BACKGROUND: Suicidal ideation and attempted suicide are a huge problem in South Africa, especially in the rural areas. Previous research has emphasized the importance of the ability of school professionals to identify young people who are at risk of committing suicide. The objectives of this study were to assess the knowledge of teachers with regard to identifying the warning signs of suicidal behaviour, assessing the type of information they give to students in the class after a suicide of one of their class mates, and assessing their views and training needs on the prevention of suicidal behaviour in students. METHODS: Five focus group discussions were conducted with 50 high school teachers in Limpopo Province, South Africa. All focus group discussions were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim, and then analysed using an inductive approach. RESULTS: The results demonstrate that teachers lack knowledge of the warning signs of suicidal behaviour among students. They also report that they do not know how to support students in the event of attempted or completed suicide of another student. The school curriculum is perceived as lacking information on suicide and suicidal behaviour. CONCLUSIONS: Teachers in Limpopo Province need to be trained to identify students at risk, and to respond to situations by referring individuals at risk to appropriate mental health professionals. School-based suicide prevention programmes that are based on theory and evidence should be developed. These programmes should include teacher training to help teachers to identify symptoms of psychosocial problems that might lead to suicide, develop their skills in handling such problems, and help students to cope with their emotions after a suicide incident in the class or at school.