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Suicide prevention

New York Teacher
Shadow of a man with words of sadness around him
John Hain via Pixabay

Suicide, with its devastating emotional and societal costs, can be prevented in many cases with appropriate awareness and intervention. The pandemic has increased stress and anxiety and may increase the risk of suicide.

Our awareness as educators is particularly important. Stay vigilant for early warning signs and risk factors in students and colleagues so you can help.

Warning signs

  • Talking about being a burden to others or having no reason to live.
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated or behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating.
  • Having extreme mood swings.

Risk factors

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood or anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.
  • History of trauma or abuse.
  • Family history of suicide.
  • Major physical illnesses.
  • Loss of job or financial hardships.
  • Loss of relationship(s).
  • Sense of isolation.

Prevention

  • If you think someone in your school community is at risk, seek a professional consultation immediately. Your school-based safety committee should have a plan in place for those in crisis. Advise your school counselor or psychologist.
  • Have regular check-ins with students or colleagues at risk. Discuss how they are feeling.
  • Reduce access to forms of self-harm.
  • Mobilize community services for those at risk and suggest other resources, including mental health services and clinicians. Ensure their health benefits allow access and that the services are readily available.
  • For students and their parents, the UFT’s Positive Learning Collaborative has a free helpline with licensed clinicians. Call 212-709-3222, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to midnight, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For colleagues, use mental-health support resources such as the UFT’s Member Assistance Program (see below) or its careline, for immediate support, at 212-331-6322, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Support is also available 24/7 from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 and NYC Well at 888-692-9355.

The UFT Member Assistance Program offers short-term counseling and outside referrals to help you deal with a wide range of issues. If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, call the MAP careline at 212-331-6322 to speak to a licensed clinician.