Background Information

Help before harm is a valuable topic that urges individuals to reach out for assistance before
any harm can be done. This applies to someone who may be in danger of suicide, self-harm, bullying,
school violence, or any other issue that may arise during their daily life. Reducing the stigma
surrounding getting help may be one of the biggest hurdles to effectively overcome in making this
an achievable task, which is why resources are provided in that area as well.

Below are facts:

  • 1,000,000 students reported being harassed, threatened or subject to other forms of
  • 80% of school shooters told someone of their violent plans. 59% told more than one
  • 70% of people who complete suicide told someone of their plans and gave some other warning

The facts are telling the need of awareness around safety. People who are hurting, having thoughts
of hurting others, or acting out ways that hurt others often believe that they have tried
everything to stop the pain. However, pain and limited coping skills make it difficult to think
clearly, consider options, or remember reasons to be kind to others and to themselves. Seeking
professional help is a big step toward easing the emotional pain. But with help, people can and do
heal and lead productive lives.

One of the challenges for teens is knowing what to report. One good way to gauge whether to report
something is whether it makes them uncomfortable. If so, they should report it and leave it up to
the school or a trusted adult to determine what the next steps are. Questions to ask are:

  • “Do you think someone is going to harm themselves?”
  • “Did you see something scary that concerns you online?”

Safe2Help: See Something Say Something outlines what students can do to help prevent dangerous acts
from occurring. In addition, Sandy Hook Promise Shares 16 facts about gun violence and school
shootings. Share these facts, know the signs, and act to protect students
before it’s too late.

1. Each day 8 children die from gun violence in America. Another 32 are shot and injured.
2. Firearms are the second leading cause of death among American children and adolescents, after
car crashes.
3. Firearm deaths occur at a rate more than 3 times higher than drownings.
4. The U.S. has had 1,316 school shootings since 1970 and these numbers are increasing. 18% of
school shootings have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December
5. In a comprehensive study of school shootings from 1974 to 2000 conducted by the Secret Service
and Department of Education, 93% of school shooters planned the attack in advance.
6. In 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan
but failed to report it.
7. Guns used in about 68% of gun-related incidents at schools were taken from the home, a friend or
a relative.
8. A study found that 77% of active shooters spent a week or longer planning their attack.
9. Nearly all mass attackers in 2018 made threatening or concerning communications and more than
75% elicited concern from others prior to carrying out their attacks.
10. In almost every documented case of active shooters, warning signs were given.
11. 2018 had the most school shootings on record, but U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security research
shows that if individuals “know the signs” of gun violence, it can be prevented and the trend can
be reversed.
12. The majority of individuals with diagnosed mental illness do not engage in violence against
13. 70% of people who die by suicide tell someone their plans or give some other type of warning
14. 39% of parents wrongly believe children don’t know where a gun is stored.
15. An estimated 4.6 million American children live in a home where at least one gun is kept loaded
and unlocked.
16. 7 states have enacted Extreme Risk Laws, the majority being implemented following the school
shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

Best Practices and Implications for Professional Practice

Adults often find it difficult to keep up with all the emotional and physical changes adolescents

experience. They may look more like adults than children, but don’t think or act like their brains
and actions are not as fully developed as an adult. Young people are figuring out who they are in
comparison to their parents, siblings, and other important people in their lives. It can be
difficult to distinguish between normal adolescent moodiness and more serious emotional
Safe2Help Illinois Toolkit 57

problems. Teachers who create a safe space for students to discuss what is happening in their lives
and in the world around them increase their students feeling safer reporting issues of safety. Take
the time to listen and remind students that overwhelming and confusing feelings are a normal part
of being an adolescent and that it is okay to reach out on their own behalf or when they are
concerned about another individual. Use current topics or issues heard in the halls to start
conversations or incorporate into existing lesson plans.

Education materials should include information for youth and adults on how to recognize warning
signs and signals of individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others. Materials should also
include the importance of saying something and using the anonymous Safe2Help Illinois reporting
system, before it is too late. What to report, when to report and to whom students and teachers
should report issues or concerns are all critical components. Self- Awareness, Tips for Keeping
Safe and Healthy, Mental Health Literacy and Internet Safety are also extremely important topics
that should be discussed or addressed through educational materials.

Suggested Resources

 Safe2Help Illinois Website Resources:

Other Resources:

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach
    parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human
    services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is
    experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid
    is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces
    common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a
    5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics
    covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur,
    disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.
  • Know the Signs: You Can Prevent Gun Violence And Other Harmful Acts Sandy Hook
    Promise’s proven Know the Signs programs teach youth and adults how to prevent school violence,
    shootings, and other harmful acts. Students and educators learn how to help identify at-risk
    behaviors and intervene to get them the help needed. These early- prevention measures empower them
    to keep their schools and communities safe. All resources needed are provided at no cost,
    • Start with Hello which teaches children and youth to minimize social isolation, empathize with
      others, and create a more inclusive and connected school culture.
    • Say Something trains students to look for warning signs and threats – especially on social media
      – of someone at risk of hurting themselves or others, and how to speak up to a trusted adult before
      a tragedy can occur.

Sample Classroom Strategies

IL SEL Standards:

  • Goal 1: Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life
  • Goal 2: Use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive
  • Goal 3: Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and
    community contexts.


These activities can be used to address the Illinois SEL Standards.
a. Stand for Kind Stand 4 Kind provides a way to replace negativity with positivity, by bringing kind actions and feelings into schools everywhere.