Extra suicide prevention training planned for teachers

Two staff from each postprimary school to be trained in ‘alertness’ programme

Additional training in suicide prevention is being introduced for teachers so that every postprimary school has personnel capable of responding to concerns over students’ mental health problems.

A special programme aimed at helping teachers to identify people with thoughts of suicide, and to provide practical help or referrals, is to be extended to six education centres from the beginning of the new school year, the Department of Education has said.

Schools will be invited to send two relevant members of staff to participate in the SafeTalk training, where they will develop the skills needed to know when to refer individuals to an appropriate health or mental health professional.

A critical incident is defined by the department as an incident or series of events 'that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school'

In addition, the department says teachers will receive special training over the next two years on how to respond when an unexpected critical incident occurs in their school community.


Training will be delivered by the National Educational Psychological Service, and teachers in all postprimary schools in the country will have an opportunity to participate.

A critical incident is defined by the department as an incident or series of events “that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school”. This could include a suicide or a road traffic accident involving a member of the school community.


Minister for Education Richard Bruton said: "I am keen to put as many safeguards as possible in place in our schools, to ensure we help our most vulnerable students. Unfortunately, while we put a big emphasis on preventative measures in our schools – such as the work we are doing on our Junior Cycle Wellbeing programme, it is sometimes necessary for a school to respond to a critical incident.

“Coping with the aftermath of critical incidents has become a challenging but necessary task for a number of schools in recent years. The training that we are announcing today will ensure all schools are prepared to respond to such an incident.”

SafeTalk seeks to create “suicide alertness for everyone” and a specific model of the training programme for teachers has been developed by the department and the National Office for Suicide Prevention.

Training commenced in the 2017/18 school year in six education centres and will now be extended a further six. Education centres organise the local delivery of national programmes of teacher professional development on behalf of the department. There are 21 full-time and nine part-time education centres in the country.

“SafeTalk is an internationally recognised programme that can help teachers address the topic of suicide in a safe way. This is such an important conversation to have and I’m glad to be significantly expanding the availability of this training,” said Mr Bruton.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí is an Irish Times journalist and editor of the Irish Times Student Hub