Suicide Prevention

Share & Bookmark, Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option
988- Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Schools can play a key role in suicide prevention. The task of all professionals involved in and dedicated to the education of children is to help prevent death by suicide whenever possible. When school personnel, families, and communities take an active role in suicide prevention, lives can be saved.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has partnered with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to raise awareness about the Suicide Prevention Month Educational Campaign in September. In order to extend the reach to families and communities, Virginia educators are asked to explore an electronic toolkit that was developed to house materials related to the campaign. The RecognizeTalkAct Suicide Prevention Toolkit includes educational materials and print-ready social media communication templates that schools can use. The goal of this partnership is to raise awareness about the warning signs of suicide, how to access help during a crisis, and lethal means restriction.

Suicide Prevention Guidelines

The Suicide Prevention Guidelines for Virginia Public Schools (PDF), adopted by the Board of Education in June 2020, provides information to assist local school boards in revising policies to help prevent suicide and procedures to intervene when suicidal threats are present, and how to manage the crisis response when a death by suicide occurs in the school community.

Overview of Resources Provided

The resources provided below are organized into three overarching concepts:

  • Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide Intervention
  • Suicide Postvention

To support school divisions implementing the new Suicide Prevention Guidelines for Virginia Public Schools, we have developed webinars to assist with staff training and training for suicide risk assessment teams/school-based mental health providers.

Additional learning opportunities are available on the VDOE’s Career and Learning Center for School Mental Health Professionals

Training for School Staff

Suicide Prevention for School Staff

Training for Suicide Risk Assessment Teams or School-Based Mental Health Providers (SBMH)

Suicide Prevention

Understand Your Role with Suicide Prevention

Know the Warning Signs

Most people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. Understanding these signs is a key part of prevention. These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much. Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Warning Sign Resources

Comprehensive Prevention Strategies

It becomes increasingly important for school personnel to consider the social and emotional climate of a school as a mitigating factor for suicide prevention. Suggestions for creating a supportive, proactive climate for suicide prevention include the following:

  1. fostering a school climate that is safe, secure, and comfortable for all students,
  2. developing activities and extracurricular programs that are inviting and inclusive,
  3. training and supporting staff members who help and encourage students,
  4. insuring service staff members are accessible to students,
  5. providing a regular forum in which staff members discuss students who are displaying worrisome behavior or experiencing stress,
  6. conducting faculty/staff gate-keeper training to identify students who are potentially at risk,
  7. conducting appropriate peer gatekeeper training for all students,
  8. cultivating relationships with public and private organizations for assessment and referral of students in crisis, and
  9. providing on-going support groups for students in known risk categories such as (a) students returning from psychiatric hospitalization or suicide attempts (b) students in recovery from substance abuse (c) students who are court-involved (d) students reacting to family trauma such as separation, divorce, or death of a family member.

Resources for Schools

Tips Sheets for Caregivers and Students

State and Local Resources

Screening Programs

A questionnaire or other screening instrument is given to all students to identify students that may require further assessment and treatment. Repeated assessment can be used to measure changes in attitudes or behaviors over time, to test the effectiveness of a prevention strategy, and to detect potential suicidal behavior. SAMHSA's Ready, Set, Go, Review: Screening for Behavioral Health Risk in Schools (PDF) provides guidance for mental health screening in schools. Examples of evidence-based screening measures can be found in Mental Health/Suicide Screening in Schools (Word).

Suicide Intervention

Responding When Students are Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts

If you are concerned or suspect suicide…

  • Let them know you care. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior.
  • Listen to their story. Talk privately. Be attentive and non-judgmental.
  • Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard. Avoid debating the value of life, minimizing their problems or giving advice.
  • Tell them they are not alone. Let them know there are supports and treatments available that can help.
  • Ask directly if they are having thoughts of suicide.
  • If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help. *

If a student says they are considering suicide or you think the possibility of suicide is high or imminent…

  • Do not leave the student alone. Insure that adult supervision is maintained until the student's safety is assured. Know and follow your school's crisis plan regarding students who are at high or imminent risk of suicide.
  • Remove lethal means (anything that could be used in a suicide attempt.)
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional. *


Sample Forms

Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety Resources

Postvention, After a Suicide

After a death by suicide, schools should follow the Procedures for Critical Incidents – Death or Serious Injury protocols found within their Crisis Plan.