Schools, Colleges & Universities

A Guide for Suicide Prevention in New York Schools

A Guide for Suicide Prevention in New York Schools

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Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-14 and 15-24. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 31.4% of New York State high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless, 17.2% seriously considered attempting suicide, and 7.4% reported a suicide attempt in the 12 months prior to the 2017 survey. Because youth spend a large proportion of their time in school, schools play a central role in New York State’s effort to prevent suicide.

SPCNY offers a full range of trainings and professional development options for school personnel. To request information about our options for schools, visit our Contact Us page. You may also use the links below for additional information.

For School Staff

It is critical that school districts develop written procedures for staff to follow when warning signs of suicide are observed or suspected.

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For Students

Do you know who the most important people in your school are? Teachers? Administrators? Nope. The correct answer is you, the students. You usually know what is happening before the adults in your school. You have your ear to the ground, you catch rumors, gossip, the buzz on social medial, and you are usually the first ones to know if a peer is in trouble.

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For Parents

Sometimes it’s hard to be a parent. While you can muddle your way through a lot of the challenging issues your kids present, addressing self-destructive or suicidal behavior is generally not one of them. Yet, these situations are an unfortunate reality in the lives of youth today.

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Colleges and Universities

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the American College Health Association (ACHA):¹

  • 51.7% of students felt that things were hopeless,
  • 39.3% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function,
  • 60.9% felt overwhelming anxiety,
  • 12.1% seriously considered suicide, and
  • 1.9% attempted a suicide.

According to a 2018 annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH), among students receiving counseling services:²

  • 35.8% reported serious suicidal ideation and
  • 10.3% reported a suicide attempt, continuing an 8-year upward trend.

Mental health plays a central role in students’ success in college. The transition to college is a major life change for youth that can be filled with challenges, social influences, and/or a new environment, and students often have trouble developing new coping strategies to adjust to these changes. Major life changes, even those that are planned, can increase risk of depression or suicide.3 It is critical that college and university campuses promote mental health, substance use and suicide prevention programs, resources, and services.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,3 experiencing any of the following symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks may indicate major depression:

  • Feeling sad or anxious all or most of the time
  • Feeling irritable, easily frustrated, or restless
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, hopeless, or helpless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in enjoyable activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, and being “slowed down”
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Waking up too early, sleeping too much, or having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling tired, even after sleeping well
  • Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
  • Experiencing physical symptoms such as aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Depression can happen to anyone, and it can look different for each person. Different cultures and backgrounds also view and portray depression – and suicide – differently. This is likely related to attitudes and beliefs toward mental health, depression, and suicide; social and family structures; ability to regulate emotion; attitudes toward help seeking; and availability of services and treatments. As such, it is important to take culture into account when planning and providing mental health and suicide prevention services. Learn more about populations at increased risk for suicide. Visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for information on how to access the Suicide Prevention Multicultural Competence Kit for colleges and universities, developed at Pace University.


Depression is the most common risk factor for suicide. Changes in behavior, particularly around a life change, painful event, or loss, are often noticeable in someone who is suicidal. Those who take their lives often exhibit multiple of the following warning signs:4

  • Talking about killing oneself, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Looking for ways to end their lives
  • Saying goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression, fatigue, sleeping too much or too little
  • Displaying moods of depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation, shame, agitation, or anger
  • Relief or sudden improvement

Some signs may be more noticeable than others. If you or someone you know are exhibiting one or more of these warning signs, call or text 988 to connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or chat online at Visit our Risk Factors Associated with Suicide webpage for more information about risk and protective factors.

Students, parents or supervising adults, and college and university administration, faculty, and staff play different but equally important roles in preventing suicide. Please click the links on the left toolbar for more information.

Crisis Text Line and QPR Training

We’ve partnered with the State University of New York (SUNY) System to provide resources for students, faculty, and staff at all New York State colleges and universities.

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For many students, transitioning to college and adjusting to a new environment can be stressful. It can be overwhelming to manage coursework, relationships with friends and family, and life outside of school, as well as to be on your own for the first time. Taking care of your mental health is extremely important but is often neglected when you are busy. There are services, resources, and support available.

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Sending a child off to college can be challenging for many parents, supervising adults, and family members.

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Faculty and Staff

Mental health is critical to college students’ academic success. Though colleges and universities have made efforts to provide mental health services on campus, many students still do not access them for a variety of reasons.

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