Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Factors of Adolescent Suicide

The loss of a child to suicide can be particularly devastating to parents, friends, and others in the child's life. When my daughter came home one day telling me of a classmate who was contemplating suicide, the flood of fear for her friend and for the fact that my daughter was so closely exposed to such pain was one of those life-stopping moments.

As parents, relatives, friends, and professionals who deal with teenagers, we can be aware of certain risks and protective factors that can predict whether or not a teen may attempt suicide. A study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health identified a number of such factors for adolescent suicide attempts. The researchers found that among all adolescents, those most at risk of attempting suicide were those who had previously attempted suicide and would likely try again, were victims of violence or perpetrated violence on others, used alcohol and marijuana, and had problems in school.

There were some differences between girls and boys. For girls, having a friend attempt or complete suicide, drug use, and a history of mental health treatment predicted suicide attempts. For boys, the more powerful predictors were carrying a weapon at school and same-sex romantic attractions.

While risk factors varied for genders and ethnic groups, protective factors also varied. However, for all adolescents, the most important deterrent in suicide attempts was a perceived parent and family connectedness.

Donna Davis, Senior Producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.

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