Home > Young lives in Ireland: a school-based study of mental health and suicide prevention.

McMahon, Elaine M and O’Regan, Grace and Corcoran, Paul and Arensman, Ella and Cannon, Mary and Williamson, Eileen and Keeley, Helen (2017) Young lives in Ireland: a school-based study of mental health and suicide prevention. Cork: National Suicide Research Foundation.

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Globally, mental disorders are the largest cause of disability among those aged 10-24 years (1), with approximately half of all mental disorders emerging during adolescence, broadly the period between the ages of 12 and 18 (2-5). Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people (6) and in Ireland peak rates of hospital-treated self-harm are among 20-24 year old males and 15-19 year old females (7). Connecting for Life, Ireland’s National Strategy to Reduce Suicide 2015-2020, has identified young people aged 15-24 as a priority group at whom to target approaches to reduce suicidal behaviour and improve mental health (Goal 3, page 29) (8).

Youth suicide prevention programmes are often based in a school setting. However, high-quality evidence has been limited, in both an Irish and international setting, to identify the true impact of suicide prevention interventions (9). In particular, no randomised controlled trials of school-based prevention programmes examining changes in suicidal behaviour had been conducted anywhere in Europe prior to the Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE) study.

In this report we present the research findings of the SEYLE study, a mental health-promoting programme for adolescents in European schools (10). The study participants, 11,110 adolescents aged between 14 and 17 years old, were recruited from randomly selected mainstream second-level schools in ten European countries. The study was a randomised controlled trial (RCT) that aimed to identify an effective method of promoting adolescent mental health and decreasing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. A second aim was to gather information on the lifestyles and mental health of adolescents in order to identify risk and protective factors associated with suicidal behaviour.

In this report we present both overall findings of the multi-centre trial and detailed findings on the mental health and lifestyles of Irish youth using data from the Irish study centre. In addition, this report details a range of risk and protective factors associated with mental ill-health and suicidal behaviour in Irish adolescents. The SEYLE trial identified one school-based intervention, Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM), that was associated with a significantly lower number of subsequent suicide attempts and suicidal ideation compared to the control intervention (10). YAM is a brief, universal mental health awareness programme that was delivered in the classroom over a four-week period and includes role-play sessions, interactive lectures and workshops. The programme aimed to improve the mental health literacy and coping skills of young people, to raise awareness of risk and protective factors associated with suicide, and to enhance young people’s knowledge about mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.


Date:April 2017
Pages:52 p.
Publisher:National Suicide Research Foundation
Place of Publication:Cork
EndNote:View
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Substance use behaviour > Alcohol consumption
B Substances > Alcohol
B Substances > Tobacco (cigarette smoking)
F Concepts in psychology > Specific attitude and behaviour > self-destructive behaviour > suicidal behaviour / suicide
G Health and disease > State of health > Mental health
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Risk and protective factors > Risk factors
J Health care, prevention and rehabilitation > Health related prevention > Health information and education > Suicide prevention
N Communication, information and education > Education and training > Educational institution > School
T Demographic characteristics > Adolescent / youth (teenager / young person)
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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