COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

School-Based Suicide Risk Assessment Using eHealth: A Scoping Review

Key Messages

  • Peer-reviewed research on specific recommendations for conducting suicide risk assessments with youth via eHealth is extremely limited. The limited available research was also primarily conducted with older, female-identified, white, presumably heterosexual youth.
  • The majority of specific recommendations for conducting suicide risk assessment with youth via eHealth were found in grey literature documents from key school mental health/suicide prevention websites
  • As school mental health professionals are in need of immediate guidance in the face of COVID-19, the specific recommendations detailed by grey literature sources represent the most promising practices for current implementation

Lay Summary

We found 12 peer-reviewed studies and 23 grey literature sources that provided relevant recommendations for conducting suicide risk assessments with youth via eHealth. Together, these 35 documents led to six categories of promising practices for service providers. First, steps must be taken to ensure youth engagement in the process (e.g., ensuring sessions are accessible for youth; building rapport with youth in the virtual environment). Second, grey literature sources highlighted that service providers must consider their own boundaries (e.g., letting caregivers/youth know when they are not available; arranging for coverage periods). Third, these resources discussed consent procedures in the virtual/remote environment (e.g., listing emergency contacts and multiple communication options). Fourth, a number of session logistics need to be considered. Most commonly, these logistics included ensuring the provider was competent with the technology/service delivery using eHealth; reviewing privacy guidelines with the youth at the start of the session; confirming the youth’s physical location at the start of the session; having a back-up plan if technology difficulties occurred; having a list of 24/7 resources on hand; ensuring the service provider had up-to-date emergency contact information for at least one caregiver (preferably more than one); and ensuring the service provider had a plan for how they will stay connected to the youth if they need to contact emergency services. Fifth, these resources made specific recommendations around safety planning. Both peer-reviewed and grey literature sources suggested that the overall process was the same in the virtual/remote as in the face-to-face environment, but that some key changes needed to be made, including determining how the service provider would share the plan with youth and caregiver(s) virtually. Both peer-reviewed and grey literature sources also mentioned that check-ins likely need to be more frequent in the virtual/remote environment. Sixth and finally, peer-reviewed sources discussed internet privacy recommendations.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • eHealth
  • School mental health
  • Scoping review
  • Suicide risk assessment
  • Youth

Author(s)

  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Deinera Exner-Cortens, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary
  • Deinera Exner-Cortens, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary
  • Elizabeth Baker, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary
  • Cristina Fernandez Conde, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary*
  • Shawna Gray, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary*
  • Rocio Ramirez Rivera, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary*
  • Marisa Van Bavel, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary*
  • Elisabeth Vezina, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Calgary*
  • Aleta Ambrose, Child and Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health and Psychiatry Program, Alberta Health Services”
  • Chris Pawluk, Rocky View Schools”
  • Kelly Schwartz, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary”
  • Paul Arnold, Department of Psychiatry, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary

For more information, please contact: Deinera Exner-Cortens, deinera.exner2@ucalgary.ca

Related Syntheses

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Population

Children, Youth and Families

Language

To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

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