The Development of a Screening Tool for the Early Identification of Risk for Suicidal Behavior Among Students in a Developing Country

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Abstract

Objective: Adolescent suicidal behavior is a public health concern in South Africa. The purpose of this article is to report on the development of a screening tool for teachers to identify South African students who are most at risk for suicidal behavior. This need is addressed within the context of the limited number of mental health professionals available to provide screening and care services in South Africa. Method: Grade 8 students participated by completing sociodemographic questionnaires and self-report psychometric instruments. A screening tool for suicidal behavior was developed using a 4-phase approach. Results: Twelve factors for high-risk suicidal behavior were identified and included in the screening tool. While further research is needed to validate the screening tool, the findings provide a useful preliminary starting point for teachers to refer students at high risk for suicidal behavior to mental health services for treatment. Conclusion: This screening tool is based on factors that were identified as being associated with suicidal behavior from local research on South African adolescents. The tool contributes to research on adolescent mental health, particularly suicidal behavior, in developing low and middle income countries like South Africa, with the aim of creating African prevention and intervention programs.

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