Date of Submission

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Terri Erbacher-Duff, PhD, Chairperson

Second Advisor

Virginia Burks Salzer, PhD

Third Advisor

Daniel H Ingram, PsyD

Abstract

Suicide is a leading cause of death for adolescents and represents a major national health concern (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, [AFSP], 2015; (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 2013). Because adolescents spend the majority of their day at school (Erbacher, Singer, & Poland, 2015), the effectiveness of school-based suicide prevention programs may be improved through better understanding of adolescents’ views on the subject of suicide and the factors that may influence participation in prevention efforts. The present study explored the attitudes and perceptions of seventh grade students from a suburban middle school in Pennsylvania, using archival survey data. Variables that were examined included attitudes toward suicide, real or perceived stigma toward suicide, suicide literacy, and attitudes toward help-seeking for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Results indicated that an overwhelming majority of participants believe that suicide can be prevented and that intervention is necessary; however, adolescents still hold some degree of stigmatizing attitudes toward suicide and are uncertain about how to identify and assist those at risk. There were few significant differences between the perceptions and attitudes of males and females on this topic. The results confirm the need for school-based suicide prevention education, with specific focus on identification of warning signs and on ways to intervene when concerns for self or a peer arises. More importantly, the results emphasize the need to implement schoolbased suicide prevention education programs much earlier than what is considered typical. Limitations to the study and directions for future research are also discussed.