Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative
Garrett Lee Smith State

The Suicide Prevention in Schools and Colleges initiative will implement suicide prevention and early intervention strategies for youth ages 10-25 across Pennsylvania. The grant will provide gatekeeper training, suicide risk management training, standardized screening, and training in empirically supported treatments. The project will raise awareness, increase identification of at risk youth, facilitate referrals to treatment, and improve treatment outcomes.

The problem addressed by our proposal is that suicide risk is being under identified in Pennsylvania’s schools, community colleges, and universities. There is no systematic training for professionals or standardized screening procedures to identify youth at risk. Therefore, too many young people are not identified and too many of those who are high risk are not being adequately screened, and not receiving treatment and support.

There are 500 school districts and 181 community colleges and universities in Pennsylvania. In the general state population, there are 2,570,000 individuals age 10-15 representing a wide range of cultures and demographic diversity. The majority are white, but there are also Black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian students. We will focus on racial and ethnic, rural and urban cultural differences as well as the needs of the Veteran and the LGBT populations.

Building on the Student Assistance Program in Pennsylvania schools, we will provide gatekeeper training and state of the art screening tools to appropriate school personnel and the behavioral health systems that serve these schools. Building on the work of past Campus Grants, we will organize a coalition of community college and university representatives to develop model suicide prevention plans and processes for higher education throughout the Commonwealth.

Project goals and measurable objectives include: a) increasing the number of persons in schools, colleges, and universities, trained to identify and refer youth at risk for suicide, b) increasing the number of clinical service providers (including those working in schools, mental health, and substance abuse) trained to assess, manage, and treat youth at risk for suicide, c) increasing awareness about youth suicide prevention, specifically including the promotion and utilization of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, d) comprehensively implementing applicable sections of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention to reduce rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide deaths in their communities, and e) promoting state systems-level change to advance suicide prevention efforts in our public schools.

With gatekeeper training and awareness campaigns, we plan to reach 186,000 youth over five years. With screening in schools, colleges, and primary care practices, we plan to reach approximately 26,000 indicated youth over five years. Thus, our total impact will be felt by nearly 212,000 youth across Pennsylvania.