Youth Suicide Prevention

Youth Suicide Prevention
Posted on 03/31/2016

Schools in Wisconsin serve a role that is much larger than what is measured on report cards and standardized assessments. In conjunction with state law, each year the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) distributes literature to schools about preventing youth suicide. The information that is shared with school staff members focuses on the complexity of youth suicide, warning signs for staff members to be aware of, and instructions for what staff members can do when concerned about a student. According to the DPI, teachers and other school staff are well-positioned to observe student behavior and to act if there is a suspicion that a student may consider self-harm. By working together between our school and community, we can reduce the risk of youth suicide in Menomonie.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem; but for kids, their problems can seem endless at this stage. If we get them through the crisis, there is a 90 percent chance that they will never attempt suicide. ACT stands for Acknowledging feelings instead of minimizing them; Caring for the student by showing concern and taking the next step, and Telling a member of the school district’s crisis team, which often includes building principals and guidance counselors.

According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), multiple factors are involved when someone dies by suicide, and oversimplifying the reasons someone takes their own life is not helpful. Research suggests factors that might contribute to suicide include biological factors, precipitating factors, and triggering events. Examples of biological factors include mental illness or losing a family member to suicide. Precipitating factors include poor grades, attending an unsafe school, victimization, or family rejection. Crisis/triggering events include experiencing a major loss, humiliation or bullying, and having access to lethal means. Suicide is a complex problem that is often misunderstood when oversimplified.

The DPI literature states, “Suicide doesn’t usually happen out of the blue—there are often warning signs for others to see or hear.” It is suggested that everyone get the FACTs and know the suicidal thinking signs of students, friends, and family members. 

The “FACTs” from the AAS include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, rage, feeling trapped or having no sense of purpose in life.

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, withdrawing from friends, family, and society, increased alcohol or drug use, and giving away prized possessions.

  • Changes that include a decline in the quality of school work, dramatic mood changes, anxiety, agitation, and a change of eating or sleeping habits.

  • Threats that include threatening or talking about hurting self.

Local mental health resources, including information about 24-hour crisis assistance, are also available through the Dunn County Health Department.  The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program proclaims that “It’s OK to Ask4Help!” by calling 1-800-273-TALK.

There is a misconception that asking about suicide can cause a student to attempt it. According to the Department of Public Instruction, this issue has been thoroughly studied, and asking a student about suicidal intent does not cause a student to attempt suicide. Additionally, state law insulates all public and private school district employees and volunteers from civil liability for their acts and omissions when trying to intervene in a student’s possible suicide. The legislature found it so important that adults take action when a student is suicidal that they insulated those adults from civil liability for their efforts with suicidal students. 

Should school stakeholders have any questions about Youth Suicide Prevention, or anything else in our school district, I invite you to visit the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue or contact me at 715-232-1642.  More information about our schools can be found on the school district website ( and on Twitter (

This column is another reminder of the same information that was shared last year.