Net Exchange Response

Title: Suicide prevention for 5th grade

Date Posted: 6/23/2003

Question: "Our school community has experienced a number of high-profile suicides in the last 10 years or so. Our school-community collaboration, beginning 3 years ago, planned and implemented prevention programs which now occur annually at grade levels 7, 9, and 11. I have 2 questions. Are there model programs for younger aged students? We are specifically considering a 5th grade program. Secondly, are there any examples of state-wide initiatives? I am not aware of any in NY state. It seems that many school districts / communities are dealing with this issue in isolation, and could benefit from a broader initiative."

Response: Your question is timely. This coming Wednesday June 25th, from 2:30-4:00pm (Eastern time zone) the Maternal and Child Health Bureau will have a Webcast on preventing suicide among young people. The presenters will include Lloyd Potter, Leslie McGuire, and our Center Co-Director Howard Adelman. For more information, go to The presentations will be archived on that website. Potter's presentation will specifically discuss state-wide initiatives

As an immediate starting point, with respect to model programs for younger students (e.g., 5th graders) and state-wide initiatives, here are some resources:

  1. Relevant model programs -- see the Center online materials that address suicide prevention and offer examples of model programs and links to a broad range of resources and Centers focused on this problem:
    • School Interventions to Prevent Youth Suicide (a Technical Assistance Sampler)
    • Suicide Prevention (a Quick Training Aid)
    • Affect and Mood Problems Related to School Aged Youth (an Introductory Packet)
    • Youth Suicide Prevention: Mental Health and Public Health Perspectives (a presentation and training aid)

    You can download these from our website at Go to Center Materials or to the Quick Find topic page on Suicide Prevention.

    Also of relevance, see the Center for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning ( for their evaluation of programs to promote mental health and social support in "Safe and Sound: An Educational Leader's Guide to Evidence-based Social and Emotional Learning Programs."

    Some of the programs they identify may meet your needs. For example:

    A review of these evidence based programs may suggest a broader approach for suicide prevention for 5th graders.

  2. With respect to state-wide approaches, the Children's Safety Network National Injury and Violence Prevention Resource Center ( has focused on the state Maternal and Child Health Agencies role in taking leadership to focus on collaboration, awareness, comprehensive approaches, research-based recommendation, and community involvement for suicide prevention. They recommended that a state plan include state-specific description of the problem, set goals/objectives/timetable, decide on actions to emphasize prevention, and engage community. Their website links to state plans.

    A contact person in New York is the Director, Bureau of Injury Prevention, Division of Chronic Disease Prevention and Adult Health, New York State Department of Health, Corning Tower, Room 557, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237-0677 (Phone: 518/473-1143)

  3. You may also want to take a look at the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention at


For the last 15 months a school-based emotional health education pilot program in our county has been demonstrating and evaluating the efficacy of introducing "safe and healthy coping skills" programs to prepare upper grade elementary students for dealing with the emotional changes and challenges of adolescence -- the major risk period for youth self-harmful behaviors, including suicide. While data from pre and post project student self reports are still being processed, we have preliminary results tabulated and evaluations from teachers and observations of this experiential learning classroom demonstration programs. The results are based on self-assessments of 156 students in fourth and fifth grades. I would be happy to share a summary of the preliminary report (


Thanks to the listserv for the leads on curriculum for suicide prevention for 5th graders. The programs we are using are: 7th grade Jason Foundation; 9th grade SOS program; and 11th grade PBS series "in the mix" episode on depression "On the Edge." Each program varies slightly, but our overall theme is to tell someone of a friend's suicidal thinking, encouraging help-seeking, identifying supports available in school. We attempt to educate around the signs and symptoms of depression, allow to Q and A and discussion. I have detailed summaries of the programs if anyone is interested. The SOS program includes a Depression Screening Form which has allowed us to collect data about our own students' suicidal thinking. The statistics are alarming, but at the same time illustrate the need to provide programs at an earlier age.

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