Young adults' support strategies when peers disclose suicidal intent

Suicide Life Threat Behav. Spring 2004;34(1):56-65. doi: 10.1521/suli.


In response to the growing suicide rate among adolescents and young adults, researchers have noted the importance of peer responses to suicidal disclosures in this population. The most adaptive response is to inform a responsible adult about the suicidal peer, but existing data indicate that most adolescents and young adults choose to talk to the peer on their own. The present study examined whether young adults' own history of suicidal ideation, gender, social history with suicide, and ambiguity of the disclosure would predict their response to a hypothetical suicidal peer. The data revealed significant effects of ambiguity and participants' suicidal ideation on the confidants' response strategy. The confidants' experience with others' attempted or completed suicides increased their likelihood of saving they would tell an authority, whereas their own history of ideation or attempts reduced the likelihood of that response. These effects were most pronounced when the hypothetical peer's suicidal intent was not completely clear, which may often be the case in disclosures by suicidal adolescents. Youth and young adults should be encouraged to inform adults about suicidal peers, particularly those who have been suicidal themselves previously, and who may resist that strategy. It is postulated that these particular peers may be more easily convinced to respond in this manner if they could be involved in the intervention with their suicidal peer.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Peer Group*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Social Support*
  • Suicide / prevention & control*
  • Suicide / psychology