The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” though based on fictional characters, has sparked a very real discussion nationwide about youth suicide. For American youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In “13 Reasons Why,” a teenage girl named Hannah Baker leaves behind 13 mysterious audio recordings after killing herself. Each recording is addressed to a person who she says played a role in her tragic decision to end her life. As in this fictional story, teenagers across the United States are slipping through the cracks and opportunities are being missed to address suicidal thoughts and prevent suicide attempts. 

A Georgia State University researcher has been working toward a solution: implementing comprehensive suicide prevention/intervention/postvention systems in K-12 schools. Central to her approach is an empirically supported suicide intervention program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). Dr. Laura Shannonhouse not only wants to train school counselors, but she also wants to equip “natural helpers” – school personnel that students naturally have relationships with such as teachers, resource officers, coaches, administrative staff and bus drivers – with the knowledge of how to successfully intervene with a person at risk of suicide.

Her recent study in the Journal for Counseling and Development found that suicide awareness and prevention training can help school personnel in grades K-12 feel more comfortable, competent and confident in intervening with a person at risk of suicide and improve their ability to know what to say. That study recently earned her the American Counseling Association’s Best Practices in Research Award. Here’s a link: Another study looking at intervention training for college staff is in press.

Shannonhouse, a licensed professional counselor and an applied suicide intervention skills master trainer, has even partnered with several Atlanta area school districts to administer this training. Here’s a link to her faculty bio:

She is available to discuss her work and can be reached directly at [email protected] or 404-413-8167.