Youth suicide is a significant public health problem. In 2011, suicide was the leading cause of death in young Australians aged 15- 24 years. The prevalence of youth suicide, and the significant burden associated with it, has given rise to the development of a range of interventions aimed at the prevention of suicidal behaviour and the promotion of help-seeking and early identification for suicide in young people. The need to promote and assist help-seeking behaviour among youth is critical, as young people often do not seek or receive help for suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
The universal Sources of Strength peer leadership program https://sourcesofstrength.org/ takes a social connectedness approach to improving help-seeking for suicide and general psychological distress. This program is designed to build socioecological protective influences across an entire school student population and focuses on enhancing help-seeking norms, youth-adult communication, and coping skills to promote help-seeking.
The Sources of Strength program has been evaluated in a randomised controlled trial of 18 high schools, 453 peer leaders and 2,675 students located in the US, with consistent evidence of a positive intervention effect on the norms, attitudes and behaviour of both peer leaders and the wider student population.
The present project is a large trial designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the evidence-based Sources of Strength program in Australian schools. The need to implement and evaluate suicide prevention programs in Australian schools is high, given a recent review of 43 school-based suicide prevention studies only identified one gatekeeper trial in Australia, with a second indicated trial underway. 16 schools from the ACT and NSW will be recruited to participate in this trial.