Background: The suicide rate in the youth population of the United States has increased by over 50% in the last 10 years. Other countries have markedly reduced suicide rates through investment in research, education and treatment. The United States has been slow in implementing suicide prevention measures and U.S. data on suicide and risk factors remains limited.
Objective: The aim of this research is to better understand the risk factors and warning signs for suicide in the youth population. This information could inform the development of prevention strategies to reduce the suicide rate in this population.
Methods: Data was collected nationally from survivors of a suicide attempt, the ‘self’ dataset, and family members of those lost to suicide, the ‘other’ dataset. Data were collected on demographics and warning signs observed in 431 individuals aged 8 to 24 years. SAS statistics software was used to generate descriptive statistics and chi-squared tests were performed to compare the warning signs identified by survivors with those identified by family members.
Results: The results showed that overall the individuals who had attempted or died from suicide were white (87.24%), male (62.18%), single (50.81%) in school (63.81%) and living at home with their families (85.15%). 80.51% identified as heterosexual and 19.49% as LGBTQ+. Almost a third had made previous suicide attempts (28.77%) and of those 66.94% had made 1 or 2 attempts. 67.52% had ever received psychiatric treatment but, of those, only 53.61% were receiving treatment at the time of the suicide or attempt. 32.71% had a history of suicide in their family and behavior changes were noticed in 59.16% of individuals. Overall the most commonly identified warning signs were emotional misery/pain (45.71%), insomnia (34.75) and hopelessness (34.57%). There were statistically significant differences in prevalence seen between the ‘self’ and ‘other’ datasets in 28 of the 42 warning signs.
Conclusions: This research provides an overview of the most at-risk individuals in the youth population. It highlights that warning signs are not easy to identify in others so if there are concerns about an individual, conversations must be had to ascertain their mental state and provide help as needed. More research is needed to further evaluate and understand this topic.
Thind, MD, Simal and George, PhD, MS, Brandon, "Predictors of Youth Suicide: A U.S. Survey" (2020). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 313.