Suicide Risks Change Throughout High School

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

This episode focuses on how risk factors for suicide change in high school depending on the adolescent’s grade.

We are featuring a journal article this week titled Differences in risk factors for suicide attempts among 9th and 11th grade youth. The authors wanted to find out if the risk factors for suicide attempts change as adolescents get older. They used 3300 9th and 11th graders from the Add Health longitudinal study.

The authors found that depression was a common risk factor for suicide attempts for both 9th and 11th graders. In addition, girls were at higher risk for suicide attempts as were those adolescents who were on public assistance.

However, the authors did find some risk factors that differed based on the adolescents’ age. Ninth graders were more at-risk for suicide attempts if they used illegal drugs, had a homosexual orientation, or had early or late physical development. Most of these risk factors diminished as adolescents entered 11th grade. However, 11th graders were more at-risk for suicide attempts if they experienced sexual abuse, were receiving counseling, or were of Asian or Native American ethnicity.

The takeaway is that depression is a common risk factor for suicide throughout adolescence. This means that screening for depression in middle school and high school is a good step in getting adolescents the help they need before they resort to a suicide attempt. In addition, teachers and counselors should be aware that other risk factors for suicide change as adolescents get older. This reflects the need for taking developmental factors into consideration when looking at suicide risk.

Source:

Fried, L.E., Williams, S., Cabral, H., & Hacker, K. (2013). Differences in risk factors for suicide attempts among 9th and 11th grade youth: A longitudinal perspective. The Journal of School Nursing, 1-10.

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