New Suicide Prevention Protocol Supports Students in Crisis

A new Community Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Risk Review (SPIRR) Protocol has been developed by a joint committee of community partners led by the CDSBEO. The protocol is a collaborative response for children and youth in crisis, and will assist school boards and community partners to take active, consistent and collaborative steps to link students who pose a risk of suicide to community partners, and to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our children and youth.

Previously, the CDSBEO has developed a Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Protocol, which has been extremely beneficial in responding to, and eliminating threats of violence in Board schools. The new SPIRR Protocol will assist in providing a coordinated response to identify, intervene, and support children and youth at risk of suicide.

Trudy Rook, Behaviour Crisis Consultant, and Michelle Neville, Mental Health Lead, presented the details of the new protocol to the Board. Developed in collaboration with community partners, the protocol helps to ensure a community effort and response when a student is in crisis.  Ms. Rook explained, “This protocol helps to define how we can communicate and share relevant information. Communication is a key piece of the protocol, and one which helps to ensure adequate supports to those in crisis, as well as sufficient follow-up, and aftercare.”

“Three stages of activation and a continuum of supports and interventions are identified in the document, along with an overview of risk alerts and identifiers which may be characteristic of those presenting with suicidal behaviours and ideation,” explained Ms. Neville. “In addition, the protocol outlines the components of prevention, including education and training, intervention guidelines, and postvention plans.”

Specialized training programs, such as SafeTALK provided to all secondary teachers and staff, and Applied Suicide Interventions Skills Training (ASIST), which has been provided to 143 Board and school staff, including SSWs, chaplains, mental health lead teachers, and administrators. Giving staff the tools to work with students, and make them feel comfortable asking students the right questions is a significant piece in the response. In addition, this training allows staff to be able to accurately identify and respond to the risk, as well as help with a student’s return to school.

The most recent additions to the protocol surround changes to include the urgent care component, to ensure that the Board is able to facilitate urgent care access for youth in crisis. Through partnerships with CHEO (Ottawa) and Hotel Dieu Hospital (Kingston), students in crisis have access to programs through direct referrals which can be made by the Board, and information can be shared between the school/board and urgent care providers. This piece of the protocol also allows for wraparound support for the student when returning from an urgent care situation.

The suicide protocol signing ceremony will take place on March 31, 2015, and will be hosted at the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario’s Kemptville Board Office. All community partners will be in attendance, including children’s mental health services, local and regional hospitals, local police, children’s aid societies, and the coterminous school board.