Methods: A cross-sectional comparative study was conducted on two groups of adolescents matched on age, sex and socioeconomic status, during a period of 8 months (April-November 2010). The first group included 30 adolescents admitted to the emergency department of Habib Bourguiba Sfax Hospital for suicide attempts. The second group included 30 adolescents examined in a community clinic in Sfax for a benign acute medical condition. The two groups underwent a semi-structured interview based on the DSM-IV-TR criteria, conducted by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. All adolescents completed the Child’s Depression Inventory (CDI) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS).
Results: The diagnosis of major depressive disorder was significantly more frequent in adolescent suicide attempters than in the control group (23.3% against 3%). According to the HADS, 50% of adolescent suicide attempters exhibited pathological depression scores against 26.6% in the control group (p = 0.043). Adolescent suicide attempters’ mean CDI score was significantly higher than the control group (28.56 versus 13.22). Higher levels of depressive symptoms on the CDI were significantly related to suicidal ideations during the past six months, previous suicidal attempts, impulsivity, a high intent to die and parent-adolescent conflicts.
Conclusion: These findings provide support for suggesting a need for a systematic screening for major depressive disorder in adolescent suicide attempters to ensure early mental health treatment and prevent the recurrence of suicide attempts.