School-Based Suicide Prevention

June 27, 2013

News Type:  Weekly Spark Research

Researchers from the University of Manitoba reviewed evaluations of school-based suicide prevention programs and concluded that “one program may not be sufficient on its own to cover the breadth of suicide prevention required in schools, and that a combination of programs may be most effective.” They also suggested that the field should study “the effectiveness of general mental health promotion programs on the outcome of suicide.”  The authors found that although many of the 16 programs included in their review were evaluated for effect on student and staff knowledge and attitudes toward suicide, few were evaluated for their ability to reduce suicide attempts. Only two, Signs of Suicide and the Good Behavior Game, were shown to reduce suicide attempts. The Good Behavior Game also reduced ideation. The authors suggested that although Sources of Strength had a demonstrated ability “to improve gatekeeper behavior, attitudes, and knowledge about suicide,” its effect on suicidal behaviors has not been studied.

SPRC Commentary

This review of suicide prevention programs includes three important reminders:
1.    The relatively young field of suicide prevention still has much to learn about creating programs that have a demonstrated impact on suicidal behaviors.
2.    Some interventions can be more effective in combination than on their own.
3.    We should remember the power of primary prevention and not neglect programs like the Good Behavior Game that may effectively prevent suicide even though they were not developed explicitly for this purpose.

The next issue of the Weekly Spark will feature another review of school-based programs that suggests that better research and evaluation efforts are essential if we are going to create programs that actually reduce suicidal behaviors.

Katz, C., Bolton, S., Katz, L., Isaak, C., Tilson-Jones, T., & Sareen, J. (2013). A systematic review of school-based suicide prevention programsDepression and Anxiety, Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/da.22114.