Title

School-Based Adolescent Suicide Reduction

Department

Social Work

Date of Paper/Work

2012

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Type of Paper/Work

Clinical research paper

Advisors

David J. Roseborough

Abstract

Adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours at school which provides schools with the opportunity and means to access and reach students for school-based adolescent suicide reduction. Schools offer adult supervision and potential monitoring of adolescent behavior and mental health. The purpose of this study was to examine school social workers’ beliefs and efforts in relation to school-based adolescent suicide reduction and to explore prevention strategies, risk factors, and protective factors to help primary, middle, and secondary schools reduce suicide ideation and behavior. This research asked what schools can do to reduce the number of adolescent students who die by suicide. The Developmental Assets Framework by Search Institute was utilized for the conceptual framework as this asset-building approach promotes positive youth development. Studies show the more assets a child or adolescent has the more likely they will do well and they are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviors. A mixed method was utilized including a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews. Utilizing a convenience sample, a survey was sent to approximately 181 school social workers from the Minnesota School Social Work Association (MSSWA). Additionally, a school social worker and school counselor were interviewed. The surveys and interviews revealed the importance of utilizing prevention strategies, identifying and reducing risk factors, and identifying and enhancing protective factors which validated the research found in a literature review. The data also revealed that schools can and should provide mental health and suicide screenings, form connections with students, and educate students, staff, and gatekeepers about warning signs of suicide along with information regarding risk factors and protective factors of suicide. Additionally, the research showed schools can and should work with parents and the community to educate them about mental health and suicide to work together to support students. The data also suggested schools can increase awareness of mental health and suicidality and increase communication among students, staff, parents, and the community regarding suicide awareness. Strengths of this study included the sampling and data collection from across Minnesota and it sampled an entire professional organization. The study also included interviews which added richness and depth and the professionals interviewed are key stakeholders with experience in adolescent suicidality. Limitations of this study are that it only collected data from one state and the sample was not representative of all professionals who work with adolescent suicide in a school setting. Additionally, the sample of interviewees was small and interviewees were selected to take part in study by researcher. Implications from this study show the significance for social work practice in the school setting to train and educate staff and students about mental health and suicide and to reduce the stigma that is associated with both. Implications also point to the importance of implementing comprehensive kindergarten – 12th grade mental health curriculums, suicide prevention programs and strategies, and school-wide mental health and suicide screenings. Furthermore, implications assert the significance of decreasing risk factors and the value of enhancing protective factors with students as early as possible in the students’ elementary years. Factors identified and discussed in this study can be utilized for future practice and as a basis for school involvement in the reduction of adolescent suicide. This study found school social workers support the importance of school-based efforts to reduce the number of adolescents who die by suicide.

Keywords

school-based adolescent suicide reduction prevention strategies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.