Youth Aware of Mental Health
In 2017, Montana had the highest suicide death rate in the nation at 28.89 suicide deaths per 100,000 (the national rate was 14/100,000). This means that more than five times as many people died by suicide than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents.
For Montana’s youth, suicide is the leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24. From 2012-16, the Montana youth (ages 11-17) suicide rate was 12.6/100,000; this was almost triple the national rate for the same age group (4.5/100,000). The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) found that during the 12 months before the survey:
- 9.5% of grades 9-12 students made a suicide attempt.
- 14.8% of grades 7 & 8 students made a suicide attempt.
- 18.3% American Indian students attempted suicide one or more times.
What is Youth Aware of Mental Health?
Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) is a universal classroom mental health promotion program that aims to raise mental health awareness about risk and protective factors associated with suicide, including knowledge about depression and anxiety, and to enhance the skills and emotional resiliency needed to deal with stress and crisis. The adolescents learn from both a professional and from each other through a mix of cognitive, emotional, and experiential learning.
The YAM program is taught by a YAM certified instructor and assistant in five one-hour highly interactive sessions to middle school and high school students. YAM provides an opportunity for students to delve into relevant topics through active discussion and role-play. These activities allow students to find solutions to difficult situations and common stressors in a fun and nonthreatening environment. Each student receives a YAM booklet that includes mental health information, coping strategies, and local and national resources.
How Will My Students Benefit from the YAM Program?
The YAM program stands out among youth suicide prevention programs based on its strong research foundation of research evidence. The Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe (SEYLE) study was a multicenter, cluster-randomized controlled trial that studied YAM and two other intervention. The SEYLE sample consisted of 11,110 adolescent pupils, median age 15 years (IQR 14-15), recruited from 168 schools in ten European Union countries. At the 12-month follow-up, YAM was associated with a significant reduction of incident suicide attempts and severe suicidal ideation compared with the control group. Other recent studies on YAM have shown the effectiveness and sustainability of YAM in Montana.
- MSU: Feasibility and Acceptability of Youth Aware of Mental Health
- MSU Extension: Feasibility, Acceptability, and Fidelity: Extension Agents teaching Youth Aware of Mental Health
- Columbia University Study: Improving Suicide Prevention Through Evidence-Based Strategies
What are the Risks?
In previous studies of YAM, no major risks were posed to the youth participants. If a student were to have a problem while participating in YAM, our certified instructors and assistants are trained to respond appropriately. Instructors will work with school counseling personnel or administration to ensure the students’ needs are meet when participating in the program.
YAM in Montana
Since 2016, over 9,000 Montana students have participated in YAM. Over these last 5 years, we have been able to develop three different ways to offer YAM in schools.
- In the MSU Model, the certified YAM Instructor and Assistant are employees of MSU who will come to your school to teach YAM.
- In the Extension Model, the certified YAM Instructor and Assistant are local MSU Extension Agents who will come to your school to teach YAM.
- In the School-Based Model, the certified YAM Instructor and Assistant are district personnel who do not have direct instructional oversight of the participating class.