Pediatric Practice and Director for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, presented his talk titled “Suicide in Children and Adolescents: Challenges and Priorities for Intervention.” Bridge highlighted the changing epidemiology of youth suicide and a public health approach to youth suicide prevention. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-19. One of the most important risk factors for youth suicide is a previous suicide attempt. Suicidal ideation is another risk factor. About 60% of youth with a suicide plan will attempt suicide within one year of creating the plan.
Bridge also presented recent data that he analyzed which showed an increase in suicide rates for young black boys ages 5-11. This increase may be indicative of an emerging racial disparity that should be researched further. Bridge noted that while suicides among this age group are very rare, it is an important topic to be discussed. Children and early adolescents make statements about wanting to die at about the same rates, but about 25% of the people that a child told did not take them seriously because of their age.
Bridge ended his talk with a discussion of the need for prevention efforts. He highlighted the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, which is a public-private partnership with the goal of advancing the national suicide prevention strategy. Bridge emphasized that the Action Alliance’s goal of enhanced continuity of care is extremely important and a good place for intervention. The majority of people who die from suicide were seen in the emergency department in the year before their death or they accessed health care within thirty days of their death. Bridge noted that improving continuity of care could prevent more deaths and ensure that patients don’t fall through the cracks. He also stressed the importance of finding a prevention that works “upstream” to strengthen protective factors before the emergence of suicidal behavior. The PAX Good Behavior Game is an elementary school-based behavior management intervention that showed a reduction in suicide attempts later in life.
After his talk Dr. Bridge was joined by discussants Cheryl Holton, program director at the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, and Rick Oliver, director of crisis and trauma services at FrontLine Services. Holton discussed current funding in Ohio for youth suicide prevention. $2 million has been marked in the most recent state budget for suicide prevention. Also, all teachers and administrators in Ohio have access to gatekeeper trainings that help them to recognize when a child is in distress and needs help. Oliver talked about the need to reach out to adolescents and children who are hurting and getting them the services they need. He said that while we don’t know how to prevent every suicide, we do have the tools to help people and need to get more people connected with the right services. Another resource to note is Ohio Life Saver, a new website from the State of Ohio for suicide prevention.
Prior to his evening presentation, Bridge met with community members from the Begun Center for Violence Prevention and Education, CWRU Suicide Task Force, FrontLine Services, NAMI Greater Cleveland, the Prevention Research Center, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and the University Health and Counseling Services to discuss current projects in suicide prevention here in Cleveland as well as Ohio in general.