Preventing Suicides in Juvenile Corrections: Creating a Foundation for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention

By Geiman, Diane | Corrections Today, September-October 2018 | Go to article overview

Preventing Suicides in Juvenile Corrections: Creating a Foundation for Comprehensive Suicide Prevention


Geiman, Diane, Corrections Today


Recent suicides of celebrities and adolescents have brought increased focus on suicides in America. Statistics from usa.gov reveal that every 13 minutes, someone commits suicide in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease, combined, according to the Jason Foundation. Approximately one out of every 15 high school students report attempting suicide each year, and one out of every 53 high school students reports having made a suicide attempt that was serious enough to be treated by a doctor or a nurse. For each suicide among young people, there may be as many as 100 to 200 suicide attempts.

Youth involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems have a high prevalence of many risk factors for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders associated with suicide. Juveniles in confinement and foster care have life histories that put them at a higher suicide risk.

According to youth.gov, suicide among youth in contact with the juvenile justice system occurs at a rate that is four times greater than the rate among youth in the general population. A study of juvenile suicides by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reveals:

--70 percent had a history of suicidal behavior; 45 percent had attempted suicide previously.

--66 percent had a history of mental illness.

Staff training is the foundation of a comprehensive suicide prevention program. The American Correctional Association (ACA) offers the most up-to-date and comprehensive online suicide prevention training for juvenile justice staff.

Preventing suicides in juvenile corrections

Suicide deaths of incarcerated juveniles affect families, friends and everyone in the facility. The deaths are traumatic for the staff--even when "everything was done right." Fortunately, many suicide attempts and completed suicides can be prevented.

This course gives a basic understanding of suicidal behavior by dispelling the common myths surrounding suicide and identifying the risk factors and protective factors associated with suicide. This course reviews the common mental disorders linked to suicidal behaviors and differentiates between self-injurious and suicidal behaviors. …

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