Science / Medicine : Anti-Suicide Programs Questioned

From Times staff and wire reports

School suicide-prevention programs for teen-agers can do some youngsters more harm than good, researchers said last week. Columbia University researchers said they found little evidence that such programs reduced suicides or suicide attempts, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

“There was some evidence of unwanted effects” on teen-agers who have attempted suicide, researchers from Columbia’s medical school said.

Discussing the topic openly often stirred up suicidal feelings, subjects of the study said. Of those who had tried to kill themselves before taking part in school counseling, 26.7% thought the programs increase the chances that youths will attempt suicide.

“Attempters exposed to programs were significantly less likely to recommend that the programs be presented to other students and significantly more likely to indicate that talking about suicide makes some kids more likely to try to kill themselves,” the study said.


The team, headed by David Shaffer, found that those teen-agers continued to believe that suicide was a possible solution to their problems and that they would be less likely to seek help or discuss their feeling with peers who have not tried to kill themselves.