27% of Students Considered Suicide Last Year, Study Finds

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More than a quarter of all high-school students seriously considered killing themselves last year, the results of a new federal survey indicate.

Moreover, 2 percent of high-school students, or 276,000 young people, sustained medical injuries while attempting to commit suicide during the past year, notes the study, the first federal effort to document suicide attempts by adolescents over a specific time period.

The report was released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control last month. It was based on the C.D.c.'S Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which questioned a nationally representative sample of 11,631 students in grades 9-12 about a range of health issues. The study also found that the suicide rate for adolescents 15-19 years of age has quadrupled over the past four decades, from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1950 to 11.3 in 1988.

Previous studies examining the lifetime prevalence of attempted suicide have found that between 9 percent and 14 percent of adolescents have tried to kill themselves on at least one occasion, the c.D.C. said.

According to the study, 27.2 percent of students said they had thought seriously about attempting suicide during the past year. A smaller group, 16.3 percent of respondents, reported they had made a specific plan for self-destruction.

About half of the students who reported making a plan, or 8.3 percent, actually attempted suicide. And one quarter of the attempters-or 2.1 percent of all the students questioned--said they had sufficiently hurt or injured themselves during their attempt to require medical services.

"The findings reported here add to increasing evidence that most self-reported suicide attempts among adolescents and young adults do not result in injury or hospitalization," the study suggests.

Females, Latinos at Higher Risk

The C.D.C. found that female students were significantly more likely than males to think about suicide, plan or attempt suicide, and injure themselves during an attempt.

More than a third of the female students surveyed said they had considered ending their own life, the report indicates, versus 20.5 percent of the male students. And 10.3 percent of the female students actually attempted suicide, versus 6.2 percent of their male classmates.

Hispanic and white students were more likely to report suicidal thoughts and behaviors than black students, the C.D.C. found. Twelve percent of Hispanic high-school students said they had attempted suicide during the past year, while 8 percent of white students and 6.5 percent of black students reported such an attempt. Hispanic females, the report says, are particularly at risk. Almost 15 percent of these young women said they had attempted suicide during the past 12 months, while 10.1 percent of white females and 8.2 percent of black females said they had tried to kill themselves.

The C.D.C. said that more research is needed to identify effective suicide-prevention techniques.

Risk factors believed to be associated with suicide include social isolation, depression, alcohol and other drug use, and access to lethal means for suicide, the C.D.C. said.

Common strategies to prevent teenage suicides include increased referrals of high-risk adolescents to mental-health services and educating teenagers and youth workers about the warning signs of suicide, the report notes.

"These strategies have not been widely implemented, however, and little is known about their relative effectiveness," the study concludes.

Vol. 11, Issue 05, Page 28

Published in Print: October 2, 1991, as 27% of Students Considered Suicide Last Year, Study Finds
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