School-wide prevention programme lowers teen suicide risk
After a school-based prevention programme, European teenagers were about half as likely to attempt suicide or to feel suicidal, a new study shows. Danuta Wasserman, a professor of psychiatry at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said the programme was likely successful because students “felt that the power of mastering their feelings, coping with stress and choosing solutions was in their hands and not decided or forced by adults.”
Dr. David Brent, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh wrote an editorial on the new study in The Lancet. He told Reuters Health that education about suicide, and early detection and treatment, are two important aspects of effective prevention programmes, and the Youth Aware of Mental Health program meets both standards.
Wasserman said the universal prevention model used in that program is effective because it offers treatment before students show outward signs of risk, and it does not stigmatize anyone.
Prediction is very difficult because so many suicide attempts are impulsive, Brent said in an email.
He said one weakness of the study is its exclusion of students who had recently attempted suicide, so it is unclear how well the programmes would have worked for students at the highest risk.
Despite these reservations, Brent said he has faith in such programmes and that “suicidal behavior is preventable in adolescents through a school-based intervention protocol.”
U.S. schools offer several programmes that focus on suicide prevention, he said, and the University of South Florida publishes a booklet full of resources on effective school-based suicide prevention called The Guide.
Wasserman urges parents to advocate for programmes like Youth Aware of Mental Health and to convince school authorities that “the health of young people is important.”