Is Gatekeeper Training Enough for Suicide Prevention?

Abstract

While schools have the capacity to reach youth at-risk for suicide, there remains a gap between the number of youth with mental health issues and those who receive services. Accordingly, gatekeeper training programs, which teach community members signs of psychological distress and strategies to refer youth to mental health support, are often one component of suicide prevention. Nevertheless, there is a dearth of research about the efficacy of online gatekeeper training, which may provide the flexibility and accessibility needed for overburdened schools. This study sought to investigate whether Kognito, an online and easily accessible gatekeeper training, was related to changes in teachers’ suicide prevention beliefs, behavioral intentions, and behaviors (proportion of students approached and referred over time). Teachers significantly increased their beliefs (i.e., preparedness and self-efficacy) and behavioral intention (i.e., likelihood) to intervene with at-risk students. However, teachers did not change suicide intervention behaviors. Natural gatekeeper status (i.e., teachers approaching students at baseline) impacted number of referrals over time (in the opposite direction we predicted); however, natural gatekeeper status did not have an impact on proportion of students approached. Self-efficacy change, however, preceded change in proportion of students approached, but not referred. The findings, taken as a whole, indicate gatekeeper training alone appears insufficient to change suicide prevention behaviors, and accordingly, suicide prevention needs to employ a comprehensive approach.

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Acknowledgements

This paper was developed, in part, under grant number 1U79SM061751-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.

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Correspondence to Kenneth Maton.

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Robinson-Link, N., Hoover, S., Bernstein, L. et al. Is Gatekeeper Training Enough for Suicide Prevention?. School Mental Health 12, 239–249 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-019-09345-x

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Keywords

  • Gatekeeper training
  • Suicide prevention
  • Teachers
  • Schools