One of the most hopeful studies — which could potentially also inform policy — to be published recently on suicide prevention recently showed that adults can indeed make a difference in saving lives, though the results may not appear immediately.
The study involved teens who had been brought to a hospital after a suicide attempt. Those teens were asked to nominate up to four caring adults, who were then educated in how to talk to suicidal teens and how to make sure they’re adhering to treatment. After an in-person training, the adults got support over the phone for a few months to help them work through the challenges of helping a teen in trouble.
More than a decade after the intervention, the researchers checked back in on their participants by looking up death records. It turned out the teens who got the interventions more than a decade ago were less likely to have died. “To our knowledge, no other intervention for suicidal adolescents has been associated with reduced mortality,” the study authors wrote. The results were modest, and need to be replicated.
Cheryl King, the University of Michigan suicide prevention researcher who created the intervention, suspects what makes the intervention effective is that the kids were the ones to nominate the adults. Perhaps that makes them think about the connections they have with others — and opens a door to strengthening them.
The intervention also instigates the adults — not all of whom are the child’s parents — to be more proactive. “The truth is it’s not very easy for adults to go there, to reach out, to talk to and try to help suicidal teens,” King says. “We were always reassuring that their role was just to be a caring person, and they weren’t responsible for whatever choices the teen made.” Perhaps more programs could target parents and adults in the community to better protect youth.
Read the full article at Vox.