Social Policy Report Q&A: Preventing Adolescent Suicide: Recommendations for Policymakers, Practitioners, Program Developers, and Researchers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescent suicides have tragically been rising for over a decade and the COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on activities, social connections, and deaths have made these trends increasingly visible.
A new Social Policy Report (SPR) from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University led by Pamela Morris-Perez with co-authors Rachel Abenavoli, Adam Benzekri, Sarah Rosenbach-Jordan and Gianna Rose Boccieri reviews evidence for suicide prevention strategies designed to address these rising trends. Please refer to the end of the release for a selection of some of the suicide prevention strategies recommended for policymakers, practitioners, program developers, and researchers.
The Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Morris-Perez about her team’s strategic vision and their recommendations to help reduce the rates of adolescent suicide.
SRCD: Please explain your overall strategic vision for adolescent suicide prevention.
Dr. Morris-Perez: Existing school-based strategies typically focus on recognizing suicidal signs and connecting adolescents to care, with relative inattention to supporting adolescent needs for identity (who they are), purpose (their place in the world), belonging/connectedness, and hope in the future. New programs should be developed that support these basic developmental needs that would help adolescents not just be identified and connected to care, but to “find a life worth living.”
Preventing Adolescent Suicide: Recommendations
Select recommendations for policymakers and practitioners include the following:
- Restrict access to lethal means including firearms, medications, and bridges/buildings.
- Include suicide screenings as part of routine medical care.
- Fund and implement youth focused school-based suicide prevention programs.
Select recommendations for program developers include the following:
- Develop programs for unique needs of high-risk groups (e.g., Indigenous, multi-racial, LGBTQ+, and rural adolescents).
- Involve youth in designing programs and prevention activities.
- Develop programs that support adolescent needs for identity, meaning-making, belonging/connectedness, and hope for the future.
Select recommendations for researchers include the following:
- Study differences in implementation of crisis services across states to guide best practices and identify gaps in program design and delivery.
- Study promising efforts to support schools after a suicide loss.
- Build data systems for real-time analysis of suicide fatalities, thoughts, behaviors, and relevant characteristics of areas where suicides have decreased.