Understanding and preventing youth suicide : adding caregiver training to a youth prevention program
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-34 years-old (CDC, 2015). Suicide prevention programs aim to teach the risk factors and warning signs of depression and suicide. The Signs of Suicide (SOS) program is an empirically supported, school-based program. Study 1 extended previous findings (see Schilling et al., 2014), and helped support the efficacy of the SOS Middle School Program. Although students reported high levels of knowledge about depression and suicide prior to the SOS intervention, they reported having significantly higher knowledge afterward. The SOS program teaches youth to tell a responsible adult if they are concerned about themselves or a friend. The majority (90%) of students in study 1 reported they would talk to a parent; a higher percentage than the 85% who said they would speak to a friend. However, this is problematic if caregivers do not know how to best respond. Study 2 implemented and assessed a youth suicide prevention training program created specifically for caregivers and compared this to a treatment as usual prevention handout. Outcome variables were assessed at 3 time points, before the intervention, directly afterward, and 6-9 months later. Results typically followed the same pattern: both groups began with a relatively high level of knowledge, at Time 2, directly after the intervention, there was an increase in knowledge, and at Time 3, months later, this knowledge did decrease, but was still often higher than the initial reported level of knowledge at Time 1. Similar to study 1, the majority (64-77%) of caregivers in study 2 reported communicating with their child about mental health issues. Both studies were well received by participants, which supports the importance of both youth, and their caregivers, learning about risk factors and warning signs. Study 1 and 2 aided in understanding, and thus improving, suicide prevention for youth, as well as caregivers of youth.