Trainings in Suicide Awareness: A Focus on School Settings
Gibbons, Melinda M., Studer, Jeannine, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research
School counselors at all grade levels are faced with student suicidal ideation on a regular basis. As the primary mental health providers at their sites, school counselors are the ideal professionals to provide suicide awareness training for school staff and students. School counselors were surveyed regarding the type of suicide awareness training they provided to staff and students and their reasons for not providing training, if that was the case. Results from this exploratory survey suggested that few school counselors provide suicide awareness training to staff or students. Implications for school counselors and administrators are included.
Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death for all age groups in the United States, and the 3rd leading cause of death among children and adolescents between 10-19 years of age (Hamilton et al., 2007). One person completes suicide approximately every 16.2 minutes, and there are approximately 25 suicide attempts for every death throughout the nation. Furthermore, female high school students attempt suicide more than twice as often compared to their male peers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). Based on these statistics, greater awareness is needed to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidal behaviors; however how school personnel train teachers and others regarding suicidal ideation among school-aged youth remains unclear Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the types of suicide awareness training available at schools, the role school counselors take in this training, and the perceived helpfulness of a pre-made training on suicide awareness.
According to McAdams and Fosters (2000), 24% of all counselors experience the death of a client due to suicide, and in is one of the most frequently reported incidents by mental health practitioners in all settings. When a client is suicidal, many counselors experience anxiety not ny about their ability to adequately assess and intervene, but also apprehension for their client's well being (Rosenberg, 1999) Other researchers report similar findings with mental health workers noting low confidence (Reis & Cornell, 2008) or little formal training on suicide assessment (Oordt, Jobes, Fonseca, &c Schmidt 2009). This anxiety may be exacerbated when counselors feel ill-prepared to assess suicidal ideation, and uncertain about their responsibilities in the aftermath of a suicide.
Legal implications also exist related to suicide in schools. Milsom (2002) noted that principals should be prepared to protect their school staff from potential litigation. Ways to avoid possible liability include implementing a suicide prevention program, educating all school staff on suicide awareness, and abiding by the duty to prevent harm to students. McCarthy and Webb (2000) added that training school staff on suicide awareness is one aspect of protecting students from selfharm. Both school counselors and administrators can take a leadership role in adding this type of training for all staff at their sites.
Contrary to the beliefs of many school counselors and other school personnel, young children do commit suicide (Hamilton et al., 2007). Such faulty beliefs may lead professionals to underestimate the suicidal intent of a child or lead to clinical assessment error (Wise &c Spengler, 1997), perhaps resulting in the untimely death of a young child. Researchers (Hamilton et al., 2007) found that for children, suicide was the only cause of death to show a significant increase in recent years. In fact, deaths from suicide among 10-14 year olds increased from 6% to 7.2% of all deaths between 2003 and 2004. Even suicidal ideation in young children, regardless of actual attempt, dramatically increases the later risk of suicide in adolescents (Pfeffer, 2001). Children of all ages are at risk for suicide.
An unfortunate reality is that yourth suicide influences school policy and personnel. Statistics reveal that for every suicide there are six other people profoundly affected by the suicide, with approximately five million Americans who became suicide survivors in the past 25 years (Mcintosh, 2010. …