Suicide Awareness and Prevention for Teachers
Suicide Prevention Day is coming up and will be September 10, 2017. As of 8-1-2017, the 2016 Minnesota State Legislature requires teachers to take at least a one hour training about Suicide Prevention Best Practices for license re-certification. Although suicide was included in a class I took about mental illness, I also took a separate 5 hour class on this topic for my 2020 license renewal. A one hour class about suicide prevention didn’t seem like enough information to John De Haven, a long-time volunteer at SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education). He used to speak in classrooms and has worked with different situations as they arose. I asked him some questions for the purposes of this blog post.
How did you begin volunteering at SAVE?
I had an experience where a dear friend contacted me when I was out of town. She was a mess and she was going to kill herself. I got back to Minnesota in about five hours, got to her, talked a little; listened a lot, and wound up taking her to the hospital. She did not attempt to kill herself. I realized it had all happened “on the fly” and I really didn’t know what I should have done. So I went looking for info so I’d know what to do if it ever happened to me again, read one too many brochures and wound up contacting SAVE. A few conversations with them and poof! I was a volunteer there.
What kinds of volunteer work have you done for SAVE?
I was in their speakers’ bureau for 10 or so years and spoke to MANY groups in the region such as school kids, adults in employee groups, and church groups. I also have a small, repeating role in SAVE’s annual memorial service where survivors of suicide come to remember loved ones lost. I have done that for 15 years now. Infrequently, I do little volunteer projects for them.
What did teachers notice about your presentations that they didn’t know before?
Teachers said they became more aware of specifics of symptoms of depression and signs of suicide, such as what to do when you suspect someone may be suffering from true depression or is contemplating suicide, ways to intervene and, maybe, save a life. They didn’t know because they hadn’t been told. Suicide still carries a stigma, is kept in the closet many times, people are uncomfortable talking about it. Most folks don’t have enough information.
What should teachers be looking for in the classroom?
Teachers should pay attention and be aware of the symptoms of depression and, sometimes, signs of suicide. These aren’t difficult to identify if one knows what to look for.
Is suicide preventable?
Suicide is very preventable. Sadly, not always.
What are some helpful suicide awareness resources and information?
- SAVE’s website, and the many publications available from SAVE. SAVE is the acronym for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
- Students be can help each other. Yes. ANY person can learn the symptoms of depression and the signs of suicide. If they know what to look for, know what to do when they see it and, most important DO IT… they might save a life. It happens every day.
- Speakers, if available. A good speaker can be very effective and may be preferable.
I am thankful for the information I received prior to taking my class. It was an anticipatory set which helped me get the most out of my online class. The class I ended up selecting was from the Professional Learning Board Online Teacher Licensure and PD site. I have taken many professional development classes in the past few years and a few have been from this site so I know they have quality classes. The classes are well organized, have practical ideas teachers can implement the next day, are comprehensive, and cover all aspects of the topic being studied. This particular class offers downloads for schools to create plans and communicate with parents. Permission is given by PLB for use of the downloads included in the class resources.
The online class stressed the following important fact: “Depression is considered to be a risk factor for suicide, meaning an individual is more vulnerable to committing suicide. However, it should be pointed out that not all individuals who are depressed are suicidal in nature.”
I didn’t realize until I wrote this post that Suicide Prevention Day will be September 10, 2017. It is good to be aware of this effort, also.
Thank you for reading! Carolyn