Preventing suicide in young people: systematic review

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;45(1):3-26. doi: 10.3109/00048674.2010.511147.


Objective: Risk of suicide attempt, suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm is high among young people, yet limited evidence exists regarding effective interventions, particularly from randomized controlled trials. The aim of this study was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of all randomized controlled trials testing interventions for adolescents and young adults who have presented to a clinical setting with any of these behaviours.

Methods: The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Medline, EMBASE and PsycINFO were searched for articles published from 1980 to June 2010. The following keywords formed the basis of the search strategy: 'self-injurious behaviour', 'attempted suicide', 'suicide', 'suicidal behaviour', 'self-inflicted wounds', 'self-mutilation', 'self-harm'. We also hand searched conference abstracts from two major suicide prevention conferences and the reference lists of all retrieved articles and previous reviews.

Results: There were 15 trials included in the review, with six ongoing trials also identified. In general, the reporting of the conduct of trials was poor, making it difficult to assess the risk of bias. The reporting of outcome data was inconsistent. No differences were found between treatment and control groups except in one study that found a difference between individual cognitive behavioural therapy and treatment as usual.

Conclusion: The evidence regarding effective interventions for adolescents and young adults with suicide attempt, deliberate self-harm or suicidal ideation is extremely limited. Many more methodologically rigorous trials are required. However, in the meantime CBT shows some promise, but further investigation is required in order to determine its ability to reduce suicide risk among young people presenting to clinical services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / prevention & control*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / prevention & control*
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Young Adult