SD 58 sets out suicide protocol
A Nicola-Similkameen School District 58 suicide protocol aims to help students identified as at risk in the weeks following a crises.
It’s something SD 58 already does, but the formal protocol adds an element of commitment to stay connected with the other organizations that encounter high-risk youths, District Vice-Principal of Student Support Services Jane Kempston told trustees in a school board meeting on Jan. 16.
“We get that child through that moment, but what is it going to look like for them in two weeks?” she said. “What are we going to do when we’re out of crisis mode but that was still a part of their life and part of their worries? How are we, as a community, going to support those kids?”
The protocol includes regular contact between the school district and counselling agencies, the province’s department of Child and Youth Mental Health, and RCMP, among others.
“There were a few situations in our community where inter-agency professionals felt they needed more guidance and support to support kids who are somewhere on the suicide risk continuum,” Kempston said.
She said the protocol is more about facilitating communication between agencies that help youth identified as suicide risks than general suicide prevention.
“This is about kids who’ve come forward, who have brought concerns around their personal states and have been assessed by counsellors as either being low-risk or high-risk,” Kempston said. “It’s really about having a protocol in our community so if X, Y or Z happens with the child, this is what we will follow up on and this is what it will look like for us.”
Trustee Gordon Swan asked about the protocol’s handling of personal information and whether such communication would violate the child’s privacy. Kempston said these professionals mind privacy as much as they can, but they inform others on a need-to-know basis.
“Safety trumps confidentiality,” Kempston said. “That’s sort of an understood agreement among agencies that work for the well-being of young people.”
Kempston said if a youth made a suicide threat in cells at the RCMP detachment and was transported to the hospital for treatment, the hospital worker or social worker present would speak with a school counsellor or principal who would then make the decision about who needed to know.
“It won’t be broadcast in the staff room,” she said.
SD 58 Chairman Gordon Comeau and Trustee Leah Ward commended Kempston for her ongoing work with high-risk students in the school district. Ward also expressed interest in bringing a similar protocol to Princeton.