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Front Psychiatry. 2018 Nov 15;9:598. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00598. eCollection 2018.

Diffusion of a Peer-Led Suicide Preventive Intervention Through School-Based Student Peer and Adult Networks.

Author information

1
Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States.
2
Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, United States.
3
Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, United States.
4
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Feinberg School of Medicine, Sources of Strength, Inc., Chicago, IL, United States.

Abstract

Background: Peer-led interventions have been applied to prevent various health behavior problems and may be an important complement to individual-level suicide prevention approaches. Sources of Strength trains student "peer leaders" in secondary schools to conduct prevention activities that encourage other students to build healthy social bonds and strengthen help-seeking norms. Prior work examining diffusion of peer-led programs has focused on youths' closeness to peer leaders but minimally on other factors such as connections to adults and suicidal behavior. Methods: We examined implementation and dissemination of Sources of Strength in 20 schools. Over 1 year 533 students were trained as peer leaders and 3,730 9th-12th graders completed baseline surveys assessing friendships and adults at school, and suicidal thoughts/behaviors; and end-of-year surveys reporting intervention exposure: viewed poster/video, attended presentation, direct peer communication, and activity participation. Chi-square tests compared exposure rates by student and network characteristics. Multi-level logistic regression models tested predictors of exposure across individual and school-level characteristics. Results: Exposure to the intervention varied greatly by school and by individual student characteristics and network position. Training more peer leaders increased school-wide exposure for all modalities except presentation (Bs 0.06-0.10, p's < 0.05). In multivariate models, exposure was consistently higher for students closer to peer leaders in the friendship network (ORs 1.13-1.54, p's < 0.05) and students who named more trusted adults (ORs 1.08-1.16, p's < 0.001); and lower for males (ORs 0.56-0.83, p's < 0.05). In multivariate models, training more students as peer leaders predicted exposure to poster-video and direct peer communication in larger schools (OR = 3.34 and 2.87, respectively). Network characteristics influenced exposure similarly for students with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Discussion: Our findings confirm prior work showing the importance of personal affiliations to peer leaders and natural networks as a medium for diffusion of peer-led prevention efforts. We build on that work by showing independent effects of closeness to adults at school and number of peer leaders trained. There is a need to strategically select peer leaders to maximize closeness to students school-wide, particularly in larger schools. Additional work is required for Sources of Strength to devise messaging strategies to engage males and students isolated from adults at school.

KEYWORDS:

diffusion of innovations; peer leaders; peer messaging; school intervention; social connectedness; social networks; social support; suicide prevention

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