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September 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention Week

Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Going back to school in the fall is always full of anticipation and, sometimes, stress. With the unique challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brings, this may be truer now more than ever. How students will respond to the return to school this fall remains to be seen, but we do know of some of the challenges students have experienced in the past.
For instance, the 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) identified mixed results regarding youth suicide in Wisconsin. When compared to 2009 YRBS data, there has not been a statistically significant increase in the percentage of students who reported seriously considering suicide. However, multiple indicators suggest work remains to be done to reduce youth suicide. From 2009 to 2019, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of high school students reporting themselves as clinically depressed (21 percent in 2009 and 28.5 percent in 2019). Across those same 10 years, there has also been an increase in the percentage of students who report that they have made a plan for ending their lives (11 percent in 2009 to 13 percent in 2019). Finally, while the overall percentage of high school students reporting they attempted suicide is statistically the same as in 2009, the 2019 percentage of female students who report attempting suicide is over 1 ½ times that of males (9 percent for females and 5 percent for males).
As we recognize National Suicide Prevention Week and await the results of the 2021 YRBS, it is important to be aware of long-term trends, but to also know where to turn for resources and support in your schools' suicide prevention efforts. The DPI’s Youth Suicide Prevention webpage is a one-stop resource that provides a variety of useful information. On this page, you will find the most recent Suicide Prevention Model Notice Fact Sheet and “Gatekeeper” all school staff training. This interactive 20-minute training provides school staff knowledge to recognize risk factors and warning signs of suicide in youth and provides suggestions on and examples of the best manner with which to respond to suicidal students.
Please be aware that Wis. Stat. Ch. 118.01 requires that schools must address suicide prevention with students. Specifically, the conditions that cause suicide and the signs of suicidal thinking, the relationship between suicide and the use of alcohol and other drugs, and services available in local communities. Also, Wis. Admin. Code PI 8.01(2)(j)(1) requires suicide prevention instruction take place in the district’s health curriculum at least one time between grades 7-12. To that end, the DPI’s Youth Suicide Prevention webpage also links to a free, downloadable grades 7-12 Suicide Prevention Curriculum.
Another significant resource for youth suicide prevention is Prevent Suicide Wisconsin’s website. On this website, you will find out about how communities are working toward preventing youth suicide, as well as information on how to respond to COVID-19 stress. Information on training and their popular annual conference are also shared on this site as they become set.
A third resource is the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. This national resource provides an array of information and tools to address suicide prevention in schools. Included in these resources is information on supporting student mental health during the pandemic and “ideas for action” for anyone to get involved during Suicide Prevention Week/Month.
Finally, this fall, the Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Center is offering grants for up to $3,000 for the implementation of Peer-to-Peer Suicide Prevention Programs. These grants will help schools implement programs such as Sources of Strength, Hope Squad, and REDgen, which all have a goal of linking students in need with the ones they are most comfortable talking to — their peers and, when necessary, onto trusted adults. The deadline for this grant application is September 30. Also, in October, the DPI will be renewing its Peer-to-Peer grant program for high schools. These grants can be awarded for up to $1,000. Schools are eligible to apply for both the WISH Center and DPI’s Peer-to-Peer grants. More information on the DPI’s grant program will be coming soon to the DPI’s Youth Suicide Prevention webpage.
For questions on this information, please contact one of our suicide prevention Educational Consultants: Brian Dean or Andrea Donegan
Subscriber submission: DPI’s Student Services/Prevention and Wellness team