Rising numbers of youth suicide deaths have been an increasing concern, and patterns of emergency care visits suggest that the pandemic may have exacerbated suicide risk among certain groups of youth. School settings present a critical opportunity for identifying risk and preventing youth suicide. The proportion of youth who receive mental health care in schools is similar to the proportion who receive treatment in specialty mental health settings. Schools are where youth spend much of their time, making suicide prevention programs more accessible and logistically feasible. Further, research shows that parents and caregivers are often unaware that their children are having suicidal thoughts or behaviors, lending increased importance to school-based programs. However, schools face both knowledge gaps concerning the effectiveness of different suicide prevention programs and capacity challenges for program implementation and data collection and evaluation.
In this National Institute of Mental Health-hosted webinar, presenters from Washtenaw County and Detroit, MI, Boston, MA and Baltimore, MD described innovative practices in school-based suicide prevention they are currently implementing, with a particular focus on risk identification, follow up, and referral for additional services for high-risk youth. In addition to describing the programs, presenters discussed preliminary research efforts and challenges, as well as ways to overcome common barriers to implementing suicide prevention in schools, including data collection and evaluation.