Identifying suicide risk factors in children


  • Heather Mason
  • Univadis Medical News
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A study of almost 8,000 9-10-year olds published in  Lancet Psychiatry  reveals that eight of every 100 children reported some aspect of suicidality. It calls for family members, teachers and clinicians to be vigilant. 

The study incorporated measures which assessed personal, family, and social characteristics (ie, suicidal ideation, suicidal plans, and suicide attempts).

Key findings;

  • Higher weekend screen use time was associated with an increased risk of child-reported suicidality, which was stronger in boys than girls. The nature of this relationship needs to be investigated as digital technology also confers benefits as well as risks.
  • Poor child-caregiver concordance rates showed that caregiver reports are unreliable and may underestimate the prevalence of the suicidal phenomena. It is necessary to ask the child directly. 
  • Protection of children from early life adverse experiences is vital, as family conflict was associated with a 30 to 75 per cent increased risk of suicidality.
  • Involvement of parents and schools were robust factors in reducing suicide risk. 

Results complement existing evidence from studies of older age groups. It highlighting the role of child psychopathology and child-reported family conflict in the emergence of suicidality. The key focus for future research should be factors that facilitate as well as impede the transition from suicidal thoughts to acts of suicide.