A Resource For Teachers and Other School Staff
Worldwide, suicide is among the top five causes of mortality in the 15- to 19- year age group. In many countries it ranks first or second as a cause of death among both boys and girls in this age group.
Suicide prevention among children and adolescents is therefore a high priority. Given the fact that in many countries and regions most people in this age group attend school, this appears to be an excellent place to develop appropriate preventive action.
This document is primarily aimed at schoolteachers and other school staff, such as school counsellors, school doctors, nurses and social workers, and members of school boards of governors. However, public health professionals and other groups interested in suicide prevention programs will also find the information provided useful. The document briefly describes the dimension of suicidal behavior in adolescence, presents the main protective and risk factors behind this behavior, and indicates how to identify and manage individuals at risk
and also how to act when suicide is attempted or committed in the school community.
Currently, suicide among children below the age of 15 years is generally uncommon. Most suicides among children aged up to 14 probably take place in early adolescence, while suicide is rarer still before the age of 12. However, in some countries there is an alarming increase in suicides among children aged less than 15, as well as in the 15- to 19- year age group.
Suicide methods vary between countries. In some countries, for example, the use of pesticides is a common suicide method, whereas in others intoxication with medicines and car exhausts and the use of guns are more frequent. Boys die from suicide much more often than girls; one reason may be that they resort to violent methods of committing suicide, such as hanging, firearms and explosives, more frequently than girls. However, in some countries suicide
is more frequent among girls aged 15-19 than among boys in the same age group, and over the past decade the proportion of girls using violent methods has risen.
Whenever feasible, the best approach to school-based suicide prevention activities is teamwork that includes teachers, school doctors, school nurses, school psychologists and school social workers, working in close cooperation with community agencies.
Having suicidal thoughts now and then is not abnormal. They are part of the normal development process in childhood and adolescence, as are working on existential problems and trying to understand life, death, and the meaning of life. Questionnaire surveys show that more than half of upper-secondary students report that they have entertained thoughts of suicide.
Young people need to discuss these topics with adults. Suicidal thoughts become abnormal in children and adolescents when the realization of those thoughts seems to be the only way out of their difficulties. There is then a serious risk of attempted suicide or suicide.
Supporting Minds: An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health and Well-Being
By the Hamilton-Wentworth Student Support Leadership Initiative (SSLI), in collaboration with the Child and Youth Mental Health Information Network.
In June 2011, the Ontario government released the document Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, which outlined a comprehensive strategy for addressing mental health and addiction problems. The aim of the strategy is to “reduce the burden of mental illness and addictions by ensuring that all Ontarians have timely access to an integrated system of excellent, coordinated and efficient promotion, prevention, early intervention, community support and treatment programs”.
The focus for the first three years of the strategy is on children and youth, with supports targeting three key areas: fast access to high-quality services, early identification and support, and help for vulnerable children and youth with unique needs (see Appendix A). Because schools and school boards play an important role in promoting awareness, prevention, and early intervention, and in connecting students to community services, the strategy explicitly recognizes the need to build school-based capacity in this area.
The present document, Supporting Minds, was created in response to this need. It was developed on the basis of a comprehensive survey of current research as well as consultation with experts and practitioners in the field, It provides educators with the information they need to support students with mental health and addiction problems through early recognition and effective classroom strategies.
By offering strategies to assist some of our most vulnerable students, this guide reinforces the three core priorities for education:
- high levels of student achievement
- reduced gaps in student achievement
- increased public confidence in publicly funded education
Supporting Minds is intended to complement, rather than supersede, school board initiatives related to promoting student mental health and well-being.
Mental health problems have a variety of causes and take a variety of forms. Their treatment may involve several types of intervention and support, which need to be delivered in an integrated and carefully coordinated way. The form of the response will be guided primarily by the insights and expertise of mental health professionals. However, because educators play an important role in the lives of most children and youth, they need to be aware of mental health issues that may affect students and understand how to contribute to a multifaceted response.
Concern is growing in our society about the number of children and youth who are experiencing mental health problems. At the same time, our education system in Ontario is focused on making schools safe and accepting, and on meeting the needs of all students by providing the kind of instruction and assessment that is “necessary for some and good for all”
Every day, educators see students who are struggling – students who engage in challenging behavior and act out, or who are withdrawn and anxious. Such behavior may signal problems that can interfere with students’ achievement at school and their social functioning. While educators cannot and should not attempt to diagnose mental health problems, they have an important role in:
- promoting positive mental health at school;
- identifying students who may have mental health problems; and
- connecting those students with appropriate services.
This resource guide is designed to help educators understand more about mental health in order to promote the mental health of all students. It provides information to help educators recognize students who may be experiencing distress and support them in their pathway to care. The guide discusses the role of educators in recognizing students who may be at risk of developing mental health problems and outlines ways in which educators can promote the mental health and well-being of all students. It offers suggestions for talking about mental health with parents and students. It also provides information about the types of mental health problems children and youth may experience, including the signs, symptoms, causes, and frequency of different types of problems and their potential impact on student learning. Most importantly, it offers strategies for enhancing students’ ability to function at school both academically and socially.
Lesson plan: Impact! How to Make a Difference When You Witness Bullying Online (Grades: 7 to 9)
By Media Smarts
In this lesson students discuss reasons why they might be reluctant to intervene when they witness cyber bullying and identify ways that they can help without making things worse. They then use the interactive tool Impact! How to Make a Difference When You Witness Bullying Online to help them decide how to navigate scenarios relating to being a witness to bullying, and share their experiences to help them understand how important it is to think carefully before you act. Finally, students learn about “decision trees” and other info-graphics and create an original info-graphic to communicate what they’ve learned about how to intervene when they witness cyber bullying.
You can make an impact: How witnesses react can make a BIG difference in stopping cyber bullying and making it hurt less.
Lots of times kids will say they’re not bullying, they’re ‘just joking’ – in fact, it’s the number one reason for being mean online. Other times, people will play down how serious the situation really is.
It can be hard speaking out when cyber bullying happens for a whole pile of reasons, but what you say and do is really important.