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Suicide-prevention programs may not help adolescents who have already attempted suicide, a new study concludes.

The study, which was published in the Dec. 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that high-school students who were thought to be at the greatest risk for committing suicide--those who had already attempted suicide--did not benefit from suicide-prevention programs.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Columbia University's department of child psychiatry, evaluated the impact of suicide-prevention programs on a group of 973 adolescents, 63 of whom had indicated on two occasions that they had attempted suicide.

Of these 63 students, 35 were exposed to a suicide-prevention program, and 28 were part of a control group.

According to the study, exposure to a prevention program did not significantly influence the deviant attitudes of the previous suicide attempters, such as the belief that using drugs and alcohol is a good way to stop depressed feelings.

In addition, said the authors, these programs may also produce unwanted effects.

For example, students who had already attempted suicide were more likely than non-attempters to believe that talking about suicide in the classroom makes some students more likely to kill themselves, the study found.

"Since there is currently slender systemic evidence to either support or refute the efficacy of most types of suicide prevention and intervention programs, we can conclude that interventions aimed at the general population will be of lowest utility, whereas programs targeted at treated or untreated high-risk youth would be the most beneficial," said an editorial accompanying the article in the same issue of the journal.--ef

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