During the 2020-2021 school year, many of our school partners were unable to implement the SOS program due to the challenges imposed by a remote and/or hybrid learning environment. Furthermore, the majority of partners that did implement necessarily did so with program modifications—the most salient being the omission of the BSAD screener. This is because it was not deemed safe for students to complete a mental health screener unless they were under the direct supervision of school staff. Due to schools’ varying levels of openness throughout the year, we supported a range of implementation models: wholly remote, wholly in-person and, in some cases, a combination of the two.
While our overall totals are significantly lower than in past years, we were still able to make a significant impact. In 2020-2021, we educated 36,851 students in suicide prevention and referred 1,049 students on for needed supports in their school and/or community. Specifically, 255 students were referred on for essential community-based counseling and 16 students were hospitalized.
While overall only 5.9% of students were identified for follow-up (compared to our past average of 16%) and only 2.8% received referrals (compared to our past average of 8%), when separating out the in-person programming that included screening from the virtual/remote programming that solely included a Response Card, we come face-to-face with some numbers that are impossible to ignore.
When schools implemented the program virtually/remotely . . .
- 112 school partners implemented the program virtually/remotely, educating 32,403 students
- 1,383 students were identified for follow-up (4.3%)
- 542 students were referred for services (1.7%)
BUT, when schools implemented the program in-person . . .
- 56 school partners implemented the program in-person, educating 4,448 students
- 780 students were identified for follow-up (17.5%)—Surpassing our past average of 16%!
- 507 students were referred for services (11.4%)—Surpassing our past average of 8%!
- Approximately the same number of referrals occurred for both in-person and virtual programs even though 2 times as many schools did the program virtually (showing the value of the screener!)
- Schools that incorporated the screener/response card identified students for follow-up at more than 4 times the rate as schools that used the response card alone (again showing the value of the screener!)
- Schools that incorporated the screener/response card referred students for services at 6.7 times the rate as schools that used the response card alone (again showing the value of the screener!)
As we look ahead to the subsequent school year, we are relieved to know that the BSAD screener can again be incorporated consistently into SOS programming as schools return to “normal,” fully in-person environments. We are confident that our pre-pandemic levels of both identification and referral will return, enabling us to save even more young lives!