Overview of Adolescent Suicide
Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.
David A. Brent, MD, University of Pittsburgh, presents as part of the 2022 Suicide-Focused Assessment and Treatment: An Update for Professionals course.
Adolescents and Suicide
The suicide rate in adolescents and preadolescents has been increasing since the mid-2000s.
In this talk, Brent explains why young people should be screened for suicide risk, techniques clinicians can use to assess such risk, as well as effective interventions.
Watch now to learn more about:
- How to assess youth for suicide risk
- How to develop a safety plan
- Which protective factors can prevent suicide
According to Brent, screening for suicide risk in youth should be performed at each well-visit, and at every emergency department and inpatient admission. It should also be done more frequently in patients in mental health and substance use treatment.
“It is important to screen for suicidal risk in youth because many youth who screen positive for suicidal risk do not present with behavioral health issues,” Brent shares. “Screening for suicidal risk will identify youth missed by depression screens alone.”
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The most commonly used screening instruments for suicide include the Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ), Computerized Adaptive Screen for Suicidal Youth (CASSY), and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS).
When assessing youth for suicidal risk, Brent says it is important for clinicians to start by asking about ideation.
“You want to know if people have nonspecific thoughts about suicide, and then whether they have specific thoughts about wanting to die.”
He adds that a clinician should also find out which factors are keeping someone from acting on suicidal thoughts and what might increase the likelihood of acting on them.
“It’s important to emphasize that asking about suicidal thoughts absolutely does not increase the risk for suicidal behavior. So, there’s no reason not to do it,” Brent states.
According to Brent, adolescents make suicide attempts for multiple reasons. “Often, in addition to wanting to die, it may be related to escaping mental pain, communicating anger, or trying to get somebody to pay attention to them,” he shares.
“It’s important to understand those motivations because it affects your treatment plan and helps that person address those issues in therapy. Then they don’t have to resort to suicidal behavior to get those needs met.”