YouGov survey highlights lack of preparedness among school staff to help prevent suicide among children and young people
PAPYRUS launches Save The #ClassOf2018 for World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September)
In the UK over 200 schoolchildren¹ are lost to suicide every year. National charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide believes schools could, and need to, do more.
A new YouGov survey commissioned by the charity reveals that, although one in ten teaching professionals (11%) say a student shares suicidal thoughts with them once a term or more, only half (53%) said they would feel confident that they could support a student who had shared those thoughts with them.
Head and deputy head teachers felt more confident than day-to-day classroom teachers who, PAPYRUS believes, are more likely to be in a position to build up trust with the children and observe changes in behaviour.
A third of respondents (34%) said that being worried about making the situation worse would prevent them from supporting a suicidal student themselves. Other barriers noted by teachers included lack of training (47%); not knowing the right things to say (22%); lack of school policy or procedure (15%); and not having permission (13%).
Concerns cited by respondents included: ‘school discourages personal interactions’; ‘there are problems getting senior teachers to take notice’; ‘I would feel responsible under safeguarding and possibly left to carry the can’; ‘I don’t have the time to spend with the student’; ‘I would want to help but don’t consider myself qualified’.
“The findings highlight a lack of preparedness among school staff to help prevent suicide among children and young people. Many have concerns about offering this support – and do not feel equipped to provide it,” said Ged Flynn, PAPYRUS chief executive.
New suicide prevention guide for teachers
In response the charity is launching a year-long campaign to Save The #ClassOf2018 with a new suicide prevention guide for teachers and school staff, ‘Building suicide-safer schools and colleges’.
Among aspects covered it includes guidance on developing a suicide prevention policy; language around suicide; intervention, identifying if a child is suicidal, postvention care and support and how to communicate to other schoolchildren about a suicide. It will be free to download from 8 September.
“We don’t talk about suicide in schoolchildren and there is a lack of awareness of the number of children who are desperate for help,” said Ged Flynn, PAPYRUS chief executive. “While there have been moves to prioritise the mental wellbeing of children in schools, far fewer people are talking about suicide prevention.
“Children spend most of their waking hours at school. Teachers and school staff are well placed to recognise the signs that a student might be at risk of suicide and are in a position to respond effectively, but there is currently very little guidance for schools and colleges. That must change if we are to reduce the number of suicides by schoolchildren.”
¹ Office for National Statistics Statistical Bulletin Suicides in England and Wales: 2015 Registrations; Nicva: Quarterly and Annual Suicide Statistics for Northern Ireland: 2015 Registrations; ScotPho: Suicide data introduction: 2015 Registrations.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 804 teaching professionals. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7/3/2017 – 7/15/2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of the teaching population.