Development of a tool to assess suicide risk factors in urban adolescents

Adolescence. Fall 1990;25(99):655-66.


Dramatic increases in the adolescent suicide rate over the past three decades have underscored the need for risk-assessment tools. The tools that do exist are oriented to older populations and their application to adolescents is questionable. A project was initiated at the University of Utah's Health Education Department to develop a pilot instrument to examine the differences between adolescents who have attempted suicide and other teenagers. Eighty-two subjects between the ages of 14 and 19 participated in the test of this instrument. Twenty-five subjects were identified by a physician or psychologist as having failed in a sincere suicide attempt within the previous 18 months. Fifty-seven nonsuicide attempters with similar demographic profiles served as a comparison group. An 86-item questionnaire was administered to both groups. Questions were generated from a review of the literature of the past three decades for problems associated with suicide in this population. Questions were sorted into three domains (family environment, social environment, and self-perceptions), with each domain having several subdomains. Statistical analysis revealed significant differences for each of the three domains and on 55 of 86 questions. The results were used to create a streamlined instrument for assessing suicide risk that can be administered in 20 minutes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Development*
  • Personality Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Social Environment
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology