Suicide and drug overdose deaths among adolescents and young adults in the U.S. continue to rise, and adolescents who seek emergency services for suicide risk are at particularly high risk for early mortality. Evidence-based interventions for these youth are sorely needed.
We recently reported that the addition of the Youth-Nominated Support Team intervention (YST) to usual care for suicidal adolescents was associated with decreased overall mortality, and more specifically, self-injury mortality. Adolescents in the YST group nominated ‘caring adults’ (family, school, community) who were given tailored information about risk factors, adolescent diagnosis, and treatment plans; and were encouraged to maintain weekly contact with the youths to facilitate treatment adherence and positive behavioral choices. We provided weekly telephone support to these 'caring adults' for 3-months. Long-term follow-up demonstrated that adolescents who participated in YST had lower self-injury mortality (suicides and drug overdoses).
Our current goals include adapting YST for different settings (e.g., emergency department) and populations (young adults, adolescents with early signs of psychosis). We are also working to incorporate more online features, enabling youth and young adults to connect with support persons virtually, enabling needed social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and enabling the involvement of support persons who live some distance away. Finally, we hope to move toward the greater dissemination and implementation of YST.