Suicide Prevention Framework – Guide for NY Schools

How is the Prevention of Suicide Framed?

School districts play a central public health role in combating infectious diseases, malnutrition, community violence, accidental injuries, substance use and/or problem gambling addictions, and sexually transmitted infections by implementing such measures as health screenings, school nutrition programs, and health and safety education. These efforts seek to protect school communities through health education, prevention screenings, and intervention across an entire school’s population. In each of these cases, schools have utilized a multi-tiered approach.

As the risk factors for suicide are numerous and their relationship with suicide risk is complex, the prevention of suicide requires that multiple strategies be employed. The World Health Organization calls for the use of a multi-tiered approach when addressing suicide prevention. The MTSS model is familiar to most school professionals, given that it is utilized for many school-based prevention initiatives, including academic concerns, bullying prevention, school climate, or mental health education literacy.

Tier I interventions include universal-level interventions. At this level, we are looking proactively at the awareness and training needs of all members of our school community including parents, assessing our school environment and school climate for how protective factors can be enhanced, and considering upstream prevention programs. Tier I interventions alone are adequate for roughly 80% of the population.

Tier II interventions include selective strategies targeting 1) groups who may be at higher risk, 2) students exhibiting warning signs, and 3) students experiencing stressful life events that may put them at elevated risk. Interventions at this level will include social supports and key target points in time when screening for suicide risk may be prudent. Tier I interventions combined with Tier II supports are adequate for 15% of the population.

Tier III interventions are focused on individual students that are acutely affected by a suicide loss, are engaging in suicidal behavior, or are demonstrating acute suicide risk. Tier III interventions combined with Tier I and Tier II supports and combined, are appropriate for the remaining 5% of the population (Schaffer, 2017).

The Suicide Prevention Center of New York (SPC- NY) offers a free School Readiness Workbook to assist in the suicide prevention planning process. Additionally, the Comprehensive Developmental School Counseling/Guidance Plan can support evidence-informed suicide prevention practices. Suicide prevention programming can be considered in the development of this district-wide planning process which is designed to operationalize comprehensive multi-tiered programming to support the emotional and behavior well-being of young people.