We can turn to Australia where such a national initiative has been found to be successful, and is an example of good practice. headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation is a federally funded NGO providing support to young people between the ages of 12-25 years. As part of its extensive support for young people and parents, headspace also provides a School Support programme. An integral part of the programme is to provide suicide prevention and suicide postvention gatekeeper training for staff with pastoral and mental health responsibilities, and STORM training was the preferred choice. headspace began to train High school staff in 2013, with over 1,000 in the first year alone. Demand for the training is high and is reaching across states with more training sessions planned. What is impressive, is the eagerness of headspace to ensure that the evidence stacked up - that the gatekeeper training actually worked - before embarking on an expensive nationwide dissemination across Australia.
A pilot study of the training was conducted by Orygen (University of Melbourne) before the planned national dissemination. A number of schools in an area with a cluster of suicides in the state of Victoria were chosen for the study. Many staff had received some form of suicide prevention training after these deaths and so were already familiar with risk and safety planning. As this recently published paper of the pilot study suggests, gatekeeper training does have a positive impact on school staff's ability to help those at risk of suicide - even for those with some level of knowledge and ability. Although further testing is needed with the STORM model, this is good news for schools. It proves that a skilled and responsive team can make a difference to young lives in their care.
STORM was selected because of its strong evidence base and the rigorous evaluation processes it has undergone. When compared to other comparable programs, we found it to be suitable for school settings and includes a module on suicide postvention.
The delivery of the training allows for participants to discuss the sensitive issues of self-harm, particularly in relation to practice issues and translation, to address attitudes, to rehearse the skills, and to offer/receive feedback.
We felt confident that we could say to schools and Department of Education that we were able to offer a skills based training to their relevant staff that can actually make a difference and improve skills when working with young people at risk.
“Fantastic, very practical, worthwhile, informative”
“Great to relate lots of things to our own school, giving us some direction for the future and how best to help our students.”