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Juvenile Suicide Prevention Studied

NCJ Number
CorrectCare Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1994) Pages: 4,7
Date Published
Although some States collect data on the incidence of juvenile inmate suicide, more research and information are needed on a national level about the extent of juvenile suicide in confinement.
Virginia keeps an active data base on all youth entering the Department of Youth and Family Services. Of over 4,000 youth evaluated for institutional placement during a 3-year period ending in 1992, 20 percent had prior psychiatric hospitalizations, 20 percent had documented histories of suicidal ideation, and 6 percent had documented histories of suicide attempts. At the national level, the U.S. Census Bureau has been collecting data on the number of juvenile deaths in custody since 1989. The incidence of juvenile suicide appears to be under-reported throughout the United States. With regard to evaluating suicide prevention practices, researchers have identified four assessment criteria: (1) written suicide prevention plan; (2) screening juveniles for suicide risk at admission; (3) staff training in suicide prevention; and (4) monitoring suicidal youth at least four times per hour. Research indicates wide variations in the amount of suicide prevention training for juvenile correctional facility staff and in the extent of health screening for suicide risk. Research also demonstrates that approximately 1.6 percent of confined youth engage in suicidal behavior while incarcerated and that detention centers operating above their designed capacity have higher suicidal behavior rates. It is recommended that all juveniles be screened for risk of suicidal behavior immediately upon admission, that suicidal juveniles be constantly monitored by correctional staff, and that research be conducted to study the cause and reduce the rate of staff turnover in juvenile correctional facilities. 6 references