Seattle Public Schools

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. SPS is committed to the safety and wellness of our students, staff, families, and community.   

By knowing the signs, asking questions, and helping connect others to support, each person plays an important role in preventing suicide. To learn more about warning signs, prevention supports, and resources in the community, visit the SPS Suicide Prevention and Intervention webpage. 

The resources and information below are provided by the SPS Coordinated School Health – Mental Health team with content shared from the #BeTheOneTo campaign and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

Know the Signs 

While many may be comfortable talking about mental health the topic of suicide can still be scary when it comes up. Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. These are some possible indications that a person may be considering suicide: 

  • Withdrawing from activities 
  • Giving away prized possessions 
  • Talking about feeling trapped and being a burden to others 
  • Irritability, rage, depression, loss of interest  
  • Sleeping too much or too little 
  • Isolating from family and friends 
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Acting recklessly 
  • Talking about experiencing unbearable pain and having no reason to live 

Talk Explicitly  

Research shows that asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will not put the idea in their head or push them into action. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” may be the question to help save their life. Talking about suicide not only reduces the stigma, but research shows acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact decrease suicidal ideation. Do not ever promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret. 

Support Them 

Being there for someone with thoughts of suicide can be lifesaving. Increasing someone’s access to others and limiting their isolation has shown to be a protective factor against suicide. You can also help connect the person to a trusted adult at their school, such as a school counselor, teacher, or other support staff.  

COVID-19 has made it difficult to be there in person with those we care about, however just because we can’t be physically present sometimes does not mean there aren’t things we can do. Learn about ways to support someone who may be thinking about suicide during the pandemic.  

Help Keep Them Safe 

The next strongest step to decreasing chances of suicide is putting time and space between the person experiencing an emotional crisis and a method of harm (like firearms and medications). After you learn someone is talking about suicide:  

  1. Ask questions to see if they’ve thought about how, when, and where they would do it. 
  1. Remove the dangers. 
  1. Increase supervision.  
  1. Do not wait: If they have immediate access to a firearm and are very serious about suicide, then extra steps (like calling for emergency help or driving them to an emergency department) might be necessary. You can always call the National Suicide Hotline or Crisis Connections (866-427-4747) to help you with these steps.  

Follow Up 

After you had an initial conversation and connected someone who is experiencing suicidal ideation to support, checking in with them afterwards can make a difference and help their feeling of connectedness. Studies show that simple forms of reaching out days or weeks after the initial conversation — like a text, card, or chat — has significantly reduced the risk of suicide. 

Take Care of Yourself 

We can all help our loved ones and community members get through crisis. But as we take action to support others, it is also important that we take the time to support and care for ourselves. This is why SPS is prioritizing a Culture of Care, where the wellness and mental health needs of our students, staff, and families are centered and valued. It is important to find time to take care of yourself. This way, we can show up better for others. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. For additional information on mental health resources available to the SPS community, visit our Mental Health Services webpage.  

If you or someone you know is in a crisis or experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255); or TEXT HOME to 741-741 to speak with a trained counselor 24/7.