Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Rural students with friends, trusted adults, less likely to try suicide; researchers call for broader prevention efforts

Researchers built maps of connections among students and teachers.
Teens with stronger connections and adult support are less likely to attempt suicide, according to a newly published study in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The report "shows the importance of school community structure for youth in small towns, one of the study’s authors said," Liz Carey reports for The Daily Yonder.

Researchers studied 10,291 students at 38 high schools in North Dakota and upstate New York; two-thirds were in communities of fewer than 50,000. Students were asked to name up to seven of their closest friends and seven adults they trusted. Researchers used that information to build maps of the students' social networks, Carey reports.

The researchers found, as they expected, that students who were more isolated from their peers were more likely to commit suicide. But they found it particularly interesting that connections to trusted adults also made a big difference, Carey reports.

Suicides rates have been increasing across the country, and recent research has shown that rural residents and youth are more likely to attempt suicide than suburban and urban residents or adults. "Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children between the ages of 10 and 18, a rate that has been increasing nearly 2 percent a year," Carey reports. "In 2015, emergency rooms saw 1.12 million visits for suicidal action or thinking by children ages 5 to 18. That number is up from only 580,000 visits in 2007."

The study's authors say most suicide prevention efforts center on high-risk individuals, but that it's important for schools to consider prevention efforts at a broader level, Carey reports.

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