As a veteran teacher who has had to confront suicide among students and staff, I needed training when I was a new teacher. A staff member reached out to me, I didn't recognize what was happening, and she died less than a week after. What sort of training or resources do school systems provide to help new teachers know what to look for in their students?
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A couple of years ago, we had some middle school students who were expressing suicidal thoughts. We also had a parent who murdered her son, and then she committed suicide. One of our high school students committed suicide as well. I know the counselors spoke with the middle school students about their issues. We also had staff training about suicide and suicide prevention in response to the high school student's suicide. However, as is common in our district, there has been no retraining, there has been no follow up, and there probably won't be until the problem arises again. This is a sad fact.
The counselors at my school give a power point talk at the beginning of each school year of warning signs of at-risk students for depression and suicide. We are all reminded about how to offer outside communication and a chance to talk things over with the student without being pushy, like if they balk at going to the counselor, then giving them the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Like post #6 mentioned, the talk happens right along with the 'blood born pathogens' video and the 'sexual harrassment' video, so sometimes it is hard to focus on the topic and give it the necessary attention.
Last year, at my campus we had several students who were on suicide watch, and all of the teachers were asked to pay special attention to what the students are saying and doing in the classroom. At that point, the counselors revisited the students' specific teachers and gave us more information about what to watch for in the classroom. As an English teacher who frequently reads her students' writing, both formal and informal, I think that I often see a different side to the students' personal lives that other teachers might not see. It is important to keep an open line of communication with the counselors, especially if you feel that a student may be struggling with the issue.
We touched on this topic every year in our first few work days, almost as an additional bullet in the list of "safety and security." I never experienced a suicide while teaching, so the training was never something that came from a bad experience. I think this made it something we all just sat through, paying about as much attention as we did to the blood born pathogens video.
I think suicide awareness and prevention is a topic that needs to be covered, but like bullying, drunk driving, and school shooting, it might not be something that can be completely controlled.
I personally think it would be more worthwhile to teach new teachers (and old, actually) how to be assertive in today's classroom, how to maintain emotional and physical security and safety, and how/why to build authentic relationships with students.
Many public school teachers today are on survival mode. We are dealing with overful classes, pressure about test scores, disrespect from students and parents, and out of control behavior. Getting back to the basics of classroom management, building student repoire, and general day to day organization would probably cover many of the hot button topics schools find themselves labeling a teacher training after.
I never worked at a school that had this sort of training, and it only occurs to me after reading this thread how glaring an oversight that was. Unfortunately, my school experienced multiple suicides during my years there, and while I wouldn't speculate that any amount of training would have enabled us to stop them, it still seems like the sort of training teachers should have. Ultimately, training or no training, the crucial thing to me seems to be that teachers build relationships with students. While students may not be comfortable talking about weighty issues with their teachers, forming relationships can help teachers spot behavior changes and other red flags.
Not anything that is specifically geared to the "suicidal" student. We've had brief "sessions" that addressed recognizing the signs of child abuse, and in those suicide was briefly mentioned. It sounds liike as a good idea.
Every year, my district gives out a booklet on what signs and symptoms we should look for, for anything like abuse, suicidal thoughts, etc. We also receive training. However, as a veteran teacher, if something a student confides in you raises any kind of suspician or "red flag", you must report it to the social worker, guidance, principal, etc immediately. You can't be their friend--you are their mentor and teacher and you can't worry that you are betraying a confidence. It is your responsibility to report something that doesn't seem right! Signs include--writing things down that are about suicide, someone who has cut marks visibly on their arms, being extremely quiet and withdrawn, among others. If you know your students, many times, you can assess when something is wrong.
I have never worked in a district where we were given any training on recognizing suicidal students. However, as an English teacher I have always felt that I have a window into my students’ souls that other teachers may not necessarily have. If I read something a student wrote that makes me think the student needs attention, I will usually speak to the student, counselor, or parent. I have had students write suicidal ideas, and I treat it seriously.
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