US study examines suicide trends in depressed youth

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Monday, November 28, 2011

A policeman talks a young woman out of jumping to her death in Dallas.
Image: Dieselgeek.

A study by the University of Washington that looked at people in their late teens in the Pacific Northwest has reached two conclusions: that teenagers may be able to reliably recall the time of their first suicide attempts, and that depressed youth tend to try to kill themselves at a much earlier age than previously believed.

Out of 833 eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds examined, roughly nine percent said they had attempted suicide. Of those, 40% said they had made their attempt before starting high school. The statistics showed a surge of attempts at twelve years old, with the highest rates being amongst those around fifteen years old.

Multiple suicide attempts were reported by 39 subjects, and these generally made their first attempt younger than those who attempted just once. Attempts were reported at as young as nine years old. The participants were involved in the Raising Healthy Children project, and researches were able to look back at contemporary measures of depression. They found the times attempters said they'd tried suicide matched up with high levels of depression, and those who claimed to have attempted suicide had higher levels of depression than those who did not. The paper, published in this month's edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health, concluded youngster's recollections of past suicide attempts appeared to be reliable.

"We are likely not giving kids enough credence in assessing their own mental health, and this study shows that we can rely on self-report measures to help identify youth who may be at risk for current mental health concerns, including possible suicidal behaviour," said lead researcher Professor James Mazza, an educational psychology expert. He called for mental health programs to be available to younger generations through their schools.