The first suicide prevention intervention to be trialled in schools across England has begun under the leadership of Liverpool John Moores University.
Schoolchildren across Merseyside and Cheshire who display suicidal tendencies are to receive targeted support via the initiative led by psychologists at the university.
The trial, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, starts today (Feb 2, 2024) in six schools from now until January 2026 and is aimed specifically at Year 10 pupils, aged 14 or 15.
The idea, adopted after success of a similar scheme in Australia, aims to reduce suicide risk and encourage young people to seek help when they are struggling.
With the support of suicide prevention charity Papyrus, parents and carers are kept fully informed of the objectives and delivery of the initiative and encouraged to liaise with the school over the duration.
Dr Pooja Saini, Reader in Suicide and Self-harm Prevention in the LJMU School of Psychology said: “Suicide rates among young people are rising, and evidence-based prevention programmes are urgently needed. Schools are potentially the ideal place to engage with the issue.”
After a successful pilot study in Cheshire and Merseyside, the scheme will now be further tested across North-West England, to establish its feasibility.
Dr Saini is co-leading with Dr Emma Ashworth and they are working alongside academics from Australia, therapists, public health, health professionals, statisticians, health economists and people with lived experience including young people, youth workers and parents who have been bereaved by suicide.
All Year 10 pupils will attend a workshop during school hours, led by trained professionals from Grassroots Suicide Prevention, which teaches students to recognise and respond to the warning signs of suicide in themselves and others.
They will also complete a non-compulsory survey – the Suicidal Ideation Attributes Scale - which consists of five questions about suicidality, with anyone scoring highly then referred to their school for further support. The surveys will consist of a range of measures looking at young people’s mental health and wellbeing, their knowledge on help-seeking and suicide prevention, and their experiences of taking part.
Further support consists of targeted online intervention via Reframe IT-UK, an eight-week cognitive behavioural therapy programme for young people that is completed during school time with an appropriately trained member of staff.
In addition, training in suicide prevention is being made available to teachers at participating schools, and parents will be offered the opportunity to attend their SP-EAK suicide awareness training.
Dr Ashworth said: “Based on an earlier trial, we would expect this combination of interventions will reduce suicide risk in young people and improve help-seeking behaviours for young people who are feeling suicidal.”
The programme is called MAPSS and is one of a series of self-harm and suicide prevention research studies run with LJMU and operating consistent with the objectives of the UK’ s Suicide Prevention Strategy laid down in October 2023.