Harvard Mental Health Letter

School-based safety interventions

Identifying children and teens at risk for depression or violence.

Since the 1990s, schools have implemented a number of different programs aimed at preventing suicide and violence in children and teens. The stakes are high. Homicide is the second leading cause of death, and suicide the third leading cause of death, in Americans ages 10 to 24.

These tragic deaths attest to underlying problems that occur far more frequently: depression, substance abuse, and aggression. Two large-scale studies, for example, have estimated that more than 20% of young people will develop major depression by age 18. In a survey of a large, nationally representative sample of students, 22% of 12th graders said that they had used an illegal drug, and 44% reported drinking alcohol, in the previous month.

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