State agencies team up to offer suicide prevention trainings for Minnesota teachers and staff

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is an opportunity for a reminder that hope and help are available


September 19, 2023

As students head back to school this fall, there is a new state-level partnership in place to support students’ mental and emotional well-being. The partnership, between the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education, aims to offer every teacher and school staff member in Minnesota an innovative and effective suicide prevention training.

This joint initiative is one of the efforts being highlighting during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The Kognito suicide prevention and mental health trainings for schools are virtual. The sessions walk participants through real-life conversations regarding mental health, giving learners feedback on how they can respond and provide support.

“We want teachers to feel confident and comfortable in supporting their students' well-being,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham. “We can all play a role in preventing suicide in Minnesota, and we want to remind all Minnesotans that hope is possible, and help is available.”

These trainings were first launched in Minnesota in May 2020. About half of the districts in the state have participated, and about 17,600 educators and school staff completed the trainings. MDH and MDE are collaborating this year to offer trainings focused on suicide prevention, emotional well-being and support, and helping students who have experienced trauma. The trainings will be available to all school staff for free through June 2024 at Suicide Prevention Trainings. This is likely the last chance for staff to take the training as Kognito the company that owns them plans on discontinuing them.

“We need to do everything in our power to support students’ mental health,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Education Willie Jett. “We are encouraged by how many educators have completed the trainings so far and now hope that all educators will take advantage of this expanded opportunity.”

Minnesota is also celebrating the hope and help that was offered during the first year of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. The new statewide 988 system launched on July 16, 2022, included an easy-to-remember number and new ways to connect to trained crisis counselors through text and chat.

Since last summer, the 988 Lifeline has received more than 44,800 calls, 10,800 chats and 12,000 texts from Minnesotans. Each contact method had an increase of 10,000 contacts for a total of 30,000 more contacts compared to the previous year.

As of July 1, public and charter schools are required to include the 988 Lifeline, the Crisis Text line, and the number for county mobile crisis services on middle and high school student identification cards and are encouraged to include this information in other resources such as student planners.

People call the 988 Lifeline for many reasons, but the most common type of calls received are from people experiencing extreme emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, anger or fear. Other common calls may involve situations where a caller requires immediate crisis intervention. Crisis counselors work with the callers to de-escalate complex situations, create safety plans, provide follow-up when needed or requested, connect callers with other services in the state, and more depending on the caller’s specific needs.

Since implementing the 988 Lifeline, some Lifeline Centers in Minnesota have noticed more calls regarding substance use and the request of substance use resources. Prior to 988, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was more narrowly focused on suicide prevention and resources.

Minnesota partners with five Lifeline Centers designated to answer 988 contacts:

• Carver County Health and Human Services, Mental Health Crisis Program

• First Call for Help

• FirstLink

• Greater Twin Cities United Way

• Mental Health Minnesota

Both the 988 Lifeline and the Kognito suicide prevention and mental health trainings are key strategies of the Minnesota Suicide Prevention State Plan released in February.

In 2022, preliminary data showed Minnesota had 835 suicide deaths, the highest recorded in Minnesota, and 51 of those were among residents ages 10-19 years. This age group made up 38% of all self-harm injuries treated in hospitals from 2016-2020, with more than 20,000 cases.

For the past 20 years, the number of suicides in Minnesota has steadily increased, mirroring patterns across the United States. The preliminary data from 2022 indicated a continuing trend and reached 14.3 suicides per 100,000, a rate near the previous highest rate of 14.4 in 2019, according to an MDH data brief published in May.

More information is available at Data Brief: Suicide Rate Increased in 2021, 2022 (PDF).

For those communicating about suicide or doing a news story, please review MDH’s Safe Messaging around Suicide (PDF).

If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 or use the online chat feature at



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