Suicide Prevention Initiatives
This aim focuses on shifting from a traditional adolescent suicide prevention model focused on educating and training youth to engage in self-referrals, to one of "student gatekeeper programs" which are geared toward increasing peer referrals to a responsible adult. This adult has typically also been trained through an adult gatekeeper program such as the Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) Program. This multi-faceted approach is believed to be one of the most effective strategies in preventing adolescent suicide attempts and deaths, given that teens are more likely to disclose their concerns to peers rather than adults. If these trusted peers are trained to seek help from a responsible adult, the at-risk youth will be more likely to receive help. In our current Florida Linking Individuals Needing Care (FL LINC) Project, this aim has taken more of an upstream approach to suicide prevention in younger children. "Upstream" suicide prevention occurs prior to the onset of risk as a preventative measure against future development of risk. Thus, instead of focusing on teaching students to refer those they recognize as being at risk, students who could eventually be at risk are identified early on and taught skills to circumvent the later development of risk. Several studies have shown the benefits of these upstream preventative measures on buffering against future risk. The following training programs have been developed as part of this aim:
Students (grades 9-12) in a classroom setting or others in contact with younger children, such as parents and school staff, can take this curriculum. This curriculum provides gatekeepers with suicide awareness and prevention education by presenting tools and resources that can be used when referring an at-risk individual.
A multi-component program designed to educate adolescents on the fact that depression is a treatable illness and to equip them to be able to respond to a potentially suicidal loved one using the SOS technique of ACT (Acknowledge signs of suicide, let the person know you Care, and Tell a responsible adult). SOS is the only student gatekeeper program found to be effective at increasing knowledge about depression and suicide, improving attitudes regarding suicide prevention activities, and decreasing suicide attempt rates through randomized control trials. The program has two components, with the first focusing on building upon an adolescent's skills to properly recognize and refer suicidal peers to trusted adults. The second portion of the training focuses on a self-screening component in which adolescents are asked to implement knowledge gained from the program by self-assessing if they are at-risk for depression and/or suicide and need to talk to a mental health professional. The entire curriculum is focused on messages geared toward helping peers at-risk, but self-referrals and peer-referrals are both encouraged.
A social and emotional learning-based curriculum for middle school students (ages 11-14), aimed at promoting positive mental health, building emotional competence, and creating a safer school climate. STEP-UP incorporates components of the social-ecological model, social learning/social cognitive theory, and positive psychology in its curriculum implementation and structure. STEP-UP is taught through eight core concepts: social connections, identifying and expressing feelings of safety, respecting boundaries, building empathy, mood control, stopping manipulation, self-regulation, self-motivation, and emotional intelligence. The program also includes interactive activities, group discussions, roleplay, and homework assignments. Lessons for parents and caregivers are provided through resources, follow-up strategies, and suggestions to reinforce program skills at home.