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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Cry for HELP!!!

According to Ervin, Gimpel, and Merrell (2006), development of knowledge and skills in prevention services is an integral part of school psychology training programs. Part of this is the prevention and evaluation of suicide and violent acts. This emphasis is become more and more common with the increase in school violence and the publicity that school shooting have had. Often the school psychologist is believed to hold the most knowledge of suicide, depression, violent tendencies and so forth in the school.

Yet do you feel prepared to take on this role? As school psychologists we will be asked to evaluate whether a student is on a path to violence as well as suicide.

Reddey (2001) has a three principle process to assess a student's likelihood of violent actions: "(1) Targeted violence is a result of an interaction among the students, situation, target, and setting; there is not single "type" of student prone to such acts;
(2) evaluators must make a distinction between a student who makes threats versus poses a threat;
(3) targeted violence is often the product of an understandable pattern of thinking and behavior".

-Do we have any required classes that offer instruction on preventive strategies or risk factors of suicide?

-Do you feel prepared to make decision on whether a student is likely to commit a violent act or tendency to commit suicide?

If you do feel comfortable what preparations did you make or classes did you take?

This blog was created by Rebecca Guenther and Danielle Allegra.


Mark said...

I would have to say that I do feel prepared, but I do agree that many times we read about a subject but are not versed and prepared to handle a real life situation. This brings me back to a comment on education, how do we make it more than just reading a chapter? I think we would be more prepared with more case studies and role play scenarios rather than just reading an article. My preparation basically came from trial by fire and relying on support from my supervisor to make the best decision.

Rebeccca said...

I think Mark is correct in saying that the best education on the subject is getting right into it. The problem is that if you have an internship in some schools you may be the only person around alot of time. I think some of the schools in Newark employ you to basically be the schools psych and you don't have a large supervisor presence. It is this scenario that frightens me.

I also feel more prepared to deal with suicide then school violence. I have come into contact alot with suicide prevention and warning signs in books, classes, and in real situations.

I, however, do not feel ready to assess how serious one is about committing violent acts. Working in a high school some kids are great liars so I think I would rule in favor of a lot of false positives.

Alaafia said...

All what I know about dealing with suicide came from the Interviewing and Counseling class I took with Dr. Lennon. He exposed us to the risk factors, and the mental status interview where we were introduced to the signs to look for in a suicidal patient, and how to intervene in such situations. We were told to role play among ourselves being suicidal, and to write how each person will deal with situations like that when they arise. Apart from that class where I've learned almost all I know on how to deal with suicide interventions, I haven't had any class whatsoever on that or school violence. Any one who takes Interviewing and Counseling with him will be exposed to the risk factors and how to identify a person with suicide tendencies.

I personally don't even know if there is a class that specifies on these two important issues for school psychologists. Most of what I know have come from literature, and the class with Lennon. I believe I'm prepared to deal with any case that deals with suicide more than school violence.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

I have not taken Interviewing and Counseling yet but Alaafia has peaked my interest!

I feel somewhat comfortable in dealing with crisis situations accredited to my teaching experience. Mark said it best, “…trial by fire” is probably the best way to learn about these pertinent issues because while literature and training are very beneficial, real-life immersion may be the best learning experience since you delve in, head first, and learn lessons you are likely not to forget.

As with everything else in life, experience is the best teacher!

AmandaBish said...

I think that suicide and violence prevention is one of the most researched subjects in our field. There is a lot of quality information out there, and one of the interventions I actually feel pretty knowledgeable about. Also, in Interviewing and Counseling we spent a few weeks on this topic, and I feel like I learned a lot about it.

That being said, I don't think anyone could be fully prepared or equipped for these types of situations because they are all different. We have our laws, rules and guidelines but there is nothing like the real thing. You might do everything in your power to help out a student who is intent on killing themselves, and in the end they might do it anyway.

I wouldn't say I feel prepared to deal with a suicidal/violent student yet, but I'm hoping I get more exposure during my externship. The suicide interview with the rating scale (I forget the exact name off the top of my head), although mechanical, is helpful. It is very upfront which I think is the best way to approach this situations.

Rebeccca said...

Well I am glad we have Interviewing and Counseling...I wish it was taught next semester because it sounds useful.

Do you think it would be beneficial to add a lesson on assessing violent tendencies in that class or another or do you think it would really be a repeat of what you learn about suicide?

Mark said...

I think it would definitely be useful to know more about the warning signs of students that may predict and prevent school violence. Looking at students writings, withdrawn behaviors and possible change in dress may be an opening to reach out to a student that is harboring anger towards classmates.

Ana said...

Like Mark mentioned, it definitely would be more helpful if we learned more about warning signs and different ways to predict and/ or prevent school violence. I think that we did learn a little bit about dealing with suicide. When it comes to school violence, I definitely feel that we need more training! This is something that has become more relevant in our society. I have always believed that the best kind of training is hands on. Therefore, I really feel that we are going to have to learn from trial and error.

Danielle Muhammad said...

I feel prepared, but when you are in the heat of the moment, it is different. During Interviewing and Counseling we learned a great deal about conducting a suicide interview and recognizing signs. However, I know for a fact that when you are put in a situation that involves suicidal ideation, application of the knowledge is frightening.

I believe that it is best that we take each case seriously. If a child or any person for that matter appears that they are a danger to themselves, then the proper action must be taken to ensure their safety.

Alaafia said...

As Amanda stated, there has been a lot of research done on school violence. I believe there wa a book that we used in Interviewing and Counseling that helped a great deal in addressing various issues in the school, the name of the book is "Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention." But we need more first-hand knowledge and experience which will go a long way in helping us at least to be better prepared for what we are going to be doing in our professional careers.

Prattima Kaulessar said...

I agree that all cases should be taken seriously because one never knows what another individual is thinking and capable of doing. I am glad that Interviewing and Counseling spent some time addressing this issue because, unfortunately, suicide is a pertinent issue in today’s society for a number of reasons. I believe, when faced with the challenge in real-life, school psychologists will pool knowledge from ethical and legal guidelines to analyze the scenario for assessment of risk but no textbook can truly prepare a clinician for such a situation.

Alarys said...

Interviewing and Counseling was integral in learning about suicide indicators in our clients. Overall I felt this prepared me to handle individuals who are suicidal and strategies to use for intervention. However I agree with Rebecca I am more prepared to deal with suicide than school violence. From Columbine to Virginia Tech obviously the school system has a difficult time recognizing these symptoms and taking appropriate action. The Tarasoff case is important on the issue of school violence. Personally, I plan to take any individual seriously if they are verbalizing intent of injury to both themselves and others.

Danielle Allegra said...

Yes, i know about the risk factor and precautions, but personally i don't believe it is enough, as Mark said experience is probably the best way, but that scares me.. When the time does come that i experience that, for the first time, i feel like i'll second guess just because the situation is so serious and you dont want to overreact or just brush it off, but then again when such a serious situation comes up, one might not even think twice about reacting a certain way,once i get more into this program and start doing more hours and the externship, i believe by the time its all over, i'll feel a lot more comfortable with it then i do now.

Mike said...

This is one aspect of the school psychologist's job that I wish we had more training for. While some of our courses touch upon the importance of suicide prevention and intervention, they do not make it as tangible as it could be. In my opinion, there should be an entire course devoted to crisis prevention instead of just one or two lessons. While we will never be able to duplicate the actual event, a role-play amongst peers and more hands-on training would certainly help us in developing both preventative strategies and crisis techniques. This training would benefit the entire school setting in that its practitioners would be more prepared, hopefully triggering a trickle-down effect to the teachers, administrators, students and parents to address such an important issue.

Rebeccca said...

In interviewing and counseling do you learn at all how to deal with other students if a peer does commit suicide or brings a gun to school or something of that nature?

I know when I was in high school we had 2 kids commit suicide while I was there and they announced over the intercom that the school psych would see anyone who needed to talk. Do you feel prepared, not only to handle suicide and violence, but to handle their aftermath?

Anel said...

Mike, I agree with you in that we should have a lot more exposure to crisis prevention. Depending on the school district we work in, will dictate how many of these cases we will see. I don't believe that it is possible to be 100% ready, especially the first time you are confronted with such a situation.

But as with everything else, experience will let us know what methods work best. As Amanda mentioned earlier, we will need to be proactive and seek out the resources that will help us.

As for the students dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, I don't agree that we should just let them come to see us if they need it. So many students already have a difficult time seeking help. Perhaps going to each classroom, even for just a couple of minutes, and having face-to-face contact may make the difference. We don't need to be too detailed, but just let them know how we can help and where exactly they can find us.

Danielle Muhammad said...

Mike you are correct, an entire course on crisis would be great. But, again I will say that regardless of how much training we are given in reference to suicide, the real thing is totally different. I think everyone will be more comfortable once they have actually experienced a crisis involving suicide.

Denise said...

Well, given the nature of my current job (working with a population of severe psychiatric disorders) I would say that I do feel prepared in preventive tasks/techniques that would ensure safety for the client and others. However, had I not been involved in this field, I don't believe I would feel the same way. I haven't taken any courses that I feel would prepare me for this when it's time to get out there in the "real world". (Alaafia does point out this is discussed in Interviewing and Counseling - but I haven't taken that class yet =)). Now, having been the first on the scene during a suicide attempt or even dealing with ideations... I'll say that probably anything you learn in a classroom will not really prepare you for a situation like this. There's nothing like being in the moment and having to think on your feet. Will this person really walk out of here and hurt themselves or others? What steps should I take to ensure everyone's safety? You can't really make a mistake because it can cause someone their life. I think it's definitely one of the scariest things we will have to deal with in our profession.