School Mental Health

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 97–116 | Cite as

Secondary Teachers’ Perceptions of their Role in Suicide Prevention and Intervention

  • Victoria Hatton
  • Melissa A. Heath
  • Gordon S. Gibb
  • Sarah Coyne
  • Greg Hudnall
  • Cathy Bledsoe
Original Paper


Teachers are identified as frontline participants in school-based suicide prevention efforts. However, their training and roles in these efforts are often not clearly defined. Because 25 states currently mandate suicide prevention training for teachers and 14 other states encourage this training, teachers’ perceptions about their role in suicide prevention are important to consider. As such, this study assessed secondary teachers’ (N = 74) perceptions of their role in suicide prevention, barriers to participating in suicide prevention, and their perceived levels of comfort and confidence in identifying and intervening with suicidal youth. Participating teachers overwhelmingly agreed that they should have a role in suicide prevention. In comparison with untrained teachers, those with previous suicide prevention training were twice as likely to have had a suicidal student or peer of a suicidal student approach them to talk about suicide. Surprisingly, years of teaching were not correlated with teachers’ comfort and confidence in identifying and supporting suicidal youth. Overall, teachers agreed that limited training, fears of making the situation worse, and fears of legal repercussions were barriers that kept teachers from intervening with potentially suicidal students. In order to help teachers effectively perform their gatekeeper role, training efforts must consider teachers’ perceptions, address perceived barriers, and facilitate teacher–student interactions that would increase the likelihood of students coming to teachers for assistance with suicidal concerns. To help schools in providing suicide prevention training for teachers, a list of recommended resources is provided.


Adolescent suicide School-based suicide prevention Teacher training Teacher perceptions Teacher roles in suicide prevention Barriers 


Compliance with ethical standards

Informed consent

All individual participants who were included in the study gave their informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Hatton
    • 1
  • Melissa A. Heath
    • 2
  • Gordon S. Gibb
    • 3
  • Sarah Coyne
    • 4
  • Greg Hudnall
    • 5
  • Cathy Bledsoe
    • 5
  1. 1.School Psychologist, Granite School DistrictSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.340-K MCKB Department of Counseling Psychology and Special EducationBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  3. 3.340-G MCKB Department of Counseling Psychology and Special EducationBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  4. 4.2087 JFSB School of Family LifeBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  5. 5.HOPE4UT, Suicide PreventionProvoUSA

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