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Psychiatric symptoms and their relationship to suicidal ideation in a high-risk adolescent community sample.

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Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA.



The purpose of the current study was to investigate the importance of diagnostic factors in the prediction of adolescent suicidal ideation in a high-risk community sample.


Seventy-three high school students, aged 14 to 18 years, identified by school personnel as exhibiting emotional disturbance participated in the study. Psychiatric disorders were assessed with the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children-Epidemiologic Version 5, and suicidal ideation with the Modified Scale for Suicidal Ideation.


Seventy-four percent of the sample met criteria for a psychiatric disorder. Continuous measures of psychiatric symptoms provided stronger prediction of suicidal ideation than dichotomous measures. In particular, severity of symptoms associated with mood disorders afforded the strongest prediction of suicidal ideation. Moreover, although significantly related to suicidal ideation at the bivariate level, symptoms associated with disruptive behavior, anxiety, and substance use disorders did not predict suicidal ideation over and above mood disorder symptoms.


Adolescents presenting with emotional disturbance should be carefully screened for depression given the strong relationship between depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Furthermore, improved prediction of suicidal ideation may be obtained through the utilization of continuous measures of psychiatric symptoms in suicide research.

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