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New Research can Help Predict Teen Suicide Risk

Update Date: Aug 08, 2014 04:19 PM EDT

In many cases, suicides can be hard to predict. However, that does not mean that they are not preventable. In a new study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia, researchers examined the relationship between psychosis and suicide attempts or self-harm in adolescents. The team discovered that the number of psychotic experiences and/or psychological distress that kids experience could predict their risk of suicide.

"Psychotic experiences and psychological distress should serve as warning signs that a young person is at high risk of self-harm or attempting suicide," UQ Center for Clinical Research's Associate Professor James Scott said. "We would encourage health practitioners to ask young people about psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices or feeling paranoid when they are assessing their mental health and the likelihood of self-harm. This would ensure that the appropriate support, health resources and adequate risk-management plans are in place to reduce suicide attempts in this age group."

In this study, the researchers analyzed the mental health of 1,975 adolescents from Australia who were between the ages of 12 and 17. They were assessed over the time period of 12-months. The researchers focused on psychotic experiences and physiological distress, which included depression and anxiety.

"It's also known that approximately one in every 12 adolescents has psychotic experiences, or odd or unusual beliefs such as paranoid ideas or hallucinations," Professor Scott said. "These symptoms are much more common than was once thought."

The researchers found that adolescents who reported suffering from psychological distress only were three times more likely to harm themselves and five times more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to adolescents who did not experience psychological distress. Adolescents who dealt with psychotic experiences were 11 times more likely to self-harm and 13 times more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to those who have never experienced a psychotic episode at all.

"Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Australia, and non-suicidal self-harm occurs in approximately one in every seven young people, so it is crucial that this issue is addressed," Professor Scott stated.

The University's news release can be accessed here.

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