Suicide Prevention in Schools - Minnesota Department of Health

Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention for Schools

If you need free and confidential support call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
If you need immediate medical help call 911!

In 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 17 years of age. The agonizing grief, fear and confusion of this tragic loss of life is not limited to the immediate family, but also impacts schools and communities.

There is not a single path that leads to suicide. Rather, a combination of factors can increase an individual’s risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Some factors include serious mental illness, substance abuse, painful loss, violence and social isolation.

Suicide is preventable. To most effectively prevent suicide, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, communities and schools need to take a comprehensive approach.

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention

A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in a school includes many strategies like:

  • Leading trainings and developing procedures to identify and assist students at-risk
  • Implementing curriculums to help students develop life skills and help seeking behaviors
  • Promoting connectedness and wellness activities
  • Delivering programming to support students’ academic performance

Community Partners Preventing Suicide can help your school

Our suicide prevention staff will work with individual schools to assess and plan a school-specific comprehensive suicide prevention plan.

If your school is interested, you will need to form a core team of three to four staff members. The core team will work with our prevention staff to assess, develop and implement a two-year plan. We suggest the core team include a teacher, counseling staff, support staff and principal.

Steps to implement a comprehensive school suicide prevention program

  1. Contact our prevention staff and let them know your school is interested. Our staff will walk you through the process, help you recruit your core team, and help assess your school’s awareness of current suicide prevention related activities.
  2. Identify a minimum of 10 to 12 staff to take an anonymous online survey of current suicide prevention activities. The suicide prevention staff will help you identify who should take the survey. Suggested participants include: teachers, bus drivers, cooks, front desk staff, nurse, student resource officers, coaches, parent organization chair, etc.
  3. Schedule an initial two-hour meeting with the school core team and our prevention staff to identify and discuss current resources, strategies and initiatives in your school.
  4. Our staff will schedule a follow-up meeting to review key findings of the assessment, prioritize recommendations, and co-develop a two-year work plan.
  5. Quarterly check-ins as you Implement your school-specific comprehensive suicide prevention plan with support from our prevention staff.

Examples of suicide prevention activities in schools


  • Gatekeeper trainings QPR and safeTALK – Gatekeeper trainings QPR and safeTALK teach the warning signs of suicide crisis and how to respond.
  • Postvention training – Postvention trainings teach activities that promote healing and reduce risk in a community after a death by suicide occurs.
  • Mental Health First Aid – Mental Health First Aid trainings teach people how to help someone experiencing mental health or substance use challenges.
  • ACEs training – ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs can include traumatic experiences in a person’s life that can impact their health and well-being.
  • Kognito At-Risk for PK-12 Educators - A set of interactive role-play online simulation gatekeeper trainings about mental health and suicide prevention that supports improved student wellness and school safety. This is now available to Minnesota school staff and educators at no cost!

View the list of trainings available through Community Partners Preventing Suicide.

Update or develop policies and procedures

  • Crisis emergency response
  • At-risk student identification – including staff training
  • Suicide risk screening
  • At-risk student referral process
  • Response after a suicide attempt
  • Response after a suicide death

Identify and promote mental health and addiction services such as:

Get started
Contact the suicide prevention coordinator in your area:

  • Northwestern Region (Kittson, Marshall, Mahnomen, Norman, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake Counties)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey at
  • Brainerd Region (Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wedena Counties)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey at
  • Gichiziibi-Great River Region (Becker, Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard and Itasca)
    Contact: Stephanie Downey at
  • Hennepin County
    Contact: Melissa Dau at
  • Southwestern Region (Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Redwood and Yellow Medicine Counties)
    Contact: Melissa Dau at
  • Red Lake, Leech Lake, White Earth, Lower Sioux, Upper Sioux, Little Earth and U.S Indian Health Services
    Contact: Luther Talks at

For any additional information on suicide prevention or if your area isn't listed above, contact Suicide Prevention Supervisor Tanya Carter at

Additional resources

Crisis Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK(8255) – The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
  • State Mobile Crisis Services – Every county in Minnesota provides Mobile Crisis Services for both children and adults that may be experiencing suicidal feelings or mental health crisis. Crisis services are available within each county 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. County crisis teams are available for phone support as well as face-to-face crisis help.
  • Crisis Text Line - Text MN to 741741. The Crisis Text Line provides free crisis support 24/7 for any crisis.
  • Prevent Suicide Printable Posters (PDF) - use these printable posters to promote the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line in your school.
Updated Monday, 05-Oct-2020 14:18:13 CDT