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Thoughts on Teen Suicide Prevention Program

Posted Oct 23 2008 1:35pm
I was putting together some materials for our Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force meeting tomorrow and thinking about 2 articles I read yesterday, they do relate (at least somewhat).

I had posted the goals of the Task Force back in March, 2006 on my blog so it was easy to cut and paste the goals to redistribute as a “hard copy” for discussion tomorrow. Two of the comments to that post mention the importance of peer-to-peer intervention (one directly and the other infers). That is where the articles come in.

While the articles are about impacting substance abuse, I have no doubt that they similarly would be true of suicide intervention. The first was about a recent study that looked at the utility of peer-led substance abuse programs (or another article on the study ) and found them more effective at changing behavior than those led by adults. The second article referenced a study that demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching “competence skills” (refusal skills and decision making skills) in preventing future substance abuse.

Taken together I think this lays out a great framework for suicide prevention program for teens. It would begin first with training a cadre of teens to be educators. The education program would begin being presented to other teens in middle school and repeated throughout the remainder of school, possibly into college. It would be a peer-to-peer experience (with adult supervision and input) focusing on competence skills as they apply to suicide and life skills in general. Also the program should work to reduce the stigma of seeking or recommending that someone get help, as well as teaching how to recognize someone in trouble and how to “intervene” effectively. A last significant part would focus on where (and how) to send someone for help and/or where to get it yourself. After a conversation I had today, those already in treatment and/or with significant symptotology would only participate in the program with supervision of their (mental) healthcare provider.

Such a program would be easier said than done.
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