Community Suicide Prevention Program for Black Teens

African American teenage boy in a counseling program,
Researchers sought to determine whether the Columbia Protocol is an effective tool to reduce suicide among black adolescents.

The implementation of a suicide prevention program harnessing the power of community organizations and using the Columbia Protocol as a screening device may help to reduce the rate of suicides among black youths, according to Geeta Maharaj, DNP, APRN, CPNP, of Middle Tennessee State University, during a virtual presentation at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Annual Meeting (NAPNAP 2020).

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among black youth and the suicide rate of black children aged 5 to 12 years has increased at twice the rate of their white counterparts, the report stated. Black individuals at risk for suicide, however, often “do not have access to primary or mental health care.  Minority youths are  less likely to receive treatment with psychotherapy, psychotropic medications, and also are less likely to be referred to a specialist than non-minority youth,” she reported.

Dr Maharaj  reviewed PubMed, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and PsycINFO to identify articles with keywords including African American adolescents suicide, adolescent suicide, suicide screen, and Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), a 6-item questionnaire that asked questions related to suicide intention.

Four studies were identified from the search and demonstrated that implementation of the C-SSRS reduced the risk of suicide in those aged 12 to 18 years. The C-SSRS also outlines steps to train gatekeepers to implement the program in community centers and schools; these steps include education about suicide/mental health, knowledge of risk factors, risk assessment, and referral to treatment.

“A community program that allows gatekeepers to use the Columbia Protocol in various settings could help at-risk youth receive the treatment they need,” concluded the author.


Maharaj G. Using the Columbia Protocol to address the increasing suicide rate in African American adolescents. Presented virtually at: NAPNAP 2020; June 4-5, 2020. Abstract TH19.

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor