Tool Eyes Suicide Prevention

NASW's Center for Workforce Studies has developed a new online toolkit to promote the use of evidence-based suicide prevention programs for adolescent girls.

The NASW SHIFT Project: Suicide Prevention for Adolescent Girls: Shifting Behavior, Shifting Outcomes was developed to move research-tested evidence-based practices (EBP) into social work practice in targeted service delivery settings.

The Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research (IASWR) served as the lead consultant to the project. In addition, the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN) USA and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute (NRI-INC) served as lead advisors. The toolkit was made possible by a grant from the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.

Toolkit authors included Tracy Whitaker, director of the NASW Center for Workforce Studies; Nancy Bateman, project director for the SHIFT Project for Adolescent Girls; and Joan Levy Zlotnik, IASWR executive director. Bateman said the toolkit's goal is to encourage state-based coalitions of organizations and individuals to advance and adopt evidence-based suicide prevention programs for adolescent girls. It is hoped that such an effort can make a positive change in some of the alarming statistics that involve suicide and adolescent girls.

Research consistently shows that female youth exceed their male counterparts in seriously considering attempting suicide, making a suicide plan, and attempting suicide.

The toolkit highlights four EBP models that reflect a range of interventions. "It's been a fascinating project," said Bateman. "We identified useful EBP models for a variety of settings.

Zlotnik said that the toolkit is an excellent example of how professional associations such as NASW can play important roles at the national and state levels in promoting research-to-practice efforts. "This project has allowed NASW to test a model that connects evidence-based practices in suicide prevention with a research-to-practice process and tools for moving EBPs into social work practice," she said.

"The toolkit helps state teams assess their readiness to implement EBPs on multiple levels." Bateman said. "It combines previous work by NASW on adolescence with IASWR's work on transporting research to practice."

NASW chapters in Georgia and Nevada served as pilot sites for the toolkit. NASW Georgia Chapter Executive Director Sue Ford said she and member Sally Vander Straeten serve on the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Georgia. Ford said Vander Straeten was instrumental in gathering providers, clients, and state and local officials together to receive training on how to use the toolkit. The state team also provided feedback that has been incorporated into the toolkit. Ford said the team's efforts have continued to evolve in Georgia. "This will be about taking what resources we have and moving forward with it," she said. "So far, the people involved are excited about using EBPs. The coalition is currently targeting colleges and universities about the project.

"Being in the pilot program was a wonderful opportunity for the chapter and it helped put NASW in a leadership role with a whole new group of professionals," Ford said.

In an effort to promote the toolkit, NASW hosted a poster presentation of the SHIFT Project at the National Institutes of Health's Second Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation, which was held in January.