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Life-Saving Suicide Prevention Resources Address Critical Need in Juvenile Justice System
By jjie.org - David Litts, OD
Published: 12/05/2013

When it comes to high risk for suicide, youth in contact with the juvenile justice system stand out. It is alarming. Fortunately, staff within the system can play a crucial preventive role by working collectively to provide guidance, support and access to needed care. Studies show that up to 70 percent of youth in the system have a behavioral health problem, and for a large percentage, one or more life functions are significantly affected. An at-risk youth’s past nearly always includes multiple adverse childhood events; this, combined with the sense of hopelessness and isolation that ensues from the experience of confinement, increases the suicide risk for these youth to a level dramatically higher than for youth outside the system. The statistics are startling:

Nearly one third of justice-involved youth report having experienced suicidal ideation in the past year and 36 percent have attempted suicide during their lifetimes (Nock et al., 2008).

Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth in confinement (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005).

Youth in residential facilities have nearly three times the suicide rate of peers in the general population (Gallagher & Dobrin, 2006).

More than half of confined youth have current suicidal ideation (Esposito & Clum, 2001), and one-third have a history of suicidal behavior (Parent et al., 1994).

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