The Role of Teachers in School-Based Suicide Prevention

A Qualitative Study of School Staff Perspectives

Published In: School Mental Health, v. 3, no. 4, Dec. 2011, p. 209-221

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2011

by Erum Nadeem, Sheryl H. Kataoka, Vickie Y. Chang, Pamela Vona, Marleen Wong, Bradley D. Stein

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In response to concerns over youth suicide, there has been an increase in school-based suicide prevention programs. However, we know little about teacher perspectives on school-based suicide prevention and mental health programs. This study examined teacher roles in the implementation of a district-wide suicide prevention program through focus groups and interviews with middle school teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. Study results highlighted teachers' critical role in detecting students at risk for suicide. Factors that appeared to facilitate teacher participation in the suicide prevention program included well-defined crisis policies and procedures, communication of these procedures, collaboration across staff, and the presence of on-campus mental health resources. Participants identified a need for direct teacher training on risk factors for suicide, crisis response, and classroom management. Other strategies for improving suicide prevention efforts included in-school trainings on mental health resources and procedures, regular updates to these trainings, and greater visibility of mental health staff.

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