The Association of School Counselors at Chapman University recently held its first suicide risk assessment workshop for the local Orange County community.

“We saw a need for additional awareness when it came to suicide prevention. Our goal was to provide evidenced-based strategies to educators in an effort to reduce the number of suicide attempts and completions across Orange County,” said Cesar Valdez ’18, MA in Counseling and LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) student and vice president of the Association of School Counselors student organization.

Dr. Michael Hass, Attallah College of Educational Studies professor and coordinator of Chapman’s counseling graduate program, led the workshop. “Originally, it was targeted at school counselors, but the majority of the attendees were actually teachers. There were also parents and even a district attorney (DA) attached to the sex trafficking unit. I was surprised at the breadth of the audience.”

According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29 year olds globally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is also the second leading cause of death among school-aged youth in the United States.

The LGBTQ Youth Research and Advocacy Project, a collaborative project between Attallah College, the ACLU, and the Central Coast Coalition, found LGBTQ youth are at an even higher risk: “50% of LGB youth reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide versus 16.7% of their non-LGB peers.”

Dr. Haas told participants that data such as this can sometimes feel abstract. “Concretely, this means that someone who works at a high school with 2,000 students could potentially deal with 354 students who are considering suicide, 292 students who have made a plan to kill themselves, and 172 students who attempt suicide,” he explained.

Valdez concurred that school personnel are at the forefront of prevention.

To provide important resources and tools for educators, the workshop reviewed the warning signs of and high risk factors for suicide as well as a strategic plan for a multitiered approach to intervention.

“We have received positive feedback and overwhelming support from school officials across different districts in Orange County. In the future, we will continue to provide helpful workshops in order to support the success of all students,” said Valdez.