How would you measure the effectiveness of programs to combat teenage suicide?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It would seem on first glance that it should be very easy to measure the effectiveness of programs that are meant to combat teen suicide.  All you would have to do is count how many teens attempt suicide in a given time period.  For example, let’s say we implement a program to prevent bullying and to identify and counsel possible suicide risks at a certain high school.  All we have to do is count the number of suicide attempts among that school’s students.

However, there is at least one other thing that we would need to do.  First, we would need to establish a baseline.  We would need to look at how many students (or, better yet, how many students out of every 100 students, so we account for changes in the population of the school) attempted suicide in the year (or other time period) before the new programs were enacted.  Then, after a similar length of time, we look at the suicide attempt rate and try to see if it has changed in a statistically significant way.

We would also need to try to control for outside influences.  For example, we would need to control for the state of the economy.  If the economy gets really bad, there might be more suicides due to familial stress even if the program really is working.

So, what we need to do is to compare rates of suicide before and after the program is implemented, trying to make sure that we consider any factors other than the program that might affect the suicide rate.