Suicide Intervention Toolkit Recognized with Statewide Award
What started a few years ago as a project of the SDCOE Student Wellness and School Culture team to provide San Diego County schools with protocols to support students experiencing suicidal ideation has gained traction, and recognition, across the state.
The San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) was recently selected as one of 60 recipients of California’s leading educational honor, the Golden Bell Award. The awards are presented by the California School Boards Association to promote excellence in public education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs and governance practices. SDCOE was honored in the School Culture & Safety category for the Policy to Practice: Suicide Intervention Toolkit.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The California Department of Public Health reported almost all age groups saw a decline in suicide rates between 2019 and 2020, except for youth aged 10-18 years, which saw an increase of 20% in suicide rates for 2020.
“Suicide is highly complex, and therefore requires a comprehensive approach for effective intervention,” said Heather Nemour, coordinator of student wellness and school culture. “The resources that existed before we created our toolkit were lengthy to read and impractical in a time of great need. We designed our toolkit to be easy to navigate, with an evidence-based suicide risk screening tool, and digital resources that are replicable and designed to be used in challenging times.”
Since its launch in 2019, 16 school districts, 11 single-site charter schools, and four multi-charter school organizations across the county have implemented the toolkit to develop or enhance their unique district suicide intervention protocols. In that time, nearly 1,500 suicide-risk screenings have been conducted, with schools using the toolkit reporting an increased comfort level, confidence, and capability among staff when talking with students about suicide risk.
“This toolkit equipped me with every necessary tool to support students in those crises,” one school administrator reported. “If it were not for the toolkit, I would not have been able to hold an appropriate re-entry meeting for a student who was hospitalized this year. I would have had no idea what to discuss or what support is available.”
Another school leader said the toolkit “provides a strong procedural way to work through crisis response that is consistent across all campuses in our district. All district counselors are acting in the same procedural way and adjusting for age appropriateness.”
County offices of education, districts, schools, and statewide agencies have adopted SDCOE’s toolkit as a model. The California Department of Education endorsed the toolkit, and SDCOE staff members have presented about it at statewide meetings and webinars. The California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission uses the toolkit in their statewide Standardized Suicide Risk Screening training for educators.
“It is an honor to know that what our team put together is being used by local educational agencies across the state. County lines and ZIP codes do not matter; getting resources in the hands of those serving students is the priority,” said Mara Madrigal-Weiss, executive director of the Student Wellness and School Culture department. “I am grateful that the team's dedication and commitment to excellence is being recognized.”
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