The past two weeks our MINDS team has been working on a project to assess secondary school teachers’ attitudes towards suicide and suicidal behavior. Sarah Jameson, a student in the Masters of Public Health program at the University of South Florida, primarily led the project and used two valid and reliable scales for measuring suicide awareness and perceptions: the Attitude Towards Suicide Prevention Scale and the Stigma Towards Suicide Scale. Additionally, flyers were provided to the schools with information on how to properly take care of students that might be portraying suicidal behavior.
Our team went to four schools in the rural villages of Jaspur, Chansad, Koyli, and Anagad. We handed out both scales in all the schools and were able to survey a total of 39 teachers and 2 principals.
The results of the surveys displayed an overall willingness to assist in student suicide prevention; however, as expected, a slight stigma towards suicide is still prevalent. A future suicide prevention program aimed towards secondary school teachers in rural Gujarat could be beneficial since teachers are willing to prevent suicide. Teachers are in a prime position to aid in the reduction of preventable student suicides.
Alongside this project, our team was also able to chat with some of the principals and teachers on a personal basis of what they think might be the cause of the high numbers of suicides among students today. The conversations also centered around other issues the schools are facing such as the lack of parents’ attention on their children’s education, state educational policies, and how to further fight mental health problems. Our MINDS teams will surely keep these issues on our radar and we will hopefully be able to engage some of them while we continue battle mental health problems in rural India.