Objectives: We examined the effectiveness of the Sources of Strength suicide prevention program in enhancing protective factors among peer leaders trained to conduct schoolwide messaging and among the full population of high school students.
Methods: Eighteen high schools--6 metropolitan and 12 rural--were randomly assigned to immediate intervention or the wait-list control. Surveys were administered at baseline and 4 months after program implementation to 453 peer leaders in all schools and to 2675 students selected as representative of the 12 rural schools.
Results: Training improved the peer leaders' adaptive norms regarding suicide, their connectedness to adults, and their school engagement, with the largest gains for those entering with the least adaptive norms. Trained peer leaders in larger schools were 4 times as likely as were untrained peer leaders to refer a suicidal friend to an adult. Among students, the intervention increased perceptions of adult support for suicidal youths and the acceptability of seeking help. Perception of adult support increased most in students with a history of suicidal ideation.
Conclusions: Sources of Strength is the first suicide prevention program involving peer leaders to enhance protective factors associated with reducing suicide at the school population level.