfortable.

 

Current statistics indicate that globally suicide is the leading cause of death among school-age youth. Yet suicide is preventable. Young people who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help. It is important to never take these signs lightly, or promise to keep them secret.

 

Having this conversation marks the beginning of empowering members of the school community, students and adults, to take the correct steps.

The integration of a suicide prevention programme in the school’s mental health services is always a good starting point. Promoting healthy and positive relationships between students and adults creates a supportive environment that nurtures trust. 

This will create an environment where students feel safe sharing information about their struggles without feeling judged or condemned. It helps to have all school staff members be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behaviour.

In school settings, the institution’s psychologist works with the administration and nurse to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide. The role of the school psychologist is to conduct suicide risk assessment, warn and inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow-up counseling and support at school.

Parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have critical information, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events and previous suicidal behaviours. The school will often notify a parent of their child’s risk for suicide and provide referral information.

However, the responsibility falls upon the parent to seek mental health assistance for their child. Some parental responsibilities include:

  1. Take any threats about suicide seriously. Do not assume that it is simply attention seeking behaviour.
  2. Follow through on support offered by the school, especially referrals. In case a parent is uncomfortable with following through on external referrals, they can give the school psychologist permission to contact the referral agency, provide referral information, and follow up on the visit.
  3. Maintain regular communication with the school. The counselling office exists to offer parents support. Communication will be crucial to ensuring that the child feels both safe and comfortable at school.

It is my sincere hope that both teachers and parents will be motivated to learn, share information, and inspire students towards speaking up whenever they feel overwhelmed. We have within ourselves the ability to be advocates for the mental well-being of our students.