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					                         LEON COUNTY SCHOOLS
                               Beginning Teacher Programs

                      Competency Study Packet

            Emotional Stress in Students/
                Suicide Prevention

                                        Revised July 2010

                                      Leon County Schools
                                 Staff Development Department
                                    3955 W. Pensacola Street
                                     Tallahassee, FL 32304
                                       Phone: 850-487-7206
                                         FAX: 487-7399

Leon County Schools does not discriminate against any person on the basis of gender, marital status,
             sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, age, color, or disability.

          Beginning teachers in Florida must demonstrate
      the Professional Education Competencies
                                      as mandated in
                                  Florida Statute 1012.52

A list of the current Professional Education Competencies can be accessed on the BT webpage at
        under “Quick Links.”
                  (The list is under revision by the Florida Department of Education.)

                    Emotional Stress in Students/
                        Suicide Prevention

                                 Table of Contents

Part                                       Topic                                   Page No.

 1     Emotional Stress in Students                                                  4-6
       Determining the Degree of Emotional Stress: The Stress Scale for Children
       Emotional Stress: Strategies and Interventions
       Ways to Cope with Stress (Strategies for Teachers and Students)

 2     Recognizing and Dealing with Tendency Toward Violence                          7
       Legal Requirements
       Behavior Levels of Crisis Development
       Key Points for Successful Verbal Intervention

 3     Suicide Prevention Awareness                                                  8-13
       Suicide Statistics in the U.S.
       Risk Factors for Youth
       Early Warning Signs of Suicide
       Additional Risk Indicators for Teens
       Myths and Facts About Adolescent Suicide
       What Teachers Can Do

 --    Written Assignment                                                           14-15

Part 1: Emotional Stress in Students

Determining Degree of Emotional Stress
                                The Stress Scale for Children

   Mark the items that happened in the last 12 months and add up the points. If the score exceeds 300
   points, the child may be (but not necessarily is) more vulnerable to stress-related problems.

                                       Life Event                                    Stress Value
Death of a parent                                                                        100
Parent’s new relationship (new siblings involved)                                         90
Divorce of parents                                                                        73
Parent’s new relationship (no new siblings involved)                                      70
Separation of parents                                                                     65
Parent’s jail term                                                                        63
Death of a close family member (e.g., a grandparent)                                      63
Personal injury or illness                                                                53
Parent’s remarriage                                                                       50
Suspension or expulsion from school                                                       47
Parents’ reconciliation                                                                   45
Summer vacation                                                                           45
Parent or sibling illness                                                                 44
Mother’s pregnancy                                                                        40
Anxiety over sex                                                                          39
Birth of a new baby (or adoption)                                                         39
New school or new classroom or new teacher                                                39
Money problems at home                                                                    38
Death or moving away of close friend                                                      37
Death of a valued pet                                                                     37
Change in school work                                                                     36
More quarrels with parents or (parents quarreling more)                                   35
Responsibilities with sibling going away to school                                        29
Family arguments with grandparents                                                        29
Winning school or community awards                                                        28
School beginning or ending                                                                26
Family’s living standard changing                                                         25
Change in personal habits (bedtime, homework)                                             24
Trouble with parents—lack of communication, hostility                                     23
Change in school hours, schedule of courses                                               23
Family’s moving                                                                           20
A new school—high school                                                                  20
New sports, hobbies, family recreation activities                                         20
Change in church activities—more involvement or less                                      19
Change in social activities—new friends, loss of old ones, peer pressures, teasing        18

 Change in sleeping habits (giving up naps)                                        16
 Change in number of family get-togethers                                          13
 Change in eating habits—going off or on diet, new way of family cooking           15
 Vacation (other than summer)                                                      13
 Christmas                                                                         12
 Breaking home, school, or community rules                                         11

 You may have seen the Holmes and Rabe Stress Scale for adults. The scale shown above is based
 on that scale but ranks the life events that cause stress in children.

 A review of the expected behaviors for children ages 5- middle school, may be accessed on the BT
 website at Under ―Quick Links,‖
 click on ―Patterns of Child Development.‖ (optional)

 Dealing with Emotional Stress: Strategies and Interventions

 What is stress?
    Good stress—is necessary.
    Debilitating stress –overwhelms the child.
    Outward signs—physical symptoms, attention seeking, regression to immature behavior, any drastic
     change in behavior.

 How do you find out what is causing the stress?
    Observe changes in the child’s behavior.
    Ask the student—have a student conference— must be private, give undivided attention and really
    Talk with someone at your school.
    Talk to the child’s parents.

What Can You do as a Teacher?
  Become aware of individual student behavior patterns.
    Learn the student’s tolerance level for stress.
    Know your own tolerance level for stress.
    Give the student many opportunities for success.
    Provide good role model—show positive examples of students handling stress.
    Provide structure to student’s day.
    Prepare student ahead of time for changes in routine.
    Teach relaxation techniques.
    Become aware of anxiety indicators.
    Know where to go for help.

                                         Ways to Cope With Stress
Get up early* prepare ahead * avoid tight clothes * avoid chemical aids * set appointments * write it
down* practice preventative maintenance * make duplicate keys * say ―no‖ more often * set priorities *
avoid negative people * use time wisely * simplify meals * copy important papers * anticipate needs *
make repairs * get help with jobs you dislike * break down large tasks * look at problems as challenges
*look at challenges differently * unclutter your life * smile * prepare for rain * tickle a baby * pet a
dog/cat * don’t know all of the answers * look at the silver lining * say something nice * teach a kid to fly
a kite * walk in the rain * schedule play time * take a bubble bath * be aware of your decisions * believe
in yourself * stop talking negatively * visualize winning * develop a sense of humor * stop thinking
tomorrow will be better * have goals * dance a jig * say hello to a stranger * ask a friend for a hug * look
at the stars * breath slowly * sing * read a poem * listen to a symphony * read a story * do something
new * buy a flower * do it today * be optimistic * put safety first * do things in moderation * note your
appearance * stretch your limits * maintain your weight * plant a tree * feed the birds * practice grace *
stretch * have a plan B * doodle * learn a joke * know your feelings * meet your needs * know your
limits * say ―have a good day‖ in pig Latin * throw a paper airplane * exercise * get to work earlier *
clean a closet * play with a child * go on a picnic * drive a different route to work * leave work early *
watch a movie and eat popcorn * write a far- a-way friend * scream at a ballgame * eat a meal by
candlelight * recognize the importance of unconditional love * remember stress is an attitude * keep a
journal * share a monster smile * remember your options * get enough sleep * talk less and listen more *
praise others

                    P.S. Relax— take one day at a time. You have the rest of your life to live.

Copied by permission from Word of Mouth Newsletter, P.O. Box 28008, San Antonio, Texas

     Part 2:        Recognizing and Dealing with the Tendency toward Violence

     Legal Requirements
     Pursuant to State Statute and Leon County School Board policy, all school personnel are required to
     increase their skills in recognizing the behaviors that precipitate crisis development and in defusing
     potentially violent situations. The care and welfare, as well as safety and security, for all involved are of
     utmost importance. Please refer to the Reasonable Force packet you received at New Employee

     The following table has been adapted from

     Behavior Levels of Crisis Development
     In a crisis development situation, there are four distinct behavior levels. Each behavior level demands a
     specific response by the educator to provide the best chance of defusing the crisis.

                    Crisis Development                                           Staff Attitude/Response

1.     Anxiety – A noticeable increase or change in            1.   Supportive – The educator is empathic—
       behavior. The student still has enough reasoning             attempts to alleviate the anxiety observed.
       ability to respond to you.

2.     Defensive – The student will have limited               2.   Directive – The ability of the educator to set behavior
       reasoning ability. His verbal acting out behavior is         limits that are accepted by the student, along with the
       belligerent and challenging.                                 ability to enforce the limits, will generally stop the
                                                                    behavior from going any further.

3.     Acting-Out Student – Student's behavior
       evidences total loss of control. The student turns to   3.   Nonviolent Physical Crisis Intervention (N.P.C.I.)–-
       physical acting out or assaultive behavior.                  Safe, non-injurious prevention or restraint techniques.
                                                                    Physical restraint is recommended only as a last resort.

4.     Tension Reduction – Eventually the acting-out           4.   Therapeutic Rapport – The educator establishes
       student will "run out of steam." He will regain              communication with the student during tension
       rationality.                                                 reduction.

     Source: Nonviolent Crisis Intervention for the Educator, developed by the National Crisis Intervention
             Institute, Incorporated, 1994.

     Key Points for Successful Verbal Intervention

          Be aware of the student’s nonverbal cues. Be aware of your own nonverbal cues.
          Identify the real (underlining) difficulty.
          Remain calm, avoid over-reacting.
          Listen carefully.
          Keep your response simple.
          Be prepared to set and enforce limits.
          Remove the audience (other students who are watching, listening).
          Always keep in mind these four word: care, welfare, safety and security.

     Each school has a Crisis Intervention Team to assist teachers in an emergency situation. Find out who is on the
     team at your school.

Part 3:         Suicide Prevention Awareness

Suicide Statistics in the U.S.
Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages. Suicide is the eleventh leading
cause of death in the U.S. The three methods used most often in suicides included firearm (51 percent),
suffocation (23 percent), and poisoning (18 percent). Deaths from suicide are only part of the problem.
More people survive suicide attempts than actually die. In 2008, 376,306 people received medical care
for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the United States.
In 2007, to measure U.S. trends in youth suicide, the Centers for Disease Control analyzed data recorded
during 1990--2004, (the most recent data available). In 2004, suicide was the third leading cause of death
among youths and young adults aged 10--24 years, accounting for 4,599 deaths. Results indicated that,
from 2003 to 2004, suicide rates for three sex-age groups increased significantly, while the rates for other
age groups declined:
 Females aged 10--14 years.
 Females aged 15--19 years.
 Males aged 15--19 years.

Risk Factors for Youth

Several general factors can put a young person at risk for suicide. However, the presence of these risk
factors does not always mean that suicide will occur:

   History of previous suicide attempts.
   Family history of suicide.
   History of depression or other mental illness.
   Alcohol or drug abuse.
   Stressful life event or loss.
   Easy access to lethal methods.
   Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.
   Incarceration .

 Sources:    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Early Warning Signs of Suicide

        Persistent boredom                                     Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

        Difficulty concentrating                               Loss of interest in things one cares

        Difficulties in school—                                Marked personality change and serious
         decline in quality of work                              mood changes

        Change in eating and sleeping habits                   Withdrawal from friends and family

        Frequent complaints about physical                     Preoccupation with death
         symptoms that are often related to
         emotions—such as stomachaches,
         headaches, fatigue, etc.

Additional At-Risk Indicators for Teens

   Claiming to be a bad person.
   Claiming to feel ―rotten inside.‖
   Making statements such as ―I won't be a problem for you much longer,‖ ―Nothing matters,‖ ―It's no use,‖ and
    ―I won't see you again.‖
   Putting affairs in order— giving away possessions, throw away important belongings, etc.
   Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression.

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

 Myths and Facts about Adolescent Suicide

There are many commonly held misconceptions about suicide. These myths often stand in the way of
providing assistance for those who are at-risk. If the myths can be dispelled, those professionals
responsible for the care and education of young people will be in a better position to identify adolescents
who are at-risk and to provide the help that is needed.

Young people who talk bout suicide never attempt or complete suicide.

Talking about suicide can be a plea for help and can be a late sign in the progression toward a suicide
attempt. Those who are most at risk will show other signs apart from talking about suicide. If you have
concerns about a young person who talks about suicide:
        --Encourage them to talk further and help them to find appropriate counseling assistance.
        --Ask if they are thinking about making a suicide attempt.
        --Ask if they have a plan.
        --Think about the completeness of the plan and how dangerous it is. Do not trivialize plans that seem less
          complete or less dangerous. ALL suicidal intentions are serious and must be acknowledged as such.
        --Encourage the young person to develop a personal safety plan. This can include time spent with others,
          check-in points with significant adults, plans for the future.

A promise to keep a note unopened and unread should always be kept.

When the potential for harm, or actual harm, is disclosed, confidentiality cannot be maintained. A sealed
note with the request for the note not to be opened is a very strong indicator that something is seriously
amiss. A sealed note is a late sign in the progression towards suicide.

Attempted or completed suicides happen without warning.

The survivors of a suicide often say that the intention was hidden; however, it is more likely that the intention
was not recognized. These warning signs include:
        --The recent suicide, or death by other means, of a friend or relative.
        --Previous suicide attempts.
        --Preoccupation with themes of death or expressing suicidal thoughts.
        --Depression, conduct disorder or problems with adjustment—such as substance abuse
          (particularly when two or more of these are present).
        --Giving away of prized possessions, making a will or other final arrangements.
        --Major changes in sleep patterns—too much or too little.
        --Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits, losing or gaining weight.
        --Withdrawal from friends/family or other major behavioral changes.
        --Dropping out of group activities.
        --Personality changes such as nervousness, outbursts of anger, impulsive or reckless behavior, or apathy
          about appearance or health.
        --Frequent irritability or unexplained crying.
        --Lingering expressions of unworthiness or failure.
        --Lack of interest in the future.

Myths and Facts about Adolescent Suicide (continued)

If a person attempts suicide and survives, he or she will never make a further attempt.

A suicide attempt is regarded as an indicator of further attempts. It is likely that the level of danger will
increase with each further suicide attempt.

Once a person is intent on suicide, there is no way of stopping him or her.

Suicides CAN be prevented—people CAN be helped. Suicidal crisis can be relatively short-lived. Suicide is a
permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem. Immediate practical help—such as staying with
the person, encouraging him/her to talk and helping make plans for the future—can avert the intention to
attempt or complete suicide. Such immediate help is valuable at a time of crisis, but appropriate counseling
will then be required.

Suicidal young people cannot help themselves.

While contemplating suicide, young people may have a distorted perception of their actual life situation and
what solutions are appropriate for them to take. However, with support and constructive assistance from
caring and informed people around them, young people can gain full self-direction and self-management of
their lives.

The only effective intervention for suicide comes from professional psychotherapists with extensive experience in
this area.

All people who interact with suicidal adolescents can help them by way of emotional support and
encouragement. Psychotherapeutic interventions also rely heavily on family and friends to provide a
network of support.

Most suicidal young people never seek or ask for help with their problems.

Evidence shows that they often tell their school peers of their thoughts and plans. Most suicidal adults visit a
medical doctor during the three months prior to killing themselves. Adolescents are more likely to “ask” for
help through non-verbal gestures than to express their situation verbally to others.

Suicidal young people are always angry when someone intervenes and they will resent that person afterwards.

While it is common for young people to be defensive and resist help at first, these behaviors are often barriers
imposed to test how much people care and are prepared to help. For most adolescents considering suicide, it
is a relief to have someone who genuinely cares about them and to be able to share the emotional burden of
their plight with another person. When questioned some time later, the vast majority express gratitude for
the intervention.

Myths and Facts about Adolescent Suicide (continued)

Suicidal young people are insane or mentally ill.

Although suicidal adolescents are likely to be extremely unhappy and may be classified as having a mood
disorder, such as depression, most are not legally insane. However, there are small numbers of individuals
whose mental state meets psychiatric criteria for mental illness and who need psychiatric help.

Most suicides occur in winter months when the weather is poor.

Seasonal variation data are essentially based on adult suicides, with limited adolescent data available.
However, it seems adolescent suicidal behavior is most common during the spring and early summer months.

Some people are always suicidal.

Nobody is suicidal at all times. The risk of suicide for any individual varies across time, as circumstances
change. It is important to make regular assessments of the level of risk in individuals who are “at-risk.”

Every death is preventable.

No matter how well-intentioned, alert, and diligent people’s efforts may be, there is no way of preventing all
suicides from occurring.

People who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.

All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide
attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device. It is likely that the young person has tried to gain
attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. The attention that they get may well save their lives.

Talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage suicide attempts.

Talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication. Fears that are shared are more likely to
diminish. The first step in encouraging a suicidal person to live comes from talking about feelings. That first
step can be the simple inquiry about whether or not the person is intending to end his or her life. However,
talking about suicide should be carefully managed.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What Teachers Can Do

The good news is that research over the last several decades has uncovered a wealth of information on the
causes of suicide and on prevention strategies. Additionally, the CDC is working to monitor the problem
and develop programs to prevent suicidal behavior

If a child or adolescent says, ―I want to kill myself‖ or I’m going to commit suicide,‖ always take the
statement seriously and immediately seek assistance from your school’s Crisis Intervention Team.

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

LEON COUNTY SCHOOLS                                                      Submit a completed copy of this assignment with your
Beginning Teacher Programs                                                           BT Program documentation.

Beginning Teacher’s Name_____________________ School __________________ Date ________

                                  Written Assignment for
                      Emotional Stress in Students/Suicide Prevention

The intent of this assignment is to provide you the opportunity to locate valuable human resources
within your current school and throughout the district—resources that will be available when you are
dealing with the concerns related to these competencies.

Working with other beginning teachers, your BT Program Mentor, your team leader/department chair, or another
colleague at your school, find the information requested below. Submit a completed copy of this assignment to
your BT Program Mentor for review and keep a copy on file for your own future reference..

1.   List the name of the team or group of professionals at your school that deals with teacher and parent concerns
     about student behavior and academic progress. ___________________________________________________

2.   How often does the team meet and where does it meet? _____________________________________________

3.   List the names of the members of this team and their positions.

                      Team Member’s Name                                              Position

4.   Describe the process for referring a student to this team for assistance.




                                                Assignment page 1
Written Assignment (continued)

5.   Give the definition of an ―intervention‖ (behavioral or academic). ____________________________________



6.   What is your school’s policy on confidentiality of student information (especially during parent conferences)?


7.   Describe the procedure for accessing your school’s Crisis Intervention Team during an emergency.


8.   List three resources (human and/or program) available at your school—to help you deal with student needs.



9.   List three district resources (human and/or program) available to assist you in meeting student needs.



10. List three resources (human and/or program) available in the community to help you meet student needs.



                                               Assignment page 2