Monday, September 7, 2015

Hot Idea or Hot Air: A Systematic Review of Evidence for Two Widely Marketed Youth Suicide Prevention Programs and Recommendations for Implementation

Youth suicide is highly related to mental disorders. While communities and schools are marketed to with a plethora of suicide prevention programs, they often lack the capacity to choose evidence-based programs.


We conducted a systematic review of two youth suicide prevention programs to help determine if the quality of evidence available justifies their wide spread dissemination. We searched Medline, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL, the Cochrane Library, Campbell Collaboration SPECTR database, SocIndex, Sociological Abstracts, Social Services Abstracts, ERIC, Social Work Abstracts, Research Library, and Web of Science, for relevant studies. We included studies/systematic reviews/meta-analysis that evaluated the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and/or safety of Signs of Suicide (SOS) and Yellow Ribbon (YR) suicide prevention programs that target adolescents. We applied the Office of Justice Program What Works Repository (OJP-R) to evaluate the quality of the included studies as effective, effective with reservation, promising, inconclusive evidence, insufficient evidence, and ineffective. Two SOS studies were ranked as “inconclusive evidence” based on the OJP-R. One SOS study was ranked as having “insufficient evidence” on OJP-R. The YR study was ranked as “ineffective” using OJP-R. We only included studies in peer-reviewed journals in English and therefore may have missed reports in grey literature or non-English publications.


We cannot recommend that schools and communities implement either the SOS or YR suicide prevention programs. Purchasers of these programs should be aware that there is no evidence that their use prevents suicide.


Academics and organizations should not overstate the positive impacts of suicide prevention interventions when the evidence is lacking.
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By: Yifeng Wei, MA,1 Stan Kutcher, MD, FRCPC,2 and John C. LeBlanc, MD, FRCPC3
1IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2Department of Psychiatry and Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia
3Department of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Epidemiology and Community Health, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

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