School Personnel Experiences in Notifying Parents About Their Child's Risk for Suicide

Lessons Learned

Published in: Journal of School Health, v. 86, no. 1, Jan. 2016, p. 3-10

Posted on RAND.org on January 18, 2016

by Erum Nadeem, Catherine DeCarlo Santiago, Sheryl H. Kataoka, Vickie Y. Chang, Bradley D. Stein

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BACKGROUND: Schools across the nation are increasingly implementing suicide prevention programs that involve training school staff and connecting students and their families to appropriate services. However, little is known about how parents are engaged in such efforts. METHODS: This qualitative study examined school staff perspectives on parent involvement in the implementation of a district-wide suicide prevention program by analyzing focus group and interview data gathered on the program implementation processes. Participants included middle school teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. RESULTS: Study results revealed that in the immediate wake of a crisis or concern about suicide, school staff routinely contacted parents. However, substantial barriers prevent some students from receiving needed follow-up care (eg, lack of consistent follow-up, financial strain, parental stress, availability of appropriate services). Despite these challenges, school staff identified strategies that could better support parents before, during, and after the crisis. In particular, school-based services increased the success of mental health referrals. CONCLUSIONS: Our study suggests that systematic postcrisis follow-up procedures are needed to improve the likelihood that students and families receive ongoing support. In particular, school-based services and home visits, training and outreach for parents, and formal training for school mental health staff on parent engagement may be beneficial in this context.

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