Reducing youth suicide in the U.S. is a national public health priority, and LGBTQ youth are at an especially elevated risk. A safe and supportive school environment is pivotal to preventing youth suicide, second only to a safe and supportive home in importance for preventing suicide and other risk behaviors. Schools are now widely accepted as part of the de facto mental healthcare infrastructure for adolescents and are a central point of intervention for improving mental health outcomes.
In 2015, the Implementing School Strategies to Reduce LGBTQ+ Adolescent Suicide (RLAS) study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant R01HD083399) to address the gap between the identification of evidence-informed school practices that support LGBTQ+ youth and their implementation in school settings. This cluster randomized controlled trial will train staff statewide and enhance school capacity to implement the following six evidence-based strategies proven to reduce the risk of suicide:
- Identify “safe spaces” such as a counselor’s office, designated classroom, or student organization where LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, other school staff, or other students.
- Prohibit harassment and bullying based on a student’s perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Facilitate access to providers not on school property who have experience delivering health services, including HIV/STI testing, counseling, and reproductive healthcare, to LGBTQ youth.
- Facilitate access to providers not on school property who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.
- Encourage staff members to attend professional development on safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Provide health education curricula or supplemental materials, i.e., HIV, STI, or pregnancy prevention information relevant to LGBTQ youth (e.g., curricula or materials that use inclusive language or terminology).
This project leveraged a collaborative research partnership between the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation Albuquerque Center, the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, The Trevor Project, and the New Mexico Chapter of the National Association of School Nurses, to spearhead this innovative approach to reduce stigma, discrimination, and violence toward socially disadvantaged groups, and prevent youth suicide behaviors.
For more information about this project please contact Principal Investigators Cathleen E. Willging, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mary Ramos, M.D., M.P.H. at email@example.com. More information is also available in this project spotlight. For individuals looking for relevant resources visit the project website at rlas.pire.org.
If you or someone you know needs help please contact the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.