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March 3, 2022
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JP O'Hare

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Mental Health Education and Suicide Prevention Resources Now Available for Schools to Develop Policies to Help Students

Guide Addresses Role of School Crisis Teams and Identifying Risk Factors for Suicide

Important guidance and resources are now available to assist schools to develop vital policies to identify students in mental health crisis, intervene effectively, and prevent suicide risks for students, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced today. Pediatric mental health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently declared pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health a national emergency. The Guide for Suicide Prevention for School Personnel provides tools to help administrators, teachers, and school staff identify and react to students' anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

“All students need to know they are not alone and there are caring, compassionate people in their schools who can help them,” Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. said. “Teachers and school staff who are with students every day serve an essential role in recognizing when students are struggling. Schools should use these materials to increase mental health resources and put suicide prevention policies in place. We must get this right for our students and their families.”

“Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students is a fundamental role of schools that is even more important now when so many young people experienced devastating loss, isolation, and trauma during the pandemic,” Commissioner Rosa said. “Schools should nurture the opportunity for students to develop caring relationships with teachers and school staff. It is critical school personnel have the tools to identify and act when a student is in psychological pain. We will continue to work with our partners at the Office of Mental Health to ensure our schools have these life-saving resources.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association also found suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24. Curricula that are developmentally appropriate and integrate social emotional learning, suicide prevention, and mental health education as a foundation for health, safety, and wellness for all students are fundamental to decreasing the risk of suicide in youth.

The new Guide addresses prevention, risk factors, the role of the school crisis team, and best practices to address suicide risk assessment, among other topics. NYSED has provided sample protocols, and forms schools can customize to meet their individualized needs.

The Department developed this resource as a companion guide to the expansive New York State Office of Mental Health’s A Guide for Suicide Prevention in New York Schools. The new guide is a collaboration between the Department and the Office of Mental Health Suicide Prevention Center. It includes input from the New York State Association of School Psychologists, the New York State School Counselors Association, and the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research.

As the first state in the nation to require mental health education, NYSED, aligned to its guiding principle of a service-oriented approach through technical assistance and the release of guidance documents, has worked consistently to provide extensive guidance and resources to help schools tailor instruction and programs based on needs identified at the local level.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In New York, an anonymous texting service is also available 24/7. Text GOT5 to 741741.