Myths: schools and suicide

From NEAL PENBERTHY, Sp.Ed.Ad., retired School Principal and past president of Missouri Association of Secondary School Principal

1. WE’LL GET SUED. Landmark court cases have shown that schools have a duty to warn and refer youth at risk. Staff and student training in prevention can help with recognizing and helping those at risk. CHECK IT OUT! “Legal Lessons” with Richard Lieberman.

2. SAYING SUICIDE TO STUDENTS WILL GIVE THEM IDEAS. Research has shown that asking someone if they’ve considered harming themselves can actually alleviate distress. CHECK IT OUT! Youth suicide research from JAMA.

3. THERE’S NO TIME TO TEACH THIS. Incorporating suicide prevention into existing health curricula means little additional teaching time is necessary.

4. I’M SO UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS. Suicide is a tough subject, but one that needs to “come out of the closet” with too many youths dying unnecessarily by their own hand.

5. THIS DOESN’T BELONG IN SCHOOL. Schools have the mandate to educate and protect students. Suicide prevention should be part of that.

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