Workshop Title: Understanding and Responding to Self-Injury in the Schools
Richard Lieberman MA, NCSP – Lecturer in the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, California
Scott Poland Ed.D, NCSP – Professor at the College of Psychology and the Co-Director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Marina Niznik Ph.D. – Advisory Board member for the JED Foundation Set-To-Go High School – California
Workshop Description: Self-injury is often first noted by school personnel, as it occurs among 14-18% of adolescents in the school environment in the U.S. and the behavior is increasing around the world. School mental health professionals can feel ill equipped to effectively respond to students that self-injure, particularly without school guidelines to assist them. Self-injury is a coping device to manage overwhelming emotions and psychological distress, it is comprised of a spectrum of behaviors ranging from direct self-injury to indirect self-injury with the majority of adolescents engaging in multiple methods with cutting being the most common.
Adolescents with psychiatric issues have historically been at higher risk for self-injury, but more recently, self-injury is increasingly found outside the context of psychological illness
The relationship between self-injury and suicide is complex and the distinction routinely made is that self-injury does not include the desire to die, whereas suicide attempts often involve at least some intent to die. However, emerging research indicates that self-injury is a greater risk factor for suicidal behavior than previously believed, thus making it critically important for school psychologists to assess for suicidal ideation on an on-going basis among each and every adolescent who presents with self-injury in the schools. Procedures for managing contagion are also critical to establish in the schools as research has found that having a friend who self-injures is a strong predictor of self-injury and that adolescents may trigger self-injury in each other. Similarly, with the burgeoning of online communities that mimic real-life communities, adolescents who engage in self-injury are increasingly using social media and online groups to gain information and connect to others who also engage in self-injury.
School professionals need to have familiarity with online self-injury activity and all schools need a systematic approach to manage self-injury that is culturally responsive. Unfortunately, few schools have a protocol to response to self-injury in the schools. The protocol should: train staff on recognizing signs of self-injury; define roles/responsibilities of school personnel; establish procedures for risk assessment; offer guidelines for parental notification and referrals; and delineate methods for managing potential contagion.
- Identify signs of self-injury.
- Describe the relationship between self-injury and suicide.
- Identify how to respond to a student who is self-injuring.
- Identify components of a school-based protocol for self-injury.
- Increase awareness of current resources for self-injury.
Richard Lieberman MA, NCSP is a Lecturer in the Graduate School of Education at Loyola Marymount University and from 1986-2011 he coordinated Suicide Prevention Services for Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the U.S. Richard is a co-author of the PREPaRE Model for NASP and numerous book chapters and articles on suicide prevention, intervention and postvention in the schools. Richard has consulted nationally with districts experiencing suicide clusters; served on the Steering Committee of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and contributed to the SAMHSA Preventing Suicide and SPRC/AFSP After a Suicide school toolkits and California Department of Education’s Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy.
Scott Poland Ed.D, NCSP is a Professor at the College of Psychology and the Co-Director of the Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The presenter, a licensed psychologist has authored or co-authored five books and many chapters and articles on youth suicide and self-injury and has served as a legal expert in a number of lawsuits. He also co-authored the Suicide Safer Schools Plan for the state of Texas and the Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide for the state of Montana. He is a past President of the National Association of School Psychologists and a past Prevention Division Director of American Association of Suicidology.
Marina Niznik Ph.D. earned her doctoral degree in School Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and upon completing her APA-accredited internship a large suburban school district outside of Houston, Texas, remained there for over 15 years, providing direct psychological services in a district of over 100,000 students. She recently relocated to California where she serves as a consultant to organizations, practitioners, and school districts. She is currently an Advisory Board member for the JED Foundation Set-To-Go High School program and consults with them in the development of this initiative. In collaboration with Dr. Scott Poland and Mr. Richard Lieberman, she has written articles on self-injury, suicide contagion, and suicide prevention in the context of social media. She is a licensed psychologist in the state of California and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.