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Youth Suicide Prevention: Strengthening State Policies and School-Based Strategies

NCJ Number
Liam Goldrick
Date Published
April 2005
12 pages
After documenting the trend in suicide and attempted suicide among adolescents in the United States, this report recommends ways that State policymakers can address adolescent suicides.
Although the overall suicide rate has declined in America over the past 20 years, from 12.1 per 100,000 in 1979 to 11.3 per 100,000 in 1998, the suicide rate for adolescents 10 to 14 years old increased by just over 100 percent, and by 6 percent for teens 15 to 19 years old. Currently, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans ages 15 to 24, coming after unintentional injury and homicide. States spend more than $900 million annually on medical costs associated with suicides and suicide attempts by youths under 20 years old. Schools and other youth-serving institutions are on the front lines of the battle against youth suicide; however, States have an important role in this effort in the provision of resources, training, and strategic-planning assistance. Governors can use their influence to help increase public awareness of suicide as a leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults. State policymakers should design a statewide suicide prevention or injury prevention plan that spans all age groups, but includes a specific youth component. Schools should be given a larger role in suicide prevent efforts, including responsibilities for education and awareness training, mental health screenings, mental health services, and referral systems. States should also fund a statewide suicide prevention office, a suicide/injury prevention coordinator, and "gatekeeper" training for teachers and other youth-serving professionals. Collaboration should be developed among key State agencies--education, health, human services, and public safety--and between government and community partners to focus on youth in multifaceted and comprehensive injury prevention strategies. Examples are provided of State programs and activities that have focused on youth suicide prevention. 40 notes and 13 selected resources