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Two factors predict risk for suicide attempts in youths referred for emergency psychiatric hospitalization

Two factors predict which youths referred for emergency psychiatric hospitalization because of suicide attempts will try to commit suicide again: more severe clinical depression and caregivers who exert more parental control. In a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10871), researchers randomized 70 predominantly poor youth (ages 10 to 17 years) who had attempted suicide and their families to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization or multisystemic therapy. Multisystemic therapy is a family-centered, home-based intervention that targets the multiple systems in which the youth interacts (home, school, and community).

The researchers evaluated youth prior to treatment and one year after treatment to gauge their treatment response. Of the 60 youth approved for emergency psychiatric hospitalization due to caregiver report of self-harm behavior, 50 were categorized as responders at the 1-year followup visit and 10 were considered nonresponders (had tried to commit suicide based on caregiver report). Youth with more depressive symptoms were 3 times more likely to attempt suicide during the followup period. In addition, youth who reported more parental control were 7 times more likely. It is unknown, however, whether this latter finding is a consequence of youth initial suicidality or a product of high parental control—reflecting efforts by worried parents to reduce suicide risk for their troubled children.

More details are in "Predictors of treatment response for suicidal youth referred for emergency psychiatric hospitalization," by Stanley J. Huey Jr., Ph.D., Scott W. Henggeler, Ph.D., Melisa D. Rowland, M.D., and others, in the September 2005 Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 34(3), pp. 582-589.

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