STEP 1: LISTEN. A person in mental crisis needs someone who will listen to what he or she is saying. Every effort should be made to understand the problems behind the statements.
STEP 2: EVALUATE the seriousness of the youngster's suicidal thoughts and feelings. If the child has made specific plans for suicide, the danger is greater than when his/her thinking is indefinite.
STEP 3: EVALUATE the intensity of the emotional disturbance. It's possible that the youngster is extremely upset but not suicidal. If a depressed person becomes agitated and moves around restlessly, it may be cause for alarm.
STEP 4: TAKE SERIOUSLY every feeling and complaint the student expresses. Do not dismiss or minimize what the child is saying. In some cases a child may minimize his/her difficulty, but beneath an apparent calm may be profoundly distressed feelings.
STEP 5: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK DIRECTLY if the child is thinking of suicide. Experience shows that harm is rarely done by inquiring directly; as a matter of fact, the student frequently is glad to have the opportunity to open up and discuss suicidal feelings.
STEP 6: DON'T BE MISLED by a youngster's assertions that he or she is past the emotional crisis. Often a child will feel relieved after talking about suicide, but the same thinking may recur later. Follow-up is crucial.
STEP 7: BE AFFIRMATIVE, BUT SUPPORTIVE. Strong, stable guideposts are essential in the life of a distressed child. Provide emotional strength by giving the impression that you know what you are doing, and that everything possible will be done to assist the young person.
STEP 8: EVALUATE AVAILABLE RESOURCES. The student may have inner resources--including mechanisms for rationalization and intellectualization--which can be strengthened and supported, plus other resources such as relatives and friends who can be contacted. If these are absent, the problem is more serious.
STEP 9: ACT SPECIFICALLY. Do something tangible; give the youngster something definite to hang onto, such as arranging to see him/her later or putting them in contact with another helping person.
STEP 10: OBTAIN APPROPRIATE ASSISTANCE. Don't try to handle the problem alone. Seek the advice of school support staff, mental health professionals or other knowledgeable persons.
*Adapted from a listing by Dr. Calvin Frederick, National Institute of Mental Health, which appears in Trends in Mental Health: Self-Destructive Behavior Among Younger Age Groups, Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare Publication No. (ADM) 76-365.