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Division of Mental Health Services

Office of Crisis Services and Suicide Prevention

Welcome to the Shield of Care™Curriculum

The Shield of CareTM is a groundbreaking suicide prevention curriculum designed specifically for staffs that work in our nation's juvenile justice facilities. This curriculum is the culmination of three years of development. The curriculum is based on evaluation data, best practice literature, our experience providing community suicide gatekeeper training in Tennessee's juvenile justice facilities, input of juvenile justice staff, and our many partners. (Please see the trainer's manual for a listing of our local and national partners) All materials are free and available for download following the overview of the Shield of CareTM.

Overview of the Shield of Care™

The Shield of CareTM model was developed through qualitative analysis from focus groups conducted in Tennessee's Youth Development Center facilities. Each component of the Shield of CareTM model illustrates a concept identified by staff as important for youth suicide prevention. The first thing one may notice about the model is the shape - a shield. This shape was used to represent the view by juvenile justice staff that, in part, they have a major role in "protecting" youth from suicide. Staff plays active roles in intervening to protect youth from suicide and protecting youth by building resiliency. This model demonstrates that there are three distinct layers of protection. These layers of protection demonstrate the three essential elements needed for the entire process of protecting youth from suicide to be effective:

  • The Organization's Policy and Procedures
  • Staff's connectedness to youth
  • Connectedness to each other as fellow "protectors"; in the juvenile justice facility


Inside the Shield are essential steps/actions to take in protecting youth from suicide. These steps may not always happen in the same order or the same way depending on the facility. Each step is described below:

Seeing Increased Risk for Suicide

Often, the first step is to "See"; that the youth is at risk for suicide. In juvenile justice communities, youth are at high risk because of the facility environment. Thus, often, one must be able to "See"; increased or immediate risk for suicide as opposed to general risk. Sometimes, because Juvenile Justice Staff may see suicidal thoughts or behaviors often in youth, one can become desensitized to suicide risk in youth. Thus, this illustrates the importance of being vigilant about "seeing" suicide risk, and also "seeing" the person behind the suicidal thoughts/behaviors.

Protecting Youth's Immediate Safety (Crisis Intervention)

Once suicide risk is identified in youth, staff members need to protect that youth's immediate physical and emotional safety before bringing up the topic of suicide directly. If it is a crisis situation, this may include staff protecting the youth's emotional safety by choosing a private place to talk to the youth, and talking about the boundaries of confidentiality.

Listening to the Youth’s Concerns/Suicidal Thoughts

Once the youth's safety is protected, staff may listen to the youth's concerns. This may include "probing" for specific information such as asking directly if the youth is thinking about suicide, asking about the youths' risk and protective factors for suicide, or asking about their reasons for living and/or reasons for dying. It is important to remember that these are only "probes" to help the conversation and to explore suicide risk. The main objective is to listen to the youth in a non-judgmental way.

Assessing the Youth's Suicide Risk and Needs for Help

If the youth has disclosed thoughts or behaviors about suicide, it becomes important to assess for the youth's level of suicide risk. This may be done informally by staffs who are trying to gather immediate information about risk (e.g. Is there a Suicide Plan? Suicide Means?), or formally by designated staff (e.g. Mental Status Exam given by Psychologist). Staff members also begin to engage the youth in conversation about their needs for help.

Networking with Community Helpers to Protect the Youth from Suicide

In Juvenile Justice Communities, staff members may have highly specialized roles in helping a youth who is at risk for suicide. For example, a policy may state that Security Officers are primarily responsible for keeping the youth physically safe, whereas the on-site Psychologist is primarily responsible for assessing risk and developing a treatment/response plan In this context of the organization's policies and protocols, staff members "Network" with community helpers to assist the youth, protect the youth from suicide, and build resiliency to future suicide risk.

If you have any questions or need further guidance, feel free to contact Lygia Williams at
Office 615 253 5078

Training Materials

Included on this site are all the materials you will need to provide this training; included are: (click on each link to open)

1. Trainer's manual
2. Participant workbook
3. Click here for instructions on how to use the power point.
4. Power point with (Note: Make sure to click on instructions first and read.)
5. Wallet cards
6. Poster PDFs of the Shield of CareTM S-Plan can be downloaded for printing.
Click Here for 11 X 17 inch version, and Click Here for an 8 X 11 inch poster. The posters are intended to be placed in staff break-out rooms, conference and or treatment planning spaces.
7. Shield of CareTM Trainer's Form (Please make sure you complete all sections before mailing it and the evaluations)
8. Evaluation and Consent form

Please download and make as many copies as you need.
(The documents that you need multiple copies of, one for each participant, are the participant workbook, wallet cards and the evaluation/consent)

The Shield of CareTM is copyrighted by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS). It is an eight hour curriculum intended to be used in its entirety. The video, "Second Glances" was intentionally embedded in the power point presentation to help participants understand the different levels of suicide risk. In addition, this training includes many interactive exercises to help the participant understand various concepts in suicide prevention.

We believe that a seasoned mental health professional with suicide prevention training experience can use this curriculum by reading/studying the trainer's manual. In some cases a "Train the Trainer" may be arranged.

The Shield of CareTM has been accepted as a "Best Practice" and is listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Best Practice Registry.

The TDMHSAS is conducting on-going evaluation, in order to have the data necessary to be placed on an Evidenced-Based Registry, we need your agreement to assure that all participants are given the pre-posttest survey and that these surveys and the Shield of Care Trainer's Form are mailed within 30 days to the attention of:

Lygia Williams, M.A.
Tennessee Lives Count
Office of Crisis Services and Suicide Prevention
Tennesse Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services
601 Mainstream Drive
Nashville, TN 37243

We would also appreciate receiving a brief e-mail when you decide to use the Shield of CareTM. Please let us know your contact information, what facilities and state will receive the training and the number of staff you intend to train.

If you have any questions regarding the Shield of CareTM, please feel free to contact Lygia Williams at the above address or by phone, (615) 253-5078.

Crisis Services and Sucide Prevention Links