Development and Initial Psychometrics of a School-Based Screening Program to Prevent Adolescent Suicide

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Abstract

School-based suicide screening programs have been developed to prevent death among youth. Despite promising results, they typically do not include some of the important risk factors for suicide (e.g., nonsuicidal self-injury, see Franklin et al., 2017). Thus, we designed a multistage school-based screening program, Connected Community Wellness Screen, which includes assessment of risk factors based on current theory and empirical evidence. We implemented the program using 2 prevention models and examined preliminary outcomes regarding psychometrics of the screening tool and connecting youth to services. Study 1 involved a universal screening model offered to all 9th-grade students at 12 high schools, and Study 2 involved a selective screening model offered to middle and high school students referred by concerned parents and/or school personnel. Participants (Study 1: N = 2022; Study 2: N = 543) provided written parental consent and assent and completed a computerized screening tool followed by an interview. Twenty-two percent of students in Study 1 and 38% of students in Study 2 were referred to mental health services. Following the referral, 50% of students in Study 1 and 46% of students in Study 2 attended at least one appointment. The screening tool evidenced excellent sensitivity in both studies (97.52%; 96.67%), and specificity was also high (90.75%; 83.18%). Results provide initial support for the Connected Community Wellness Screen program regarding psychometrics and connecting adolescents to needed mental health resources. Longitudinal research is needed to establish predictive validity regarding suicide prevention.

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