Idaho Lives Project
Idaho Lives Project (ILP) is a partnership between the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE) and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW). ILP is funded by IDHW’s Suicide Prevention Program and two federal grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. ILP’s mission is to foster connectedness and resilience throughout Idaho school communities to prevent youth suicide.
Learn how to identify and respond to the warning signs of students in crisis through QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention
This free online training is listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. The training takes approximately two hours to complete and complies with state law requiring districts and schools to provide annual suicide prevention training to staff.
Sources of Strength Elementary Application for Spring 2022
The Idaho Lives Project is now accepting applications from elementary schools interested in implementing Sources of Strength Elementary in grades 3-6 this spring. Twenty schools will be selected to receive two days of coaches’ training, program materials for up to eight classrooms and suicide prevention gatekeeper training for all school personnel. The classroom-based lessons are designed for 3rd through 5th grades, but they also can be used in 6th grade elementary classrooms. Applications are due Tuesday, February 8, 2022.
Youth Suicide Prevention Program Application for 2021/2022
The Idaho Lives Project is also accepting applications from Idaho middle, junior, or senior schools interested in implementing youth suicide prevention programming for the 2021/2022 school year! Nine spots remain available for secondary schools wishing to implement Sources of Strength or a program of their choice. The acceptance of other youth suicide prevention programs will take into consideration the availability of local or regional certified trainers, program implementation costs, and the inclusion of safe and appropriate messaging. Applications are due Friday, January 28th no later than 12 am PDT.
Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They cannot cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they are important to be aware of, particularly if you have noticed warning signs.
- Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship(s)
- Easy access to lethal means
- Local clusters of suicide
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
Knowledge of warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at (208) 398-4357.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Nightmares (in adults)
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Sleep changes (not enough or too much)
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Extreme mood swings
Protective factors are personal or environmental characteristics that help protect people from suicidal thoughts and behavior.
- Strong connections to family and friends
- Strong connections to community support
- No access to highly lethal means
- Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills
- Effective professional care for mental health and substance use disorders
- Easy access to different types of professional health
- Mental and medical health care relationship that are ongoing
- Being supported to seek help
- Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation
Educators have one of the most important jobs in the world. School personnel spend more time with youth than any other professionals and can have a significant influence on student well-being. This impact can last a lifetime. In addition to academic benefits, actions by school staff can promote protective factors to build resilience and help prevent risky behaviors among youth including suicide.
To assist Idaho schools with issues related to youth suicide, the Idaho Lives Project has developed protocols for school suicide prevention. These protocols are concise and meant as a quick, yet critical guide based on well-researched best practices in youth suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. These protocols are not exhaustive and are not meant to replace, but rather augment, a school’s or district’s own suicide prevention plan. For comprehensive school guidance see Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools. The document is also available from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Rationale for School-based Prevention
- Schools’ responsibilities include maintaining a safe school environment.
- Students’ mental well-being affects academic performance.
- Student and staff suicides can impact other students and entire school communities.
- School districts have been sued and found liable for not offering suicide prevention programs, for providing inadequate supervision of or failing to get help for at-risk students, and for failing to notify parents when their children were suicidal.
- The tragedy of suicide is beyond measure, and evidence-based prevention, intervention, and postvention efforts are effective.
- Idaho Statute requires school districts to have suicide prevention plans as well as policies on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. View the Idaho Suicide Safer Model Policy.
Idaho Administrative Rules, Statute, and Case Law
IDAPA 08.02.03.160 – SAFE ENVIRONMENT AND DISCIPLINE
- Each school district will have a comprehensive district wide policy and procedure encompassing the following:
- School Climate
- Student Health
- Violence Prevention
- Gun-free Schools
- Substance Abuse - Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs
- Suicide Prevention
- Student Harassment
- Drug-free School Zones
- Building Safety including Evacuation Drills
- Districts will conduct an annual review of these policies and procedures
Idaho Code §33-136(3)(a) — SUICIDE PREVENTION IN SCHOOLS
Each public school district shall adopt a policy on student suicide prevention. Such policy shall, at a minimum, address procedures relating to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.
Idaho Code §33-512(4) — GOVERNANCE OF SCHOOLS
The board of trustees of each school district shall have the following powers and duties: (4) To protect the morals and health of the pupils;
The Idaho Legislature enacted Idaho Code § 33-512B in response to Brooks v. Logan, 127 Idaho 484, 903 P.2d 73 (1995), which the Legislature characterized as holding “that a teacher and a school district owe a duty to warn or otherwise take action when confronted with ambiguous, circumstantial evidence of a student’s suicidal tendencies.” Statement of Purpose, H.B. 598, 52d Leg., Reg. Sess. (Idaho 1996).
Idaho Code § 33-512B limits the duty to warn of the suicidal tendencies of a student to situations where a teacher has “knowledge of direct evidence of such suicidal tendencies.” In Carrier v. Lake Pend Oreille Sch. Dist., 142 Idaho 804, 809, 134 P.3d 655, 660 (2006), the Idaho Supreme Court held that “the Legislature intended the term ‘suicidal tendencies’ in I.C. § 33–512B to mean a present aim, direction or trend toward taking one's own life.”
Idaho Protocols for Suicide Prevention in Schools
School personnel spend more time with our children than any other professionals and are in a valuable position, through appropriate knowledge and action, to prevent suicide among students.
Idaho Code §33-136(3)(a) states “Each public school district shall adopt a policy on student suicide prevention. Such policy shall, at a minimum, address procedures relating to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.”
For extensive information on suicide prevention for schools, see Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools published by SAMSHA
Important factors to consider for suicide prevention in school settings include Student Well-Being, Staff Gatekeeper Training, Student Training and Student Screening.
Student Well-Being is complex as it relates to many aspects. Two aspects of importance in preventing suicide are documented by nationally known suicide expert, Dr. Thomas Joiner. In his book Why People Die by Suicide, Dr. Joiner points to failed belongingness and perceived burdensomeness as the two fundamental elements involved in the desire for suicide. School personnel can play a key role in increasing student feelings of belongingness and capability/effectiveness (non-burdensomeness).
School climate is also critical to student well-being. School climate can have a profound impact on the emotional, physical, and psychological health and academic performance of students. School climate refers to the quality and character of school life as it relates to norms and values, interpersonal relations, and social interactions. School climate reflects how members of the school community experience the school and sets the tone for all the learning and teaching done in the school environment. Specific focus and effort on cultivating a supportive, and respectful school climate, through the implementation of school-wide strategies, is a key component to effective prevention measures.
Staff Gatekeeper Training
Gatekeeper trainings provide participants with critical information on identifying, intervening with, and supporting individuals who may be suicidal. Gatekeeper trainings should include all school personnel: teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, administrators, bus drivers, administrative assistants, volunteers, cafeteria personnel, parent representatives, and anyone who has regular contact with students. Trainings must be completed before any student suicide prevention activities or curricula are in place. For gatekeeper training to be effective, best practice dictates that school personnel receive gatekeeper training annually.
For information on free gatekeeper trainings available through the State Department of Education, please see the Events and Training tab.
While certain elements of gatekeeper trainings are safe for youth, such as knowledge of warning signs and awareness of the hotline, gatekeeper training is not advised for youth. There are suicide prevention trainings that are safe for youth. See information about youth training below.
Gatekeeper training tools as well as a multitude of best practice prevention protocols are available on-line through www.sprc.org.
Great care must be taken in selecting any suicide prevention-related activities, training, or curricula for students. The following are guidelines to know before implementation of any youth training or curriculum.
- Training and Curricula Type: Training or curricula should be evidence-based and carefully chosen. They should be fully researched, age appropriate, and emphasize often that there is hope and help. Curricula should include warning signs, protective factors, available school and community mental health services, and a strong message of hope. To prevent suicide, the curriculum’s purpose should help students identify and seek help from a trusted adult for themselves or a classmate.
- Caution: Training and curricula should never normalize suicide, discuss means, or share suicide statistics. Curricula should iterate to students that suicide is rare and that recovery from suicidal thinking is the norm. Curricula need to address the code of silence among youth and remind them that trusted adults in their school and community are available to share concerns about a suicidal friend or themselves.
- Embedded Training: Training and curricula are best embedded in mental health units within regular school classes, such as health or teen living, that routinely and sensitively address these issues.
- Adult Training Importance: Training and curricula should be presented to students only after school personnel, parents, and community mental health providers are trained as gatekeepers so they can support any youth with suicide ideation. Free training is available through the Idaho Lives Project.
- Training Group Size: Training and curricula should be presented in small groups (classrooms preferable) and with an additional adult present to watch for concerns and to provide support to vulnerable youth, while maintaining students’ rights to confidentiality. Schools should NOT hold assemblies or large group training because these do not allow for easy identification of students who may be at risk and can cause harm or trigger those with mental health issues.
- Exceptions for Vulnerable Youth: Training and curricula should be carefully considered for any students who have experienced a recent death or suicide attempt in their family or friend circle, who have made a recent suicide attempt themselves, or who may be affected by a mental health issue. These youth should receive the confidential offer to opt out of this unit. If these students decide to attend, they must be carefully monitored. If they show any signs of distress or inappropriate response to the material, they should be taken to the school mental health personnel.
- Suicide Attempters as Speakers: Training and curricula should not allow students who have attempted suicide to be speakers. Other students may identify with them in an unhealthy way or see them as receiving extra attention, which may increase risk. In addition, the student presenters sometimes receive backlash from other students that causes them emotional harm.
- Cultural Competence: Training and curricula must address cultural competence as suicide affects people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and socio-economic groups. It is important to include the contributions, images, and experiences of diverse cultural groups in this unit of instruction. Be sure the school has access to interpreters and community mental health services that have experience with cultures/ethnic groups represented in your school.
- Parent and Community Involvement: Training and curricula will require entire school and school community support as their delivery requires sensitivity and understanding of the importance of the issue. The curriculum chosen might be presented to school staff, to community agencies connected to youth, and to parents/guardians or others who are in a position to follow up with students. Parents/guardians should be made aware the curriculum is being taught beforehand and be invited to review it online or at a presentation. Some ideas to accomplish this include back-to-school nights, brochures sent home with students, or messages from the school’s communication system.
- Co-Occurring Conditions: Training and curricula might emphasize the link between co-occurring mental health issues, such as suicide risk and substance abuse. Alcohol and other drug use may add to the risk for suicide attempts. If you suspect this is an issue, please consult with student services personnel in your school or a substance abuse counselor in your community before approaching this issue.
- Student Self-Evaluations: Training and curricula sometimes contain a self-evaluation survey to evaluate the mental health issues of students. Using these evaluations is not recommended. If you choose to do so, it is imperative that the teacher/student service provider review these completed surveys immediately and take action, when needed! For some vulnerable youth, completing these self-evaluations may trigger suicide ideation and heighten their risk for suicide. Parents/guardians must be notified before presentation of a survey. If a student is deemed to be at risk, the student must not be left alone, and parents/guardians must be notified immediately! Always guard the student’s right to confidentiality during this process. For more information on confidentiality, please see the Intervention Protocols.
- Caution During Postvention: Consult with suicide prevention experts to determine the readiness of the school and school community before conducting any suicide prevention training if within twelve months of a completed suicide that affected the school. Please see the Postvention Protocols for more guidance.
Individual Student Screening
For information on individual screening, please see the Screener Protocol under the Intervention Protocols.
Universal Student Screening
Exercise extreme caution if considering universal screening as many safeguards must be in place before administering. Legal issues may arise unless parents/guardians have consented to such screenings, and any identified students must have access to affordable, immediate, and appropriate mental health care.
Before implementing a school-wide screening:
- Schools should convene a working group that includes community mental health services, parents, community resource groups, school staff and support personnel, school administration, and other important representatives. This group will need to carefully determine the value of school-wide screening and connect with other schools that have completed a school-wide screening to identify pros and cons.
- All school staff need to complete a gatekeeper training before implementing any school-wide or curriculum-based screening program.
- Schools should have a working crisis team and protocols for dealing with suicidal youth or staff members.
- All parents must “opt in” to any school-wide screening, be offered gatekeeper training, and be provided a copy of the screener. They must receive resources that include information about free or sliding-scale mental health services and community resource lists that provide support for daily needs.
- Schools must provide clinicians who will offer immediate interviews to students who show signs of suicidality as there may be several false positives from screening programs.
- Schools must follow up to ensure that identified students receive mental health access.
For information on the controversial nature and efficacy of universal screenings, see Suicide Screening in Schools, Primary Care and Emergency Departments or Service Use by At-Risk Youth after School-Based Suicide Screening
Idaho Protocols for Suicide Intervention in Schools
Schools can convey that they value and care for their students and staff by implementing best practices’ suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention plans.
The best intervention programs are successful because good training precedes them, allowing school communities to identify students at risk quickly and safely, and to follow-up regularly and monitor these students. Thankfully, good prevention and intervention lessen the need for postvention programs.
Idaho Code §33-136(3)(a) states “Each public school district shall adopt a policy on student suicide prevention. Such policy shall, at a minimum, address procedures relating to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. As used in this paragraph, "postvention" means counseling or other social care given to students after another student’s suicide or attempted suicide.”
The following guidelines are largely excerpted from Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools published by SAMSHA.
Intervention Program Goals
- Identify and respond to students at risk for suicide in a prescribed manner while keeping both the student and classmates safe.
- Utilize Regional Case Managers to connect home, student, and school for continuity of care.
- Set up pre-arranged building contact(s) for the preliminary screening and subsequent follow up of the student.
- Refer students at risk to recognized mental health programs which may include emergency personnel (ambulance or police) and designate people who make calls to these agencies and to parent/guardians.
- Have a pre-determined documentation plan, which must include dates and times of parent/guardian contacts and their responses.
- Help students integrate safely back into the school setting when appropriate.
- Monitor the student and adjust activities as needed after integration.
- Provide school or staff support if needed .
- Reach out for support from Idaho Lives Project or the SDE as needed.
- The entire school community must be trained in prevention and intervention and then act accordingly. The school community includes administration, custodians, bus drivers, teachers, students, aides, lunchroom workers, regular volunteers, etc., so that they are ready to respond at the initial identification of students at risk. Protocols should be regularly discussed at staff or professional development meetings, and new staff and substitutes should be provided an opportunity to learn these protocols. If the district/school has a handbook for staff and substitutes, these protocols should be included.
- Schools should access Regional Case Managers (RCMs) for support. RCMs provide free services both to the school and family to:
- Advocate for the youth throughout the transition process.
- Act as liaisons among the family, behavioral health or emergency department, the school, and the student.
- Participate in school re-entry teams, if applicable, to support implementation of behavioral health goals.
- Provide youth suicide assessment services when the family has no other access to assessment resources.
- Pre-screening of agencies that can offer mental health help to the student and family, including those who take sliding-scale fees, and that are willing to work with the school to re-integrate the student when appropriate, is important so the intervention is smooth. Consider agencies that have training in assessing and managing suicide risk and experience working with youth.
- Emergency personnel and police, including school resource officers and security, should be involved in planning so all parties understand procedures and their roles in managing the situation.
- Protocols should be available for times when parents are unavailable or when they refuse to take their child (deemed critical) to receive mental health services.
- Confidentiality rights must be explained and understood by anyone involved.
- A crisis that affects a classroom or a group of students may require postvention work, including a letter/email sent to parents/guardians of students affected by the attempt. (Confidentiality issues apply here. Know your district’s confidentiality policies.) Classroom discussions about the incident, other than to debrief students involved, should be avoided. Staff involved with the student should receive appropriate information within the confines of confidentiality.
- Cultural issues and language barriers must be addressed, and protocols set up to accommodate these students and their families’ needs in a crisis.
For additional information see Questions for Guiding Intervention Set Up.
After a student is identified and is in the custody of the identified mental health screener, the mental health screener should follow specific guidelines.
- Never leave the student alone until they are in custody of the parent/guardian, mental health authority, or emergency personnel.
- Use screening tools carefully to assess the extent of the threat to self or others.
- Follow through with parent/guardian regardless of the screening outcome. If a student is deemed likely to make a suicide attempt or harm others, also contact the agency where the parent and student are to go and ask that the agency to call you if they fail to show up in a timely fashion. If parents seem reluctant or embarrassed, use some ideas from Engaging the Parent to alleviate their discomfort. Confirm parent/guardian contact (See Confirmation of Parental Contact Form).
- Follow up with the parent and the mental health agency and ask parents to sign release of confidentiality with that agency. (Use your district’s confidentiality release form or use the Exchange of Information Form. Best practice suggests obtaining the parent signature during the initial visit in your presence when possible.
- Debrief those involved—student, teacher, school personnel who brought the student to the mental health screener (See Self-Care for Adults). Confidentiality issues apply here. Know your district’s confidentiality policies.
- Decide with the parent/guardian and the mental health agency how and when the student is to return (See Sample Student Re-Entry Plan).
- Document all the preceding steps (See Document Actions List).
- NO STUDENT WITH ASCERTAINED RISK SHOULD BE SENT HOME ALONE. The student should be accompanied by an adult who is informed of the situation and to whom you have provided a list of resources, including those related to means restriction. The adult cannot leave the child until they are in custody of a parent or guardian.
For a specific and comprehensive list of intervention actions for school counselors please see Helping Suicidal Youth: Detailed steps for Counselors.
Other Intervention Considerations
Screening Tool: Each school must find an evidence-based screening tool fit its needs, such as the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale for Youth.
The screening should involve:
- Asking whether the student has lethal means - on person or accessible elsewhere.
Also, be sure to:
- Consult with other student services personnel and find out any other related information from teachers or peers, even if this is done after the original screening. Collect any current information about the student, such as, attendance, behavioral records, and previous evaluations from appropriate staff.
- Inform administration/crisis team of results of risk screening and determining next steps.
Avoid No-Suicide Contracts: No-suicide contracts should not be used. Such contracts normally consist of a written agreement between a person deemed at risk and their counselor/therapist in which the person at risk agrees not to attempt suicide. No-suicide contracts tend to be worded to instruct the person at risk what NOT to do rather than what To Do. Research also demonstrates that these contracts may increase hopelessness and may increase liability for the school.
Safety Plans Recommended: Instead of No Suicide Contracts use a safety plan. A safety plan is a concise, user-friendly crisis plan with a few simple statements. The development of the card itself can help dilute the intense distress often experienced during intervention. Safety plan statements can be written on an index card, piece of paper, typed and printed on card stock, or anything else that can be easily kept on one’s person or on their phone. Plans should focus on increasing feelings of belongingness and decreasing feelings of burdensomeness/ineffectiveness. (Joiner, 2005) Anyone can help a youth develop a safety plan, and the mental health clinician usually incorporates one as part of the treatment plan. The school crisis team member or counselor should be informed of this safety plan to better support the student upon return (See Safety Plan). In addition to the written safety plan, several phone apps are available for youth to use, both for suicide prevention and for other mental health issues:
Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect: When anyone has reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been, or is likely to be abused or neglected, they must make a report of suspected abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. In Idaho, school staff, as well as all adults, are mandated reporters. In Idaho, call 855-552-5437 to report child abuse or call your local police or SROs. If a school staff member determines that a student under age 18 appears to be at risk of attempting suicide, and the parent/guardian refuses to obtain services for them, a report should be made to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) for negligence (failure to seek necessary mental health treatment), which may place the child at risk of serious harm or death. IDHW will conduct an assessment to determine if abuse or neglect exists and will engage the family to voluntarily meet the treatment needs of the child.
Lethal Means: Separate a suicidal student from lethal means if the means are on or near the student and if safe to do so. For example, if a weapon is near the student, such as in a backpack, leave the backpack and take the student to another room. If the student has pills on them, ask if you can hold the pills for them while you are talking.
Call the police when the student is in possession of a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or other dangerous item. Secure the area by either removing students to another classroom or area, or by preventing them from entering the room or area. Since lethal means must be removed without putting anyone in danger, immediately notify your school resource officers or local law enforcement agency. Law enforcement officers have special training to de-escalate a situation that can very quickly become dangerous. If a student requires evacuation by ambulance, the police need to be notified.
Guidelines for a Student Suicide Attempt on School Premises
- In classrooms or other small groups where the student was present during the crisis, offer a brief statement assuring others that the student who made the suicide attempt is receiving help (ask parents how they would like the situation to be addressed). Keep the details of the attempt confidential, while addressing the facts of the situation in a respectful, non-glorifying way. Keep in mind that each situation is different. Remind students that this student has a mental health issue that will be addressed, just as if he or she had a broken leg or in a way that any other physical health problem would be addressed. Ask students to please honor the privacy of this student. An at-school attempt warrants a letter/email sent to parents of students, especially those directly affected by the attempt, while maintaining the attempter’s privacy as much as possible.
- Describe and promote resources for where students can get help.
- Monitor close friends and other students known to be vulnerable and offer support as needed.
- Conduct a mandatory informational debriefing for staff, administrators, and crisis response team members who directly dealt with the student in crisis and take notes for staff who are not available to attend. Help other school staff by providing an opportunity to address feelings and concerns and conduct any necessary planning.
- Document actions taken as required by school protocol.
Guidelines for a Student Suicide Attempt off School Premises
A severe, life-threatening suicide attempt off school premises can have a significant impact on the student body. To prevent a crisis from escalating among students, it is important that school personnel follow these steps, or implement your school district’s crisis plan.
- Notify the school administrator or designee who will verify the crisis with police/parents. Then immediately communicate with designated individuals, as needed, such as crisis or student assistance team members, the school nurse, social worker, counselor or psychologist, emergency medical professionals, community crisis service providers, law enforcement and the superintendent of schools.
- The superintendent or designee alerts principals at schools attended by siblings, who in turn will notify counselors, nurses, and others in a position to help siblings and other students who might be affected if the student’s parents agree.
- Mobilize the school-based crisis team, with support from community crisis service providers, to help staff address the reactions of other students. When other students know about a suicide attempt, steps must be taken to avoid copycat behavior among vulnerable at-risk students. (*Note: At-risk students may be friends and relatives of the student or other students who may not know the individual, but who themselves are at risk for other reasons.)
- Establish communication with the parent/guardian to determine intervention steps and how the school might be helpful and supportive to the student and family. Also address how the family would like the situation announced at school. Ask parents if you may alert other schools that may have students impacted by the attempt, including the attempter’s siblings.
When a suicide attempt is severe and affects many of the students/staff, e.g., on social media, convene a staff meeting and address the issue of the crisis with the facts and how to proceed. Ask staff to monitor students for any signs of distress. If the suicide attempt is high profile or likely to result in death, an email message should be sent to all students’ parents alerting them of the attempt and providing them with resources (See All Parent Letter/Email). Alert the attempter’s parents that you will be sending this letter/email; that you will not identify the student, but that it is important to keep other vulnerable youth safe.
- Establish a plan for periodic contact with the student while away from school.
- If necessary, plan for class work assignments to be completed at home. If the student is unable to attend school for an extended period, determine how to help the student complete their requirements, e.g., homebound instruction (See Sample Student Re-Entry Plan).
Idaho School Response Guidelines for Suicide and Sudden Death
Suicide crisis response and postvention are critical as they:
- Maintain student and staff safety.
- Provide support to grieving or traumatized victims.
- Screen or refer and follow-up with those who may need more support.
- Reduce the likelihood of imitation for suicide, other self-harm, and violent crises.
Idaho Code §33-136(3)(a) states “Each public school district shall adopt a policy on student suicide prevention. Such policy shall, at a minimum, address procedures relating to suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. As used in this paragraph, "postvention" means counseling or other social care given to students after another student’s suicide or attempted suicide.”
Responsibilities of School Principal or Designee
- Verify the death with law enforcement, coroner’s office, hospital, or family of the deceased. IMPORTANT: The death may be labeled a suicide ONLY AFTER it has been officially determined by the coroner. This determination may take weeks. See the note below if family does not want the death labeled as suicide.
- Convene Crisis Response Team immediately.
- Contact the family of the deceased to express condolences, offer support, ask what students should be told and inquire about funeral arrangements.
- Inform 1) your school district office, 2) the State Department of Education at (208) 332-6960, and 3) administrators of schools where siblings are enrolled or where the deceased recently attended. In tribal communities, the Bureau of Indian Education may notify main offices that notify principals.
- Notify staff. If news of the death is received before the start of the school day, ensure all staff have been contacted via phone tree before start of school and are advised how the school response will proceed. Set up a staff planning session before the school day. Be sure to consider staff who are not regularly part of the school but who may need to know, such as regular substitutes, after-school coaches, leaders of off-campus groups, relevant bus drivers, etc. If news is received during the school day, use your Crisis Response Team procedures for proper handling of staff notification.
- Act as the media spokesperson. Direct all staff to refer all media requests to principal or designee. A prompt response to the media is critical to help mitigate rumors. When speaking with media, focus on the positive steps of the school’s postvention plan to help students through the immediate crisis. Offer warning signs (if coroner has ruled a suicide or confirmed that the death is being investigated as such) and resources where parents and students can get help (See Media Sample Statement). Remind media of safe messaging guidelines (See Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide).
- Ensure office personnel are prepared to deal with calls and in-person visitors concerned with the death (See Office Personnel Phone and Visitor Protocol).
- Schedule a time and place for an after school de-briefing for school personnel to provide emotional support and review next steps.
- Provide information about the death and funeral arrangements to parents of other students when the information becomes available. If the coroner has ruled a suicide or confirmed the death is being investigated, refer to it as such. Include information about support services available to students at school, signs of grief, ideas to help (See What Helps) and other community resources, including the hotline number and warning signs if the death is a suicide (See Parent Sample Letter).
Only refer to the death as a suicide if 1) the coroner has made the official certification and 2) the family of the deceased does not object. Otherwise, refer to it as a sudden death. If the family objects, it may be helpful to have someone from school administration or counseling who has a good relationship with the family contact them and explain that students are already talking, texting, or using social media to discuss the death and that talking with the students about suicide can help keep students safe. If they still object, schools can state, “The family has requested that information about the cause of death not be shared at this time.” The school may then go on with suicide postvention activities without referring to this death as a suicide. Let the family know that the school will be sending out an email with general support and resources to all students’ parents so that they can watch for signs of concern in their own children. A school’s main responsibility is to keep all youth safe.
Keep the school open and as close to normal as possible. For safety purposes, permit students to leave school early only with parental permission and documentation and ask parents to pick up their children in person. If parents are unable to pick up and stay with their children, the students should remain at school to ensure safety. Implement an enhanced system of tracking student attendance. Follow regular school routines to the extent possible.
DO NOT announce news of the death over the loudspeaker or in school assembly. Refer to Crisis Response Team protocols below for proper handling of student notification.
DO NOT empty the deceased’s locker without first contacting the family. The family of the deceased may prefer to do this in privacy or to have school personnel do it for them. Provide quiet time and support to meet their wishes. If the locker becomes a memorial, let students know that items outside will be collected and shared with the family up until the time of the funeral. After the funeral, the school will no longer keep memorials.
Responsibilities of School Crisis Response Team
The school Crisis Response Team manages the emotional fallout within the school community to decrease the potential for imitation (copycat behavior). The team will likely meet several times during the first day.
- Contact law enforcement to verify the facts of the case, if not already obtained in the call by the principal.
- Implement counseling support plan to:
- Assess what resources are needed. Consider requesting resources from neighboring school districts, pre-screening available mental health services, and contacting clergy, if appropriate.
- Clarify responsibilities for support of school personnel, students, and parents with regard to grief counseling, debriefing, etc.
- Designate rooms and personnel for students in crisis. Do not allow bereaved students to congregate in halls or allow large groups in the designated rooms.
- Coordinate with district or community mental health services for additional resources.
- Implement communication plan, which should include:
- Write or review existing scripts for office personnel or other designee — not students — for answering the phone, a staff announcement, a student announcement (by classroom), and parent letter/email. Scripts should be honest and direct (See Classroom Announcements Scripts and Staff Instructions).
- Notify staff. If news of the event happens before the start of the school day, conduct a staff planning session (See Guidelines for Staff Session). If news of the event happens during the school day, or if phone tree notifications were not implemented before the start of school, assign team members to first notify staff who taught the deceased student or other staff who might have had extensive contact. The team member should be accompanied by another adult in case the staff member is unable to continue their duties. Substitutes may be needed.
- Notify closest friends of deceased, if known. Keep in mind the family of the deceased may have the best information about which students were friends and might be at risk. Individually notify any students who may be particularly at risk. Student services staff should provide support immediately and ongoing.
- Notify all staff and students. Read announcement from a written message, class by class. Notify as many classes simultaneously as possible (as resources allow). Provide special support in classes of the deceased student including a student support person to sit in the deceased’s desk throughout the day, or for any teacher or student needing assistance. Pay close attention to students who have attempted suicide or have previously experienced any loss, either by suicide or a recent loss (See Youth Suicide: Helping Your Student).
- Ensure notification of other schools where there are siblings or others who may be affected, including schools where the deceased student was engaged in extracurricular activities or schools where they recently attended.
Only refer to the death as a suicide if 1) the coroner has made the official determination and 2) the family of the deceased does not object. Always stick to the known facts of the case only.
- Manner of Death: If the coroner has not officially determined the death to be a suicide, refer to the event as a sudden death. (See guidelines for actions when the family objects under the DO NOT section for the school principal above.)
- Squelch Rumors: Rumors create more anxiety and trauma. If the coroner has not yet made a ruling, and there are students or anyone sharing undocumented information, take them aside and ask them to keep other vulnerable students safe by sharing only what is determined to be fact.
- If the Family Objects: If the coroner HAS determined the death to be a suicide, but the family objects to that determination being shared, honor the family’s wishes. For the announcements, use “sudden death” and state what the family has requested be shared. However, if students ask or talk about this death as a suicide, tell them that since the topic of suicide has come up, we can discuss it. Be sure to provide students with the hotline number and warning signs and ask them what trusted adult they will talk to if they are concerned about a friend or themselves. Let the family know that the school is sending an email for families to watch for suicide warning signs in their own students.
- EXERCISE DISCRETION about the kind of information shared.
- AVOID EXCESSIVE DETAIL, e.g., discussion of method of death.
- HONOR THE VICTIM BUT DO NOT GLORIFY THE DEATH.
- DO NOT VILIFY THE SUICIDE VICTIM.
- Staff to Follow Schedule: Assign a staff member to follow the deceased student’s schedule, even sit in the deceased’s chair, to observe reactions and comments of students and follow-up as necessary. Let students know that seating assignments will be re-arranged after the funeral.
- Watch for Others at Risk: Identify, monitor, and assist students who are considered at risk for suicide. Follow-up with these individuals and their families, and the school should continue checking in for as long as necessary. All school staff should be especially sensitive to students who are particularly affected by the death such as the deceased’s close friends, peer groups, teams, clubs, etc., including activities at other schools. These students may need to talk about their reactions. Attention to these students may prevent future suicidal behavior. Keep in mind that in small schools, this may mean every student (See Youth Suicide: Helping Your Students).
- Deceased’s Siblings Re-entry: Consider and provide accommodations for reintegration of the deceased student’s siblings. Ensure this is addressed if siblings attend a different school.
- Keep Staff Updated: Conduct daily debriefing with faculty and staff during the crisis and postvention periods.
- Documentation: Document activities as dictated by school protocols. Document social media memorial pages by taking pictures of them before they are taken down, usually 30-60 days after death. Documentation is important as each crisis presents an opportunity to improve the process for handling the next crisis and can help keep schools safe from liability.
Help students find a way to grieve without allowing inappropriate memorial activities. Avoid any activities that glorify, glamorize, or sensationalize the death. “Schools can play an important role in channeling the energy and passion of the students (and greater community) in a positive direction, balancing the community’s need to grieve with the impact that the proposed activity will likely have on students, particularly on those who might be vulnerable to imitation. The school should prioritize protecting students who might be vulnerable to imitation over what might comfort students who want to remember the deceased student (After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools).”
Please note: Memorials should be the same for any student death regardless of cause. Administration should carefully consider the establishment of any permanent marker for any student death. School staff are advised to make assertive, proactive efforts to guide students in the direction of safe activities for grieving and honoring the student who died. Ideas that safely honor the deceased are below.
Do Not Allow Allow AVOID that which other vulnerable youth may see as a way to receive recognition for considering suicide. ALLOW that which honors the student who died and can help the living. Do not allow memorial services within the school building. Assign support staff to attend the funeral service to help monitor students during the service. Do not send all students to the funeral or cancelling classes for the funeral. Allow donations collected for the bereaved family, charities, suicide prevention efforts or youth support programs. Do not fly the flag at half-mast. Suggest positive notes or memories written by those students and staff who wish to be given to the family. Do not allow large student assemblies about the victim or a moment of silence at assemblies. Allow students to leave memorials at the deceased’s locker up to five days or until the day of the funeral, whichever comes first. Do not allow permanent memorials of any kind, e.g. plaques, trees, benches, retirement of a sports jersey, photos of the deceased on school walls or in display cases, etc. Allow pages in school newspapers or yearbooks that treat the dedication equally with that of any other death. Common guidelines suggest a small photograph, name, birth and death dates and something positive about what they did while living. Do not allow visual displays of the deceased’s image, name, death date, etc., on posters, bracelets, t-shirts, or other attire. If this occurs, tell students of the dangers it poses to other vulnerable youth. Do not dedicate of sports events or other events to the deceased.
Other Important Postvention Elements
Social Media: DO assign an appropriate school official to monitor social media related to the deceased student such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. In some cases, the site many need to be taken down particularly if posts or comments are unsafe or traumatizing.
Self-Care: DO remember self-care during this process! Be aware of your own emotional response to these events and take care of yourself (See Self Care for Adults).
Students at the Funeral: DO suggest to the family, if possible, to hold the funeral after-school hours so staff and students might attend. When emailing parents, remind them that attending the funeral with their children will greatly support and help keep students safe.
These guidelines are meant as a basic list of critical functions for school postvention. For a complete postvention guide, see After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools published by SAMSHA.
Also see Children, Teens and Suicide Loss Flip Book published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
For immediate or ongoing questions or concerns, contact the State Department of Education at (208) 332-6960. If you feel any student or staff poses an immediate threat to self or others, contact the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at (208) 398-4357 (HELP), or call 911 if the person has lethal means.
For more information on school-related suicide prevention, intervention and postvention, visit www.sprc.org.
In September of 2020, the Idaho Lives Project was awarded a five-year Project Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (Project AWARE) grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand the capacity of three identified school districts by:
- Increasing awareness of mental and behavioral health concerns among school-aged youth.
- Providing training for school staff and community members to aid them in the identification and response to mental health concerns.
- Connecting students in need of behavioral health treatment and their families with the appropriate services.
ID-AWARE foundationally bridges community and state entities while integrating behavioral health supports and resources at the local level. At the state level, ID-AWARE is a partnership between the State Department of Education, the grant recipient, and the Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Behavioral Health. Both state entities are represented and contribute staff to ID-AWARE. At the local level, three school districts have been identified as pioneering partners in this project: Glenns Ferry, Kimberly, and Marsing.
The following ID-AWARE services will directly impact these three local education agencies (LEAs) and their greater communities:
- Clinicians: ID-AWARE is centered on building a sustainable infrastructure in each school community to house a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) that embeds a full-time, on-site clinician as a support staff team member. The primary function of each clinician is to provide support and clinical services to students and their families. Additionally, clinicians will provide LEA staff and leadership support in crisis situations, as well as provide relief support for school counselors.
- LEA Staff Professional Development: Staff from each LEA will be trained in evidence-based programs that promote wellness and resilience by fostering safe and healthy environments within schools, families, and communities. LEA staff will also receive training specific to suicide prevention, trauma-informed practices, and mental health promotion.
- LEA Evidence-Based Programs and Frameworks: Implementation of school-based programs and frameworks include but are not limited to: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF), Sources of Strength, and Gizmo Social and Emotional Learning.
- Community Services: ID-AWARE seeks to create robust community support initiatives that bolster sustainability and assess solutions to communal deficits while promoting connectedness. These initiatives include a parent support and education group associated with youth mental illness and crises, as well as a community stakeholder collaborative. LEAs will provide training to their communities via Community Event Nights. These events are intended to provide education about how to intervene and offer support to youth and adults experiencing a mental health crisis.
In addition to local services offered, ID-AWARE provides resources at the state-level:
- Mental Health Portal: The creation of the ID-AWARE Mental Health Portal will assist LEAs in their implementation of PBIS, as well as solidify their ISF framework. The portal will also help to scale up and create sustainability of these efforts, as LEAs around the state will have access to the following: professional development training materials, instructional videos, local examples of PBIS and ISF implementation, and a domain to network with other educators and mental health providers throughout the state and beyond. Please check back for more information on this resource. The Project anticipates this resource will launch in May 2021.
- Conferences: Scholarship opportunities will be available to individuals within Idaho to attend local and statewide conferences such as the Idaho Prevention and Support Conference hosted by the State Department of Education. Please see Events & Training for more information and opportunities to attend conferences for free.
- Project AWARE Mental Health Summit: ID-AWARE will host an annual Mental Health Summit featuring keynote speakers and breakout sessions promoting mental health prevention and intervention strategies. Please see Events & Training for more information on this and opportunities to attend for free.
ID-AWARE has a distinguished Advisory Board to guide its work by providing resources, experience, and support. Both state and national experts in the fields of education and mental health sit on the Board. Members volunteer their time, resources, and expertise on behalf of the Project and include:
- Susan Barrett, MA — Director of the Center on Social Behavior Supports, Old Dominion University
- Kelcey Schmitz, MSEd — MTSS School Mental Health Training and TA Specialist, University of Washington-SMART Center
- Dennis Woody, PhD — Pediatric Neuropsychologist and Senior Clinical Program Consultant, Optum
- Anna Almerico — Director, Idaho Out-of-School Network
- Kendra Witt-Doyle, PhD, MPH — Executive Director Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health
In January 2020, the Idaho Lives Project was awarded a five-year Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Youth Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand its youth suicide prevention efforts as well as support youth up to age 24. Through 2024, the Idaho Lives Project will provide the following services in addition to its regularly established suicide prevention services:
- Behavioral Health: In partnership with BPA Health, provide assistance to youth in crisis, their schools, and their families. Please see the Regional Behavioral Health Clinical Case Managers dropdown for more information.
- Training/Programs for Youth: Provide Sources of Strength, an ongoing wellness and suicide prevention program, training to Idaho schools statewide. Please the Sources of Strength FAQ section for more information.
- Clinician Training: Provide expert training in suicide assessment and treatment to mental health, substance use disorder clinicians, and other health care personnel.
The next virtual training opportunity is scheduled for April 7th, 8th, and 9th, 2021 from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm MT. Suicide prevention, assessment and treatment expert and co-developer of Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Suicide Prevention, David Rudd, PhD will provide his suicide assessment and treatment training. This all-day training is free, and CE’s are available. Please see the Events & Training section for more information.
- Training for Adults: Provide trainings in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention to schools, higher education, and any youth or young adults serving organizations.
This Idaho specific training is titled Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction™ (SPFI) is 2.5 hours long. Please submit a training request form and you will be contacted to schedule your training.
- Consultations: Provide consultations on suicide policy, practice, protocols, messaging and research.
- Elementary School Programs: Provide mental health wellness curriculum to elementary school classrooms.
- University Grants: Provide grants to universities for suicide prevention and early intervention activities.
In June 2020, the University of Idaho received a one-year grant to further integrate young adult suicide prevention strategies across multiple sectors with a specific focus on students from underserved populations. The University seeks to assess barriers to accessing tele-psych services, enhance virtual gatekeeper training opportunities, and increase student help-seeking and resiliency.
- Hotline Grant: Provide grants to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline to increase text and chat capabilities.
- Survivor Grant: Provide suicide loss survivor support packets to those who have experienced such a loss.
- Advisory Committee: Maintain and enlist the support and expertise of a Project Advisory Committee.
The GLS Project Advisory Committee (PAC) brings together a diverse group of professionals who volunteer to serve as community partners with the Idaho Lives Project. The committee meets quarterly to share information relevant to supporting statewide suicide prevention efforts among Idaho’s youth.
*All services may be provided virtually
Project Advisory Committee Members
Name Title Representing Aida Midgett Dept. Chair Counseling Education, Boise State University College Youth - BSU Colleen Braga Executive Director, Boys and Girls Club Youth Services Connor Sheldon-Modrow Program Officer, Blue Cross of Idaho Health Services Elda Catalano Chief Probation Officer, Juvenile Justice Probation Juvenile Justice George Austin Supervisor, Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline Prevention Hotline Hannah Crumrine Program Administrator, Idaho Lives Project State School Youth Prevention Josh Rychert Psych. Technician, St. Alphonsus Attempt Survivors Lee Flinn Director, Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline Prevention Hotline Matt Olsen Director, Bannock County Juvenile Justice Juvenile Justice Mike Munger Program Manager, Idaho Office of School Safety & Security School Safety and Climate Robin Sanchez ACSW Director, Casey Family Foster Care Community Ron Stulz Director, Bonner County Juvenile Justice Juvenile Justice Ryan Lindsay Dept. Chair Comm. Public Health, Idaho State University College Youth Shana Thomas Counselor, Duck Valley Reservation Native American Community Shelia Murdock Chairperson, Suicide Prevention Advocate Loss Survivors Starr Shepard Community Programs Manager Clinicians Sue Olszewski Director, Life’s Kitchen Community Youth 12-24
As part of the Garrett Lee Smith grant, the Idaho Lives Project provides funding for a qualified clinical case manager in each of Idaho’s seven public health districts regions. The Idaho Lives Project partners with BPA Health to offer this regional support service to help support.
The Regional Case Managers (RCM) assist the Idaho Lives Project in reintegrating youth up to age 24 who have attempted suicide and provide three crucial services:
- Act as an advocate for students who have made a suicide attempt or have been out of school due to serious suicide ideation, and as a liaison among the student, their family, their school and their mental health provider, or provider agency.
- Provide suicide assessments for youth in cases where the family has no other resources for such an assessment.
- Co-facilitate monthly peer-to-peer suicide attempt survivor support groups for young adults statewide.
Contact your Regional Case Manager by calling the ILP BPA Health Referral Line at (208) 947-5155, Monday – Friday from 8 am to 5 pm MT. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or suicide crisis, contact the Idaho Suicide Prevention at (208) 398-HELP (4357).
Contact your Regional Case Manager by calling the ILP BPA Health Referral Line at (208) 947-5155, Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm MT
Region 1 - Robin Zimpel, LCPC
Region 2 - Angie Edwards, LCSW
Regions 3 and 4 - Lianna Erickson-Trembath LCPC, ACADC
Region 5 - Linda Arrossa, LCPC
Region 6 - Holly Lacey, LPC
Region 7 - Krista Christensen, LCSW
- Idaho Lives Project Informational Brochure | (Printable Version)
- Youth Suicide Prevention - Helping Your Children Brochure | (Printable Version)
- Youth Suicide Prevention - Helping Your Friends Brochure | (Printable Version)
- Youth Suicide Prevention - Helping Your Students Brochure | (Printable Version)
- All Parent Notification Letter/Email
- Confirmation of Parental Contact Form
- Documented Actions List
- Engaging the Parent
- Exchange of Information Form
- Helping Suicidal Youth: Detailed Steps for Counselors
- Questions for Guiding Intervention Set Up
- Safety Plan for Youth
- Self-Care for Adults
- Student re-Entry Plan
Frequently Asked Questions
Sources of Strength is a best practice youth suicide prevention program designed to harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing risky behaviors. The mission of Sources of Strength is to “provide the highest quality, evidence-based prevention for suicide, violence, bullying and substance abuse, by training, supporting, and empowering both peer leader and caring adults to impact their world through the power of connection, hope, help and strength.”
Sources of Strength moves beyond a singular focus on risk factors by utilizing an upstream approach for youth suicide prevention. This upstream model strengthens multiple sources of support (protective factors) around young individuals so that when times get hard, they have strengths to rely on.
Sources of Strength is an evidence-based strategy has been promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and the National Institute for Mental Health. You can read more about the significant association between social connectedness and protection against suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents in this two-part series (read Part 1 | read Part 2) as well as in this Sources of Strength Research Summary.
All public middle, junior, and senior high schools are eligible to apply for the program through the Idaho Lives Project’s annual grant application process. The number of schools selected varies each year and is dependent on funding availability.
In Idaho, the program is provided at no cost to schools selected to receive the program through the Idaho Lives grant application process.
Applications for Sources of Strength middle, junior, and high school training are typically released in late February or early March each year, and usually due in early April.
Schools are typically notified of selection by the end of April.
If your school is not selected, there are three other options you may consider:
- A school may self-fund. The ILP will provide a staff gatekeeper training, initial Sources of Strength training, and Sources of Strength Booster training at no cost. The school is responsible for purchasing the license and materials.
- A school may seek a sponsor for funding, like a local suicide prevention group, local community club, or other organization. The ILP will provide a staff gatekeeper training, initial Sources of Strength training, and Sources of Strength Booster training at no cost. The school is responsible for purchasing the license and materials.
- A school may reach out directly to Sources of Strength national for training. This training costs $5,000, includes Year 1 Sources of Strength initial training, license and materials kit.
Consideration for inclusion as a self-funded school is based on capacity and trainer availability. Schools will not be accepted after the spring semester has begun.
Yes! The Idaho Lives Project supports all Sources of Strength programs in Idaho. We also support all schools with suicide prevention regardless of whether they have a suicide prevention program like Sources of Strength.
No. Each school must apply individually. A district cannot apply on a single application or submit multiple applications for their schools. However, each school in a district can apply separately and we encourage them to collaborate.
Yes, each school selected through the grant application process receives a stipend of $2,500 to be spent on program implementation, and $500 of the $2,500 must go directly to Peer Leader campaigns.
Outside of the Idaho Lives Project grant application process, costs vary depending on the funder or provider. See “If we are not selected…” question for more details.
Your school will be required to:
- Have one staff person act as the main contact for the program.
- Recruit 4 – 10 (depending on school size and other guidance) personnel to act as Adult Advisors for the program. The time commitment is estimated at 4 hours per month. In some circumstances, someone other than a school staff member can be an Adult Advisor, e.g., a well-known, well-connected-to-the-school parent volunteer.
- Require Adult Advisors to participate in two full-day trainings in Year 1 and one full-day training in Year 2 and provide ongoing assistance to student Peer Leaders.
- Require all staff to attend one 2.5-hour suicide prevention gatekeeper training, Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction™ (SPFI).
- Recruit a diverse group of students to act Peer Leaders; allow ALL Peer Leaders to attend one, full-day training, and allow them to conduct Sources of Strength campaigns, presentations, and other activities throughout the year.
- Provide appropriate meeting space for all trainings. The 2.5-hour suicide prevention gatekeeper training requires a room of sufficient size to hold all staff and equipment to project a PowerPoint presentation. The two, full-day trainings require a room of sufficient size to hold all Peer Leaders, Adult Advisors and the trainer(s) sitting in open chairs in a circle configuration. The room must not have ambient or other noise and must be conducive to conversation. Libraries, very large classrooms, or band/orchestra/choir rooms are usually best. Cafeterias and gymnasiums are not appropriate for this training.
- Arrange for lunch to be brought in for both full-day trainings.
- Obtain active parent/guardian consent for all participating Peer Leaders.
- Collect and report all data required by the Idaho Lives Project. This includes annual surveys of Adult Advisors and all staff, Peer Leaders, annual status reports and self-evaluation reports from Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders, and monthly Suicide Ideation Referral Forms from your schools mental health staff member(s), e.g., counselor, social worker, nurse. Most data collection tools are available electronically and take little time. Data related to the Source program will be returned to the schools so they may evaluate program effectiveness and utilize data for other funding opportunities.
Peer Leaders are integral to the success of the Sources of Strength program. They also ensure all students know they have trusted adults and strengths. Most successful Sources programs provide Peer Leaders with time during the school day to meet and plan activities. Schools have allowed Peer Leaders to meet during homeroom or advisory hours a couple of times per week/month depending on length of time, rotate through class periods once or twice a month so they only miss one class a semester, or create a class period for them and assign a leadership credit. Contact ILP for more information about creating and maintaining successful programs.
Sources of Strength Elementary is a universal classroom program for grades 3 – 6. The program incorporates the strength-based prevention approach used in middle, junior, and senior high schools. The elementary model continues to move further upstream, increasing health and wellness, and decreasing negative downstream outcomes through empowering individuals and communities full of connection, belonging and resilience. The content is designed to be delivered in 12 units with several lessons that build upon the unit topic. Lessons are approximately 30 minutes and typically facilitated one to two times per week by trained staff. You can learn more by visiting https://sourcesofstrength.org/elementary/.
The Idaho Lives Project received a one-time funding opportunity to “pilot” the Sources of Strength Elementary program during the 2020/2021 school year. Through a grant application process, 16 elementary schools were selected to receive the program and attended a two-day training where they learned about the content and developed the capacity to coach and support classroom instructors.
Based on the feedback received from these early adopters and the availability of continued funding, the Idaho Lives Project will determine whether a second grant opportunity will be opened for the 2021/2022 school year.
Yes, staff can earn one professional development credit through Boise State University. The cost is $60 and there are specific requirements that must be fulfilled. Please contact ILP at email@example.com or (208) 999-0137 for more information.
Both Boise State University and the University of Idaho have Sources of Strength programs. The Idaho Lives Project Regional Coordinators will be asking schools for the names of graduating Peer Leaders so they can be welcomed to the BSU and U of I Sources programs. If you would like to join the team and have not been a Peer Leader, contact ILP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you were a Peer Leader at an Idaho high school or an out-of-state high school, the Idaho Lives Project can help you identify colleges with Sources programs. Contact ILP at email@example.com.
The Idaho Lives Projects offers two separate suicide prevention trainings. Both trainings are available to K-12 public schools, colleges, and universities at no cost.
Online training: QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention is evidence-based and takes approximately two hours to complete. Access the training here.
In-person or virtual training: Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction™ (SPFI) is evidence-informed and is 2.5 hours. This training is Idaho specific and covers intervention and postvention in addition to prevention. Please submit a training request form and you will be contacted to schedule your training.
To learn more about QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer), please visit the QPR Institute online.
Suicide prevention trainings are intended for adults who interact with youth or young adults. This may include, teachers, parents, administrators, school staff, grandparents, coaches, law enforcement, juvenile justice, clubs, youth group staff — anyone who interacts with youth and young adults. Anyone who has interactions with youth is in a position to notice suicide warning signs.
No, youth younger than 18 should not attend either suicide prevention training. The content is specifically for adults and allowing youth to attend may normalize suicide.
Yes, both trainings have been approved by the State Department of Education toward an in-service credit for school personnel, and CEs are available for the SPFI training. Please contact ILP at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 999-0137 for more information.
Behavioral and medical providers will have an opportunity to participate in a training (or more) from David Rudd, PhD who is nationally known for his work in suicide prevention, assessment and treatment expert and is the co-creator of Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Suicide Prevention.
Look under the Events & Training tab for announcements about training dates and open registration. Idaho Lives Project staff will send a direct link for those who request it in advance as well as email our contacts.
Dr. Rudd’s training is free! However, space is limited so it is important to watch the website. When delivered in-person, participants are responsible for their own travel.
CEs are always offered, and CMEs and college credit may be available if their respective bodies approve. Please contact ILP at email@example.com or (208) 999-0137 for more information.
A few months after completing the training, you will be sent a brief survey to see whether the training has been useful to you. If you choose, you may also have the opportunity to be listed as a Dr. Rudd-trained clinician. To be listed you will be contacted about your business information and your ability and willingness to take clients who are suicidal.
If families have Medicaid, Optum Idaho has behavioral health assigned by region. In addition, ILP Regional Coordinators keep lists of resources for their area. Optum has expanded their program in summer 2020 to include special programs after school and in the summer for youth who qualify. Most insurance companies offer some limited services, so families should always contact their insurance provider first. To locate services that do not require insurance, call 211.
Regional Case Managers are available through BPA Health to assist youth, their families, schools, and behavioral health providers or agencies for free. These services apply if a young person has made a suicide attempt, or if a young person is experiencing serious suicidality that requires a suicide assessment and the family has no other assessment resource.
Contact your Regional Case Manager by calling the ILP BPA Health Referral Line at (208) 947-5155, Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm MT.
Many schools have professionals such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, or nurses designated to help with brief mental health interventions. Some schools contract with behavioral health services in the area who come to the school to provide services to students and families. Check with your school to see what services are offered.
If a student is suicidal and needs support, the school, or family should request assistance from a Regional Case Manager whose services may include assessing suicide risk, supporting the student and family throughout the crisis and helping with school re-entry if needed.
Contact your Regional Case Manager by calling the ILP BPA Health Referral Line at (208) 947-5155, Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm MT.
Check with your school counselor or administration to see what is available at your school and how to access those services. Always contact your insurance provider to see which providers are covered. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline welcomes calls, even non-crisis, and can advise on next steps for help. If this is a crisis, please call the Hotline at (208) 398-HELP (4357). Always dial 911 if a suicide is imminent.
BPA Health Regional Case Managers can provide suicide assessments for youth in cases where the family has no other resources for such an assessment. Contact your Regional Case Manager by calling the ILP BPA Health Referral Line at (208) 947-5155, Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm MT.
Costs vary and depend on the service. For instance, schools that have their own behavioral health teams may be able to assess the student or family needs and address them at the school. If a school determines more help is needed, they will make suggestions about local behavioral health agencies which provide information about the cost of their services. Some services may be free. Schools that have contracted with outside behavioral health providers may help set up appointments and places to meet. BPA Health Regional Case Managers are available to assist youth, their families, schools, and behavioral health agency or provider for free if this involves a suicide attempt or serious suicide risk.
The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline welcomes calls from those who are in crisis or who are worried about someone else. School counselors are generally available to also screen in a mental health crisis or to help set up an appointment for a full assessment. Please do not wait if you are worried as you may save someone’s life. If you feel someone is imminently suicidal (they have lethal means and have stated that they are going to kill themselves), call 911. Be sure to restrict means unless doing so puts you in danger. Please also see the Help and Resources FAQ dropdown.
Postvention is counseling or other social care given to students, staff or community members after a suicide or attempted suicide. “Postvention is a term used to describe activities that help people cope with emotional distress resulting from a suicide and prevent additional trauma that could lead to further suicidal behavior and deaths, especially among people who are vulnerable.” (After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools, AFSP, 2018).
The Idaho Lives Project provides postvention support to all Idaho schools and school communities in response to any sudden death which impacts students or schools, not just suicide.
Evidence-based postvention is really prevention as we never know who is vulnerable or at risk for suicide. School, colleges and workplaces… “need reliable information, practical tools, and pragmatic guidance to help the protect [those at risk], to communicate with the public and return to their primary mission of education students” [and conducting business]. (After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools, AFSP, 2018). Postvention also provides survivors of suicide loss ways to deal with loss in a safe way that promotes the grieving process and connects resources for continued healing.
If there has been a death in your school community, please alert Dr. Eric Studebaker with the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE) at (208) 404-1532. The SDE will contact the ILP team and our Program Specialist will reach out to offer support for implementing postvention guidelines. At your request, the ILP Program Specialist and Regional Coordinators are available to assist your school or school community.
A loss survivor has had a family member, co-worker, or close friend die by suicide. Attempt survivors engaged in a behavior(s) to end their lives.
The Idaho Lives Project is developing attempt survivor groups for young adults 18 years and older. Suicide attempt survivors who are interested will be asked to meet a few criteria to ensure group participation is helpful and positive. The groups are tentatively scheduled to be available in summer 2021.
Contact the ILP to locate an attempt survivor group for young adults 18 and older. More information will be available in 2021.
Suicide loss survivor support groups are available throughout the state. For a list of groups, see Idaho Suicide Loss Survivor Support Groups.
There are free youth loss survivor support groups in:
- Boise and Meridian through the Children’s Home Society of Idaho’s Touchstone grieving group.
- Lewiston through the Willow Center for Grieving Children.
- Twin Falls through Because Kids Grieve.
For youth, please see this Developmental Responses to Grief flipbook from the Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families.
You can order Loss Survivor Support Packets from the Suicide Prevention Program. The Idaho Lives Project can also provide your school with a support packet at your request.
Please visit the American Association of Suicidiology’s Suicide Loss Survivors webpage and download A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide as well as visit friendsforsurvivial.org.
If they have made a serious attempt, call 911 or, if appropriate, take them to the ER. If someone is in a mental health or suicide crisis, contact the Idaho Suicide Prevention at (208) 398-HELP (4357).
Please contact ILP at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 999-0137 for additional information and resources to help support your school community.
If they have made a serious attempt, call 911 or, if appropriate, take them to the ER. If someone is in a mental health or suicide crisis, contact the Idaho Suicide Prevention at (208) 398-HELP (4357).
Crisis centers are available in all seven regions of the state. If the young adult is in college, there may be on-campus support. You may always walk into an ER if you are very concerned. You might request that CIT-trained law enforcement come to assess the young adult for a 72-hour hold if deemed helpful. Be sure to apprise law enforcement of the situation; be sure the young adult knows what you are doing if appropriate and that he/she is unarmed. It is always okay to share what you have observed with any of the practitioners that become involved; however, if a young adult is over 18 and you do not have a confidentiality release, you will not be given information back.
For more information about helping those who have made an attempt, please contact ILP at email@example.com or (208) 999-0137.
The first step is to call 911, and if you or another person can, try to identify the physical location of the person who is posting or threatening. Give as much specific information as you can to the police or campus security. If the post is an unspecified threat — vague, or not in crisis, immediately forward the post to the school/campus counselor, parent of the author or the hotline. Follow up with right away with a phone call to whomever you sent the post to ensure they got it and are alerted to your concerns.
If you cannot identify the person posting about suicide, reach out to the safety team of the social media application on which you found the posting. For a complete list of social media safety teams, see https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/safety-and-support-on-social-media/.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare established a Suicide Prevention Program (SPP) in 2016. The program oversees the coordination of statewide suicide prevention efforts. Please visit the SPP website to learn more about statewide efforts in addition to looking at the goals from the Idaho Suicide Prevention Plan.
It is critical that students who select suicide prevention as their project are mentored and monitored to ensure safety and accuracy of content. For guidance and assistance with this, please contact ILP at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 999-0137.
Depending on funding and availability, the Idaho Lives Project helps schools implement suicide prevention programs through its annual grant application process. Schools may choose the program or training that best meets the unique needs of their students and staff.
The Idaho Lives Project has the infrastructure in place to provide Sources of Strength to secondary schools as well as Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction (SPFI)™ and online Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) gatekeeper trainings to adults.
In addition, other offerings have been reviewed for key components and safe messaging by a group of Idaho stakeholders and subject matter experts. Please refer to Program Analysis Summary: Staff Gatekeeper and Program Analysis Summary: Youth Programs to inform your selection of the most appropriate program to meet your school’s needs.
The Idaho Lives Project will provide funds to cover some or all the actual cost of the program or training based on annual funding availability. Regardless of which program is chosen, safe messaging guidelines are critical when addressing suicide prevention. Please see the youth safe messaging guidelines.
The Idaho Lives Project has the capacity to offer the following trainings to schools and youth servicing community organizations at no cost. All trainings are subject to resources and availability.
Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Trainings
Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction (SPFI)™
SPFI™ is a regularly updated, evidence-informed training which addresses the following topics:
- Understanding the suicidal mind and why people die by suicide
- What is true and false about suicide
- State, national, and regional suicide statistics
- Suicide warning signs
- How to ask, and practice asking, the suicide question
- Getting those at risk to help
- How to instill hope and increase protective factors
- Postvention and helping survivors of suicide loss
- The importance of safety and proper messaging
The training is 2.5 hours and can be facilitated in-person or virtually. SPFI™ can be tailored to specific audiences. The training is for adults 18 years or older.
QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention
Much like CPR, QPR is an emergency mental health intervention for suicidal persons. This evidence-based training follows three steps: 1) Question the individual's desire or intent regarding suicide, 2) Persuade the person to seek and accept help, and 3) Refer the person to appropriate resources. As a QPR-trained Gatekeeper you will learn:
- How to Question, Persuade and Refer someone who may be suicidal
- How to get help for yourself or learn more about preventing suicide
- The common causes of suicidal behavior
- The warning signs of suicide
- How to get help for someone in crisis
The training is offered online and takes approximately 2 hours to complete, although trainees are encouraged to move at their own pace. Trainees receive a QPR booklet and wallet card as a review and resource tool that includes local referral resources. The training is for adults 18 years or older.
Think Strengths is a training that combines information from Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction (SPFI)™ and, a national evidence-based program to explore healthy coping mechanisms and support the mental health of attendees.
In addition, the training explores eight protective factors, depicted in the wheel of strength, to help attendees develop resilience in themselves and their communities. The training is 3 to 4 hours, can be facilitated in-person or virtually, and can be tailored to specific audiences. The training is for adults 18 years or older.
Sources of Strength Trainings
The Sources Introductory training offers attendees a brief but comprehensive overview of suicide prevention and Sources of Strength. The training addresses suicide prevention topics such as:
- Suicide warning signs
- How to ask, and practice asking, the suicide question
- Getting those at risk to help
The training also introduces attendees to Sources of Strength, a nationally recognized strength-based wellness program that focuses on youth suicide prevention but impacts other issues such as substance abuse and violence. This portion of the training explores eight protective factors, depicted in the wheel of strength, to help attendees learn how they could support student well-being by implementing a Sources of Strength program in their school or community.
The training is 1 to 1.5 hours, can be facilitated in-person or virtually, and can be tailored to specific audiences. The training is for adults 18 years or older.
Mini Sources of Strength
The Mini Sources of Strength training is a condensed Peer Leader training for youth groups. Peer Leaders are students on a Sources of Strength team who uses their stories of strength and their influence to positively impact and change school norms and culture through strength-based messages. Attendees do not need a Sources of Strength team to learn about the eight protective factors, depicted in the wheel of strength, and benefit from this interactive and engaging training.
The training is 1 to 2 hours, can be facilitated in-person or virtually, and can be tailored to specific audiences. The training is for youth 24 years or younger.
Sources of Strength Adult Advisor
The Adult Advisor training teaches members of a school or community how to foster an environment of strength among staff, Peer Leaders, and students, and work to facilitate safe, strategic, and strength-based campaigns/activities within their school and community. Adult Advisors will receive an overview of the Sources of Strength history and philosophy including:
- Upstream Prevention
- Peer Led and Social Network Theory
- Sources of Strength model and wheel
- Shared risks and protective factors approach
- Active learning techniques
Adult Advisors will also learn how to recruit, engage, and empower a diverse group of Peer Leaders to fidelity and facilitate Peer Leader meetings plus effective Hope, Help, and Strength messaging strategies for campaign planning.
If facilitated in-person, the training is 6 hours. If facilitated virtually, the training is 3.5 hours. The training is for adult members of a Sources of Strength team in middle, junior, or senior high school. Your school’s entire Adult Advisor team is required to attend.
Sources of Strength Peer Leader
The Peer Leader training teaches youth to use their stories of strength and their influence to positively impact and change school norms and culture through strength-based messages. Peer Leaders are those students in middle, junior, or senior high who have influence within diverse peer groups. The training promotes and focuses on connectivity, school bonding, student-adult partnerships, and help seeking behaviors. Trained peer leaders will use their network of friends to:
- Have one-on-one conversations about protective factors, seeking help, and reducing mental health stigma
- Develop a Hope, Help, Strength poster or PSA program
- Present peer-to-peer presentations
- Develop video, internet, or texting messages
Both Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders are required to attend the training. To support the facilitation of the Peer Leader training, Adult Advisors commit to more time the day of the training. If facilitated in-person, the training is 6 hours for Peer Leaders and 6.5 hours for Adult Advisors. If facilitated virtually, the training is 2.25 hours for Peer Leaders and 2.75 hours for Adult Advisors.
Sources of Strength Booster
The Booster training helps schools with established Sources of Strength programs to regroup as a team and kickstart their program at the beginning of the school year. Adult Advisors review how to support Peer Leaders and lead the program to fidelity. Peer Leaders receive a full Peer Leader training (See Peer Leader training description). During the training, the Sources of Strength team will collaborate on the development of the first campaign of the year.
Both Adult Advisors and Peer Leaders are required to attend the training. To support the facilitation of the Peer Leader training, Adult Advisors commit to more time the day of the training. If facilitated in-person, the training is 6 hours for Peer Leaders and 7 hours for Adult Advisors. If facilitated virtually, the training is 2.25 hours for Peer Leaders and 2.75 hours for Adult Advisors.
Year 2 schools receive this training as part of their grant award through the Idaho Lives Project. Year 3 and beyond (Legacy) schools must submit an application requesting a Booster training, which subject to trainer availability.
Sources of Strength Refresher
The Refresher training is a condensed Adult Advisor training for Sources of Strength teams needing additional support to ensure their program is implemented to fidelity. Schools requesting a Refresher training are typically in Year 2 or beyond in program implementation with a strong and engaged Peer Leader group. Idaho Lives Project Regional Coordinators work with schools to develop an individual training model to meet the needs of the school. As such, the training varies in length and activities. This training is for Adult Advisors.
Sources of Strength Reboot
The Reboot training is a complete “reboot” of a Sources of Strength program that needs support to ensure the program is implemented to fidelity. Typically, Year 3 and beyond (Legacy) schools receive a Reboot training. Your school may wish to consider a Reboot if two or more of your Adult Advisors have not received training, if your Peer Leader group is struggling, or if your Peer Leader team no longer represents the student population. Schools that have gone more than one year without producing a Sources of Strength campaign may also wish to consider whether a Reboot is necessary.
As part of the Reboot training, your school will receive one Suicide Prevention Fundamentals Instruction (SPFI)™, one Adult Advisor training, and one Peer Leader training. Please see the descriptions above for information about each individual training.