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Teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) is a literacy program for high school students in Years 10 to 12. It is being implemented to improve peer support towards adolescents at risk of suicide.

“Young people account for nearly one third of the 800,000 people who die by suicide each year. Suicide is a leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds,” said University of Melbourne’s Senior Research Fellow, Laura Hart.

Researchers found students who participated in the tMHFA training were 35 times more likely to report adequate suicide first aid. Rather than those in the control group. This includes noticing something is wrong, asking if their friend is OK and suggesting they tell an adult.

The analysis

More than 800 Year 10 to 12 students from four government secondary schools participated in three 75-minute classroom-based training programs.

This was compared with students who completed a matched control physical first aid course.

“Three in four young people report that they would first turn to a friend for help if they were considering suicide. We need to equip teenagers with the skills and knowledge to recognise warning signs and get appropriate help for their friends,” said Dr Hart.

Results suggest that knowledge of general warning signs of mental health problems is more important than having specific knowledge of suicide.

Additionally, having the confidence to offer support, is equally as important.

This calls into question suicide specific education programs in schools.

tMHFA is currently the only program to provide suicide prevention information embedded in a broader mental health education program.

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