How do we put ‘discussing suicide’ on the national curriculum?
There is no denying that suicide prevention is a difficult subject which therefore, makes it a subject that should be talked about more. No one should get to the point where they believe that there is no hope.
When on mental health first aid training back in 2019, a particular fact struck me regarding suicide survivors from those jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
All 29 people who survived their attempt at suicide off of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge have stated that they regretted their decision as soon as they jumped.
This research has confirmed that much more must be done to prevent further tragedy.
It is not just adults who are experiencing these feelings. Children are increasingly experiencing feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Our systems in healthcare and education can be ill-equipped to support them effectively.
Many young people say they often feel lonely, and that it is difficult to get the help and find the support they need (www.samaritans.org).
Sometimes individuals (both adults and children), are excellent at masking their feelings. If there is a climate of whole-school support, these people are more likely to open up and seek help. Several measures can be taken to support young people in our schools and lives with suicide prevention:
- Embed a culture of wellbeing in our schools.
- Support children with feelings of disconnection and loneliness as this is a particular area that young people have reported struggling with.
- Have dedicated pastoral teachers in school.
- A coherent and high-profile PHSE curriculum with mental health at the heart is interwoven into all subjects.
- Work with families of those at risk.
- Identify those at risk as far as possible with whole school wellbeing surveys and an early intervention strategy.
- Support young people with the understanding that these feelings are temporary – they can and will change.
- Ensure emotive vocabulary is taught from a young age, so children have support to explain their feelings.
- When discussing suicide, the term ‘commit’ suggests criminality and blame. Instead, use ‘attempted/completed.’ Read the mental health charter for more considered approaches …
(Source: The Samaritans)
We all know that teaching is tough, and as educators, we are all vulnerable to mental health difficulties like everyone else. Unfortunately, sharing these feelings is often a challenge. No person should feel like they cannot speak out. What processes does your HR team have to ensure clear pathways are identified to support, not ostracise? The types of support put in place for staff could include:
- Embedding a culture of wellbeing in our schools.
- Ensuring staff are trained in mental health first aid.
- Creating clear school systems for staff support could include a buddy system.
- Breaking down the ‘taboo’ of talking about feelings through specific and focused professional development.
- Understanding what signs to look for in others and communicating these when they are spotted.
(Source: Education Support)
The fabulous team at Education Support offer the following advice for anyone with immediate personal concerns:
If you are feeling suicidal, please know you are not alone. Your feelings will eventually change, and there is always help available. If you’re worried you cannot keep yourself safe right now, please call 999 or go to A&E.
Treatment and support is available through a range of services which include:
- Going to your GP (you can take someone with you if you like) – ask for an emergency appointment.
- Helplines and listening services (The Samaritans: 116 123)
- Peer support services (either in person or online).
- Talking therapies with a trained professional to help you understand what lies behind your feelings.
If you need immediate support and are experiencing a mental health crisis, there are services available. This includes local services such as walk-in Samaritan branches.
There is always someone ready to listen; we must make sure our schools consider this process too.