Teen suicide is an urgent and tragic issue in the U.S. and throughout the world. As we acknowledge September as Suicide Prevention Month, we and many others look to raise awareness toward this matter and offer insights to help schools and educators play a proactive role in saving young lives.
Today, suicide is the 2nd-leading cause of death globally for ages 15-24. While there are many contributing factors that vary from one individual to the next, cyberbullying is certainly a primary catalyst in schools.
At the core of this issue is a lack of perceived actionable outlets for peers and for the victims themselves. While 60% of young people say they have witnessed online bullying, most admit they do not intervene. Research also shows only 1 in 10 teen victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
This puts additional responsibility on teachers and staff to observe, make their roles known, and take steps to monitor and mitigate cyberbullying and suicide within their student population. This month and every day, it’s important to remember that suicide is preventable – and educators can and must play a leading role in the fight against it as we return to in-person, hybrid, and remote learning environments this fall.
The critical role of schools and educators
Teachers and staff are in a unique position to recognize signs of suicide risk because they spend hours per day with students observing behaviors and interactions. In many cases, teachers may spend more time with students than they spend with their own families. While it’s not always easy for students to talk about mental health and emotional hardships with their parents or friends, teachers can often serve as a trusted outlet free of judgement.
An important first step in opening these lines of communication is to let your students know your role – that you are here to help and can serve as a bridge between them and an appropriate health or mental health professional if needed.
The ultimate goal of teachers and staff in suicide prevention isn’t to create an environment where mental and emotional health challenges do not exist. That is not realistic. The true goal should be to create an environment in which students feel they have someone to turn to when these thoughts and hardships do arise.
A key aspect of this is also creating an environment that can effectively monitor, identify, and respond to risk factors and warning signs.
Suicide risk factors and warning signs
Suicide risk factors are certain characteristics typically associated with increased odds of suicidal thoughts. Risk factors often include:
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
- Family stress or dysfunction
- Environmental risks
- Situational crises (e.g., the death of a loved one, abuse, or violence)
In addition to risk factors, there are also often warning signs of suicide that educators are in a critical position to detect, including:
- Direct or indirect statements showing intent of self-harm
- Suicide notes and plans
- Preoccupation with death
Understanding risk factors and warning signs should be a top priority for all teachers and administrators, who should also receive instruction on speaking with students and accessing the proper resources to address any such indicators.
Apart from monitoring these factors during in-person interactions, technology can also help track and identify harmful behavior warning signs your school’s devices. Here are two of our recommended filtering and monitoring tools that can make a big difference in this area.
GoGuardian is a complete K-12 web filter that allows administrators to monitor, manage, and filter any school devices on your network. It helps protect students from harmful content by utilizing a powerful AI engine that learns and dynamically updates to keep up with changing content.
GoGuardian Beacon monitors students’ activity on school-issued devices across search engines, social media, e-mail and more to identify students who are most at risk of self-harm or possible harm to others through threats, violence and bullying. Beacon uses predictive AI to alert schools during the most serious “active planning” phase of suicide intent.
Once alerted, Beacon can also bring in the right school responders, help notify parents after hours, and provide students directly with the resources they need. Alerts come with context to help you determine what caused them and how best to take action, including screenshots, the phase of suicide and self-harm ideation, historical activity, and highlighted text.
Designed with the guidance of leading experts in the mental health field, GoGuardian is a leading resource for keeping students safe both online and off.
Currently serving more than 15,000 schools, Securly is another leading option in helping prevent cyberbullying and suicide, striving to keep students safe across all devices with cloud-based web filtering and AI-based scanning of emails, Docs, and Drive. Like GoGuardian, it also sends alerts of behavior directly pertaining to cyberbullying and suicide.
Securly’s suite of features include:
- Filter – Scalable, cloud-based web filtering for every device
- Auditor – Real-time email, Docs, Drive, and OneDrive scanning with AI-based notifications
- Tipline – An anonymous tip line and risk assessment tool for each incident
- Classroom – Cloud-based classroom device management to help teachers guide and monitor online activities, keep students focused, and communicate with the entire class
Create safe and impactful learning experiences with Trafera
At Trafera, we believe technology can only improve learning experiences when we make people our number one investment. We partner with the industry’s most trusted brands to provide students and educators with the tools and the technology they need to transform the learning experience in 2021 and beyond.
With Trafera on your team, we’ll work together to navigate the complexities of today’s learning environment in a supportive and empowering way. Contact us today to learn more about providing your students with a more engaged and a more connected experience this school year and beyond.