Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of adolescent suicide risk screening to increase initiation of mental health services via a secondary analysis using data from the SHIELD (Screening in High Schools to Identify, Evaluate and Lower Depression) randomized clinical trial, which evaluated school-based screening for major depressive disorder (MDD). Study design: Students in 14 Pennsylvania high schools were randomized by grade to either the usual school practice of targeted referral for behavior raising a concern for suicide risk or universal screening using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), with any response >0 to item 9 regarding suicide risk considered positive. Students identified in either arm were referred to the Student Assistance Program (SAP), which is mandated in all Pennsylvania schools. The SAP determined follow-up. Study groups were compared using mixed-effects logistic regression. Results: The participants comprised 12 909 students, with 6473 (50.1%) randomized to universal screening. The study group was 46% female and 43% Hispanic or non-Hispanic Black. Adolescents in the universal screening arm had 7.1-fold greater odds (95% CI, 5.7-8.8) of being identified as at risk for suicide, 7.8-fold greater odds (95% CI, 4.6-13.1) of follow-up needs, and 4.0-fold greater odds (95% CI, 2.0-7.9) of initiating mental health treatment. Conclusions: Although the PHQ-9 is a MDD screening tool, its use in universal screening increased identification and treatment initiation for adolescents at risk for suicide. This confirms the value of universal screening and suggests that a suicide-specific risk assessment would have even greater impact on treatment initiation for identified youth. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03716869.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-177
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Adolescent Suicide Risk Screening: A Secondary Analysis of the SHIELD Randomized Clinical Trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this