THE ROLE OF GUIDANCE AND COUNSELING IN OBVIATING SUICIDE IN NIGERIA TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
Purpose of the study
The main purpose of this study was to examine the role of guidance and counseling in Nigeria Tertiary Institutions. The specific objectives are to;
1. Have a general overview on the role of guidance and counseling.
2. Find out if guidance and counseling can help to prevent suicide in Nigeria Tertiary Institutions.
3. Identify challenges that deter the effectiveness of guidance and counseling services among students in Nigeria Tertiary Institutions.
This study attempted to answer the following research questions:
- Are guidance counsellors’ aware of suicidal behaviors?
- What are guidance counsellors’ perceptions of suicidal behaviours?
- Do guidance counsellors understand suicide among students in Nigerian?
2.1 conceptual framework
The Meaning of Guidance
In early civilization according to Uba (1990), he assumed the function of advising and offering counsel and guidance to troubled individuals. This function according to Omoni (2009) gave rise to the traditional meaning attached to guidance as found in Dictionaries, The Webster’s student Dictionary (1999) defines guidance as ‘advice’ or ‘Counsel’ or ‘the act of directing’’ while Idiomatic and syntactic English Dictionary (1852) defines guidance as ‘’Leadership or guidance’’. These meanings are Shallow, confusing and misleading. From the layman’s perspective, guidance means to guide, help, steer, show the way, pilot, inform, assist, direct, watch over or manage. These synonyms do not however explicitly state the deeper meaning embedded in the use of the concept. However, the word guidance is explained in different ways by various or many professionals given it as an educational service as following:
Shertzer and Stone (1976) define guidance as “a process of helping individuals to understand themselves and their world”. When a person understands who he or she is and his or her environment, positive adjustment will take place. Thus, guidance is seen and used as a generic label, an umbrella that covers all the means whereby an institution identifies and responds to the individuals needs no matter is source to help the client develop his or her maximum potentials and be able to face life challenges.
Bulus (1990) defined guidance as assistance made available to an individual by personally qualified and adequately trained men/or women to an individual of any age to help him manage his own life, activities, develop his own points of view, make his own decisions and carry his own burdens.
Durojaiye (1972) in Bulus (1990) defines guidance as a complex process which emcompasses the total needs of the individual student to be directed or guided. This guide is also applicable to the individuals educational, social, moral, emotional, health and leisure time needs, and for the individuals preparation for a suitable career in future.
Denga (1983) in Mallum (2000) define Guidance as; “A cluster of services al aimed at helping a person to understand “self” and to take appropriate steps in educational, occupational and life planning generally”.
Bakare (1996) refers to guidance as a more directive or prescriptive form of assistance. Idowu (1998) sees it as a family name for all the helping service within the general educational and community systems. To make the meaning to be more explicit, Akinade (2002) remarked that some specialists assert that guidance is a broad term used to cover a number of specialist services available in schools. Such services include the information service, testing service, placement service, follow-up service and counseling service. But looking at the modern day global world, the provision of specialist services are no more limited to the school, it now includes the community in general.
Welty, Tural & Weitzel in Chauhan (2009:) define guidance as “a systematically organized phase of the educational process which helps a youth grow in his power to give point and direction to his own life, to the end that he may gain richer personal experiences in making his unique contribution to our democratic society”.
Egbo (2010) writes that guidance programme should help the students in reaching two rather opposite goals adjustment to society and freedom to act as unique individuals. This per se is the real aim of being educated.
Other definitions include that of Mallum (1990), Barr (1958),
Oladele (1987) Alutu (2007), Gesinde (2008) regards guidance as “a comprehensive system services and programmes in school designed to affect the personal development and psychological competencies of students” while Aremu (2002) in Omoni (2009) sees guidance as “an all-embracing concept which facilitates better understanding of an individual or group of individuals with a view to rendering skilled assistance to the individual(s) to live a balanced or an adjusted life”. From the cluster of definitions, there is a consensus that guidance is a professionally planned programme, purposely designed to help handle problems of individual adjustments in school, home, industries and society to maximum human performance. It is a cognitive educational services (within or outside the school system) that help people understand themselves, provided the client reveals accurate, reliable and valid important himself and his environment.
It is a cognitive educational services (within or outside the school system) that help people understand themselves, provided the client reveals accurate, reliable and valid information about himself and his environment.
2.2 The Meaning of Counselling
The term counselling like the twin concept guidance has variously been defined. The Dictionary definition of counselling stresses “advice”, mental exchange of ideas” or to recommend. This definition is the reason why so many people see counselling as a profession anybody can undertake.
There is this erroneous belief that anybody can advice without proper training for the course. Meanwhile, counselling has more indepth meaning technically. The Nigeria psychological Association Division of counselling psychology committee (1956:283) defines counselling as a process designed to help individuals words overcoming obstacles to their personal growth, wherever these may be encountered and towards achieving optimum development of their personal resources”. In other words, counselling helps the individual to acquire skills that will enable him or her over come blocks’ infringing on his/ or her development.
However, Helin and Macleans (1956) in Mallum (2000) defined “counselling as that process which takes place in a one to one relationship between an individual troubled by problems with which he cannot cope with alone, and a professional worker whose training and experiences have qualified him to help others reach solution to various types of personal difficulties.
Idown (1986) defined “counselling as the process, by which a person with problems is helped by a professional counsellor to voluntarily change his behaviour, clarify his attitude, ideas and goals so that his problems may be solved.
Bulus (1990) sees counselling as an open ended, face to face, problem solving situation within which a student with professional assistance, can focus and begin to solve a problem or problems.
According to action Health incorporated (2002), “counselling is a clientoriented interactive communication process in which one helps others make free informed decisions about their personal behaviour and provide support to sustain that behaviour”
In other words, counselling is a helping profession or guiding process in decision making where the client make the decision based on quality information given by the counsellor on the seeming unsolvable e conflict. The definition further stated that counselling is a face to face relationship whereby the helper (counselor) listen to the helpee’s concerns with a view to understanding the students (client) life, problems, feelings, thoughts and resources and figuring out what information will help them to make decision about their lives. This implies according to Omoni (2009) “that clients are capable of making their own decisions, when well informed and that counsellors do not advise or tell them what to do”.
However, Thomson and Poppen (1972) in Bulus (1990) see counselling as a person to person relationship in which one person helps another to resolve an area of conflict that has not been hitherto resolved.
This means the helper in the relationship, is by virus of his or her training and experience, a counsellor who attempts to assist the client in becoming an independent person capable of resolving his conflict situations. Conflict refers to any block that the student (client) is experiencing in his or her development.
Conflict areas include conflict with others, with self, lack of information about self and environment and lack of the knowledge and skill requisite to personal achievement. Therefore, counselling is a process in which the counselling is a process in which the counsellor assists the client to make interpretations of facts relating to a choice, plan or adjustment. This assistance, according to Bulus (1990) may take many forms such as educational, vocational, social, personal emotional or moral.
Counselling is a process of helping individuals or group of people to gain self-understanding in order to be themselves. Burker and Steffler (1979) see counseling as a professional relationship between a trained Counselor and a client. Olayinka (1972) defined it to be a process whereby a person is helped in a face-to-face relationship while Makinde (1983) explained counseling as an enlightened process whereby people help others by encouraging their growth. Counselling is a process meaningful, well-informed choices and a resolution of problems of an emotional or interpersonal nature. It believes that every human individual has the potential for self-growth, self-development and self actualization.
Adolescent Development and Stressors
Adolescence is a difficult time for most teenagers. It is a time of psychological, social, emotional, physical, and sexual changes. While growing up, adolescents experience strong feelings of confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, future uncertainty, stress and other fears (Facts for Families, 1998). A combination of stress, cognitive immaturity, and lack of emotional bonding interact and overwhelm adolescents ability to cope and think clearly (Portes, Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice, 2002).
According to Erikson (cited in Portes, Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice, 2002, p. 806), “individuals attempt to resolve the issue of identity versus role confusion during the teenage years. Adolescents try to answer the question “Who am I?” so as to establish an identity in the sexual, social, ideological, and career domains.” These experiences put considerable pressure on an adolescent’s search for identity.
The conflict of intimacy versus isolation is the predominant developmental issue in the early adult years. Teenagers are in search of friendship and love, which puts them at risk for rejection. The clinical literature, as stated by Portes, Sandhu, and LongwellGrice (2002, p. 807), “supports the view that the less successful adolescents and young adults are in establishing healthy identities and intimacy, the more at risk they are for self-destructive behaviors.
Portes, Sandhu, and Longwell-Grice (2002, p. 806) reported that “adolescents who had attempted suicide reported significantly more stress related to parents, lack of adult support outside the home, and sexual identity than did control groups.”
Rigid families with unrealistic expectations repeatedly placed adolescents at-risk for developing difficulties with problem-solving skills and the ability to reason their way out of a crisis. Experts in the field (Portes, Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice, 2002, p. 807) found that “depression, hopelessness, helplessness, and loneliness were usually present in students who attempted suicide, with hopelessness the best predictor of more lethal behavior.”
Guetzloe (1991, n.p.) made an attempt “to identify situations, experiences, or characteristics that contributed to the likelihood that a student would complete suicide.” The risk of suicide increases when a student has more than one of these factors. In addition to mental illness and behavior disorders, Guetzloe (1991, n.p.), reported that “suicide has been associated with demographic factors such as being between the ages of 15 and 24, being white or male, or having a history of attempted suicide.”
The researcher grouped risk factors into the following categories: previous suicide attempts; mental disorders or co-occurring mental and alcohol or substance abuse disorder; families at risk; family history of suicide; stressful life event or loss; easy access to lethal methods, especially guns; exposure to the suicidal behavior of others; and biological conditions.
Previous Suicide Attempts
If students have attempted suicide in the past, they are much more likely than other students to attempt suicide again. According to the Center of Disease Control (2002, n.p.), “approximately a third of teenage suicide victims have made a previous suicide attempt.”
Teens in this high-risk group may remain at risk for about a year (Nelson & Galas, 1994).
Mental Disorders and Alcohol and Drug Abuse
The Center of Disease Control (2002, n.p.) confirmed that “over 90% of young people who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder or both, and that the majority have a depressive illness. Almost half of teenagers who complete suicide have had a previous contact with a mental health professional.” Among those who complete suicide, aggressive, disruptive, and impulsive behaviors are common in students of both sexes.
Many adolescents attempt to reduce tension by getting involved in drugs or alcohol. Adolescents who are heavy users of alcohol or drugs will more likely complete the suicidal act (Portes, Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice, 2002). Drugs and alcohol impair a person’s judgment and can cause them to lose control. Drugs cause depression after the initial high (Lewis, 1994).
Families at Risk
While some families that experience a suicide are close and caring, many others are not. Many families with members at-risk for suicide show specific and similar characteristics. There is usually a lack of communication, a poor relationship between parents, long-standing patterns of alcoholism or drug abuse, high parent expectations, and a family history of depression and suicide (Lewis, 1994).
Family History of Suicide
A high percentage of suicides and suicide attempters have had a family member who attempted or completed suicide. Imitation or genetics may be the cause of familial suicide. A genetic factor to suicide risk appears to be contributed by mental illnesses (Center of Disease Control, 2002). Such illnesses include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, and substance abuse.
Stressful Life Events or Loss
A suicide and/or suicide attempt is often preceded by stressful life events. Such stressful life events include: getting into trouble at school or with law enforcement; fighting or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend; and fighting with friends (Center of Disease Control, 2002).
Some psychological conditions, such as parental loss, family disruption, exposure to suicide, and unwanted pregnancy are additional factors (Guetzloe, 1991). Family stress often contributes to adolescent suicide. Divorce, a separation, and unemployment in a family increases the likelihood of a teenager having suicidal behaviors (Hahn, 1999).
Easy Access to Lethal Methods
As mentioned earlier, firearms are the most common method of suicide by students. The Center of Disease Control (2002, n.p.) reported that “the most common location for the occurrence of firearm suicide by students is in their own home, and there is a positive association between the accessibility and availability of firearms in the home and the risk for suicidal behaviour.”
Exposure to Suicidal Behaviors of Others
Vulnerable teens may be introduced to the idea of suicide by exposure to real or fictional accounts of suicide, including media coverage, such as the extensive reporting of a celebrity suicide, or the fictional representation of a suicide in a popular movie or television show.
According to The Center of Disease Control (2002, n.p.), “there is evidence of suicide clusters, that is, local epidemics of suicide that have a contagious influence.” One person’s death by suicide leads other young people to mimic suicides. This is for the most part an adolescent trend, and it occurs because teenagers are not only dramatic, but are very sensitive to actions by their peers (Lewis, 1994).
Certain biological conditions have also been associated with suicide. These conditions include perinatal factors, decreases in levels of serotonin, and decreases in the secretion of growth hormone, among others (Guetzloe, 1991). The National Institute of Mental Health (2000, n.p.) has “learned that serotonin receptors in the brain increase their activity in persons with major depression and suicidality.”
Signs and Symptoms
Suicidal thoughts, threats, and attempts often lead to a suicide. The most frequently observed warnings of potential suicide include: extreme changes in behavior; a previous suicide attempt; a suicidal threat or statement; and signs of depression (Guetzloe, 1991).
Adolescents may demonstrate school difficulties, may withdraw from social events, have negative or antisocial behavior, or may use alcohol or other drugs that contribute to suicidal behavior. They may express increased emotionality, and their moods may be impatient, irritable, hostile, or sullen. Personal appearance may not be given any attention. Refuse to cooperate in family events or wanting to leave home is often displayed in these teenagers. They may suffer from feeling misunderstood or not being accepted, or act very sensitive to rejection in love relationships (Guetzloe, 1991).
According to Poland and Lieberman (2003, n.p.), “depression (especially when combined with hopelessness), sudden happiness (especially when preceded by significant depression), a move toward social isolation, giving away personal possessions, and reduced interest in previously important activities are among the changes considered to be suicide warning signs.” Previous behavior is a significant indicator of future behavior. Anyone with a history of suicidal behavior should be carefully observed for potential suicidal behavior (Poland & Lieberman, 2003).
According to Poland and Lieberman (2003, n.p.), “it has been estimated that up to 80% of all suicide victims have given some clues regarding their intentions. Both direct (“I want to kill myself”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up”) threats need to be taken seriously.”
The more detailed the individual is about suicide, the greater the risk of suicidal behavior. The presence of a suicide note is a very significant sign of danger. As reported by Poland and Lieberman (2003, n.p.), “making funeral arrangements, writing a will, and/or giving away prized possessions may be warning signs of impending suicidal behavior. Excessive talking, drawing, reading and/or writing about death may suggest suicidal thinking.”
People are not suicidal most of their lives and it can be prevented. A suicidal crisis is very often temporary. If a person can get help, the desire to commit suicide may disappear. According to Williams (2002, n.p.), “80% of suicidal people ask for help and can be helped. Only 10% of suicides are people who mean to kill themselves and can’t be stopped.” Most young people are suicidal only once in their lives. As said by Nelson and Galas (1994, p. 25), “the truth is that most people are hazardous to themselves only for a brief period of time–24 to 72 hours.” It is possible that they won’t make another attempt on their lives if someone stops them from carrying out their plans and explains how to get help (Nelson & Galas, 1994).
Suicide is not just a way to get attention. According to Nigeria’s Continuing Education Network (2003, n.p.), “all suicide attempts should be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device.” The individual may have previously tried to get attention and, therefore, this attention is desired. The attention that they get might save their life (Nigeria’s Continuing Education Network, 2003).
Comprehensive School Suicide Prevention Program
Adolescents spend one-third of their day in a school setting. Therefore, schools are the ideal places for suicide prevention. Educators can offer consistent, direct contact opportunities with large populations of adolescents (King, 2001).
As indicated by Guetzloe (1991), a comprehensive school suicide prevention program should include procedures related to the three components: prevention for the aftermath of a suicide crisis, intervention for dealing with suicide attempts, threats, and ideation, and postvention to minimize trauma and reduce copycat suicides. This approach focuses on preventing suicide by describing and monitoring the problem, understanding the risk factors and causes of suicidal behavior, and implementing interventions and prevention strategies (King, 2001).
The goal of suicide prevention programs is to decrease student suicide thoughts, attempts, and completions. School programs and activities should focus on increasing staff and student awareness of suicide warning signs, risk factors, and the proper referral procedures. According to King (2001, p. 133), “prevention offers the most direct method for saving student lives from suicide and, therefore, should receive the most attention. All school staff should share responsibility for identifying and helping students in need.”
An essential component of an effective school-based suicide prevention program identifies students at-risk for suicide. Therefore, guidance counsellors’ ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors is crucial in the prevention phase. According to Guetzloe (1991, n.p.), the primary role of all school personnel is to detect the signs of depression and potential suicide, to make immediate referrals to the contact person within the school, to notify parents, to secure assistance from school and community resources, and to assist as members of the support team in follow-up activity after a suicide threat or attempt.
While teachers and other staff members are not qualified to diagnose and treat suicidal adolescents, they should assist in recognizing students at risk and conveying that information to school counselors or school psychologists. Suicide prevention training for guidance counsellors can increase their awareness of suicide warning signs, knowledge of resources, and ability to make referrals (King, 2001).
According to King (2001, n.p.) “more than one-half of tertiary institution students report they would not feel comfortable talking to a school professional about a personal problem. Three out of four adolescents would first turn to a friend for help if they were contemplating suicide.” Peer assistance programs should be implemented for that reason alone. Educating students about the warning signs of suicide and how to refer suicidal friends to school counselors is essential (King, 2001).
Parent involvement in their children’s education is encouraged. When schools promote healthy relationships with parents, parents are more likely to support and cooperate with the programs schools offer. Consequently, it is the responsibility of the school to notify parents of all suicide prevention programs and inquire about their assistance in determining particular prevention activities (King, 2001).
Consistent with reviewed literature (Portes, Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice, 2002, p. 809), “awareness of the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation should be priority in the schools and in the community. Teachers and family members can work in partnership with schools to intervene.”
A complete suicide prevention program cannot completely operate without external support and resources. Schools should strive to form and sustain positive relationships with other community agencies. Providing guidance counsellors readily available agencies and services to contact is most beneficial when a student suicide threat or attempt is made. Such contacts should include hospital emergency, law enforcement, students health services, and psychiatric facilities (King, 2001).
Every school should have a crisis intervention team implemented. This team should consist of a diverse group of guidance counsellors such as the principal, counselor, teacher, and school nurse. A designated person and a backup leader are needed to ensure the presence of at least one team leader in the building at all times. This team should develop an organized school suicide intervention plan that specifically recognizes the procedures to be followed when a student threatens or attempts suicide (King, 2001).
According to Portes, Sandhu, and Longwell-Grice (2002, p. 809), “a family approach to intervention is especially important in light of recent evidence suggesting that parents may actually precipitate a child’s suicide.” Prevention programs work to help connect people and improve an individual’s self-worth to reduce potential suicides. This support can be implemented in a supportive social setting, such as the school (Portes,
Sandhu, & Longwell-Grice (2002).
As indicated by Portes, Sandhu, and Longwell-Grice (2002, p. 809), “intervention, including screening, should begin early. Suicide intervention should begin at preadolescence.” School suicide intervention refers to guidance counsellors following specific procedures outlined in the suicide intervention plan. The crisis intervention plan should designate a team leader to supervise the situation and make certain that appropriate actions are taken. The goal of the intervention phase is to secure the surrounding area, maintain student safety, and refer the suicidal student to further appropriate services (King, 2001).
According to King (2001, p. 135), “when a school professional encounters an adolescent who has expressed suicidal thoughts, the main objective is to prevent the act.” A school professional should stay with the suicidal student at all times. King (2001, p. 135) stated that “at this time guidance counsellors should actively listen, ask questions for clarity, encourage the open expression of feelings, remain calm, be positive about life in general, help the students gradually accept reality, and refrain from promising confidentiality or secrecy.”
The school professional should accompany the students to a prearranged, nonthreatening area away from others. A prearranged signal should be used to inform another adult about the situation. The signal will alert the crisis intervention team. The suicidal student should be asked if they have a specific plan, when the plan is to take place, and if they have access to lethal means to complete the plan (King, 2001).
According to King (2001, n.p.), “the school’s suicide intervention program should anticipate three levels of risk: extreme risk situation, severe risk situation, and moderate risk situation.” In the extreme risk situation, the student has a plan to harm him/herself and he/she know how he/she is going to actually complete the act of suicide (Poland & Lieberman, 2003).
In the severe risk situation, the student has a detailed suicidal plan, but has no dangerous means of carrying out the act. However, the students may have access to lethal means at home (King, 2001). At this level of risk, students should also be asked if they have ever tried to hurt themselves before (Poland & Lieberman, 2003).
In the moderate risk situation, the student has verbalized suicidal thoughts, but has no specific suicidal plan or dangerous instrument. Since the level of risk is so crucial in determining the proper services the student needs, appropriate assessments are required (King, 2001). As indicated by King (2001, p. 136), “the school should determine whether emergency or short-term procedures were followed and whether long-term services were arranged. If not, the school should contact a child-protection agency or a community mental health agency for assistance.”
Follow up on the intervention procedures should be debriefed by all staff involved in the incident. This process allows those involved an opportunity to sort out their feelings and concerns. The crisis intervention team should assess whether the prearranged strategies actually made the situation better or worse. Procedures can be upheld or modified based on their perceived effectiveness (King, 2001).
Suicide postvention refers to strategies occurring after a student has threatened, attempted, or completed suicide. A completed suicide is a traumatic event for the survivors. According to King (2001, p. 136), “suicide clusters are well established among adolescents, so the school response to an actual suicide is crucial. The goal of postvention is to minimize the trauma to students and reduce the likelihood of copycat or further suicides.” Postvention procedures are most effective and easily carried out when planned well in advance of any actual emergency (King, 2001).
Suicide postvention steps should include: responding promptly after the event (within 24 hours of the suicide); acting in a concerned and conservative manner; informing all staff and school board members of the event and action steps; having teachers announce the death of the student to their first class of the day; making counseling sites available throughout the school; avoiding any glorification of the suicide; assigning a school liaison to handle media inquiries, monitoring the school’s ongoing emotional climate; and evaluating all postvention activities. As stated earlier, all guidance counsellors should be aware of the school’s postvention plan in managing the days following a student suicide or attempt (King, 2001).
All guidance counsellors have a duty to report to parents, mental health agencies, or law enforcement. It’s the school responsibility to anticipate that a student who is exhibiting the warning signs of suicide is at risk to take his/her own life. According to Poland and Lieberman (2003, n.p.) “courts have found school districts negligent in failing to notify parents that their child is known to be suicidal and in failing to take the appropriate steps to get help for the student.”
DISCUSSIONS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Education and awareness is the key to helping guidance counsellors identify students at risk and getting them the proper help they need. According to King (2001), suicide prevention training for guidance counsellors can increase their awareness of suicide warning signs, knowledge of resources, and ability to make referrals. The researcher’s results concurred with these findings. The more education participants had on suicidal behaviour, the more they were able to identify students at risk and were better able to intervene with these students.
There are many universally held misconceptions about suicide. Providing assistance for those who are at-risk is often halted by these myths. According to Nigeia’s Continuing Education Network (2003, n.p.), “by dispelling the myths, guidance counsellors will be in a better position to identify those who are at-risk and to provide the help that is needed.” The results of this study indicated that some participants agreed with common misconceptions about suicidal behaviour. Further assistance and education can help guidance counsellors dispel these myths and better their position to help students at risk.
Every school should have a crisis intervention team implemented. A crisis team should consist of a diverse group of guidance counsellors, such as the principal, counselors, teachers, and school nurse (King, 2001). Results showed that not all of the tertiary institution staff guidance counsellors’ know about a crisis team and there was some confusion as to who was on the team. Participants indicated that their crisis team possibly included deans, administration, school psychologist, nurse, police resource officer, chemical dependency educator, and teacher.
Overall, the findings of this study seem to suggest that guidance counsellors are knowledgeable and aware of suicidal behaviour. While this is reassuring, the fact is that not all participants indicated awareness of these important indicators of suicidal behaviour. Approximately 50% of guidance counsellors had students express suicidal thoughts or intent. Only 56% of all participants felt they could intervene with potentially suicidal students.
Approximately 77% (n=30) were aware of a crisis intervention team. Only 70% (n=27) could list guidance counsellors on the crisis team. Of those 27 participants who listed staff members on the crisis team, there were 11 different responses. These results indicate that the school’s crisis intervention team and plan is not well known in the building.
School programs and activities should focus on increasing staff and student awareness of suicide warning signs, risk factors, and the proper referral procedures. Approximately 61.5% of guidance counsellors suggested that suicide issues were addressed within the curriculum. Participants indicated that health, family and consumer science courses, teen issues, and small group communication addressed suicide issues.
5.3 Recommendations for the Surveyed Tertiary institution
The results seem to indicate that more education is needed to increase guidance counsellors’ awareness of suicide risk factors and warning signs and symptoms. Perhaps the school should have school-based suicide prevention and intervention training for all guidance counsellors working in the building.
Results also indicate that the majority of participants were not accurately aware of who served on the crisis intervention team. All staff in the building should be made aware of crisis intervention procedures and appropriate guidance counsellors to contact and refer at-risk students. While teachers and other staff members are not qualified to diagnose and treat suicidal students, they should assist in recognizing students at-risk and conveying that information to school counselors and school psychologists. This procedure could possibly be explained in a mandatory staff meeting at the beginning of the school year. Everyone should be educated on how to intervene with suicidal students and the proper referral procedures to follow.
Recommendations for guidance counsellors
Because suicide is of such a serious and important nature, guidance counsellors should take it upon themselves to increase their awareness of suicidal behaviour and crisis intervention procedures within their school. Find out who is on your crisis intervention team, what procedures to follow and who to contact when a student expresses potential suicidal thoughts or intent.
There are many universally held misconceptions about suicide. According to Nigeria’s Continuing Education Network (2003, n.p.), “by dispelling the myths, guidance counsellors will be in a better position to identify those who are at-risk and to provide the help that is needed.”
In order to refer at risk students, educators need to be aware of the risk factors, warning signs, and symptoms of suicidal behaviour. Workshops, conferences, on-the-jobtraining, in-service training, professional journals, and media coverage are just a few resources out there for professional development on suicidal behaviour. Ongoing training and evaluation of suicide prevention is needed.
A complete suicide prevention program cannot entirely operate without external support and resources. Schools should strive to form and sustain positive relationships with other community resources. Providing guidance counsellors readily available agencies and services to contact is most beneficial when a student suicide threat or attempt is made.
Parent involvement in children’s education is encouraged. When schools promote healthy relationships with parents, parents are more likely to support and cooperate with programs schools offer. Perhaps the school could offer a parent class on recognizing signs and symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors, and warning signs of suicidal behaviour. Teachers and parents can work together with schools to intervene.
Participants were given the opportunity to express how schools play a role in obviating suicide. The following ideas came from guidance counsellors surveyed: schools need to educate students about alternatives to suicide, as well as where and who to ask for help; schools should educate peers to understand and recognize the warning signs and how to intervene; teach students about depression; collaborate with the community (parents, churches, police, social workers, etc,.); destigmatize mental illnesses; educate parents about available help and resources within the community; and educate parents to notice subtle changes in their children’s behavior.
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