Long-term impact of the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Program on youth suicide mortality, 2006-2015

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2019 Oct;60(10):1142-1147. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13058. Epub 2019 May 8.


Background: Comprehensive suicide prevention programs funded through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Youth Suicide Prevention Program (GLS) have previously been shown to be associated with lower youth suicide mortality rates 1 year following program implementation. However, longer term effects of GLS have yet to be examined.

Methods: The impact of GLS implementation on youth suicide mortality through 2015 was estimated for U.S. counties initially exposed to state and tribal GLS activities between 2006 and 2009. The analytic approach combined propensity score-based techniques to address potential confounding arising from differences between counties exposed and not exposed to the program along an extensive set of characteristics, including historical suicide rates.

Results: Counties exposed to GLS during a single year had youth suicide mortality rates lower than expected and for longer than previously reported following implementation of GLS activities. Youth suicide mortality rates in counties implementing GLS were estimated to be 0.9 per 100,000 youths lower than control counties (p = .029) 1 year after the implementation, and 1.1 per 100,000 youths lower than control counties (p = .010) 2 years after the implementation. Further, persistent implementation during multiple years was associated with larger effects during longer periods. Additionally, among rural counties, the youth suicide rates 2 years after exposure were estimated to be 2.4 per 100,000 youths lower than in the absence of the program (p = .003). There was no significant evidence of a decrease in youth suicide rates three or more years after the GLS activities were discontinued.

Conclusions: The effects of GLS comprehensive suicide prevention program were found to be stronger and longer lasting than previously reported, particularly in rural counties. In the face of well-documented increases in national suicide prevention rates, these results support the widespread and persistent implementation of comprehensive, community-based youth suicide prevention programs.

Keywords: Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Suicide Prevention; Suicide prevention; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Program Development
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult