Addressing a Crisis: Cross-Sector Strategies to Prevent Adolescent Substance Use and Suicide

Focused on the health and well-being of adolescents, this report continues a series, Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Crises by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Well Being Trust. The Pain in the Nation series informs national policy to advance a comprehensive National Resilience Strategy.

This report is focused on adolescents for two reasons: adolescent suicides and vaping have spiked in recent years. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. The report also recognizes that adolescents are at a juncture in their lives where circumstances (socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic background) and negative experiences (bigotry, bullying, and alienation) can increase risk. Conversely, positive experiences (connectedness to school and family, and mentoring) can decrease risk.

The report highlights dozens of evidence-based and cross-sector approaches that can improve adolescents’ life circumstances, protect them from harm, and set them on healthy trajectories leading to their success in school and into adulthood. Scaling up the policies and programs outlined in the report would not only decrease adolescent substance misuse and suicide – they would also improve other important youth outcomes, such as graduation rates.

Key data on this issue:

  • 87 percent increase in adolescent suicide rates (ages 12 – 19) over the last decade.
  • 60 percent of high school students report lifetime alcohol use, down from 82 percent in 1991.
  • Suicide rates among American Indian/Alaskan Native adolescents (ages 15-19) is 60 percent higher than the national average for all teenagers.
  • 48 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents report considering or attempting suicide.
  • 5,455 individuals (ages 15-24) died due to a drug overdose in 2017.
  • 78 percent one-year (2017 – 2018) increase in e-cigarette use rates among high school teens and 48 percent among middle school students.

Population of focus: Adolescents

Links to resource:

Date: 2019


Rhea Farberman