The risk of suicide among youth is highest after a first attempt

Risk of suicide

Anew research shows that young Americans who have attempted suicide have a significantly higher risk of recidivism and suicide in the following months. After a deliberate self-harm attempt, teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable to dark thoughts, which can lead to suicide, according to a study from a group of researchers at the Columbia Irving Medical Center (CUIMC).

In a new study published on March 19 in the online journal Pediatrics, Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and his colleagues explain that young Americans had a much higher risk of suicide in the months following a first deliberate attempt of self-harm.

Thus, it is essential to follow clinically young people who have voluntarily mutilated themselves during this critical period. “Our latest study shows that time is essential to prevent a fatal accident,” says Professor Mark Olfson. “Although young adults have a higher risk of suicide compared to adolescents in the year following the self-injury episode, adolescents are at particularly high risk in the first few weeks. ”

The researchers analyzed data from 32,395 patients aged 12 to 24 years who attempted suicide over a one-year period. The data were then cross-checked with the US National Death Index. The researchers also looked at many risk factors, such as demographics, recent psychiatric treatment, and the self-injury method used.

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They then compared the risks of self-injury and repeated suicide among youth, as well as their risk of suicide compared to the general population of youth of similar age and demographics.

The researchers found that adolescents who attempted self-harm were 46 times more likely to commit suicide within 12 months of attempting self-harm. The risk of suicide is particularly high (40%) after attempting to use violent methods such as firearms or hanging.

“For many people, young and old, it’s the same issues that have led to harm, such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders. They also expose them to the risk of suicide,” says Professor Olfson.

The results obtained during the study also show that certain categories of the population who attempted self-injury were more likely to commit suicide. This is the case for men, who are four times more likely to end their life than women. As for Native Americans, they are five times more numerous than the non-Hispanic whites to commit suicide. “The decline in the use of mental health services among men and Native Americans may partially account for higher suicide rates among these groups,” suggests Professor Olfson.

For the latter, the clinical priority must absolutely be to guarantee the safety of young people after an attempted self-injury to prevent any risk of suicide. This includes the treatment of underlying psychiatric disorders, restricting access to lethal means of self-injury, strengthening supportive relationships, and close monitoring of emerging suicidal symptoms.

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Emy Torres

Emy holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan and currently freelances part-time for The Talking Democrat.