Implementing School Nursing Strategies to Reduce LGBTQ Adolescent Suicide
Reducing youth suicide in the U.S. is a national public health priority and LGBTQ youth are at an especially elevated risk. A safe and supportive school environment is pivotal to preventing youth suicide; second only to a safe and support home in importance for preventing suicide and other risk behaviors. Schools are now widely accepted as part of the de facto mental healthcare infrastructure for adolescents and are a central point of intervention for improving mental health outcomes.
The collaborative research partnership between the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNM), the University of California San Diego Child and Adolescent Research Center(UCSD), and the New Mexico Chapter of the National Association of School Nurses, the New Mexico School Nurse’s Association, spearheads an innovative approach to reducing stigma, discrimination, and violence toward socially disadvantaged groups, and prevent youth suicide behaviors. The Reducing LGBTQ Adolescent Suicide (RLAS) project will train school staff statewide and enhance school capacity to implement six evidence-based strategies proven to reduce the risk of suicide.
- Identify “safe spaces” such as a counselor’s office, designated classroom, or student organization where LGBTQ youth can receive support from administrators, teachers, other school staff, or other students.
- Prohibit harassment and bullying based on a student’s perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender expression.
- Facilitate access to providers not on school property who have experience delivering health services, including HIV/STI testing, counseling, and reproductive healthcare, to LGBTQ youth.
- Facilitate access to providers not on school property who have experience in providing social and psychological services to LGBTQ youth.
- Encourage staff members to attend professional development on safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Provide health education curricula or supplemental materials, i.e., HIV, STI, or pregnancy prevention information relevant to LGBTQ youth (e.g., curricula or materials that use inclusive language or terminology).
Implementation of these strategies via the RLAS will enhance school environments to promote positive mental health outcomes not simply for LGBTQ youth, but for their cisgender, heterosexual peers as well.