With students returning to classes, University of Rochester Medical Center researchers are beginning a large, long-term study of the effectiveness of a unique suicide prevention program in high schools across New York and North Dakota.
The study of the program called Sources of Strength, led by Peter Wyman, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center, is supported by a five-year, $3-million grant awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
"Most school-based programs are oriented by a medical model designed to identify students who already are suicidal or highly distresses and refer them to treatment," Wyman said. "That approach has several limitations. The traditional approach assumes that mental health services are available and acceptable to most teens, which is frequently not the case. The tradition model does not change school culture and teen socialization in ways that prevent new instances of suicidal problems."
Sources of Strength aims to "strengthen how teens handle depression, stress and other problems by training influential teen 'peer leaders' who work to change coping practices in their friendship networks," he said.
Wyman's study will include 36 high schools, two-thirds of which will be in New York State. Schools in Chemung, Franklin, Onondaga, Schuyler, Tioga and Wyoming counties already have agreed to participate. As many as 14,000 students will be involved.
"We're focusing on rural and underserved areas where the traditional suicide prevention models are not a reasonable sole solution," Wyman said.
Suicide accounts for more deaths among those aged 10 to 24 in the United States than do all natural causes combined. Each year, 5 to 8 percent of adolescents attempt suicide. Up to one-third of these attempts result in an injury requiring medical intervention.
"This study is a real opportunity to determine how influential peer leaders in high school can change t
|Contact: Michael Wentzel|
University of Rochester Medical Center