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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2008 Feb;76(1):104-15. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.76.1.104.

Randomized trial of a gatekeeper program for suicide prevention: 1-year impact on secondary school staff.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


Gatekeeper-training programs, designed to increase identification and referral of suicidal individuals, are widespread but largely untested. A group-based randomized trial with 32 schools examined impact of Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) training on a stratified random sample of 249 staff with 1-year average follow-up. To test QPR impact, the authors introduced and contrasted 2 models of gatekeeper-training effects in a population: gatekeeper surveillance and gatekeeper communication. Intent-to-treat analyses showed that training increased self-reported knowledge (effect size [ES] = 0.41), appraisals of efficacy (ES = 1.22), and service access (ES = 1.07). Training effects varied dramatically. Appraisals increased most for staff with lowest baseline appraisals, and suicide identification behaviors increased most for staff already communicating with students about suicide and distress. Consistent with the communication model, increased knowledge and appraisals were not sufficient to increase suicide identification behaviors. Also consistent with the communication model were results from 2,059 8th and 10th graders surveyed showing that fewer students with prior suicide attempts endorsed talking to adults about distress. Skill training for staff serving as "natural gatekeepers" plus interventions that modify students' help-seeking behaviors are recommended to supplement universal gatekeeper training.

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