Parent notification is a vital part of suicide prevention. Parents need to be informed and actively involved in decisions regarding their child’s welfare. Even if a child is judged to be at low risk for suicidal behavior, schools will ask parents to sign a Notification of Emergency Conference form to indicate that relevant information has been provided. These notifications must be documented. Additionally, parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have information critical to making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviors.
After a school notifies a parent of their child’s risk for suicide and provides referral information, the responsibility falls upon the parent to seek mental health assistance for their child. Parents must:
- Continue to take threats seriously: Follow through is important even after the child calms down or informs the parent “they didn’t mean it.” Avoid assuming that the behavior is attention seeking.
- Access school supports: If parents are uncomfortable with following through on referrals, they can give the school psychologist permission to contact the referral agency, provide referral information, and follow up on the visit. The school can also assist in providing transportation to get the parent and child to the referral agency.
- Maintain communication with the school. After such an intervention, the school will also provide follow-up supports. Your communication will be crucial to ensuring that the school is the safest, most comfortable place for your child.
The Role of the School in Suicide Prevention
Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel.
Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is embedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a trustful student/adult relationship.
Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff to be familiar with and watchful for risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide.
These individuals conduct suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow up counseling and support at school.