Background Most of the school-based interventions to prevent suicide are from high income countries and there is a need for evidence based interventions in resource-poor settings. The aim of this study is to evaluate the outcome of a school based intervention to reduce risk factors for suicide among young people in Cambodia by promoting life skills.
Method Six classes were randomly selected from two schools each, one designated as experimental and the other as control school, respectively. In experimental school 168 young people (M = 92, F = 76) received 6 sessions of life skills education and in the control school 131 students (M = 53, F = 78) received three general sessions on health. We looked at the pre-post differences on Life-Skills Development Scale Adolescent Form (LSDS-AF)- and Youth Self-Report (YSR) questionnaire to measure the effect size (ES) from the intervention after 6 months. We analyzed the data by stratifying for gender and for those who reported more severe suicidal expressions at baseline (high-risk group).
Results The girls showed improvement in Human Relationship (ES = 0.57), Health Maintenance (ES = 0.20) and the Total Life Skills Dimensions (ES = 0.24), whereas boys with high-risk behavior improved on Human Relationship (ES = 0.48), Purpose in Life (ES = 0.26) and Total Life Skills Dimensions (ES = 0.22). Effect size for YSR-syndrome scores among all individuals showed no improvement for either gender. Among high-risk individuals boys had a small to moderate effect size from intervention on Withdrawn/Depressed (ES = 0.40), Attention problems (ES = 0.46), Rule breaking behavior (ES = 0.36), Aggressive behavior (ES = 0.48) and Externalizing syndrome (ES = 0.64).
Conclusion Promoting life skills in schools may enhance the overall mental health of young people, indirectly influencing suicide, particularly among boys with high-risk behavior in Cambodia.