When school personnel, families, and communities take an active role in suicide prevention, lives can be saved.
IMPORTANT! If you or someone you know is suicidal, get help immediately by:
- Calling 911.
- Calling or texting the the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
- Visiting the nearest emergency room.
- Contacting these emergency service options:
The Importance of Suicide Prevention
Schools play a key role in suicide prevention. It is the job of all FCPS professionals involved in and dedicated to the education of our students to help prevent death by suicide whenever possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young people aged 10-24. When school personnel, families, and communities take an active role in suicide prevention, lives can be saved.
Suicide Prevention Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Warning signs are statements, actions, feelings, and appearances suggesting that your child may be suicidal.
- Direct verbal statements such as “I want to die,” or “I’m going to kill myself.”
- Indirect verbal statements such as “You won’t have to worry about me anymore,” or “I want to fall asleep and never wake up.”
- Giving away prized possessions
- Depressed or irritable mood
- Changes in behavior, appearance, hygiene, friends, thoughts and/or feelings
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities
- Changes in sleep and or eating habits. Sleeping or eating too much or too little.
- Decline in appearance/hygiene
- Engagement in risky behaviors such as increased substance use, promiscuous sex, and/or acts of aggression
- Plan or access to lethal means is disclosed
- Previous suicidal behavior or attempts
- Preoccupation with death or suicidal themes as expressed through writing, drawing, reading, music etc.
- Self injury such as cutting, scratching, or burning the body
- Acknowledge that you’ve observed warning signs.
- Ask your child about any recent thoughts of suicide.
- Be clear and nonjudgmental with questioning.
- Listen to your child.
- Be mindful of your body language and non-verbal cues to show that you’re listening
- Embrace silence and give them time to express their feelings.
- Ensure that your child is supervised
- Remove access to lethal means including firearms and medications. Depressed youth should not have access to firearms.
If danger appears to be immediate, call 911 or 988 for immediate crisis intervention support.
If you’re having concerns about your child, reach out to your primary care physician or a mental health professional. You can also connect with your child’s school counselor, school psychologist, and/or school social worker.
Suicide Prevention in FCPS
FCPS approaches suicide prevention through a combination of efforts. The key components of these efforts are:
Promoting emotional well-being and connectedness among all students. Social supports and connections are key protective factors against suicide.
Identifying students who may be at risk for suicide and assisting them in getting help.
All school-based staff receive:
- Required training.
- Ongoing consultation connected to suicide prevention and intervention procedures.
All school-based mental health professionals receive additional training on:
Suicide risk assessment practices.
Supporting students who are at risk for suicide.
Note: School-based mental health professionals include school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers.
To support all students, FCPS uses universal, proactive strategies that support mental wellness, social emotional competencies and prevention efforts to reduce violence, bullying, and harassment.
These skills are integrated throughout the K-12 curriculum through:
Health and Physical Education
Social and Emotional Learning lessons
FCPS engages in additional practices that are specific to the topic of suicide.
is an evidence-based suicide prevention program.
is developed for middle and high schools.
includes education and screening.
is required for all students in grades 7, 9, and 11.
how to identify the signs of depression and suicide in themselves and others.
ways to access support.
includes resources for training faculty, staff, and parents on:
how to recognize when a student is in crisis.
how to respond using the Acknowledge, Care, Tell (ACT) protocol.
Acknowledge, Care, Tell (ACT)
The lesson uses the Acknowledge, Care, Tell (ACT) framework. This framework empowers students to support others and seek help themselves.
The first step is to acknowledge signs of suicide or depression in themselves or friends.
Next they will show that they care by having a conversation, and lastly they will tell a trusted adult.
Following the lesson, school teams administer the Brief Screen for Adolescent Depression (BSAD). The BSAD is a screening tool to help students identify symptoms consistent with depression and or suicide risk. The school counselor, school psychologist, and school social worker provide individual follow-up based on the BSAD screen results and individual referral. The mental health screening is for educational purposes and does not provide a diagnosis.
The Signs of Suicide program also includes resources for training faculty, staff, and parents on how to recognize when a student is in crisis and how to respond using the ACT protocol.
Visit www.mindwise.org/parents for:
information on warning signs for youth suicide,
key messages students will learn.
Regulations and Guidelines
As part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) developed Regulation 2120: Procedures for Conducting a Suicide Risk Assessment, for FCPS school personnel to follow when it is suspected that a student may be at risk of suicide.
FCPS guidelines are consistent with the Code of Virginia (22.1-272.1) and derive from various professional resources including the Virginia Department of Education's Suicide Prevention Guidelines (2020).
Comprehensive Suicide Prevention
School staff play a critical role in preventing youth suicide.
Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
FCPS uses an evidence-supported tool as part of the suicide screening, the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS). The C-SSRS assesses suicide risk through a series of questions. The answers help trained school professionals:
identify whether someone is at risk for suicide,
assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and
gauge the level of support that the person needs.
For more information about the C-SSRS, please link to the following website: Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.
FCPS School Counselors, School Psychologists, and School Social Workers are trained to administer the C-SSRS. They also understand the steps taken:
if there is an indication of imminent risk to self
when the risk is not determined to be imminent.
These school-based professionals:
connect youth with community providers
provide ongoing follow-up to those identified as a result of this screener.
If a student participates in a risk assessment, parents are always contacted and play a role in providing support to their child.
The services provided within the school context involve interventions to improve the social, emotional, and behavioral functioning of children and adolescents.
What differentiates school-based mental health professionals from other mental health professionals is the context of the school and the emphasis on supporting the educational goals of students.
Learn more about the risk assessment process in FCPS.
Family and Community Mental Health Partnerships
Some students require a higher level of mental health support outside of school. School counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers partner with families to identify services and providers that match the specific needs of the student.
When making referrals, school based professionals and families consider a variety of factors such as: specific student needs and therapeutic match (speciality, availability, mode of delivery, account benefit coverage, location of services, etc.)
Our Minds Matter (OMM) is an upstream suicide prevention model based on resiliency research and the power of peer-to-peer influence amongst adolescents. OMM seeks to improve four outcome areas in student participants that are proven to decrease the risk of suicide:
- social connectedness
- help-seeking behavior
- positive coping skills
- prosocial skills
OMM clubs are in nearly all FCPS high schools, and many middle schools. To learn more about the club in your school, reach out to your child’s school.
FCPS also partners with the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) to support student wellness. The CSB offers prevention initiatives to youth and families throughout the county. Prevention initiatives such as Youth Mental Health First Aid and Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) train participants to identify signs of suicide and intervene to support youth. The CSB provides therapeutic services to youth and families who may be experiencing mental health challenges, and emergency services to those in crisis.
In partnership with Fairfax County and Healthy Minds Fairfax, school-based clinicians are able to refer youth for free counseling services.
Short Term Behavioral Health (STBH) counseling services:
These services are:
available to students attending all middle and high schools, and some elementary schools.
include free and timely short-term mental health counseling services for qualifying applicants.
STBH community providers conduct assessment and counseling services to address:
The services are provided by contracted, private mental health therapists and private non-profits.
Referrals to STBH providers are typically made at Tier 2.
If after eight sessions, the youth is in need of longer term counseling services, the provider will work with the family to identify a follow-up provider.
Through the STBH process, families provide consent for STBH providers to communicate with the school-based mental health team in order to provide wrap-around support to students.
FCPS has partnered with Hazel Health to help eliminate barriers to quality mental health care services for all high school students, at no cost to families. Therapy sessions with Hazel Health are a safe space and are private and confidential. With Hazel, your child can get the mental health care they need, at home, at no cost to you.