The following priority notice was sent today to superintendents as a reminder all school personnel must complete suicide awareness and prevention training by the start of the 2015-16 school year.
Ensuring the safety of our students is a priority and a shared responsibility. Suicide awareness and prevention efforts are a part of safeguarding schools. To increase the potential of recognizing a student (or colleague) is in need of assistance, Maine passed the school-based suicide awareness and prevention law (LD 609, PL 53, DOE Rule Chapter 38) in April 2013.
The law states a one- to two-hour in-service training module in suicide awareness and prevention that conforms to national guidelines must have been completed by all high school personnel by the start of the 2014-15 school year and is to be completed by all elementary and middle school personnel by the start of this school year, 2015-16. All school personnel paid by an SAU must receive the one- to two-hour awareness and prevention level training at least once every five years. In addition to the awareness and prevention training, at least two school personnel per school district must complete a one-day course in suicide prevention and intervention training, commonly referred to as Gatekeeper Training. SAUs with more than 1,000 students must add trained Gatekeepers following the specific guidance available in the Maine DOE Rules, Chapter 38.
Trainings and resources are available to support school districts in meeting the new requirement. Numerous training opportunities have been offered throughout the state in the past two years for both the Gatekeeper and the Training of Trainers for Suicide Awareness and Prevention. Additional trainings are planned for the coming school year as well. A year ago an online training video and toolkit, Suicide Prevention Awareness for Maine School Personnel, was released to assist schools in training personnel. The resource was prepared by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maine with support for the Maine DOE and is available online at no cost to Maine schools.
The video, Suicide Prevention Awareness Session for Maine School Personnel, used in conjunction with the Suicide Prevention Awareness Toolkit for Maine School Personnel can fulfill the legal mandate for a suicide awareness session. Simply watching the video does not fulfill the mandate. Discussion points and exercises presented in the toolkit, supplemented with information about school-specific protocols and local school, community and State resources are critical to a completed training. The video and toolkit are designed to be presented by a trained facilitator. If necessary, individuals such as new hires or personnel who missed the school or district training can view the video and engage in a discussion with a trained facilitator.
Suicide awareness and prevention trainings are one piece of the puzzle needed to create safe and supportive school environments for youth to learn and succeed. Another piece of the puzzle is for districts to have suicide prevention and intervention protocols. The law recommends, but does not require, that school districts develop and implement such protocols. Training and technical assistance is available to assist schools in the process of implementing protocols through NAMI Maine.
Thomas A. Desjardin, Acting Education Commissioner
Maine Department of Education