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Preventing Adolescent Suicide: Recommendations for Policymakers, Practitioners, Program Developers, and Researchers


Adolescent deaths by suicide have been rising in the United States for the past fifteen years and has been the second leading cause of death for adolescents for much of the past decade.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll on activities, social connections, and deaths made these trends increasingly visible and initiated recent calls for immediate action. Physicians, psychiatrists, and children’s hospitals declared a National State of Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, the Surgeon General released a youth mental health advisory, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention released a practice guide for youth serving organizations. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health more than doubled annual funding for youth suicide research post COVID. These calls highlight the need for a continued multi-pronged, cross-sector strategy for mental health promotion, prevention, and treatment in primary care, emergency departments, communities, and schools.

The Social Policy Report responded to these calls by reviewing evidence for prevention strategies that have emerged over the last several decades to reduce adolescent suicide deaths and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among young people. Dr. Pamela Morris-Perez, Professor of Psychology and Social Intervention at NYU Steinhardt and affiliate of the NYU Institute of Human Development Social Change, led the new Social Policy Report (SPR) published yesterday in the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). Together with co-authors Rachel Abenavoli, Adam Benzekri, Sarah Rosenbach-Jordan and Gianna Rose Boccieri, the report reviews evidence for suicide prevention strategies designed to address rising trends in adolescent suicide and offers recommendations for policy, practice, program development, and research. 

Pamela Morris-Perez

Suicide prevention has been largely dominated by a high-risk strategy, focusing on clinical care, but a sizeable number of adolescents experience suicidal thinking and even die by suicide who are not in mental health care. Therefore, we need to pair clinical approaches with programs in spaces that all young people can access.

Dr. Pamela Morris-Perez

SRCD had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Morris-Perez for the report’s official press release about her team’s strategic vision and their recommendations to help reduce the rates of adolescent suicide. They feature a selection of some of the suicide prevention strategies recommended for policymakers, practitioners, program developers, and researchers. Key recommendations include:

Select recommendations for policymakers and practitioners include the following:

  • Restrict access to lethal means including firearms, medications, and bridges/buildings;
  • Include suicide screenings as part of routine medical care; and
  • Fund and implement youth focused school-based suicide prevention programs.

Select recommendations for program developers include the following:

  • Develop programs for unique needs of high-risk groups (e.g., Indigenous, multi-racial, LGBTQ+, and rural adolescents);
  • Involve youth in designing programs and prevention activities; 
  • Develop programs that support adolescent needs for identity, meaning-making; and belonging/connectedness, and hope for the future.

Select recommendations for researchers include the following:

  • Study differences in implementation of crisis services across states to guide best practices and identify gaps in program design and delivery;
  • Study promising efforts to support schools after a suicide loss; and
  • Build data systems for real-time analysis of suicide fatalities, thoughts, behaviors, and relevant characteristics of areas where suicides have decreased.

For more on the topic, read the full report, Preventing adolescent suicide: Recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, program developers, and researchers. All media inquiries can be directed to Jessica Efstathiou of the Society for Research in Child Development at or 202-800-3255.


Suggested citation: 

Morris-Perez, P., Abenavoli, R., Benzekri, A., Rosenbach-Jordan, S. and Boccieri, G.R. (2023), Preventing adolescent suicide: Recommendations for policymakers, practitioners, program developers, and researchers. Social Policy Report, 36: 1-32.

Pamela A. Morris-Perez

Professor of Psychology and Social Intervention

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