Co-occurring risk factors among U.S. high school students at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

Background: Suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) are increasing among adolescents in the United States and are challenging to predict and prevent. The current study identifies subtypes of youth at risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs) in school-based settings. Method: Data are from the CDC’s 2015 and 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of US high school students. Among students reporting depression symptoms, latent class analysis is used to identify subtypes at risk for STBs based on personal characteristics, risk behaviors and environments. Results: Two distinct subtypes of youth were found to be at high risk for STBs: The first, larger subtype (22%) is predominately females in early high school, many of whom identify as bisexual, experienced past-year bullying, and are likely to have experienced sexual victimization. These students have low levels of externalizing risk behaviors making them difficult to detect. The second high-risk subtype (7%) is characterized by students with significant social integration challenges, with extremely high levels of substance abuse, fighting, physical and sexual victimization and poor academic performance. Many of these students have low English fluency, and identify as sexual minority. Limitations: Due to attrition or language barriers, experiences of some students at high-risk for STBs may not have been captured by this survey. Conclusion: Universal screening in clinical settings, and universally focused suicide prevention programs in school-based settings are needed and should be introduced early on. Interventions should be tailored to reach high-risk students with language, cultural and social integration challenges.

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