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Youth Suicide Prevention

Emergency Resources

  • For immediate emergency services: Dial 911
  • Suicide Prevention and Crisis Lifeline: Call, text, or chat 988
  • Wisconsin-based: text “HOPELINE” to 741741 or Center for Suicide Awareness
  • Trevor Project crisis access for LGBTQ youth via chat, phone, or text: The Trevor Project

new DPI Suicide Prevention Curriculum Implementation Trainings

Explore the suicide prevention curriculum, featuring breakout groups for in-depth learning about the elementary or middle/high school format and content. Gain insights into best practices for implementation, discover resources for suicide prevention initiatives, and collaborate with peers.

See flyer for additional information, including dates and locations.


School-based suicide prevention is a multi-faceted process that includes school staff, parents, and students. Resources for helping schools in this process are broken down into the following action steps:


The process of recognizing and examining what initiatives and components of a Comprehensive Youth Mental Health System are already in place in your school and intentionally utilizing those as youth suicide prevention access points.


Suicide Prevention is a part of comprehensive prevention programming. The following module, “School-based Suicide Prevention: Overview and Connections,” explains how a comprehensive approach to school-based youth suicide prevention connects with initiatives and programming that schools/districts are already implementing; identifying those as possible access points for suicide prevention.

Ensuring that your district has a comprehensive suicide program, it should be considered one component in a larger system for improving and sustaining positive student mental health. Here are resources mentioned in the Overview and Connections module that your district should consider when developing and implementing a suicide prevention program.

State Suicide Prevention Laws and DPI Annual Model Notice

Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Statutes


Intentionally instituting school or district policies addressing youth suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. When policies are in place, districts or schools should begin to design their comprehensive model through prevention and intervention planning. Prevention planning begins by creating a crisis response team, undertaking action planning steps to create or modify school safety plans, educating staff, and choosing classroom or school-wide curriculum or programming. Intervention planning includes the process of preparing to respond in a consistent, equitable, and efficient manner when a student presents as suicidal, attempts suicide, and/or re-enters school following a hospitalization.

This section’s content and resources give districts assistance in creating and implementing policies and planning practices that address youth suicide.

Fundamental Question: What is considered a suicide?

DEFINITION of suicide: According to the CDC, the criteria for determining suicide are:

  1. There is evidence that death was self-inflicted. This may be determined by pathologic (autopsy), toxicologic, investigatory, and psychologic evidence and by statements of the decedent or witnesses.
  2. There is evidence (explicit and/or implicit) that, at the time of injury, the decedent intended to kill himself/herself or wished to die and that the decedent understood the probable consequences of his/her actions. Evidence of intent may include:
    1. Explicit verbal or nonverbal expression of intent to kill self; or
    2. Implicit or indirect evidence of intent to die, such as preparations for death inappropriate to or unexpected in the context of the decedent's life, expression of farewell or the desire to die or an acknowledgment of impending death, expression of hopelessness, expression of great emotional or physical pain or distress, effort to procure or learn about means of death or to rehearse fatal behavior, precautions to avoid rescue, evidence that decedent recognized high potential lethality of means of death, previous suicide attempt, previous suicide threat, stressful events or significant losses (actual or threatened), or serious depression or mental disorder. (CDC: Current Trends Operational Criteria for Determining Suicide)

Model School District Policy and Guidance

  • Wisconsin-specific district policy from Neola:
    • Collaboratively developed by Neola, the Wisconsin Department of Heath Services, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s Office of Children’s Mental Health, Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, and Wisconsin youth, the suicide prevention and suicide memorialization district policy templates provide schools with language pertaining to best practices in youth suicide prevention, intervention, and memorialization. The policy templates are designed to be personalized to fit the myriad of district and community environments, resources, and existing prevention programming. Topics included in the templates include staff training and roles in suicide prevention, identification of at-risk youth, response to suicide ideation, response to a suicide death, and memorials. Any school district may access the policy templates free of charge by contacting Neola Associate Scott Brown by email at

  • WISH Center memorial brief: A Brief Guide to School-Related Memorials - Google Docs
  • The Trevor Project provides a model policy that has been approved by pupil services national organizations (NASP, ASCA) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Model School Policy Booklet

School Safety Plans that can provide an outline for responding at any stage of the crisis.

Prevention Planning

It is important for school districts to intentionally plan their comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. These available resources are here for districts to use as they undertake the planning process.

Utilizing Models for Suicide Prevention Planning

Action Planning

Planning Paperwork

Data to use when ‘making the case’ for comprehensive suicide prevention:

Intervention Planning

When undertaking Comprehensive Suicide Prevention planning, it is important to consider intervention protocols and establish clear expectations should a student indicates they are thinking of suicide, is identified by another as at risk of suicide, or is practicing non-suicidal self-injury behaviors.

Planning Topics

  1. Establishing the School Crisis Team
  2. Professional Development for School Staff
  3. Development of Crisis and Suicide Crisis Protocols

1. School Crisis Team

  • A crisis team is vital to effectively identifying and intervening in a situation that involves suicide ideation. Each member of the team should be tasked with a specific role on the team and have a clear understanding of who every team member is and what each member does. Cross training of members to serve as substitutes for members out of the building during a crisis is encouraged.
  • In addition, the School Crisis Team should be intimately involved with the development of suicide risk assessment and intervention policies and protocols; as well as the execution of the plan to insure student safety during a crisis.
  • Possible team members include building administrators, pupil services staff (school nurse, school social worker, school counselor, school psychologist), school safety staff, office support staff, teachers, and school-based community mental health providers.

2. Professional Development for School Staff

  • Training school staff in the principles of suicide prevention risk and protective factors is critical for a comprehensive plan. All school staff are the front line in identifying students at risk of suicide.
  • Professional development topics could include:
    • educators’ roles in suicide prevention and mental health promotion,
    • mental health literacy,
    • suicide risk factors (student at risk of developing suicide ideation),
    • suicide warning signs (student experiencing ideation and in imminent danger),
    • protective factors, and
    • the use of developmentally appropriate prevention materials.

3. Development of Crisis and Suicide Crisis Protocols

  • Schools should have knowledge and understanding of clear policies and protocols to be followed during a suicide crisis.
  • Protocols could include:
    • First and foremost the safety of the student in crisis. Students in crisis should not be left alone or allowed to leave school.
    • Assessment of suicide risk.
    • Parent/guardian notification.
    • Attempted de-escalation and emotional regulation of student.
    • Connection with crisis or mental health professional - 988, Trevor Project, 911, county-based crisis or mobile crisis units. The creation of a resource map helps this process immensely.
    • Development of safety plan.
    • Plan for documentation of incident and intervention processes.
    • Reintegration plan.
    • Follow-up plan for student and family.

The following is just one resource that contains sample protocols for student experiencing ideation, students who attempt suicide, safety planning, suicide risk assessment, and parent notification: Suicide Prevention Guide for School Personnel

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) provides some specific planning resources:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention webpage also contains resources.


The process of selecting developmentally appropriate and culturally/linguistically competent prevention programs that fit within a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. These may include classroom curriculum, peer prevention programs, collaborations with local partners, and engaging parents and families in prevention efforts.

Prevention programming is a key component of a comprehensive suicide prevention model. These prevention strategies and resources are designed to be used with educational staff, families, student classrooms, student groups, and individual students. Click below for specific resources for the population you wish to address.

Programming For Staff & Students

DPI Gatekeeper Training Module for School Staff

Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR): QPR Institute | Practical and Proven Suicide Prevention Training QPR Institute (en-US) (for a $30 cost; online)

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin QPR Gatekeeper Training (find a trainer by county/city)

QPR from Wisconsin Safe and Healthy Schools Center (WISH Center)

Maine Suicide Prevention Program: Maine Prevention Store

Youth Suicide Prevention Curriculum

Best Practice Prevention Programming Resources For Specific Topics And Populations

Prevention of Suicide Attempts

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Resources

SPRC Prevention Programming Tool: Finding evidence-based prevention programs.

Prevention Programming for High Schools

The Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention for High Schools

Prevention Programming for Middle/High Schools

Prevention Programming for Elementary Schools

Prevention Programming for Parents, Caregivers, and Trusted Adults

Intervention Strategies 

The process of enacting the variety of strategies identified in the school’s/district’s preparation for crisis response and intervention plan.

An integral part of a school’s comprehensive suicide prevention program involves having strategies to intervene when a student presents as being at-risk for suicide ideation. Below you will find sections devoted to providing resources that address specific intervention topics.

Practice Intervention Resources

Resources for Strategies at Middle/High School

Non-Suicidal Self Injury Resources

Assessments And Screening

There are many considerations to review before implementing an assessment component to your safety plan.

Suicide and Non-suicidal Self-Injury Risk Assessment(s)

Screening Resources

One of the best ways to identify youth at-risk for suicide is through screening. There are many things that need to be in place before implementing a screening program. Before implementing screening, make sure that staff have been trained in suicide warning signs, referral procedures, and that pupil services staff are prepared to respond to a student who may be thinking about suicide.

Resources That Address Equity

DPI Educational Equity Webpage


Resources for Strategies When Working with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and Their Allies

Youth with ADHD

Postvention Planning & Strategies

The process of planning and enacting an equitable response to a suicide that neither glamorizes nor minimizes the death in a way that mitigates contagion.

Responding to a suicide can be both difficult and incredibly important. Schools must achieve a balance between supporting their school community and giving it appropriate space to grieve, while simultaneously avoiding situations that may lead to contagion or suicide clusters. Materials and resources here give districts tools to use as they strategically design their response protocols.

  • COMING SOON: Online module “School-based Suicide Prevention: Postvention Strategies and Protocols”
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) : After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools (2nd ed.). This collaborative resource assists schools in implementing a coordinated response to the suicide death of a student.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Online Postvention Manual: Comprehensive manual full of protocols and topics for consideration as schools plan for and respond to a suicide.
  • Heard Alliance: Postvention Response to a Suicide toolkit - This resource includes a breakdown of resources into the areas of daily postvention protocols, clusters and contagion, newspaper/media, grief, and self-care.
  • Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement: Guidelines for Schools Responding to a Death by Suicide - These guidelines are designed to help school administrators, teachers, and crisis team members respond to the needs of students and staff after a suicide has impacted the school environment as well as when an individual student’s life may be impacted by a suicide within the family.
  • Fairfax County Virginia Neighborhood and Community Services: Suicide Postvention Toolkit - Though not school-specific, this resource offers an overview of postvention for organizations and individuals, key components of postvention, and a collection of general and community-specific postvention resources.
For questions about this information, contact (608) 266-8960