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Vermont's children and young people achieve their potential




% of students in grades 9-12 who made a suicide plan in the past year

Current Value




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Story Behind the Curve

Updated: September 2023 

Author:  Injury and Violence Prevention Program, Vermont Department of Health

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a delayed administration period, caution should be used when interpreting and comparing the 2021 results to other years; See Notes on Methodology for more information. There are a couple of significant differences from previous years:

  • Survey data was collected during a period when schools and students were still significantly impacted by the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This context has likely influenced the responses and behaviors captured in the survey.
  • Survey was conducted in the fall of 2021, deviating from its usual timing in the spring. As a result, the age of the surveyed students is approximately six months younger than in previous years. This age difference can potentially impact the trends and comparisons drawn from the data. 

In 2021, the percentage of adolescents who made a suicide plan in the past year was 14%, which follows an increasing trend since 2011. The data is collected from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) which is administered every other year.  For more data on suicide mortality and self-harm morbidity, please visit our injury surveillance reports.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people age 15 to 34 in Vermont. For every suicide death, there are many other people who think about or attempt suicide. While the causes vary and are complex, suicide is preventable.

Beyond this statewide number we know that the story is more complex. For example, the percentage varies between different subpopulations of students. Two populations with significantly high rates of suicidal thoughts or behaviors are youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and youth of color. 

Please refer to the YRBS data page for annual reports and population-specific data briefs. 

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) made a suicide plan in the past year, which is significantly higher than heterosexual/cisgender youth (8%).  Seventeen percent (17%) of youth of color made a suicide plan in the past year, which is significantly higher than their white, non-Hispanic peers (13%).  Youth who hold marginalized identities may be at higher risk for suicide because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.

The Vermont Departments of Health and Mental Health are collaborating with community partners to reduce these rates.  One Agency cannot turn the curve alone; there are many partners who have a role to play making a difference. 

Why Is This Important?

This indicator, coupled with Vermont's number of youth suicide deaths, informs our knowledge of the prevalence of suicide-related behaviors in youth. This data can help practitioners who work in health and mental health, and public health planners, to plan interventions for both individual practitioners and also community-based prevention. There are several risk factors that are informing the Vermont Department of Health's understanding of the scope of this issue. Some of the risk factors that guide prevention strategies include bullying, other factors related to mental health, substance misuse, and sexual and dating violence.  


What Works

Systems using evidence-based programs covering prevention, screening and identification of youth at risk and subsequent treatment are being developed in Vermont.

Key evidence-based strategies that help reduce suicide include the following:

  • Zero Suicide
  • Lifelines curriculum
  • UMatter for Schools
  • Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), including Youth Mental Health First Aid and Teen Mental Health First Aid
  • The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS,)
  • The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) toolkit,
  • and the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS.)

Vermont has been building its prevention programming and mental health services to respond to the increase in youth who engage in suicide related behavior and has been the recipient of two federal grants to support that work. Another key strategy in helping to reduce suicide in youth is promoting protective factors (e.g. community connectedness) and reducing risk factors.

Based on Vermont data, compared to youth who have not made a suicide plan, youth that have made a suicide plan are significantly less likely to experience protective factors and more likely to experience risk factors. In addition, educating youths on depression and suicidal behavior has been shown to prevent suicidal behavior.


Vermont is focused on increasing its capacity to offer a specific set of evidenced based practices and programs designed to address the key elements influencing the rise in youth suicide rates and other measures such as youth considering suicide. These strategies include increasing training and capacity for mental health counselors to use the Zero Suicide/CAMS framework in identifying and treating suicidality, training and capacity building for those who serve youth including Mental Health First Aid, supporting “upstream” programs such as UMatter, and increasing youth afterschool quality programming. Many early childhood and school age programs address mental health and wellness by increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors.

Notes on Methodology

Typically administered during the spring of odd years, the 2021 YRBS was administered during the fall of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Prevalence estimates for the 2021 VT YRBS and comparisons with previous results were likely impacted by some significant factors unique to 2021, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a younger population completing the survey due to the delayed survey administration period.


Students who participated in the 2021 YRBS may have had a different educational and social experience compared to previous participants. Disruptions, including remote learning, lack of social interactions and extracurricular activities, are likely reflected in the survey results.


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"


The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a national program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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. 

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