With May being Mental Health Awareness Month, the New Jersey Department of education recently issued an advisory to remind stakeholders of our shared commitment to foster the mental and emotional health of  students and to share recommendations to promote their safety and well-being.


Mental Health Awareness Month encourages us to focus deeply on the challenges that affect our students’ mental health, particularly the critical issue of suicidal ideation. The ability to recognize and respond effectively to signs of suicidal ideation are crucial for educators and staff. Ensuring timely support for students when they need it most can save lives.

Youth suicide is a complex issue, but it is also preventable. With the right strategies and interventions, we can significantly reduce the risk among young people. Prevention efforts are most effective when they involve comprehensive, community-based approaches that include education on mental health, early identification of at- risk individuals and accessible mental health services. Schools, families, and community organizations play critical roles in creating supportive environments where young people feel safe to express their struggles and seek help.

The NJDOE is committed to supporting youth mental health and suicide prevention through a wide range of initiatives and programs designed to foster safe and supportive learning environments. Recognizing the critical importance of mental health in educational success, the NJDOE has implemented policies that require the integration of mental health into the curriculum, alongside providing ongoing professional development for educators on mental health issues. This includes specific training on identifying and responding to signs of distress and potential suicide in students. Furthermore, the NJDOE collaborates closely with other state agencies to ensure that schools have access to the resources and support networks necessary for effective intervention and crisis management.

Department of Children and Families

In New Jersey, the Department of Children and Families plays a pivotal role in addressing youth suicide through its comprehensive prevention, intervention and response strategies. NJDCF offers a variety of resources tailored to support young individuals, educators, and families facing mental health challenges. Among these resources is the New Jersey Children’s System of Care, which provides access to behavioral health support, substance use treatment and services for children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their families. Parents can call New Jersey Children’s System of Care at 877-652-7624 to request help, which includes wraparound care management, in-community supports, and mobile response and stabilization services that can respond within hours to the family home or other setting, in the event of a crisis.

Additionally, the department oversees a robust network of prevention resources. This includes the Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth Program at Rutgers University, which focuses on youth suicide prevention and response if a suicide does occur. Additionally, NJDCF contracts with providers to offer School-Based Youth Services and the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Services network, which make evidence-based suicide prevention programming and other youth wellness programming available to students in school or in the community.

Department of Health

The Department of Health enhances public health efforts through initiatives that include surveillance of suicide risk factors, public education campaigns on mental health awareness and providing districts with curricular resources to educate youth on recognizing the signs of mental health challenges and risks of suicide.

These initiatives are designed to integrate educators, community health care providers and public health stakeholders to form a cohesive prevention framework that supports youth mental health. Resources for mental health and suicide awareness/prevention are available for all New Jersey residents, including clinicians, educators, parents, caregivers and youth at the Prevent Suicide New Jersey website.

Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services offers a robust set of services aimed at mental health support, especially through its Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. This division ensures access to emergency psychiatric services, ongoing counseling and specialized programs for young people. It also manages New Jersey’s 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides immediate assistance and referral services to those in need (call or text 988 or chat at www.988lifeline.org/chat) 24 hours a day, every day of the year. DMHAS offers ongoing Question, Persuade, Refer suicide prevention training for anyone working with adolescents or young adults in the state. For more information or to schedule a training, contact the NJDHS via email. Additionally, the department funds various community-based programs that offer therapy, support groups and educational resources designed to empower families and youth in managing mental health challenges effectively.

Next Steps

In the NJDOE’s ongoing effort to enhance student support, it is encouraging the following actions:

  • Inclusion of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline on the back of student ID cards, in addition to the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline required by N.J.S.A.18A:6-113.1. This small but significant addition can make a life-saving difference, especially if attention is drawn to the change.
  • Ongoing training and awareness to recognize and act on mental health concerns, including signs of distress and suicidal thoughts. The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide offers free training and resources for educators to recognize and respond to signs of mental health needs.
  • Implementation of mental health screenings as a proactive measure to identify and support students who may be experiencing emotional or psychological challenges, provided local educational agencies have the necessary resources and infrastructure to do so effectively. It is crucial that these screenings are conducted with advance consent of parents or caregivers. The NJDOE has developed guidance for schools on implementing mental health screenings.

By building a strong support system within our schools, we are paving the way for a healthier, more resilient future for all of our students.

For any questions or additional resources, contact the Office of Student Support Services via email.