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TO:                   Superintendents of Schools


FROM:             J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner


DATE:              May 15, 2002


RE:                   “Youth Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Postvention Guidelines: A Resource for School Personnel”



On May 7, 2002, the release of “Suicide Prevention, Intervention & Postvention Guidelines for Schools” was announced at an event held in Augusta. The event was planned to take place during the week of May 5-11, which is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. Through the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program, we continue to strive to reduce the number of youth suicides and suicide attempts. This can be accomplished by training and educating both school and community groups, by providing resource materials and by improving access to prevention and intervention services.


I convened a meeting with stakeholders last July to discuss the development of school protocols for suicide prevention and crisis intervention. This group agreed that guidelines to help school administrators institute protocols are needed and should be disseminated to aid school personnel and help provide a safety net for at-risk youth.


In preparing the guidelines, the group did extensive research to bring together the best available information on how school personnel can detect and prevent suicidal behavior and respond effectively in a crisis situation. Although the school role in identifying and assisting a suicidal student is limited, it is extremely important. It is equally important to note that in a crisis that involves suicide, there are special issues that require advanced planning to assure the safety of other students as well as maintain control of the learning environment. The draft guidelines were reviewed by a large number of individuals from Maine schools, crisis services, public health, human services and mental health agencies.


The Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention specifically cites the need for school-based prevention and intervention policies. In response to frequent requests from school personnel, the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program made the development and dissemination of these guidelines a top priority. The new guidelines are intended to aid school administrators in developing or improving their protocols for handling suicidal behavior, crisis situations, the aftermath of a student suicide and the return to school following an absence for a suicide attempt.


If you have any questions regarding the Youth Suicide Prevention Guidelines, please contact Cheryl DiCara, Coordinator, Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program at or Stephanie Swan of the Maine Department of Education at