Suicide Prevention Policy
The purpose of this policy is to protect the health and well-being of all Fell Charter students by having procedures in place to prevent, assess the risk of, intervene in, and respond to death by suicide.
a) Recognizes that physical, behavioral, and emotional health is an integral component of a student’s educational outcomes.
b) Further recognizes that death by suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people.
c) Understands the ethical responsibility to take a proactive approach in preventing death by suicide.
d) Acknowledges the role of the school in providing an environment which helps to foster positive youth development.
The Suicide Prevention Policy is meant to be paired with support from the School Counselor as well as the Student Assistance Program (SAP). It covers actions that take place in the school, at school-sponsored functions and activities, and at school sponsored out-of-school events where school staff are present. The policy applies to the entire school community, including educators, staff, students, and volunteers. The policy also addresses appropriate school responses to suicidal or high risk behaviors that take place outside of the school environment which are brought to the attention of staff members. Staff, who respond, do so with the best of intentions and use best practices/trainings. Fell Charter School holds harmless staff who intervene.
All staff will receive initial (upon hire) professional development as well as continuing professional development mandated by PA Act 71 (4 hours of training every 5 years) as it relates to recognizing at-risk behaviors and suicide threats, referrals to the appropriate personnel, response procedures, postvention, and resources for youth suicide prevention.
Policy implementation: The School Counselor and Principal/CAO will serve as the Fell Charter School Death by Suicide Prevention Coordinators for the school. The death by suicide prevention coordinators will be responsible for planning and coordinating implementation of the policy for the entire school. In the event that the School Counselor/Principal cannot be reached, the Student Assistant Program (SAP) personnel will act as the suicide prevention coordinator(s).
Publication and Distribution: The Death by Suicide Prevention Policy will be distributed annually via the student and employee handbooks.
Procedures for Early Identification: The school staff along with the School Counselor, Principal and the Student Assistance Program (SAP) will work together to identify students who demonstrate risk factors for death by suicide. Staff will be made aware of risk factors, who to contact when there is a concern and the check-in procedure with the student and family when a concern is raised.
Referrals: Students exhibiting risk factors will be referred to the School Counselor, who will then assess the situation and if necessary make a SAP referral. The School Counselor and SAP staff will be familiar with resources and agencies that may be called to assist a student with thoughts of suicide. The student’s family will be informed about any concerns raised by school staff and will be given resources to seek help if needed.
Intervention: When a student is identified as potentially suicidal, the student and the student’s family will be contacted by the School Counselor and/or the Principal to assess the risk and facilitate a referral if necessary. If the School Counselor or the Principal is not available, a SAP representative will fill this role until the School Counselor or Principal can be reached.
For students at risk:
1. School staff will stay in contact with the student (for safety reasons) until a family member or help can be reached.
2. The Principal, School Counselor, and SAP representative will be notified as soon as possible. If a student verbalizes suicidal ideation during class, the teacher will ask the student to stay in class. The teacher will contact the school counselor and the principal to help assess the situation. The student should not be allowed to leave class alone. The student may be escorted out of the class at the discretion of the school counselor or principal.
3. A phone call should be made to the family with the school counselor, the principal, and/or SAP representative on the line. It is possible that emergency services may need to be called if a parent/guardian is not able to be reached.
Parental/Guardian Notification and Involvement
The principal, SAP representative or school counselor will contact the parent/guardian as soon as possible after a student expresses suicidal thoughts. If the student has exhibited any type of suicidal behavior, “means of restriction” or limiting the child’s access to mechanisms for carrying out a suicide attempt will be discussed.
Staff will inform the parent/guardian of suicide prevention resources in their area and encourage the parent/guardian to seek help. During the conversation, the principal, school counselor, or SAP representative will assess whether there is further risk of harm due to parent or guardian notification. If the suicide threat is made at a school sponsored activity or event, the above protocol will be followed.
Methods of Responding to a Suicide or Suicide Attempt
Suicide Attempt: The school counselor and/or principal will contact the family to offer any needed help. Mental health resources that the family may use will be discussed. A SAP referral will be made to give the student additional in-school support. The school counselor and/or principal will also reach out to any other students that may have been impacted by the suicide attempt.
Suicide: The school counselor, SAP representatives, and the principal will meet to discuss the implementation of an action plan.
1. Verify the death. Staff will talk with the parent/guardian or police to gather more information. The death should not be labeled a suicide until the cause of death has been confirmed.
2. Assess the situation. The Suicide Prevention Team (SAP) will meet to consider how severely the death is likely to affect other students, and to determine which students are most likely to be affected.
3. Share information. Inform the staff who have contact with the student that a death has occurred.
4. Avoid Suicide Contagion. It should be explained to staff that one purpose of trying to identify and offer services to other high risk students is to prevent another death. The team will work together to identify other students who are most likely to be significantly affected by the death. The warning signs and reporting procedures will be discussed with staff again.
5. Initiate Support Services. Students identified as being more likely to be affected by the death will be assessed by a school vendor mental health professional to determine the level of support needed. The team will coordinate services for the students and staff in need of individual and small group counseling.
When a student expresses suicidal thoughts:
1. Contact the school counselor.
2. If the school counselor cannot be reached, contact the principal and/or the school SAP representative.
3. The school counselor and/or principal will contact the student’s family.
4. If the threat is deemed immediate, the school counselor, principal, and SAP representative will call home. If the parent/guardian cannot be reached, the school counselor will remain in contact with the student while the principal or SAP representative calls emergency services.
5. Parents/guardians will be required to sign a release form when taking students out of school.
For students returning to school after a mental health crisis (e.g., suicide attempt or psychiatric hospitalization), a school vendor mental health professional, the principal, or designee will meet with the student’s parent or guardian, and if appropriate, meet with the student to discuss re-entry and appropriate next steps to ensure the student’s readiness for return to school.
1. A school vendor mental health professional or other designee will be identified to coordinate with the student, their parent or guardian, and any outside mental health care providers.
2. The parent or guardian will provide documentation from a mental health care provider that the student has undergone examination and that they are no longer a danger to themselves or others.
3. The designated staff person will periodically check in with student to help the student readjust to the school community and address any ongoing concerns. The designated staff person will periodically or as needed consult with the SAP representatives.
Lifelines – Suicide Prevention Program – violencepreventionworks.org
Making Educators Partners in Youth Suicide Prevention – sptsuniversity.org
More Than Sad – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – afsp.org
Suicide SAFE App for iPhone and Droid- SAMHSA
The Trevor Project – thetrevorproject.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis or their friends and loved ones. Call 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Lifeline: Suicide prevention lifeline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning young people. Available 24 hours a day. Call 1-866-488-7386
1. At risk: A student who is defined as high risk for suicide is one who has made a suicide attempt, has the intent to die by suicide, or has displayed a significant change in behavior suggesting the onset or deterioration of a mental health condition. The student may have thought about suicide including potential means of death and may have a plan. In addition, the student may exhibit feelings of isolation, hopelessness, helplessness, and the inability to tolerate any more pain. This situation would necessitate a referral, as documented in the following procedures.
2. Crisis team: A multidisciplinary team of primarily administrative, mental health, safety professionals, and support staff whose primary focus is to address crisis preparedness, intervention/response and recovery. These professionals have been specifically trained in crisis preparedness through recovery and take the leadership role in developing crisis plans, ensuring school staff can effectively execute various crisis protocols, and may provide mental health services for effective crisis interventions and recovery supports.
3. Mental health: A state of mental and emotional being that can impact choices and actions that affect wellness. Mental health problems include mental and substance use disorders.
4. Postvention Suicide: postvention is a crisis intervention strategy designed to reduce the risk of suicide and suicide contagion, provide the support needed to help survivors cope with a suicide death, address the social stigma associated with suicide, and disseminate factual information after the suicide death of a member of the school community.
5. Risk assessment: An evaluation of a student who may be at risk for suicide, conducted by the appropriate school staff (e.g., school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker). This assessment is designed to elicit information regarding the student’s intent to die by suicide, previous history of suicide attempts, presence of a suicide plan and its level of lethality and availability, presence of support systems, and level of hopelessness and helplessness, mental status, and other relevant risk factors.
6. Risk factors: for suicide Characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take his or her life. Suicide risk tends to be highest when someone has several risk factors at the same time. Risk factors may encompass biological, psychological, and or social factors in the individual, family, and environment.
7. Self-harm Behavior: that is self-directed and deliberately results in injury or the potential for injury to oneself. Can be categorized as either nonsuicidal or suicidal. Although self-harm often lacks suicidal intent, youth who engage in self-harm are more likely to attempt suicide.
8. Suicide Death: caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior. Note: The coroner’s or medical examiner’s office must first confirm that the death was a suicide before any school official may state this as the cause of death.
9. Suicide attempt: A self-injurious behavior for which there is evidence that the person had at least some intent to kill himself or herself. A suicide attempt may result in death, injuries, or no injuries. A mixture of ambivalent feelings such as wish to die and desire to live is a common experience with most suicide attempts. Therefore, ambivalence is not a sign of a less serious or less dangerous suicide attempt.
10. Suicidal behavior: Suicide attempts, intentional injury to self-associated with at least some level of intent, developing a plan or strategy for suicide, gathering the means for a suicide plan, or any other overt action or thought indicating intent to end one’s life.
11. Suicide contagion: The process by which suicidal behavior or a suicide influences an increase in the suicidal behaviors of others. Guilt, identification, and modeling are each thought to play a role in contagion. Although rare, suicide contagion can result in a cluster of suicides.
12. Suicidal ideation: Thinking about, considering, or planning for self-injurious behavior which may result in death. A desire to be dead without a plan or intent to end one’s life is still considered suicidal ideation and should be taken seriously.