Researchers for the first time have performed a long-term assessment of potential predictors of suicide attempts in high-risk young people.
The team at the University of Bristol analysed questionnaire data obtained from youth who were part of the Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, focusing on individuals who had suicidal thoughts.
The findings showed that 12 per cent of adolescents who had suicidal thoughts proceeded with a suicide attempt during the 5-year follow-up period. Factors that could potentially help predict suicide attempts were non-suicidal self-harm, use of cannabis and other illicit drugs, exposure to self-harm in friends or family and an ‘intellect/openness’ personality type.
Among those reporting non-suicidal self-harm at 16 years of age, the key predictors included the use of cannabis and other illicit drugs, sleep issues and a less extroverted personality type. Individuals experiencing both suicidal thoughts and non-suicidal self-harm at 16 years of age were particularly considered a high-risk group, having a suicide attempt rate of 1 in 5 individuals during the follow-up duration.
Author Dr. Becky Mars said: "Most young people who think about suicide will not make an attempt on their life. To help us identify which teenagers are most at risk, it’s crucial that we know more about how we can predict thoughts into actions." Researchers further plan to study predictors during a shorter follow-up period and to investigate additional predictors.