Florida School Toolkit for K-12 Educators to Prevent Suicide

COVID-19 AND TIPS FOR VIRTUAL SUICIDE ASSESSMENT The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant stress for all Americans and concerns that the suicide rate will increase. Suicide rates have historically increased during pandemics and in times of economic concerns and high unemployment. Questions have been asked about who might be most at-risk for suicide due to the pandemic. For students, we believe it is likely those with a pre-existing mental illness, those who had a loved one die from the virus, and those living in poverty as a result of the virus. COVID-19 resulted in all Florida schools going virtual in the spring of 2020, and many schools reopened campuses physically in the fall of 2020 with varying percentages of students returning to their campus. Many students and families elected to continue with virtual learning, which has always been an option through Florida Virtual School. It is difficult to anticipate how many Florida students will continue to learn virtually in the future, and it is acknowledged that suicide assessment is challenging at best and especially challenging when done virtually. Important tips for school personnel are outlined here. They are encouraged to review Section 2 on Intervention in Florida S.T.E.P.S. and use Tools 8, 14a, 14b, 14c, 16, 17, 18, and 19. Virtual Assessment Tips 1. Aim for visual contact. When possible, request a video conference instead of a telephone conversation so that you can observe the nonverbal behavior of the student. 2. Maintain confidentiality. Ideally, a parent or guardian should be home, but in another room so they cannot overhear the counseling session. 3. Ask key supervision and safety-related questions. a. Where you are physically located? b. Is a parent present in the home? (If yes, are they in another room?) c. What is the best way to contact you if we lose connection? Questions like these will help you identify additional ways you can connect with a potentially suicidal student and a parent or guardian. 4. Take appropriate action. If you determine a student is potentially suicidal, you should immediately contact the parent or guardian and request that they join the conference, develop a safety plan with the student, make a referral for community-based services, and ask the parent to increase supervision and to secure or remove any lethal means in the home. If the parent or guardian is not in the home and cannot be reached, then contact local law enforcement and request a wellness check on the student. Additional Resources Comprehensive School Suicide Prevention in a Time of Distance Learning by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), available at nasponline .org/resources-and-publications/resources-and -podcasts/covid-19-resource-center/crisis-and -mental-health-resources/comprehensive-school -suicide-prevention-in-a-time-of-distance-learning. You may also contact Scott Poland at spoland@nova.edu or NSU’s Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at svp@nova.edu . Florida S.T.E.P.S.