SUICIDE PREVENTION

ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATION - 5141.52

The Governing Board of the Irvine Unified School District recognizes that suicide is a leading cause of death among youth and that an even greater amount of youth consider (17 percent of high school students) and attempt suicide (more than 8 percent of high school students). (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015)

The Suicide Prevention policy is based on research and best practices in suicide prevention, and has been adopted with the understanding that suicide prevention activities decrease suicide risk, increase help-seeking behavior, identify those at risk of suicide, and decrease suicidal behaviors. Empirical evidence refutes a common belief that talking about suicide can increase risk or “place the idea in someone’s mind”.

Overall Strategic Plan for Suicide Prevention

To ensure the policies regarding suicide prevention are properly adopted, implemented, and updated, the Coordinator of Intervention and Prevention will serve as the suicide prevention point of contact for the District. In addition, each school shall identify at least one staff member to serve as the liaison to the Coordinator of Intervention and Prevention, responsible for coordinating and implementing suicide prevention activities on their specific campus. 

Coordinator of Intervention and Prevention 
5050 Barranca Pkwy., 
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 936-7508

Prevention

A.    Suicide Prevention Training and Education

Suicide prevention and intervention training shall be provided to teachers, counselors, and other District employees who interact with students at the secondary level.
Training:

  •  All suicide prevention trainings shall be offered under the direction of school-employed mental health professionals (e.g., school counselors, school psychologists, or school wellness coordinators, etc.) who have received advanced training specific to suicide and may benefit from collaboration with one or more county and/or community mental health agencies. Staff training can be adjusted year-to-year based on previous professional development activities and emerging best practices.                                
  •  Annually, identified staff shall participate in training on the core components of suicide prevention through staff development or online training, if unable to attend staff meeting. Core components of the general suicide prevention training may include:                                            
    •  Identification of suicide risk factors and warning signs, prevention, intervention, referral, and crisis intervention and response
    •  Protective factors that may help to decrease a person’s suicide risk
    •  How to talk with a student about thoughts of suicide        
    • How to respond appropriately to the youth who has suicidal thoughts. Such responses shall include constant supervision of any student judged to be at risk for suicide and an immediate referral for a suicide risk assessment    
    • Emphasis on immediately referring (same day) any student who is identified to be at risk of suicide for assessment while staying under constant monitoring by a staff member            
    • Emphasis on reducing stigma associated with mental illness and that early prevention and intervention can drastically reduce the risk of suicide    
    • Reviewing the data annually to look for any patterns or trends of the prevalence or occurrence of suicide ideation, attempts, or death. Data from the climate surveys (California Health Kids Survey and/or IUSD Annual Survey), should also be analyzed to identify school climate deficits and drive program development.                    
  •  In addition, ongoing staff professional development for all school mental health professionals may include the following components:                        
    • The impact of traumatic stress on emotional and mental health    
    • Common misconceptions about suicide            
    • School and community suicide prevention resources        
    • Appropriate messaging about suicide (correct terminology, safe messaging guidelines)                    
    • The factors associated with suicide (risk factors, warning signs, protective factors)    
    • How to identify youth who may be at risk of suicide        
    • Appropriate ways to interact with a youth who is demonstrating emotional distress or is suicidal. Specifically, how to talk with a student about their thoughts of suicide and how to appropriately respond and provide support based on District guidelines
    • District-approved procedures for responding to suicide risk (including multi-tiered systems of support and referrals). Such procedures should emphasize that the suicidal student should be constantly supervised until a suicide risk assessment is completed
    • District-approved procedures for responding to the aftermath of suicidal behavior or after a suicide occurs (crisis intervention and response)
    • Resources regarding youth suicide prevention
    • Emphasis on stigma reduction and the fact that early prevention and intervention can drastically reduce the risk of suicide
    • Emphasis that any student who is identified to be at risk of suicide is to be immediately referred (same day) for assessment while being constantly monitored by a staff member. 

B.    Employee Qualifications and Scope of Services

Employees of the Irvine Unified School District and District partners must act only within the authorization and scope of their credential or license. While school professionals are trained to identify suicide risk factors/warning signs, and the immediate risks of suicidal behavior, treatment of suicidal ideation is typically beyond the scope of services offered in the school setting. In addition, treatment of the mental health challenges often associated with suicidal thinking typically requires mental health resources beyond what schools are able to provide.

C.    Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers Participation and Education

The Suicide Prevention Board Policy shall be displayed on the Irvine Unified School District web page.

  • All parents/guardians/caregivers will have access to suicide prevention resources located on the District website that address the following:                                    
    • Suicide risk factors, warning signs, and protective factors    
    • How to talk with a student about thoughts of suicide        
    • How to respond appropriately to the student who has suicidal thoughts. Such responses shall include constant supervision of any student judged to be at risk for suicide and referral for an immediate suicide risk assessment.

D.    Student Participation and Education

  • Middle and high school student identification cards will include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) per Ed Code 215.5.
  • Creation and implementation of programs and/or activities on campus that raise awareness about mental wellness and suicide prevention    
  • Student-focused suicide prevention education can be incorporated into classroom curricula (e.g., health classes, freshman orientation classes, science, and physical education)        
  • Students receive developmentally appropriate guidance regarding the District’s suicide prevention, intervention, and referral procedures                
  • The content of the education includes:                            
    • Coping strategies for dealing with stress and trauma        
    • How to recognize behaviors (warning signs) and life issues (risk factors) associated with suicide and mental health issues in oneself and others    
    • Help-seeking strategies for oneself and others, including how to engage school-based  and community resources and refer peers for help        
    • Emphasis on reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and the fact that early prevention and intervention can drastically reduce the risk of suicide.

Intervention, Assessment, Referral

A.    Staff

  • Follow the Irvine Unified School District Suicide Risk Assessment Protocols. (Staff can access on the Intranet under Education Services/Mental Health and Wellness)
  • If the student is in imminent danger or has access to means, a call shall be made to 911.
  • The “Crisis Protocol Handbook” has established crisis intervention procedures to create a safe school environment and appropriate communications if a suicide occurs or an attempt is made by a student or adult on campus or at a school-sponsored activity.

B.    Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers

Emergency telephone numbers and resources are available on the District website for all parents/guardians/caregivers, so they know how to respond to a crisis and are knowledgeable about the school and community-based resources. 

C.    Students

Students shall be encouraged to notify a staff member when they are experiencing emotional distress or suicidal ideation, or when they suspect or have knowledge of another student’s emotional distress, suicidal ideation, or attempt.

D.    Parental Notification and Involvement

Each school within the Irvine Unified School District shall identify a process to help parents ensure continuing care for the student identified to be at risk of suicide. The following steps should be followed to ensure continuity of care:

  • After a referral is made for a student, school staff shall verify with the parent/guardian/caregiver that follow-up treatment has been accessed. Parents/guardians/caregivers will be required to provide documentation of care for the student.
  • If parents/guardians/caregivers refuse or neglect to access treatment for a student who has been identified to be at-risk for suicide or in emotional distress, an appropriate school staff member will meet with the parents/guardians/caregivers to identify barriers to treatment (e.g., cultural stigma, financial issues) and work to rectify the situation and build understanding of the importance of care. If follow-up care for the student is still not provided, school staff will consider contacting Child Protective Services (CPS) to report neglect of the youth. (Orange County CPS 24-hour hotline, 7 days a week 800-207-4464)

E.    Action Plan for In-School Suicide Attempts

If a suicide attempt is made during the school day on campus, it is important to remember that the health and safety of the student and those around him/her is critical. The following steps should be implemented:

  • Remain calm
  • Move all other students out of the immediate area
  • Immediately contact an administrator and a school mental health professional
  • Call 911 to share information about any suicide note, medications taken, and access to weapons, if applicable        
  • If needed, provide medical first aid until a medical professional is available
  • Parents/guardians/caregivers should be contacted as soon as possible    
  • Do not send the student away or leave them alone, even if they need to go to the restroom
  • Listen to and prompt the student to talk                    
  • Review options and resources of people who can help        
  • Be comfortable with moments of silence as you and the student will need time to process the situation                        
  • Provide comfort to the student                        
  • Promise privacy and help, and be respectful, but do not promise confidentiality
  • Student should only be released to parents/guardians/caregivers or to a person who is qualified and trained to provide help

F.    Action Plan for Out-of-School Suicide Attempts

If a suicide attempt by a student is outside of Irvine Unified School District property, it is crucial that the Irvine Unified School District protects the privacy of the student and maintains a confidential record of the actions taken to intervene, support, and protect the student. The following steps should be implemented: 

  • Contact the parents/guardians/caregivers and offer support to the family
  • Discuss with the family how they would like the school to respond to the attempt while minimizing the spread of rumors among teachers, staff, and students            
  • Obtain permission from the parents/guardians/caregivers to share information to ensure the facts regarding the crisis are correct    
  • Refer media requests to the District’s Public Information Officer
  • Provide care and determine appropriate support to affected students    
  • Offer the student and parents/guardians/caregivers steps for re-integration to school

G.    Supporting Students after a Mental Health Crisis

It is crucial that careful steps are taken to help provide the mental health support for the student and to monitor their actions for any signs of suicide. The following steps should be implemented after the crisis has happened:

  • Treat every threat with seriousness and approach with a calm manner making the student a priority
  • Actively listen without judgment to the student and let the student express his or her feelings
  • Acknowledge the feelings and do not argue with the student
  • Offer hope and let the student know they are safe and that help is provided
  • Do not promise confidentiality
  • Calmly get the student to a trained professional, guidance counselor, or designated staff to further support the student

H.    Re-Entry to School After a Suicide Attempt

A student who has threatened or attempted suicide is at a higher risk for suicide in the months following the crisis. Having a streamlined and well planned re-entry process ensures the safety and wellbeing of students who have previously attempted suicide and reduces the risk of another attempt. Involving students in planning for their return to school provides them with a sense of control, personal responsibility, and empowerment. The following steps shall be implemented upon re-entry:

  • Obtain a written release of information signed by parents/guardians/caregivers and providers
  • Inform the student’s teachers about possible days of absences
  • Allow accommodations for the student to make up work, understanding that missed assignments may add stress to student
  • Mental health professionals or trusted staff members should maintain ongoing contact to monitor student’s actions and mood
  • Work with parents/guardians/caregivers to involve the student in an aftercare plan

I.    Responding After a Suicide Death (Crisis Intervention and Response)A death by suicide in the school community (whether by a student or staff member) can have devastating consequences on students and staff. Therefore, it is vital that we are prepared ahead of time in the event of such a tragedy.  The Irvine Unified School District will ensure that each school site adopts an action plan for responding to a suicide death as part of the general Crisis Response Plan that includes the following:

  • Verify the death
  • Assess the situation
  • Share information
  • Avoid suicide contagion
  • Initiate support services

Per AB2639, school districts serving grades 7-12 must review and update their Suicide Prevention policies at least every five years. IUSD to review before June 2022.

Policy Adopted: June 27, 2017