Student Well-Being

Suicides Are on the Rise. Here’s How Schools Can Help

By Lisa Stark — December 04, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

“Extremely discouraging.”

That’s how the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention describes the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC found in 2017, more than 47,000 people died by suicide in the United States. That’s an additional 2,200 deaths over the previous year.

Suicide is still rare, but it is now the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 19. Mental health experts say that puts schools in a prime position to help troubled students and prevent suicides.

What can schools do? Create a warm and welcoming environment, address bullying, and educate students and staff about depression and suicide are a few key strategies.

Molly Kammerdeiner, a former high school student who suffers from depression, believes school counselors helped save her by intervening when she hit rock bottom.

We spoke to Molly and others about suicide prevention in the schools. Here are their 6 tips:

What Schools Should Do After a Student Suicide

Mental-health experts say that as important as it is for schools to work to prevent suicides, it’s equally important for them to react correctly after a student suicide. There is always the risk of “contagion"—additional suicides by students who may already be at risk.

Schools are advised not to glamorize the death, but also to make sure there are ways for students and staff to grieve and get counseling. Ben Fernandez, a former school psychologist who oversees prevention services for schools in Loudoun County, Va., told us, the ripple effects of a suicide can be long lasting, “like a bomb going off.” He says schools and parents need to stay vigilant after the immediate crisis is over. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a detailed toolkit for schools on handling suicides.

Here are 5 basic tips for educators on how to respond after a tragedy.

Schools often struggle with mental health resources; most have fewer than the recommended number of counselors, social workers, and psychologists. Principal Douglas Fulton, at Loudoun County’s Freedom High School, says schools need a team approach. Everyone, he says, from teachers to cafeteria workers to bus drivers, to the students themselves, need to be engaged in promoting mental wellness and keeping an eye out for struggling students.

Related Stories:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Q&A How to Address Parents' Concerns That SEL Goes Against Their Values
A Texas instructional coach shares insights she has learned from talking with hesitant parents.
3 min read
Illustration concept of emotional intelligence, showing a woman balancing emotion control using her hand to balance smile and sad face icons.
Student Well-Being Pause Before You Post: A Social Media Guide for Educators in Tense Political Times
5 tips for educators and their students to avoid making harmful or false statements online that they later regret.
6 min read
Tight crop of a man's hands using a mobile phone with the popup box that reads "Delete post, Are you sure you want to delete this post? Cancel or Delete"
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion What Does the Dangerous Political Climate Mean for Schools?
Educators and researchers offer advice for navigating political polarization in the classroom.
5 min read
Grunge Collage styled urban graphic of US election
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being Q&A Why Educators Need to Better Understand What Drives Kids' Cellphone Addictions
As more school and day-to-day tasks are completed on smartphones and computers, teens struggle to manage their screen time.
3 min read
Young man and woman without energy on giant phone screen with speech and heart icons above them. Addiction. Contemporary art collage. Concept of social media, influence, online communication
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock