Primary Sources: Preventing Youth Suicide

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Photograph of a young person looking down with arms crossed.

Suicide Patterns and Association With Predictors Among Rhode Island Public High School Students: A Latent Class Analysis” (abstract), American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 100 No. 9, September 2010. 

What it's about: The authors used Rhode Island's Youth Risk Behavior Survey to examine which factors may be associated with youths' planning or attempting suicide. The 2,210 randomly selected high-school-age young people identified their age, gender, grades and sexual orientation. They also reported whether or not they smoked, felt overweight, felt safe at school, had been forced to have sex, or spoke a language other than English at home. The authors organized the findings into four classes, or degrees of suicide risk:

  • Class 1: emotionally healthy youth (the comparison group)
  • Class 2: youth who considered and planned suicide
  • Class 3: youth who attempted suicide
  • Class 4: youth who both planned and attempted suicide

Why read it: Unlike previous studies that examine specific factors that may indicate suicide risk, this study uses a method that associates risk factors with particular patterns of behavior. For example, youth who were gay, bisexual or unsure of their sexual orientation fit into classes 2, 3 and 4, while other factors, such as receiving failing grades in school, were unique to one class (in this case, class 2).

Biggest take away for youth workers: Suicide is preventable. The authors recommend that parents, teachers and youth workers work together to screen adolescents for depression and risk of suicidal behavior, especially if they fall into a high-risk group.

Additional reference: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest national report on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (PDF, 3.51 MB) includes results on suicide starting on page 9. In addition, SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices includes SOS Signs of Suicide, a two-day program schools and community-based organizations can use to screen adolescents for suicide risk and depression and to teach them how to seek help. And NCFY has written about preventing suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth and red flags for suicide in The Exchange, our e-magazine for youth workers.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

The Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386)

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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