Suicide is a complex issue. We know that multiple risk factors and circumstances can lead young people to think about suicide, and to act on these thoughts.
That’s why it’s important for youth suicide prevention efforts to use a holistic approach. This means considering all things that are important to the lives of children and youth as we think about ways to address the issue. A holistic approach involves thinking beyond just the immediate goal of alleviating distress and working together to harness young people’s hope, meaning, belonging, and purpose.
Suicide prevention isn’t just about preventing death by suicide. It’s about promoting life in its most wholesome, meaningful form.
There are three different levels of prevention efforts:
Indicated prevention targets those showing signs of high suicide risk (e.g. those with suicidal thoughts, with severe depressive symptoms, etc.). At this level, prevention efforts tend to be resource-intensive for each young person engaged and typically involve aspects of assessment and early treatment.
Universal prevention is a strategy where everyone gets the intervention no matter the circumstances (e.g. the whole school, the whole community). At this level, efforts aim to reduce suicide risk by improving the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being of a population. Universal prevention is about mental health and life promotion.
Selective prevention targets those who show suicide risk factors (e.g., those with histories of maltreatment, with substance use difficulties, etc.). At this level, prevention efforts target subgroups of the general population, often focusing on screening and group prevention activities.