Programs and Initiatives in Schools – Suicide Prevention

Programs & Initiatives in Schools
Suicide Prevention

If you need free and confidential support call the
National Suicide Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
If you need immediate medical help call 911.

In 2016, suicide is the leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 17 years old. The agonizing grief, fear and confusion of this tragic loss of life is not limited to the immediate family, but also impacts schools and communities.

There is not a single path that leads to suicide. Rather, a combination of factors can increase an individual’s risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Some factors include serious mental illness, substance abuse, painful loss, violence and social isolation.

Suicide is preventable. To most effectively prevent suicide, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, communities and schools need to take a comprehensive approach.

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in a school includes many strategies like:

  • Leading trainings and developing procedures to identify and assist students at-risk
  • Implementing curriculums to help students develop life skills and help seeking behaviors
  • Promoting connectedness and wellness activities
  • Delivering programming to support students’ academic performance

Community Partners Preventing Suicide can help your school

Our suicide prevention staff will work with individual schools to assess and plan a school-specific comprehensive suicide prevention plan.

If your school is interested, you will need to form a Core Team of three to four staff members. The Core Team will work with our prevention staff to assess, develop and implement a two-year plan. We suggest the Core Team include a teacher, counseling staff, support staff and principal.

Steps to implement a comprehensive school suicide prevention program

  1. Contact our prevention staff and let them know your school is interested. Our staff will walk you through the process, help you recruit your Core Team, and help assess your school’s awareness of current suicide prevention related activities.
  2. Identify 10 to 12 staff to take an anonymous online survey of current suicide prevention activities. The suicide prevention staff will help you identify who should take the survey. Suggested participants include: teachers, bus drivers, cooks, front desk staff, nurse, student resource officers, coaches, parent organization chair, etc.
  3. Schedule a two-hour meeting with our prevention staff to identify current resources and strategies, and develop recommendations and next steps to enhance suicide prevention in your school. At this meeting, we will review the findings of your survey and the Minnesota Student Survey, and go through a school prevention checklist.
  4. Our staff will schedule a follow-up meeting to review key findings of the assessment, prioritize recommendations and co-develop a two-year work plan.
  5. Implement your school-specific comprehensive suicide prevention plan with support from our prevention staff.

Examples of suicide prevention activities in schools


  • Gatekeeper trainings QPR and safeTALK – Gatekeeper trainings QPR and safeTALK teach the warning signs of suicide crisis and how to respond.
  • Postvention training – Postvention trainings teach activities that promote healing and reduce risk in a community after a suicide death occurs.
  • Mental Health First Aid – Mental Health First Aid trainings teach people how to help someone experiencing mental health or substance use challenges.
  • ACEs training – ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs can include traumatic experiences in a person’s life that can impact their health and well-being.
  • Kognito At-Risk for PK-12 Educators - A set of interactive role-play online simulation gatekeeper trainings about mental health and suicide prevention that supports improved student wellness and school safety.  

View the list of trainings available through Community Partners Preventing Suicide.

Update or develop policies and procedures

  • Crisis emergency response
  • At-risk student identification – including staff training
  • Suicide risk screening
  • At-risk student referral process
  • Response after a suicide attempt
  • Response after a suicide death

Identify and promote mental health and addiction services such as:

  • Local mobile crisis response teams – Local mobile response teams offer emergency mental health crisis services.
  • Al-Anon teen group – Al-Anon Teens provide support for teenagers who are affected by someone else’s alcoholism.
  • TXT4Life – TXT4Life is a suicide prevention resource for Minnesota residents. They can help with relationship issues, general mental health, and suicide.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources, and best practices for professionals.

Get started

Contact the suicide prevention coordinator in your area:

  • Northwestern Region (Kittson, Marshall, Mahnomen, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake Counties)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey
  • Brainerd Lakes Region (Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena Counties)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey
  • Hennepin County
    Contact: Melissa Dau 
  • Western Region (Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Redwood and Yellow Medicine Counties)
    Contact: Melissa Dau
  • Great River – Gichiziibi Region (Becker, Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard and Itasca Counties)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey
  • Red Lake, Leech Lake, White Earth, Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux, Little Earth and U.S. Indian Health Services
    Contact: Luther Talks

For any additional information on suicide prevention or if your area isn't listed above, contact State Suicide Prevention Coordinator Amy Lopez.