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Prevent suicide and self harm

% of students in grades 9 through 12 who made a suicide plan in the past 12 months

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: February, 2024 

Author: Adolescent Injury Prevention, Vermont Department of Health

This indicator, or population measure, is part of our Healthy Vermonters 2030 data set. Read more about how this data helps us understand and improve the well-being of people in Vermont on the Healthy Vermonters 2030 webpage.

Because this data is meant to show how the health of our state changes during the decade from 2020-2030, some indicators may have very few data points for now. Keep checking back to see the progress our public health system and partners are making.

We would like to see the percent of students who made a suicide plan in the past 12 months decrease to 12% or below by 2030.

This indicator has been increasing over the last ten years. This rise could be due to a variety of factors, including: the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying social isolation and grief related to losses, the political climate and other social movements that may impact a youth’s feelings of belonging in their community, and the rise of social media and potentially associated instances of cyberbullying, feelings of isolation, and/or accessibility of information about local and national suicide deaths in the media. In addition, this rise could also be related to decreased stigma in reporting thoughts of suicide.

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Reducing the suicide rate is a Healthy People 2030 Leading Health Indicator. It is a high priority objective to drive action toward improving overall health and well-being.

Why Is This Important?

Decreasing youth suicidality is a goal of the Health Department and specifically the Divisions of Family and Child Health and Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Injury Prevention. Youth mental health and suicide prevention have been prioritized through initiatives like Title V, the CDC Comprehensive Suicide Prevention grant, and the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant. In addition, the Health Department has established and maintained strong partnerships with the Department of Mental Health and Agency of Education to ensure cross-department and cross-agency collaboration on all initiatives that impact youth suicide and mental health.

Equity and Impact

Beyond the statewide number we know that the story is more complex and this data is crucial to understanding suicidality among one of Vermont’s most vulnerable populations. Students who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are significantly more likely than white, non-Hispanic students to have made a suicide plan during the past year (17% vs. 13%). LGBTQ youth experience suicidality at higher rates than any other subpopulation (29%). Additionally, transgender, and gender non-conforming people face the highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence, and the poorest behavioral and mental health outcomes due to discrimination and systemic oppression.

How We Can Improve

The Division of Family and Child Health has included youth suicidality in its Title V strategic plan. To address this, the Division has outlined an activity of analyzing all available data to understand subpopulations disproportionately impacted.

The Division currently funds the Suicide Prevention Action Team at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families.  We also work collaboratively with the Child Psychiatry Access Program, the Mental Health Integration Council, and the Gender Affirming Care Workgroup. In addition to those groups, we also fund the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program to work on various adolescent health topics including mental health and injury prevention initiatives.

The Division of Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Injury Prevention, in partnership with the Division of Family and Child Health and Department of Mental Health, implements suicide prevention activities through two federal grants.

  1. The CDC Comprehensive Suicide Prevention grant focuses on individuals 15-64, LGBTQ Vermonters, rural Vermonters, and men.
  2. The Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Youth Suicide Prevention grant (from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) focuses on youth ages 10-24, with a particular focus on youth living in Bennington, Chittenden, Windham, and Rutland counties, LGBTQ youth, and BIPOC youth. This grant is bringing suicide prevention screening and referral training opportunities to Vermont including the Zero Suicide Framework, Youth and Teen Mental Health First Aid, and Umatter for Schools.

This data will help monitor the success of various efforts being funded by grants as well as assessing ongoing needs throughout the state and planning for future grants and initiatives.

Notes on Methodology

The target of 12% is only a slight decrease from the baseline of 13%. However, breaking the last 10 year trend and preventing further increase will indicate success. 

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a national survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many Vermont partners. It is administered every other year (odd years) through the public school system. The YRBS is a major source of information about youth health related behaviors that may contribute to leading causes of death and disability as adults.

The Vermont YRBS asks youth about concerning behaviors such as “feeling sad or hopeless” and suicide plans and attempts. Detailed analyses of Vermont data also inform on special subpopulations. Please refer to the YRBS data page for annual reports and population-specific data briefs. 

Caution should be used when interpreting and comparing the 2021 results to other years. For more information on the delayed administration and how it may have impacted the 2021 results, please see "Special Considerations for 2021".

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