Youth Suicide Prevention

Youth Suicide Prevention
Posted on 05/08/2023

Dear SDMA Families and Staff,

Don't look now, but there are only 19 days of school left in the 2022-2023 school year!

While there are many wonderful activities and accomplishments to celebrate this time of year, now is a good time for a reminder related to Youth Suicide Prevention. 

As shared in previous messages over the years, it is important to recognize that schools in Wisconsin serve a role that is much larger than what is measured on report cards and standardized assessments. In conjunction with state law, each year the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) distributes literature to schools about preventing youth suicide. This information which is also shared with school staff members focuses on the complexity of youth suicide, warning signs for staff members to be aware of, and instructions for what staff members can do when concerned about a student. According to the DPI, teachers and other school staff are well-positioned to observe student behavior and to act if there is suspicion that a student may consider self-harm. By working together between our school and community, we can reduce the risk of youth suicide in Menomonie. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem; but for kids, their problems can seem endless at this stage. If we ACT and get them through the crisis, there is a 90 percent chance that they will never attempt suicide. ACT stands for Acknowledging feelings instead of minimizing them; Caring for the student by showing concern and taking the next step, and Telling a member of the school district’s crisis team, which often includes building principals and guidance counselors. According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), multiple factors are involved when someone dies by suicide, and oversimplifying the reasons someone takes their own life is not helpful. Research suggests factors that might contribute to suicide include biological factors, precipitating factors, and triggering events. Examples of biological factors include mental illness or losing a family member to suicide. Precipitating factors include poor grades, attending an unsafe school, victimization, or family rejection. Crisis/triggering events include experiencing a major loss, humiliation or bullying, and having access to lethal means. Suicide is a complex problem that is often misunderstood when oversimplified. The DPI literature states, “Suicide doesn’t usually happen out of the blue—there are often warning signs for others to see or hear.” It is suggested that everyone get the FACTs and know the suicidal thinking signs of students, friends, and family members. The “FACTs” from the AAS include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, rage, feeling trapped or having no sense of purpose in life.
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, withdrawing from friends, family, and society, increased alcohol or drug use, and giving away prized possessions.
  • Changes that include a decline in the quality of school work, dramatic mood changes, anxiety, agitation, and a change of eating or sleeping habits.
  • Threats that include threatening or talking about hurting self.

Mental health resources for people in crisis and concerned caregivers are available 24 hours per day by calling or texting 988, or by chatting at Other crisis resources include Northwest Connections (888-552-6642), and the Trevor Project (866-488-7386) which is a crisis support specifically designed for LGBTQ youth. There is a misconception that asking about suicide can cause a student to attempt it. According to the Department of Public Instruction, this issue has been thoroughly studied, and asking a student about suicidal intent does not cause a student to attempt suicide. Additionally, state law insulates all public and private school district employees and volunteers from civil liability for their acts and omissions when trying to intervene in a student’s possible suicide. The legislature found it so important that adults take action when a student is suicidal that they insulated those adults from civil liability for their efforts with suicidal students.

Thank you for your attention to this very important information.  Preventing youth suicide is something that we take very seriously in the SDMA, and along with sharing resources with families and staff the school district provides multi-tiered systems of support which include:

  • Working hard to help ensure that 100% of students have at least one adult in the school district that they trust.
  • Responding to all reports of bullying and harassment.
  • Providing school counseling services in each of our seven schools.
  • Providing guidance lessons aligned with Wisconsin school counseling standards.
  • Providing QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Instruction to all 9th grade students.
  • Sharing monthly messages with 4th-12th grade students to remind them of the Gaggle Student Safety Tip Line to encourage students to share their concerns about student safety.
  • Filtering and monitoring web activity on district networks and devices to identify at-risk behaviors like self-harm, violence, bullying, and harassment.

If you have any questions about youth suicide prevention, please do not hesitate to contact your child's principal, school counselor, or a member of the district's student services department. 


Joe Zydowsky