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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1998 Dec;37(12):1294-300.

Suicidal thinking among adolescents with a history of attempted suicide.

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  • 1Department of Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston 77225, USA.



To examine the risk of suicidal plans and ideation, depression, and other factors (low self-esteem, loneliness, fatalism, pessimism) among adolescents with a lifetime history of attempted suicide.


A self-administered questionnaire was used in a school-based survey of five middle schools (grades 6 through 8) enrolling 6,400 students. Usable questionnaires were obtained from 5,423 (85.3%). Data were obtained on a wide range of constructs including recent and lifetime suicide attempts, recent and lifetime suicide plans, recent ideation, symptoms of DSM-IV major depression, self-esteem, pessimism, loneliness, and fatalism.


Data on crude prevalence showed thoughts about death, wishing to be dead, thoughts of suicide, and suicide plans were all significantly higher among youths with a history of attempts. Suicidal thinking was related to being more lonely, more fatalistic, and more pessimistic, and to less self-esteem, in addition to depression and a history of attempts. Multivariate analyses revealed the strongest factors associated with current suicidal thinking were history of attempts (odds ratio [OR] = 3.50), depression (OR = 5.34), and recent life stress (OR = 2.64). Compared with youths with none of the factors examined, those with six or more were at extreme risk (OR = 67.87).


The strong association between history of suicide attempts, current ideation, and depression indicates that past suicide attempts occur in the context of other signs of psychosocial dysfunction. Given the paucity of epidemiological data on the natural history of suicidal behaviors among youths, more epidemiological studies of the antecedents and consequences of the range of suicidal behaviors among children and adolescents are needed. Given the high risk of subsequent suicidal behaviors by youths who have attempted but not completed suicide, this constitutes a high-risk population on which future research should focus.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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