The role of school in suicide prevention

READER’S VIEWS - Renester P. Suralta - The Freeman

Department of Education Assistant Secretary Dexter Galban, speaking during a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said that 404 students in the public schools committed suicide, and 2,147 had attempted in 2021 at the height of the pandemic.

What is more alarming about the report was that these figures are increasing. The shocking revelation did not include what particular level in public schools and what region has more deaths. The cause of suicide and why it took the agency two years to report the tragic fate of these learners was unexplained. The agency did not give further details about the issue, perhaps, due to the confidentiality and sensitivity of the matter.

There are many factors to consider for a person to end his life, such as extreme depression, severe stress and anxiety, hopelessness, physical-sexual abuse, and mental-psychological issues. Were these elements present during the pandemic? What can the school do to prevent suicide post-pandemic?

During the lockdown, the movements and whereabouts of students were limited and restricted. There was no park, mall, movies, or church for them to go to. They were like prisoners in their dwelling places. They could not travel far or engage in social activities. Works focused between home and school through blended learning using modules and online.

Many students felt alone, doing plenty of school tasks without the teacher while their parents were also busy making a living. Modular learning was never easy for most teacher-dependent learners.

The idea that a young student will commit suicide is inconceivable and disturbing. However, there is no single reason for such an act. It is usually a combination of many complex and contributory factors. But a particular stressor can trigger one to make the worst decision of his life.

Today under the face-to-face learning setup, most students spend substantial time in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide prevention should integrate with supportive mental health services. It should engage the entire school community in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a caring and trusting student-adult relationship. All school staff should know of risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The school should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing information.

Trained school counselors and administrators should intervene when a student is a suicide risk. They should conduct a risk assessment, inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow-up counseling and support at school.

The school should obtain information from parents on learners' mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviors. Even if a youth is at low risk for suicide, the school should document this relevant information.

It is about time the Department of Education should hire more guidance counselors and mental health experts and assign them to rural or urban areas. It should conduct comprehensive mental health training for all designated school counselors.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among school-age youth. However, it is preventable. Parents and teachers are in a crucial position to pick up on these warning signs and get help before it is too late. The role of school in suicide prevention is significant and critical for the next generation's survival.


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