Examining the Effectiveness of School Suicide Prevention/Awareness Programs at the State Level
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Currently school prevention programs present with mixed evidence, and they are not required in every state. Stone and Drosby (2015) examined numerous school prevention studies from 1988 to 2011 which measured varying outcomes, such as improvement of knowledge of the signs of suicide or a reduction in levels of suicide ideation among students. They cite a 2009 methodological literature review of school prevention programs which found weak evidence of effectiveness based on 8 features of the studies conducted including comparison group, outcomes and measurement (2015). Their study, and others, illustrate the potential importance of school prevention programs in reducing teen suicide, but also the need to better determine their effectiveness (Moskos et al. 2007; Stone and Drosby 2015).
This paper takes up that call to more rigorously study the effect of school prevention programs on teen suicide. Specifically, it will consider whether a state requirement for suicide prevention/awareness to be taught in high school health classes has an effect on teen suicide and suicide ideation. This macro approach addresses the current gap in studies of school prevention programs. Currently, studies focus on particular school prevention programs, resulting in findings that cannot be generalized (Strunk et al. 2014). Looking at the effectiveness of school prevention programs at the state level will give these fine-grained studies more context. It will also provides new insights into how state education policies can reduce the stigma around mental health and suicide, and whether school prevention programs have an aggregate effect on reducing teen suicide.
To study the relationship between state requirements for school prevention programs and teen suicide and suicide ideation, I will employ data from a variety of sources. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey will be used to track suicide attempts and ideation, as well as behavioral risk factors. Data on suicide rates will be drawn from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Violent Death Reporting System database. For data on state requirements for suicide prevention/awareness to be taught in high school health classes I have been utilizing the self-reported National Association of State Boards of Education database. I analyze this data using linear regression modeling and a difference-in-differences approach (Dynarski 2003).