Program

Sep 09, 2004

OVERVIEW

This school-based suicide prevention program is a 1 or 2
semester long personal growth class targeted at students at risk of school
failure, dropout, and possibly suicide. The course is designed to develop and
encourage social support, address problems raised by students and teach life
skills, mood and anger management skills and problem solving skills.
Researchers measured students’ suicide-risk factors, related risk factors and
protective factors over a 10-week time period. They found little significant
differences in the trends on these measures between the experimental and
comparison groups. Experimental subjects did show significant increases in
feelings of personal control where the comparison group did not.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: High School students
(grades 9-12) at risk of school failure, dropout, and/or suicidal behaviors

The
dropout and suicide prevention intervention program is a set of 2 Personal
Growth Classes (PGC I and II) offered at the high school level which are based
on several theoretical developmental frameworks and are designed to alleviate
adolescent problem behaviors by integrating social support, positive peer group
culture and life skills training. Each course is 1 semester long and is offered
for credit.

Both
PGC I and PGC II include the following components:

  • Small
    group work characterized by social support which facilitated peer to peer
    and group leader to student exchanges
  • Weekly
    monitoring of activities targeting changes in mood and behavior
  • Life
    skills training (self-esteem, decision making, personal control,
    interpersonal communication)

The course was designed to address real life problems
emerging from the students, themselves; and the training skills developed were intended
to address multiple problems in multiple areas of the students’ lives.

PGC I emphasized group support and bonding with the other
students and group leaders while PGC II emphasized broader school bonding and
trained students to transfer learned skills. Students were encouraged to seek
broader social support and participate in school activities of interest to
them. Classes seek to decrease depression and suicidal behaviors.

EVALUATION (S) OF PROGRAM

Evaluated population: 105 (suicide-risk)
students in grades 9-12 at 5 urban high schools.

Approach: Students were identified as “at risk for school failure” and targeted for
the intervention if they had fewer than expected credits earned for their grade
level, high absentee rate, low and declining GPA, prior dropout status, and/or
referral from school personal as being in jeopardy of failure. Students were
then randomly assigned to either an experimental or control group. Participants
then took the High School Questionnaire, which included embedded questions
addressing suicide-risk, other related risk factors and protective factors. 40
percent of the original at-risk for school failure sample were also identified
as at-risk for suicide. All suicide-risk students (experimental and control)
then participated in a 2-hour in-depth interview using the MAPS protocol
(Measure of Adolescent Potential for Suicide). All students identified as
at-risk in all the groups were introduced to a case manager, and a parent or
guardian was contacted. 202 “typical students” were randomly assigned from the
five schools, during the same time period to be included in the study.
These students were defined as not at-risk for school failure, and were
included to serve as a comparison with the at-risk students.

Experimental
participants took either the 1-semester (5 month) or 2-semester (10 month)
Personal Growth Classes (PGC I and II). All participants were measured on
suicide risk factors, related risk factors and protective factors at baseline,
5 month (after PGC I) and 10 month (after PGC II) intervals. The data was
analyzed for patterns of change on all three measures among the three groups.

Results: Researchers found that suicide risk behaviors and thoughts were reduced for
all 3 groups (including the control) and the greatest effects were seen in the
control group and the single semester PGC group of whom 85 percent showed
decreased suicide -risk behaviors of 25 percent or more (65 percent of the
2-semester group showed similar results). Scales of depression, hopelessness
and stress showed similar patterns of decline among all three groups.

The
major treatment effect was seen in students’ perceived personal control.
Experimental groups showed significant improvements on measures of personal
control (44 percent of participants showed improvement) whereas only 20 percent
of the control group showed similar improvements.

Researchers
attribute a significant portion of suicide-risk and related-risk declines to
the MAPS interview protocol and/or contact with a case manager or parent, based
on the declining patterns seen in the control group as well as the experimental
groups. The MAPS interview was found to be generally as successful as the
Personal Growth Class in the reduction of suicide-risk behaviors and
related-risk factors.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Eggert,
L. L., Thompson, E. A., Herting, J. R., Nicholas, L. J. (1995). Reducing
suicide potential among high-risk youth: Tests of a School Based Prevention
Program. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 25(2),
276-296.

KEYWORDS: Adolescence (12-17), Young Adult (17-24),
Youth (16+), White or Caucasian, Black or African-American, Hispanic or Latino,
American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander, High-Risk, Urban,
High School, School-Based, Counseling/Therapy, Life Skills Training, Education,
Mental Health, Social Emotional Health, Depression, Anxiety, Suicide, Self
Esteem, Academic Achievement, High School Completion.

Program
information last updated 09/09/04.

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