For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. School-aged youth that struggle with suicidal thoughts often express their feelings to peers and some trusted adults. Generally, these trusted adults work in school settings. Potentially, teachers and staff can serve as vital gatekeepers to identify and support students who struggle with suicide ideation. In particular, paraeducators, who are often seen as less of an authority figure, become easier to approach due to the personal relationships created in small groups and one-on-one interactions with students. If trained in suicide prevention, paraeducators, who work closely with students and are part of the local community, could become an important gatekeeper. The current study sought to investigate paraeducators' perceptions of the following questions: (a) Are paraeducators approached by students with suicide ideation? and (b) How are paraeducators currently responding to suicidal students? The final purpose of this survey was to collect information that informed and supported the implementation of training for paraeducators in the area of school-based suicide prevention and intervention. This study's survey was distributed in an urban Utah school district to 854 paraeducators. Of the 854 surveys, 77 surveys were completed by paraeducators (9% participation rate). Of the participating paraeducators, 32% reported being approached by a student who expressed suicidal thoughts. Paraeducators indicated that their most frequent response to suicidal students was to provide counsel (39%), whereas to tell supervising teachers or administrators was listed as their third or fourth response option. Most paraeducators (97%) perceived that their role included reporting a student at-risk for suicide, however most (67%) reported having no suicide training or being unsure of what training was available. This lack of training is problematic due to the number of paraeducators being approached by students expressing thoughts of suicide. Additionally this research supports the need to train school support staff.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





paraeducators, suicide intervention, suicide prevention, training