Palo Alto youth well-being collaborative Project Safety Net has issued a survey to gather more information about perceptions and beliefs around youth well-being and suicide prevention. The data will be used to inform the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s epidemiology study, currently underway, of the community's teen suicide clusters.
Because the study, called an "Epi-Aid," is epidemiological in nature and does not include the gathering of any new data, Project Safety Net decided to create and disseminate a survey that would allow more community members to participate in the process, Executive Director Mary Gloner said.
It's also a way of reaching more stakeholders, particularly students, since CDC representatives visiting Palo Alto in May only met with various groups of city, school district and community leaders, Gloner said.
"There wasn't as much opportunity for the broader community, especially youth, to contribute during the earlier field studies of the Epi-Aid," she told the Weekly.
The survey, she said, "was a mechanism and commitment to make this available to the community."
Epi-Aids are short-term investigations designed to address emergencies. The Santa Clara County Public Health Department formally filed the request for the study on behalf of the school district last year. (Public health authorities must invite the CDC to assist in an investigation within their jurisdiction.)
Objectives of this study include, according to Project Safety Net: to characterize the epidemiology of, and trends in, fatal and non-fatal suicidal behaviors among youth occurring from 2008 through 2015 in Santa Clara County; examine the degree to which media coverage of youth suicides met reporting guidelines; inventory and compare youth suicide prevention policies, activities, and protocols used in the community to evidence-based and national recommendations; synthesize information from the previous objectives to make recommendations on youth-suicide prevention strategies that can be used at the school, city and county level.
The study, though initiated by the Palo Alto school district, covers all of Santa Clara County.
Representatives from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) were in Palo Alto for several days in mid-February to conduct field work for the study. They met with approximately 150 people over the course of 10 meetings, Gloner said, including school district leadership, faculty, staff and school board members; City of Palo Alto staff; Caltrain representatives; youth-related community organizations and partners; county representatives, including from the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the coroner's office.
They also reviewed existing data and media coverage of the local suicide clusters, according to Project Safety Net.
The survey gauges respondents' perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about youth suicide, mental health and the community's response to recent suicide clusters.
One section asks respondents if they agree or disagree with statements like, "I am comfortable talking about suicide with my family and friends" and "Youth suicide is a current problem in Palo Alto." Another section asks respondents to rate their perception of the impact certain risk factors have on youth suicide in Palo Alto, from depression, sleep deprivation and academic distress and pressure to lack of access to mental-health care or unsafe media reporting. There are also open-ended questions and a space to provide additional comments.
Project Safety Net said it will share the anonymous results of its survey with all partners involved in the Epi-Aid process.
Gloner said that the CDC team has started reviewing its field work and will issue preliminary findings in mid-June. A more in-depth full report won't come until the fall or end of the year, she said.
The CDC conducted a similar Epi-Aid investigation in 2014 in Fairfax County, Virginia, following a youth suicide cluster. Investigators produced a 200-plus page final report after visiting Fairfax, conducting interviews and focus groups, examining health and school data, reviewing news articles related to youth suicide in the area, and meeting with community partners.
The survey is available online through Friday, June 24, in English, Spanish and Mandarin at bit.ly/psn2016paloalto. The survey is also posted on Project Safety Net's website. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. It is open to anyone 13 and older who lives in Palo Alto.
Questions about the survey can be sent to PSNPaloAlto@gmail.com.
Noting that "youth suicide can be a sensitive and difficult topic to discuss," the survey includes the Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis hotline as a resource: 1-855-278-4204.
Links below provide more resources where one can receive help: