Category: Suicide and Self-Injury
Among individuals between the ages of 15 and 29 in the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control, 2015). Suicide rates among adolescents who live in rural communities are even greater than their urban counterparts, a discrepancy that continues to grow (Fontanella et al., 2015). Further, rural adolescents in the Appalachia region specifically show higher rates of depression and suicide and are more likely to drop out of school (Michael et al., 2009). One unique vulnerability for rural adolescents is an increased sense of loneliness and isolation (Boyd & Parr, 2008). With limited community resources for distressed adolescents (Aisbett, Boyd, Francis, Newnham, & Newnham, 2007), the school environment has the potential to act as a protective factor (Hirsh & Cukrowicz, 2014). School-connectedness, a student’s general sense that adults in the school system care about their well-being (Waters and Cross, 2010), has been shown to be one such protective factor against a range of negative health outcomes (Kidger, Araya, Donovan, & Gunnell, 2012). A 2017 systemic meta-analysis of the effects of school connectedness on suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) found that higher levels of school connectedness were associated with fewer reports of STBs across adolescent populations (Marraccini & Brier, 2017). However, relationships between school connectedness and STBs have not been examined in rural adolescents specifically. We examined data from two rural Appalachian high schools for a link between school-connectedness and STBs. We hypothesized that increased levels of self-reported school-connectedness would predict lower levels of suicidality. Consistent with our hypotheses, higher reported connectedness to at least one school staff predicted lower likelihood of self-reported depressive thinking (p < .001, OR = 0.62, 95% CI 0.55-0.69), suicidal ideation (p < .001, OR = 0.60, 95% CI 0.52-0.68), developing a suicide plan, (p < .001, OR = 0.61, 95% CI 0.53-0.71), and reporting a suicide attempt (p < .001, OR = 0.70, 95% CI 0.58-0.85). These findings add to the growing body of literature on the importance of school-connectedness as a protective factor against STBs and show the need for further investigation in to effective ways of building school-connectedness among at-risk rural populations.
Daniel George– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
JohnPaul Jameson– Associate Professor, Appalachian State University
Stephanie Moss– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University
Kurt Michael– Appalachian State University
Rachel Capps– Graduate Student, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina