Social-Emotional Learning and Youth Suicide Prevention

Committee for Children conducted a review of literature and found that social-emotional learning (SEL) skills can address and mitigate known risk factors for youth suicide, thus providing one avenue for upstream prevention.

Download Full One Pager

The Problem

  • Youth suicide is on the rise across the country.
  • It’s one of the top two causes of premature death of youth between ages 10 and 19.1
  • Approximately one in 12 high schoolers have attempted suicide; middle schoolers have nearly as high a rate.2


Social-emotional learning can combat youth suicide. Hopelessness, anxiety, substance use, and child sexual abuse are known risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. SEL curricula, as effective universal Tier I (all-student) interventions, promote skills related to protective factors that mitigate those risk factors.

Suicide Risk Factors and Social-Emotional Competencies that Mitigate Them

(Scroll right to view all information)

Risk Factor Self-Awareness Self-Management Responsible Decision Making Social Awareness Relationship Skills
Substance Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse

Recommendations for Policymakers

  • Include social-emotional learning within comprehensive youth suicide prevention efforts
  • Fund comprehensive prevention that includes SEL to mitigate risk upstream
  • Fund research and evaluation of SEL interventions for youth suicide, as they have yet to be studied rigorously
  • Learn from local examples of SEL in suicide prevention, such as in Tooele, Utah3 and Jeffco County, Colorado4


  1. Curtin, S.C. & Heron, M. (2019). Death rates due to suicide and homicide among persons aged 10–24: United States,
    2000–2017 (NCHS Data Brief No. 352). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
  2. Mazza, J. (2006). Youth suicidal behavior: A crisis in need of attention. In F. A. Villarruel, & Luster, T. (Eds). Adolescent mental health (pp. 156–177). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.