Youth Suicide Prevention, Intervention, & Postvention
OSPI strives to provide resources and support to help inform ESDs, school districts, and schools in the development of Suicide Prevention Plans. Suicide prevention planning informs all adults in schools and communities about how to intervene with a young person exhibiting warning signs for suicide. There is a place for everyone in suicide prevention.
School staff have day-to-day contact with many young people, some of whom are experiencing mental distress or illness that could result in feelings of hopelessness that could lead to suicidal behavior. Those who work in schools are well-positioned to observe student behavior and act when they suspect that a student may be at risk of self- harm and/or suicide.
Suicide Postvention in Schools
The grief associated with a death by suicide can be quite overwhelming. When a school community experiences a loss by suicide the effects can be felt on various levels. Using protocols that follow model guidance and knowing where to turn for help is critical.
OSPI, in partnership with University of Washington's Forefront Suicide Prevention and Washington state’s ESD Behavioral Health Navigators, created the Suicide Postvention Guide for Schools in Washington State. This guide gathers best resources from materials that already exist and provides resources to enhance a school’s ability to respond with resources specific to their distinct ESD.
Also see: Suicide Postvention Guide for Schools in Washington State PPT slides and Suicide Postvention in Schools Handout. To request an editable version of the PPT slides, that can be localized for your district, please email Tayler Burkhart(link sends e-mail).
ESD Behavioral Health Navigators
Second Substitute House Bill (2SHB) 1216 (2019–20) funded Behavioral Health Coordinator/Navigator (BHN) positions in all nine of Washington's Educational Service Districts (ESDs) to provide a network of support for school districts to develop and implement comprehensive suicide prevention and behavioral health supports for students.
BHN Contact List
Student/Youth Mental Health Literacy Library
The Student/Youth Mental Health Literacy Library gives any teacher, school counselor or other staff member a comprehensive resource of professionally vetted curricula and school presentations to easily and quickly compare available programs at their fingertips. The site has three very important features. The University of Washington SMART Center has prepared an Implementation Guide Toolkit featured on the site that provides best practices for program implementation.
Mental Health Crisis Lines
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+ Youth)
- The Trevor Project Crisis Line: 1-866-488-7286
- The Trevor Project Text Line: text START to 678678
- The Trevor Project Web Chat
- Washington State Health Care Authority: List of State Mental Health Crisis Lines by County
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Web Chat
- Lifeline Options for Deaf + Hard of Hearing: or TTY users, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255
- Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
The CARE course is a research-backed, web-based course to provide educators and other school staff the tools and confidence to identify students who may be at risk for emotional or behavioral distress, including suicide, substance use, violence, and sexual abuse. CARE will help all school staff understand when and how to intervene and make referrals to counselors and mental health professionals, based on their district’s policy and procedure.
The course is a free, one-hour, online module that meets the criteria set forth by Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 28A.320.127 which requires educators receive training on how to recognize and respond to students experiencing emotional or behavioral distress.
Anyone can take this course. Counselors, psychologists, social workers, and nurses can take the course, but it does not meet the course requirement for certification or recertification. Those courses can be found on the Professional Educator Standards Board Website.
The purpose of a prevention plan is to protect the health and well-being of all students by having procedures in place to prevent, assess the risk of, intervene in, and respond to students in crisis. Prevention of youth suicide, violence, substance use/misuse, and the early identification and treatment of behavioral health disorders are most effective when students, staff, parents, and community members have access to prevention information and resources.
OSPI Resources for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention
- Model District Template: Student Social, Emotional and Behavioral, and Mental Health Recognition, Screening, and Response
- Health Education K–12 Learning Standards
Guides and Examples of Comprehensive Suicide Prevention
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):
- Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression (HEARD): K–12 Toolkit for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention
Training for School Professionals
The Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) maintains the list of approved trainings required for school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Contact an ESD Prevention Director to find out about their training schedule or see the PESB Website for other training options.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center Page for Resources and Programs has a searchable database of evidence-based programs and practices for education, screening, treatment, environmental change that can be filtered based on intended population.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Blueprint for Suicide Prevention
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP): Preventing Youth Suicide
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): To Live to See the Great Day that Dawns, Preventing Suicide by American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and Young Adults
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC):
- Kognito recorded webinar using the After a Suicide Toolkit: Suicide Postvention: The Role of the School Community After a Suicide
- National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (AASP): COVID Guidance: Screening for Suicide Risk during Telehealth Visits
- Washington Department of Health (DOH): COVID-19 Back to School THINK Toolbox
- Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA): Youth Mental Health Communication Toolkit, No Shame in your Brain
- School-Based Health Alliance: Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention During COVID-19: What School-Based Staff Need to Know
- Washington Department of Health (DOH): COVID-19 Behavioral Health Toolbox for Families
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS): Suicide Prevention Information for Parents
- Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC): How to Talk to a Child about a Suicide Attempt in Your Family