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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2016 Jun;32(6):347-51. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000537.

Bullying and Suicide Risk Among Pediatric Emergency Department Patients.

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From the *Office of the Clinical Director, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD; †Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital; and ‡Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH; §Emergency Psychiatry Service, Boston Children's Hospital; and ∥Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; ¶Division of Emergency Medicine, Children's National Health System, Washington, DC.



This study aimed to describe the association between recent bullying victimization and risk of suicide among pediatric emergency department (ED) patients.


Patients presenting to 1 of 3 different urban pediatric EDs with either medical/surgical or psychiatric chief complaints completed structured interviews as part of a study to develop a suicide risk screening instrument, the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions. Seventeen candidate items and the criterion reference Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire were administered to patients ages 10 to 21 years. Bullying victimization was assessed by a single candidate item ("In the past few weeks, have you been bullied or picked on so much that you felt like you couldn't stand it anymore?").


A total of 524 patients completed the interview (34.4% psychiatric chief complaints; 56.9% female; 50.4% white, non-Hispanic; mean [SD] age, 15.2 [2.6] years). Sixty patients (11.5%) reported recent bullying victimization, and of these, 33 (55.0%) screened positive for suicide risk on the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions or the previously validated Suicidal Ideation Questionnaire. After controlling for demographic and clinical variables, including a history of depression and drug use, the odds of screening positive for suicide risk were significantly greater in patients who reported recent bullying victimization (adjusted odds ratio, 3.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.66-6.11). After stratification by chief complaint, this association persisted for medical/surgical patients but not for psychiatric patients.


Recent bullying victimization was associated with increased odds of screening positive for elevated suicide risk among pediatric ED patients presenting with medical/surgical complaints. Understanding this important correlate of suicide risk in pediatric ED patients may help inform ED-based suicide prevention interventions.

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