Current Pediatric Reviews

Giuseppe Buonocore
Department of Molecular and Developmental Medicine
University of Siena


Adolescent Suicide: Epidemiology, Psychological Theories, Risk Factors, and Prevention

Author(s): Mirjami Pelkonen, Linnea Karlsson, Mauri Marttunen.


Suicide is one of the most common causes of death among young people worldwide. Adolescence is a developmentally important phase of age due to the growing risk for suicide and prevalence of psychiatric disorders, as well as due to growing possibilities for prevention and treatments. Research findings in theoretical considerations, in psychological autopsy studies as well as in selected follow-up studies of clinical populations and suicide attempters analyzing risk factors for youth suicides are reviewed emphasizing the most recent data. As youth suicides are rare, research on risk factors for youth suicidal ideation, deliberate self-harm behavior and attempted suicide are also briefly reviewed. Family-related adversity, precipitating interpersonal problems, and particularly psychiatric disorders constitute risk factors for adolescent suicide. Mood disorders, substance abuse and prior suicide attempts are strongly related with youth suicides. However, recent psychological autopsy studies in China have found substantially lower rates of psychiatric disorders among suicide victims compared with those in the Western countries. Recognition and effective treatment of psychiatric disorders, e.g. depression are essential in preventing adolescent suicides. As only seldom young suicide victims have received psychiatric care, broad prevention strategies are needed in health care and social services. Education of physicians to recognize youth at risk, and restricting access to lethal means are recommended to prevent suicides. For high-risk youth providing continuity of care is important. Recent treatment studies among suicidal adolescents have reported promising results on safety planning and increased therapeutic contact early in treatment.

Keywords: Adolescent, deliberate self-harm behavior, psychiatric disorder, psychiatric treatment, risk factor, suicidal behavior, suicide, theory

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Article Details

Year: 2011
Page: [52 - 67]
Pages: 16
DOI: 10.2174/157339611795429080