Teacher perceptions of youth suicide: Knowledge and opinions of suicide and perceived self-efficacy in the identification of students at risk for suicide
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The purpose of this study was to examine public school teachers’ perceptions and understanding of youth suicide. Specifically, this study aimed to determine the extent of teachers’ knowledge of youth suicide, attitudes toward suicide, level of perceived importance in their role in identifying youth at risk for suicide, and sense of self-efficacy in identifying suicidal youth. Furthermore, this research examined the relationship between these variables using a hierarchical regression. A multiple analysis of variance was employed to determine whether or not primary and secondary school teachers exhibit differences in their knowledge of youth suicide, stigmatizing attitudes toward suicide, and sense of self-efficacy in identifying suicidal youth, after controlling for the extent to which they believe identifying suicidal youth is part of their role as a teacher. Results of this study revealed public school teachers believe they play an important role in assisting with the identification of students who are suicidal. On a measure of knowledge of suicide, teachers scored, on average 63% correct. Teachers commonly endorsed suicide as a reckless and selfish act. A measure of self-efficacy revealed that teachers generally do not feel confident in their ability to identify a suicidal student and endorsed difficulty asking a student if he or she is suicidal. Teachers endorsed feeling more confident consulting with a school counselor or colleague to identify students at risk for suicide or referring a student at risk of attempting suicide to a school counselor. Teachers’ self-efficacy in identifying and intervening with suicidal youth was predicted by their level of previous exposure to suicide, their knowledge of suicide, and the extent to which they view their role in identifying students at risk for suicide as important. Stigmatizing attitudes toward suicide was not related to teachers’ sense of self-efficacy. Lastly, teachers who endorsed higher levels of importance in their role in identifying students at risk for suicide experienced higher levels of overall self-efficacy than those who indicated lower levels of importance. No significant difference was observed between primary and secondary school teachers’ attitudes toward suicide, knowledge of suicide, or self-efficacy.