School-based mental health services can decrease suicide attempts, new study finds

A modern-looking empty school interior with natural light and a staircase

A new study by researchers with the University of Minnesota, the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and the Hennepin County and Minneapolis Public Schools indicates that offering mental health services directly within schools can increase access to care and reduce self-reported suicide attempts.

The study focused on a School-Based Mental Health (SBMH) initiative that placed mental health clinicians in K-12 public schools in Hennepin County, Minnesota, which includes the city of Minneapolis. The researchers discovered that SBMH programs reduced self-reported suicide attempts by 15 percent.

On average, around 3.7 percent of Hennepin County students in sixth grade and higher reported a suicide attempt in the past year. These estimates suggest that, by 2018, SBMH was preventing approximately 260 suicide attempts per year.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • The rates of students using mental health services increased by 8 percent in participating schools, indicating that the program successfully provided more students with access to mental health support.
  • With an annual program cost of approximately $117 per pupil, the study's results suggest that SBMH could be a valuable investment in child and adolescent mental health
Graphic showing school-based care and suicide attempts

The study concludes, "School-based mental health is not a silver bullet for all behavioral and learning outcomes. However, it can be a valuable investment in the well-being of children and adolescents. Policymakers and educators looking for ways to improve the mental health of young people could consider investing in SBMH."

The paper was authored by Ezra Golberstein, Irina Zainullina, Aaron Sojourner, and Mark A. Sander.


Aaron Sojourner headshot

Aaron Sojourner

Senior Researcher

Research Topics: Social Safety Net