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2000 Oregon Youth Suicide Prevention EDUCATION FOR PROFESSIONALS
The Oregon Plan for Youth Suicide Prevention
Resources for Strategy #6
Increase training and education specific to health care professionals, educators, and human service providers who work with youth and families.
Many professionals are inadequately prepared to address suicide issues with youth and families.


Professionals and those in professional training programs who work with children, youth, young adults, and families. This audience includes but is not limited to: physicians, nurses, mental health providers, juvenile justice personnel, counselors, teachers, school administrators, crisis response providers, psychologists, social workers, alcohol and drug treatment providers, volunteers with organizations serving youth, and religious/spiritual leaders.

Health care professionals, educators, and human service providers are in key positions to identify, assess, intervene, and refer youth and young adults who are at risk of suicidal behavior. Unfortunately, a number of studies indicate that many professionals are inadequately prepared in these areas.

A survey of pediatric residency programs in the United States found that topics least often cited as adequately covered included psychological testing and violence prevention.30 Another study found that continued education for adolescent medicine physicians was associated with increased competence in addressing suicide.31 A survey of graduate schools in psychology found that only 40% had some training on suicide.32 In a survey of high school health teachers, only 9% believe they would recognize a student at risk for suicide. Suicide prevention education programs for teachers increase their ability to recognize warning signs for suicide, their knowledge of treatment resources and willingness to make a treatment referral.33 Teachers who attended an in-service program on adolescent suicide, or who have experience teaching about youth suicide, or who work on a school-based crisis intervention team reported a higher level of confidence in being able to recognize a student at risk for suicide.34

Training for professional groups should be tailored to reflect the focus and service delivery model of each profession. Champions in each discipline should be recruited to work within their field to promote interest in and support for youth suicide prevention education. Educational strategies for professionals and service providers will require sustained implementation to keep pace with new developments in the field of suicide prevention and to adjust for the attrition of personnel.


  • Assess what is currently being taught about youth suicide prevention within identified course work, in-service training,and continuing education for professionals.
  • Identify audiences and training opportunities.
  • Recruit and train individuals to conduct youth suicide prevention education for specific professional groups.
  • Conduct and evaluate in-service training for professionals.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of youth suicide prevention education in relevant graduate/undergraduate programs as a requirement for certification/licensure and for certification/licensure renewal.

30 Emans S, Bravender T, Knight J, et al. Adolescent medicine training in pediatric residency programs: are we doing a good job?Pediatrics. 1988 Sep; 102(3):588-95.
31 Key J, Marsh L, Darden P. Adolescent medicine in pediatric practice: a survey of practice and training. Am J Med Sci. 1995 Geb;309(2):83-7.
32 Bongar B, Harmatz M. Clinical psychology graduate education in the study of suicide: availability, resources, and importance. Suicide Life Threat Behav. 1991 Fall; 21(3):231-44.
33 Shaffer D, Garland A, Whittle R. An Evaluation of Three Youth Suicide Prevention Programs in New Jersey. New Jersey Adolescent Suicide Prevention Project: Final Project Report. New Jersey Department of Human Services: Governor's Advisory Council on Youth Suicide Prevention. 1988. Trenton,New Jersey.
34 King K, Price J, Telljohann S, Wahl J. High school health teachers? perceived self-efficacy in identifying students at risk for suicide. J Sch Health. 1999 May; 69(5):202-7.
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