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Policy addressing suicidality in children and young people: an international scoping review
  1. Lynne Gilmour,
  2. Margaret Maxwell,
  3. Edward Duncan
  1. Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Lynne Gilmour; Lyg1{at}


Objective To map key policy documents worldwide and establish how they address the treatment and care needs of children and young people (CYP) who are suicidal.

Design We conducted a scoping review to systematically identify relevant key policy documents following a pre-established published protocol.

Data sources Four databases (CINAHL; Medline; PsycINFO; The Cochrane Database of Systematic reviews) and the websites of key government, statutory and non-statutory agencies were searched. Google and Google Scholar were used to identify other policy documents and relevant grey literature. Leading experts were consulted by email.

Eligibility criteria for selected studies Policies, policy guidance, strategies, codes of conduct, national service frameworks, national practice guidance, white and green papers, and reviews of policy—concerned with indicated suicide prevention approaches for children up to 18 years old. Limited by English language and published after 2000.

Data extraction and synthesis Data were extracted using a predetermined template. Second reviewers independently extracted 25%. Documents were categorised as international guidance, national policy and national guidance, and presented in a table providing a brief description of the policy, alongside how it specifically addresses suicidal CYP. Findings were further expressed using narrative synthesis.

Results 35 policy documents were included in the review. Although many recognise CYP as being a high-risk or priority population, most do not explicitly address suicidal CYP. In general, national guidance documents were found to convey that suicidal children should be assessed by a child and adolescent mental health practitioner but offer no clear recommendations beyond this.

Conclusion The lack of specific reference within policy documents to the treatment and care of needs of children who are suicidal highlights a potential gap in policy that could lead to the needs of suicidal children being overlooked, and varying interpretations of appropriate responses and service provision.

  • Suicide
  • policy
  • scoping-review
  • international
  • children
  • young people

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  • Contributors LG led this review and paper, ED and MM contributed to the development of the protocol. LG ran the searches and applied the selection criteria. MM and ED verified the selection of documents, independently screening all identified documents by title and abstract, and 50% in full text. LG completed data extraction, with MM and ED independently extracting data from 25% of included documents. LG mapped the included documents and wrote the first draft of the paper. This was reviewed and commented on by MM and ED. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding LG is an ESRC funded PhD student.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Online supplementary tables are provided detailing MeSH terms, reasons for exclusion, the data extraction template used and the table of included policies.

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