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Rural Health Information Hub

School-Based Strategies

Schools are the central hub of rural areas and have a large stake in mental health promotion and suicide prevention among children and youth. The reasons schools play an important role are:

  • Youth spend a majority of their time in school.
  • Mental health can affect school performance.
  • Suicide prevention aligns with a school's overall mission of maintaining a safe environment for youth.
  • Schools can help counteract exposure to risk factors rural youth experience in the home and community.
  • Schools can help alleviate the burden of care placed on the limited number of youth mental health facilities and providers in rural areas by working on upstream and downstream prevention.

Because it is almost impossible to predict when a crisis may occur, schools should be prepared with suicide prevention policies, procedures, and programming in place. Schools should use a comprehensive approach to develop suicide prevention plans that address the suicide continuum — upstream prevention, intervention, and postvention (after a suicide death). This can include addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors by educating students, families, and staff; teaching healthy problem-solving and coping skills; identifying and helping students at risk; partnering with community organizations; and responding to a death by suicide. The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework aligns with comprehensive school-based suicide prevention efforts and can support suicide prevention and the improvement of behavioral and learning outcomes for students.

With suicide deaths occurring at younger ages, school policies and programs should be developmentally appropriate for the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide and The Jason Foundation are two organizations that provide information, resources, and training related to suicide prevention among youth and teens.

School suicide prevention includes two key elements:

Program Clearinghouse Examples

Resources to Learn More

Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools
Details a series of steps to help high school staff and community partners design and implement a comprehensive school-based suicide prevention program for their students. Includes worksheets and factsheets along with an annotated directory of resources to help facilitate the process.
Organization(s): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Date: 6/2012

Suicide Prevention Across the Educational Continuum: Six-Part Webinar Series
Provides a series of presentations on suicide prevention and interventions for youth, young adults, and college students. Covers current research on the relationship of genetics and individuals at risk of suicide, offers strategies for assessing suicide risk, discusses treatment and care for youth with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED), and identifies best practices for crisis intervention and response planning.
Organization(s): Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC)
Date: 6/2020