RAPID CITY, S.D. — Officials in a western South Dakota school district are addressing their suicide-prevention policies after three male students killed themselves between July and September.

The Rapid City Area School District is looking to improve training, raise awareness of warning signs, institute a culture of reporting and define a better path to recovery. The district will continue to hold public meetings to identify a community approach to better address suicide, the Rapid City Journal reported .

The three recent incidents revealed holes and inconsistencies in the district’s existing policy, said Matt Seebaum, assistant superintendent for educational services at Rapid City Area Schools.

“We were dealing with it reactively,” Seebaum said.

District officials received 77 reports of suicide concern from the beginning of the school year through Nov. 9. Of those, 18 involved elementary school students, 14 involved middle school students and 45 involved high school students.

The reports identify concerns around transitions, like fifth grade and ninth grade, which can be difficult for students who don’t feel prepared.

District officials contacted national experts in school suicide, Scott Poland and Richard Lieberman, to provide insight into intervention and prevention. Poland and Lieberman discussed danger points and seasonal trends, noting that the winter holidays and the spring can bring higher rates of suicide.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can anticipate,” said Seebaum. “What we have works for now, but what we can have can be so much better.”

South Dakota already has a high suicide rate, particularly among youth. The rates have increased over the last two decades.


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com